Latest Developments, February 15

In the latest news and analysis…

Onshore havens
The Economist points out that many tax havens are not actually offshore and argues that efforts to rein in financial abuses must “focus on rich-world financial centres as well as Caribbean islands”:

“Mr Obama likes to cite Ugland House, a building in the Cayman Islands that is officially home to 18,000 companies, as the epitome of a rigged system. But Ugland House is not a patch on Delaware (population 917,092), which is home to 945,000 companies, many of which are dodgy shells. Miami is a massive offshore banking centre, offering depositors from emerging markets the sort of protection from prying eyes that their home countries can no longer get away with. The City of London, which pioneered offshore currency trading in the 1950s, still specialises in helping non-residents get around the rules. British shell companies and limited-liability partnerships regularly crop up in criminal cases. London is no better than the Cayman Islands when it comes to controls against money laundering. Other European Union countries are global hubs for a different sort of tax avoidance: companies divert profits to brass-plate subsidiaries in low-tax Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands.”

Mining transparency
Reuters reports that the Guinean government has made its mining contracts public, dating back to independence, as it tries to reinvent the country’s extractive sector:

“The government is also overhauling the country’s mining code and has set up a technical committee to review existing accords, all of which are now published online on a new government website.
Guinean officials have said many of the contracts were signed under non-transparent conditions especially during the rule of a military junta before Conde’s 2010 election. The government says such accords do not benefit the country.

‘Guinea’s action is a model for other countries and demonstrates that making contracts public is possible even in challenging environments,’ Patrick Heller, senior legal adviser at Revenue Watch said in the statement.”

Assassination court
A New York Times editorial lends its weight to the idea of setting up a US court that would determine if terror suspects belong on kill lists as a way of moving toward “bringing national security policy back under the rule of law”:

“ ‘Having the executive being the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner, all in one, is very contrary to the traditions and the laws of this country,’ Senator Angus King Jr. of Maine said at the [CIA boss nominee John] Brennan hearing. ‘If you’re planning a strike over a matter of days, weeks or months, there is an opportunity to at least go to some outside-of-the-executive-branch body, like the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court], in a confidential and top-secret way, make the case that this American citizen is an enemy combatant.’ ”

Mining freeze
According to Colombia Reports, a Colombian judge ordered the suspension of all mining activities in an area of nearly 50,000 hectares due to the companies’ lack of prior consultation with local indigenous populations:

“ ‘[This decision] only seeks to prevent the continued violation of the rights of indigenous peoples on their territory [arising from] disproportionate use by people outside the community, and the violence that has been occurring in the area, of which there is much evidence,’ said the judge.

While indigenous communities have a constitutional right to be consulted on the use of their land, the judge did not declare the mining concessions illegal but ordered the suspension to protect indigenous communities while the legality of the titles is determined. Some of the licenses held by the mining companies for the area reportedly do not expire until 2038 and 2041.”

Airport immolation
Agence France-Presse reports that an Ivorian deportee has been hospitalized in serious condition after setting himself on fire at Rome’s Fiumicino airport:

“He had been ordered to present himself to border police at the airport for expulsion from Italy.
The man used a fuel tank and was seen being carried away in a stretcher, wrapped in a fire blanket.”

Dangerous trend
Human Rights Watch’s Benjamin Ward argues that “hatred and intolerance are moving into the mainstream in Europe” and action is required to stem the tide:

“Too often, mainstream European politicians use intolerant or coded language about unpopular minorities. They justify such speech on the ground that the failure to discuss issues like immigration creates political space for extremist parties. But far from neutralizing extremist parties, this kind of rhetoric from government ministers and other mainstream politicians instead legitimizes their views, sending a message to voters that xenophobic, anti-Muslim, or anti-Roma sentiment is acceptable rather than a cause for shame.
Human Rights Watch staff witnessed a Greek MP from a mainstream party describe migrants as ‘cockroaches’ during a Greek Parliamentary committee hearing in November on violence against migrants.”

