Latest Developments, January 4

In the latest news and analysis…

Absurd rationale
Responding to the surprise statement by “rogue Canadian minister” Julian Fantino that Canada has frozen new aid to Haiti, former Associated Press Haiti correspondent Jonathan Katz offered the following flurry of tweets:

“Fantino is demonstrating how aid works: Rich country dictates terms. When the program fails, the poor country gets blamed. #Haiti #Canada
Canada disbursed $657 million from the quake to Sept. 2012 ‘for Haiti,’ but only about 2% went to the Haitian government.
It hasn’t told the UN Office of the Special envoy where 66% of its recovery funds went. Another $192.7 million is pledged and not disbursed.
Canada has, however, been better than most countries in delivering its 2010 donors conference pledge.
But when you give, say, $18.2 million to UNDP for Champ de Mars housing, and two years later there isn’t adequate housing, who’s to blame?
Some argue freezing aid would be a good start. But Fantino’s rationale–that Haitians owe Canadians results–is absurd on its face.
Again, admitting that aid isn’t working in Haiti is fine. It’s accurate.
… But saying, ‘Well, we did all we could. It’s their problem now,’ IS the problem.
If Canada’s govt didn’t bother to tell Haiti’s govt it was freezing aid–and the Haitians didn’t even notice–that’s all you need to know.”

Border arming
Russia Today reports that a group of US troops have arrived in Turkey, marking the start of NATO’s Patriot missile deployment along the Syrian border:

“The batteries will be operated by troops of their respective countries: The US and Germany are sending about 400 troops each, while the Netherlands will have around 360 soldiers manning their Patriot [surface-to-air missiles].

Critics of the Patriot deployment say that they can be used to create a no-fly zone in Syria, protecting rebels from government airstrikes. A NATO-imposed no-fly zone in Libya in 2011 eventually led to the downfall of the country’s longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.”

Gitmo renewal
Human Rights Watch criticizes US President Barack Obama for refusing to veto a defense spending bill that blocks the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, even though he says the facility “weakens our national security”:

“However, he claimed the need to sign the legislation, saying the demand for funding was ‘too great to ignore.’ Obama issued a similar statement when signing the [National Defense Authorization Act] the previous year.
In fact, the NDAA authorizes funding for most Defense Department operations, but it is not essential for the US armed forces to function, Human Rights Watch said. It does not actually fund the Defense Department, but authorizes the allocation of appropriated funds. If Obama had vetoed the 2013 authorization act, last year’s NDAA authorization would still have been in effect. Four of five presidents preceding Obama vetoed a defense authorization act.”

Unwanted attention
Public Eye has announced Alstom, Coal India, G4S, Goldman Sachs, Lonmin, Repower and Shell as the 2013 nominees for the world’s worst company:

“Online voting for the worst offender of the year runs from today until midday January 23, 2013. This year’s shortlist features the seven most egregious cases of corporate crime selected by our newly conceived jury of internationally known business ethicists from 20 expert reports about potentially deserving candidates. The reports were compiled by the Institute for Business Ethics at the University of St. Gall. More than 50 NGOs from all over the globe nominated companies.”

Investment disagreement
The Toronto Star reports that Canadian First Nations groups have announced they plan to take the federal government to court, alleging a lack of consultation over a proposed investment agreement with China:

“The Harper government says [the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement] will benefit Canada by increasing two-way trade and investment with China, which will be the world’s largest economy within a decade. Most importantly, according to the Conservatives, the deal will help protect Canadian investors from unfair or discriminatory treatment in China.
But opponents say the guarantees of equal treatment in these types of treaties give foreign corporations undue power to sue Canadian governments at every level if environmental, safety or other regulations are seen as unfair by foreign investors. ”

Economic mirage
Development consultant Rick Rowden argues that despite all the breathless reports of Africa’s rapid economic rise, “increased growth and trade are not development”:

“Though African countries desperately need the policy space to adopt industrial policies, the rich countries are pushing loan conditions and trade and investment agreements that block them from doing so, all the while proffering a happy narrative about ‘the rise of Africa.’ The very idea of industrialization has been dropped from the official development agenda. Yet there’s a reason why we all regularly refer to the rich, industrialized countries in the OECD as ‘industrialized.’
Despite the important gains in services industries and per capita incomes, Africa is still not rising, and services alone will not create enough jobs to absorb the millions of unemployed youth in Africa’s growing urban areas. Instead, steps must be taken to revise WTO agreements and the many trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties currently being negotiated so that Africa has the freedom to adopt the industrial policies it needs in order to make genuine progress.”

Amazing mea culpa
The Washington Post’s Howard Schneider examines the admission by IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard that the financial institution had not foreseen the impacts of the austerity measures it prescribed for Greece and other struggling European economies:

“But the paper includes some subtle and potentially troubling insights into how the fund works. Blanchard – effectively the top dog when it comes to economic science at the fund – writes in the paper that he could not actually determine what multipliers economists at the country level were using in their forecasts. The number was implicit in their forecasting models – a background assumption rather than a variable that needed to be fine-tuned based on national circumstances or peculiarities.
Heading into a crisis that nearly tore the euro zone apart, in other words, neither Blanchard or any one of the fund’s vast army of technicians thought to reexamine whether important assumptions about the region would still hold true in times of crisis.”

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