Latest Developments, August 1

In the latest news and analysis…

ATT postponed
Inter Press Service reports that six years of preparatory meetings were not enough for the US, China and Russia, as they requested “more time” in the quest for an international accord on regulating the global arms trade:

“The ‘killed’ Arms Trade Treaty is now to be referred to the U.N. General Assembly’s First Committee in October, where it will be submitted to a majority vote.
The process will take a long time, [Amnesty International’s Alberto] Estevez warns.
‘It might well take two to three years at least, and that would mean that the ATT would not enter into force until 2014 or 2015,’ he told IPS.
‘A key question remains whether the largest exporter of arms – the U.S. – wants to be part of the game,’ Estevez added.”

The future of development
Agence France-Presse reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has named the 26 members of a panel established to recommend a “new development vision” to replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015:

“Ban on Tuesday named personalities ranging from Queen Rania of Jordan and German former president Horst Kohler to Tawakel Karman, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her activism in the uprising in Yemen, and the mayor of Istanbul Kadir Topbas.

The corporate world is represented by Paul Polman, the Dutch chief executive of Unilever and Betty Maina, chief executive of Kenya’s Association of Manufacturers.”

Robin des Bois
Sky News reports that France is today becoming the first EU country to introduce a financial transaction tax:

“It was first proposed by the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who suggested a 0.1% levy on all share purchases involving France’s biggest companies.
The country’s new leader, Francois Hollande, has been sharply critical of the financial services industry and decided to double the tax to 0.2%, while applying it to all publicly traded businesses with a market value over 1bn euros.
That means anyone buying shares, including credit default swaps, in 109 companies will have to shell out the extra euros to the French Treasury.”

Security focus
Reuters reports that, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to talk publicly about democracy and economic potential during her trip to Africa this week, her real concern will be security:

“Instead, attention has focused on AFRICOM, the unified U.S. Africa Command that the Pentagon established in 2007. It is playing an increasingly important role as the United States pumps resources into training African militaries.

J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa program at the Atlantic Council, said Washington’s emphasis on security, coupled with the lack of new economic initiatives, had shifted the balance in U.S. ties with Africa.
‘It is militarization by default,’ Pham said. ‘Part of the reason is the U.S. interest in fighting al Qaeda, and part of it is because of the weakness of our African partners which are unable to contain these threats themselves.’ ”

Looting Africa
The UN Economic Commission for Africa reports on a new study that accuses foreign multinationals of illicitly transferring back to rich countries most of the $1.5 trillion they make in Africa each year, thereby “draining hard currency reserves from the continent, stimulating inflation, reducing tax collection and deepening income gaps”:

“The report on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa: Scale and Developmental Challenges is adamant about the role of multinational corporations in what some call Africa’s greatest economic sabotage, because it ‘perpetuates Africa’s economic dependence on other regions’, it says.
It adds the depletion of investments and stifling of competition caused by these illicit transfers actually undermine trade and worsen the socio-economic fabric of poor communities in Africa, leading to shorter life expectancy due to limited spending in providing social services such as health care, according to the Information and Communication Service of ECA.”

Compliance Week reports that the British government is looking into following the US lead on so-called deferred prosecution agreements, which “require corporate reforms and other penalties in exchange for holding off on pursuing a conviction”:

“The U.K. Ministry of Justice published a much-anticipated consultation paper recently on whether to adopt DPAs in an effort to fight corporate bribery and corruption without having to win a conviction in every case.

The U.K.’s Solicitor General and Serious Fraud Office are firmly in support of adopting the use of DPAs in Britain. As the consultation paper points out, enforcement agencies often rely on companies to self-report wrongdoing due to a lack of tools and resources. Without the ability of prosecutors to offer a plea deal, however, companies have little incentive to self-report, especially if doing so may result in a criminal conviction.”

Ease of doing business
The Associated Press reports that “liberal company laws” make New Zealand an attractive place for shady business enterprises:

“Like those before him, [American fraudster and launderer Jeffery Lowrance] found that about $130 and a little online paperwork let him set up a shell company in New Zealand without stepping foot in the country or having any financial presence. He registered First Capital Savings & Loan to an Auckland address but ran his scheme from Panama.

Some say New Zealand has yet to get serious about stopping abuse. Financial blog naked capitalism has repeatedly accused New Zealand of playing the equivalent of the arcade game ‘Whac-a-Mole’ by knocking down illegitimate operators as they pop up but not dealing with the systemic problems that give rise to the abuse.”

Haitian gold
Al Jazeera reports that with 15 percent of Haitian territory under license to North American mining companies or their partners, there are concerns over who will reap the benefits Haiti’s potential gold rush:

“Many Haitians we spoke to are divided on the issue. Some locals like Jean Igo, who has been unemployed for months, says he would welcome a job working in a mine. However, after he allowed a Canadian company to drill on his land he is now having second thoughts about doing business with foreigners.
‘I don’t trust doing business with them. They did not give us a good guarantee. They gave us a little cash but it was nothing. They promised they would give people jobs operating the machines and they did not fulfill any of their promises.’ ”

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