Immodest claims
In a letter to the Guardian, an ambulance medic takes exception to the idea that banking executives make a “modest” wage for the work they do:

“A multimillion-pound pay packet for a banker’s success or failure is not ‘modest’. We take home in a gruelling year of real blood, sweat and tears what [RBS CEO] Stephen Hester earns in six days. I wish that those who earn such sums would realise that their renumeration is not right. Perhaps they should not apply terms to themselves like ‘I have one of the hardest jobs in the world’ (Fred the Shred) until they see what others do on a fraction of their wage. What comes out of their mouths undermines millions of hard working people in this country. If an ambulance turned up to one of their children severely injured on a country road, would we seem only worth £15 an hour? As they watched as we fought for their child’s life, far from back up and hospital facilities, would they reconsider the value of jobs that do not make a profit?
Would they consider our wages modest as they apply this term to their own? Modest is a powerful word and has to be earned.”

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Latest Developments, December 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Deadly weapons
Harvard University’s Dani Rodrik compares the International Monetary Fund’s view on capital flows to US lawmakers’ policy on guns:

“Guns, like capital flows, have their legitimate uses, but they can also produce catastrophic consequences when used accidentally or placed in the wrong hands. The IMF’s reluctant endorsement of capital controls resembles the attitude of gun-control opponents: policymakers should target the harmful behavior rather than bluntly restrict individual freedoms. As America’s gun lobby puts it, ‘Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.’ The implication is that we should punish offenders rather than restrict gun circulation. Similarly, policymakers should ensure that financial-market participants fully internalize the risks that they assume, rather than tax or restrict certain types of transactions.

Most societies control guns directly because we cannot monitor and discipline behavior perfectly, and the social costs of failure are high. Similarly, caution dictates direct regulation of cross-border flows.”

Profit sharing
In a Reuters interview, Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama pledges to push foreign oil and mining companies to give his country a bigger share of profits from the extraction of its natural resources:

“ ‘With regards to the oil, our main problem is with income taxes,’ [Mahama] said, pointing out that Tullow’s contract allowed it to avoid income tax payments until it has recovered the costs of bringing a field into production.
‘We could use that revenue, so if we had a way of getting some payments on income taxes, on account even, that is something we would want to look at,’ he said.

Ghana is in the midst of discussions with gold-mining companies to improve terms. Mahama said the state was seeking to loosen up so-called ‘stability agreements’ held by some firms that lock in royalty and tax rates.
Ghana this year raised royalties on gold to five percent from three percent, a change that did not apply to miners like AngloGold Ashanti and Newmont protected by stability agreements.”

Cui bono
The Center for Global Development’s Julie Walz and Vijaya Ramachandran write that, nearly three years on from Haiti’s devastating earthquake, the vast majority of the assistance money disbursed has not gone to Haitians:

“Here is what we found from the data collected by the Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti:

  • $9.04 billion has been disbursed by both public and private donors.
  • Bilateral and multilateral donors have disbursed $6.04 billion, which is 47.8% of the $12.62 pledged in humanitarian and recovery funding.
  • Of the $6.04 billion from bilaterals and multilaterals, only 9.5% ($579 million) was channeled to the Government of Haiti (GOH) using country systems. 0.6% ($36.2 million) was channeled to Haitian NGOs and businesses.”

Killer handbags
The Guardian reports on the health impacts of luxury leather goods on those who make them in Bangladesh:

“According to the World Health Organisation, 90% of Hazaribagh’s tanning factory workers will die before they’re 50. Half – some 8,000 – have respiratory disease already. Many of the workers are children.
Thousands more Bangladeshi lives are blighted by the millions of litres of waste that pour, untreated, from the tannery district gutters, through a crowded housing area, and into Dhaka’s main river.

Yet the industry in the heart of Bangladesh’s capital is booming, because high-quality ‘Bengali black’ leather, much in demand by European leather goods makers, is cheap. A new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report claims that’s chiefly because of the factories’ refusal to clean up or pay decent wages, and the Bangladeshi government’s failure to step in despite repeated promises. The industry, worth half a billion pounds in exports last year, is crucial to this desperately poor country.”

