Latest Developments, September 25

In the latest news and analysis…

Subsidized bribery
The Age reports that Australian government officials appear to have been “deeply involved” in a $150 million shipbuilding deal allegedly secured through bribing of Filipino officials:

“In what shapes as a second big international corruption scandal for Australia following the Reserve Bank bribery affair, cables show Australian officials knew in 2005 that an order by the Philippines for search and rescue vessels from Tenix was made without the required budgetary approvals in Manila.
This knowledge should have prompted immediate probity concerns within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which had since the late 1990s been issuing written warnings about corruption in the Philippines specifically involving government contracts.
The Tenix deals in the Philippines, which are at the centre of a police bribery probe, are sensitive for the Australian government because they were underpinned by huge Australian taxpayer grants and loans.”

Justice delayed
A new joint report by Amnesty International and Greenpeace calls for a UK criminal investigation into Trafigura’s role in the 2006 dumping of toxic waste in Côte d’Ivoire’s biggest city, “resulting in over 100,000 people seeking medical assistance”:

“ ‘This is a story of corporate crime, human rights abuse and governments’ failure to protect people and the environment. It is a story that exposes how systems for enforcing international law have failed to keep up with companies that operate transnationally, and how one company has been able to take full advantage of legal uncertainties and jurisdictional loopholes, with devastating consequences,’ said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo.”

Park oil
The Associated Press reports that the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has granted permission to British company SOCO to explore for oil in North Kivu’s Virunga National Park:

“Minister of Hydrocarbons Crispin Atama Tabe told The Associated Press that national economic interests take precedence over environmental considerations in Virunga, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Minister of Environment and Tourism Bavo Nsamputu refused to comment on the news.
The permission to explore for oil in Virunga is in contrast to the environment minister’s decision in March 2011 to suspend oil exploration in Block 5 of the Albertine Graben area of Virunga park that is home to more than 200 gorillas.”

Scramble redux
In a PanAfrican Visions Q&A, former Pambazuka editor-in-chief Firoze Manji is pessimistic about the continent’s ability to cope with a second “Scramble for Africa”:

“But it would be a serious mistake to view the entry of the ‘emerging powers’ with those of the US, Europe and Japan. The latter are the dominant exploiters of African labour, extractors of natural resources, and decimation of the environment. China, for example, is certainly becoming as big as the US in terms of trade. But in terms of natural resource extraction and in terms of extraction of wealth through debt financing, they remain a very small player in comparison to the US, Europe and Japan. Remember, the domination of the multinational corporations, banks and international finance institutions is guaranteed not by the ‘emerging powers’ but principally by the US. There is a growing US military presence in Africa in the form of US AFRICOM. We have seen military intervention in Africa from the US and its NATO allies in Somalia, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya. There has been no equivalent military intervention and occupation by the emerging powers.”

Legalize it
Espolea’s Lisa Sánchez and the Transform Drug Policy Foundation’s Steve Rolles write that after decades of devastation caused by the American-led war on drugs, “the era of blanket global prohibitions on drugs is finally coming to an end”:

“It is vitally important to learn from the mistakes made with alcohol and tobacco regulation. That means avoiding over-commercialisation and, while allowing legal availability to adult consumers, putting in place a regulatory framework to minimise health and social harms, rather than maximise profits. What this means in practice has been explored in some detail in Transform’s Blueprint for Regulation which outlines potential controls over products (potency, price, information on packaging etc), vendors (licensing, vetting, training requirements), venues for sale and consumption (location, appearance, opening hours), and availability (age access controls, membership clubs). A responsible government is a far better entity to develop such a model than the free market.”

Drone terror
Reprieve’s Clive Stafford Smith compares CIA drones in Pakistan to German doodlebugs in WWII London in terms of the fear and trauma caused to civilians:

“I hope that this report reminds us all what the US – with British support – is doing to the people of Pakistan. Maybe then there will be less surprise at the hatred the drone war is engendering in the Islamic world – and a chance that we will reconsider what we are doing.”

Poverty barons
The World Development Movement’s Deborah Doane writes that problems with the UK government’s approach to reducing global poverty have more to do with ideology than excessive largesse toward British consultants:

“In one stark example, UK aid money is currently paying for consultants to advise the Bangladeshi government on the establishment of new special economic zones aimed at attracting private-sector investment. Existing zones give multinational companies tax holidays and subsidised land while placing severe restrictions on trade union activity to an extent where the average wage inside these Bangladeshi ‘export processing zones’ is around £30 a month. Here, the scandal goes well beyond the approximately £14m that we are paying the consultants. The heart of the issue is the fact that we are using aid to support a project that will do everything to benefit multinationals like Adidas, which made 671 million Euros in profit last year, and next to nothing for the supposed beneficiaries.”

Communication breakdown
Marginal Revolution reproduces a statement by New York University’s Paul Romer on why he and his “Transparency Commission,” appointed by presidential decree last year, are no longer associated with a proposed charter city or Region Especial de Desarrollo in Honduras:

“From recent newspaper reports, I learned that the Honduran agency responsible for public-private partnerships had signed an agreement about a RED with a private company. When I asked for information, I was told that I could not see this agreement.
The administration’s current position is that because the decree was never published, the Transparency Commission does not exist in the eyes of the law and the five named members have no legal basis for reviewing any agreements.”

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