Latest Developments, June 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Change of plans
Xinhua reports that France has decided to delay its troop withdrawal from Mali until after the July/August presidential election:

“Instead of the 2,000 troops initially intended to stay in Mali until July, the ‘Serval’ force has decided to keep 3,500 soldiers until the end of the presidential election, according to a military source.

Two thousand of the 5,000 troops that were in Mali have returned to their bases in France.” [Translated from the French.]

Buyers and sellers
Inter Press Service reports on new land-grab data detailing who is buying and who is selling around the world:

“The U.S., Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and the UK are top foreign investors not only in Africa but in other countries, according to the [International Land Coalition]’s new Land Matrix Global Observatory. The Land Matrix is a website that provides the locations and details of nearly 1,000 land transactions all over the world.
The largest transnational land deals are in South Sudan and Papua New Guinea. The Land Matrix lists the individual land deals including the companies involved, the size of the acquisition and intended use. In Papua New Guinea, many of the land deals appear to be for palm oil production.”

Emerging bubble
The Financial Times reports that the value of “emerging market” currencies, stocks and bonds is plunging as foreign investors unload newly undesirable assets:

“The South African rand and the Brazilian real touched four-year lows against the US dollar on Tuesday, and the Indian rupee fell to a record low. Even relatively robust countries like the Philippines and Mexico – long favourites of investors – have been hit by a spate of selling. Some central banks have begun to intervene to stem the currency slides.

Both international and local currency emerging market bonds have been pummelled, sending borrowing costs higher.

Benoit Anne, a senior strategist at Société Générale, said central bank money had arguably inflated a bubble in emerging markets, which was now unravelling as investors priced in a change in Fed policy. ‘This will not be a short-lived sell-off,’ he predicted.”

US tax havens
The Financial Times also reports that a single-storey building in the US state of Delaware “serves as the registered address for 278,000 companies”:

“But Delaware – along with other states such as Nevada and Wyoming that have similar rules – also houses a plethora of shell companies, in some cases which can facilitate illicit activity ranging from tax evasion to money laundering to healthcare fraud. For these companies, the attraction of Delaware is the ease with which companies and partnerships can set up shop there and the fact that not too many questions are asked.
This has led to calls from transparency activists for more information on the structure of ownership of entities registered not just in Delaware but around the world, to make it harder for criminals to cover their tracks.”

Global minimum wage
The London School of Economics’ Jason Hickel calls for changes to the current international system in which “capital has been globalised while the rules that protect people from it have not”:

“If we’re going to have a global labour market, it stands to reason that we need a global system of labour standards, something that will put a floor on the race to the bottom and guarantee a baseline level of human fairness. The single most important component of such a system would be a global minimum wage.

A global minimum wage would go a lot further than the ‘fair trade’ fad that has become popular among many Western consumers. Every time I walk into a store and see items labeled fair trade, I’m always struck by what their presence implies: that the rest of the ‘normal’ products are unfair. We shouldn’t be presented with a choice between fair trade goods and oppression goods – oppression goods shouldn’t exist in the first place. When we buy the things that we need to sustain and enjoy our lives, we should be able to be confident that we are not colluding in the exploitation of other human beings who toil in near-slavery conditions.”

New scramble
The Guardian’s George Monbiot argues that the upcoming G8 summit, much like the 1884 Conference of Berlin, uses humanitarian language to conceal plans for grabbing African land and resources:

“Strangely missing from New Alliance [for Food Security and Nutrition] agreements is any commitment on the part of G8 nations to change their own domestic policies. These could have included farm subsidies in Europe and the US, which undermine the markets for African produce; or biofuel quotas, which promote world hunger by turning food into fuel. Any constraints on the behaviour of corporate investors in Africa (such as the Committee on World Food Security’s guidelines on land tenure) remain voluntary, while the constraints on host nations become compulsory. As in 1884, powerful nations make the rules and weak ones abide by them: for their own good, of course.”

Austerity girls
In a Q&A with Inter Press Service, UN Women’s John Hendra discusses some of the socio-economic impacts of austerity policies around the world:

“In Europe, female workforce participation has declined, women’s unemployment rate is higher than that of men in many countries, and the gender pay gap has increased.
In developing countries, crisis and austerity have pushed many more women into informal and vulnerable work. Because women tend to be employed on fragile, non-permanent contracts, they are more vulnerable to being laid off during recessions.

Austerity has also undermined progress towards a more equal division of care responsibilities. Cuts in public care and health services have led to a re-privatisation of care work and a return to traditional gender roles.
Austerity pushes the responsibility for, and cost of, social and public goods back onto households, and in effect, onto women.”

History lesson
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei writes that the US is “abusively using government powers” to undermine the privacy of individuals:

“In the Soviet Union before, in China today, and even in the US, officials always think what they do is necessary, and firmly believe they do what is best for the state and the people. But the lesson that people should learn from history is the need to limit state power.

To limit power is to protect society. It is not only about protecting individuals’ rights but making power healthier.”

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