Mutual responsibility
Global Financial Integrity’s Sarah Freitas writes that Zambia lost $8.8 billion in illicit financial flows (defined as “the proceeds of crime, corruption, and tax evasion”) in the last decade, a problem that no single country can tackle alone:

“These illicit outflows come on top of tremendous outflows from legal corporate tax avoidance. $2 billion is lost yearly to tax avoidance by multinational corporations operating in Zambia, according to Zambian Deputy Finance Minister Miles Sampa. Most of this tax avoidance is due to abusive transfer pricing–which is a type of quasi-legal trade misinvoicing–in the mining sector.

Zambia has the natural resource wealth to dig (literally and figuratively) its way out of poverty, but only if the West acts at the same time. Zambia can’t do this alone. The extra money could be siphoned off to the offshore bank accounts of corrupt public officials, or companies could find new ways to legally pretend that their profits were made elsewhere. The global shadow financial system–a network of secrecy laws, tax havens, shell corporations, and banks like HSBC without real money laundering controls–facilitates both illicit financial flows and pernicious corporate tax avoidance. We need to break this system down. We can start by reforming international customs and trade protocols to detect and curtail trade misinvoicing and requiring the country-by-country reporting of sales, profits and taxes paid by multinational companies.”

Above the law
Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi rejects the thinking that US criminal charges against HSBC executives for laundering Mexican cartel money could have jeopardized global financial stability:

“There is no reason why the [US] Justice Department couldn’t have snatched up everybody at HSBC involved with the trafficking, prosecuted them criminally, and worked with banking regulators to make sure that the bank survived the transition to new management. As it is, HSBC has had to replace virtually all of its senior management. The guilty parties were apparently not so important to the stability of the world economy that they all had to be left at their desks.
So there is absolutely no reason they couldn’t all face criminal penalties. That they are not being prosecuted is cowardice and pure corruption, nothing else.”

Bunker mentality
Inter Press Service reports that Western countries continue to block an international conference on migration called for a UN General Assembly resolution back in 1993:

“Joseph Chamie, a former senior U.N. official and currently research director at the New York-based Centre for Migration Studies, told IPS that wealthier and more influential labour-importing industrialised countries and their allies have consistently resisted convening a global conference on international migration.
‘A conference would likely limit their sovereignty over matters relating to international migration,’ he said.
As a result, he said, the United Nations is unlikely to convene a global, intergovernmental conference on international migration in the foreseeable future.
Instead, said Chamie, the United Nations ‘will continue to resort to high-level dialogues that are voluntary, non-binding global forums to address international migration.’ ”

Latest Developments, December 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Rebel recognition
The New York Times reports that the US has announced it now considers an opposition coalition to be Syria’s “legitimate representative” even though it is unclear how much authority the group actually has over rebel fighters:

“Moreover, [the recognition] draws an even sharper line between those elements of the opposition that the United States champions and those it rejects. The Obama administration coupled its recognition with the designation hours earlier of a militant Syrian rebel group, the Nusra Front, as a foreign terrorist organization, affiliated with Al Qaeda.

But Mr. Obama’s move does not go so far as to confer on the opposition the legal authority of a state. It does not, for example, recognize the opposition’s right to have access to Syrian government funds, take over the Syrian Embassy in Washington or enter into binding diplomatic commitments.”

Too big to jail
Global Witness points out that 47,000 people died in Mexico’s drug war during the time that HSBC “failed to check whether the dollars it was shipping from Mexico to the US were drugs money,” an oversight for which Europe’s biggest bank has agreed to pay a $1.9 billion fine:

“ ‘Fines alone are not going to change banks’ behaviour: the chances of being caught are relatively small and the potential profits from accepting dodgy clients are too big.  Fines are seen as a cost of doing business,’ said Rosie Sharpe, campaigner at Global Witness.
‘Instead, regulators should hold senior bankers legally responsible for their banks’ money laundering performance.  At the very least, senior bankers should be prevented from working in the industry, akin to the way in which doctors can be struck off.  Bonuses should be clawed back, and, in the most serious cases, senior bankers should face jail,’ said Sharpe.”

Uranium politics
NGO l’Observatoire du nucléaire sees the hand of a French state-owned company in the sudden alteration of Niger’s 2013 budget:

“This change, probably illegal, consisted of adding to the national budget 17 billion CFA francs (about €26 million) ‘given’ to Niger by the French nuclear company Areva, of which 10 billion CFA francs (more than €15 million) are set to go directly to purchasing an airplane for Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou.
This is a clear act of corruption, in moral terms if not legal ones, by Areva which expects thereby to maintain its grip on Niger’s uranium, in order to supply French nuclear power plants.

It just so happens that Mr. Issoufou is a former director of a uranium mining company, Somaïr, which is an Areva subsidiary!” [Translated from the French.]

Patent trolls
Reuters reports that in the US, more patent lawsuits have been brought this year by “entities that don’t make anything than those that do”:

“This year, about 61 percent of all patent lawsuits filed through December 1 were brought by patent-assertion entities, or individuals and companies that work aggressively and opportunistically to assert patents as a business model rather than build their own technology, according to a paper by Colleen Chien, a law professor at Santa Clara University.
That compares with 45 percent in 2011 and 23 percent five years ago.”

Corruption’s infrastructure
The Center for Global Development’s William Savedoff suggests some measures rich countries can take to help stem illicit financial flows, which he calls “a problem for world governance”:

“There is only so much the developed world can do to promote better governance in developing countries; after all, developed countries don’t have such a great track record of addressing corruption at home – whether it comes to Super PACs in the US or Berlusconi’s comeback after conviction on tax fraud. But we can make a big difference if rich and powerful countries were to stop protecting and enforcing repayment of odious debt; hindering recovery of stolen assets; allowing multinationals to make facilitation payments; and hiding oil and mineral royalty payments from public view.”

Aid business
Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, raises concerns about the potential impacts on Africa’s food security of a new US-led initiative to increase private sector investment in the continent’s agriculture:

“One of the [New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition] projects will see agri-food giant Cargill, subsidised by G8 development funding, take some 40,000 hectares of farmland in Mozambique. This comes at a time when peasant movements and smallholders across the developing world are calling out for their access to land to be secured in the face of land grabs.

And aid must not result in a long-term dependency on expensive technologies that may eventually force the most marginal farmers, who have the greatest difficulties accessing credit, to leave the land.”

Pathological consumption
The Guardian’s George Monbiot argues that consumer culture is “screwing the planet” for the sake of acquiring largely useless items:

“People in eastern Congo are massacred to facilitate smartphone upgrades of ever diminishing marginal utility. Forests are felled to make ‘personalised heart-shaped wooden cheese board sets’. Rivers are poisoned to manufacture talking fish. This is pathological consumption: a world-consuming epidemic of collective madness, rendered so normal by advertising and by the media that we scarcely notice what has happened to us.

This boom has not happened by accident. Our lives have been corralled and shaped in order to encourage it. World trade rules force countries to participate in the festival of junk. Governments cut taxes, deregulate business, manipulate interest rates to stimulate spending. But seldom do the engineers of these policies stop and ask, ‘spending on what?’ When every conceivable want and need has been met (among those who have disposable money), growth depends on selling the utterly useless. The solemnity of the state, its might and majesty, are harnessed to the task of delivering Terry the Swearing Turtle to our doors.”

Moral legacy
Mother Jones’s Adam Serwer suggests the makers of Zero Dark Thirty, the new Hollywood movie about the American hunt for Osama bin Laden, are “rehabilitating torture”:

“The critical acclaim Zero Dark Thirty is already receiving suggests that it may do what Karl Rove could not have done with all the money in the world: embed in the popular imagination the efficacy, even the necessity, of torture, despite available evidence to the contrary. Whatever the artistic merits of the film, that will be its moral legacy.”

Latest Developments, December 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Syrian plan
The Independent reports on “secret Syria talks” aimed at drawing up plans to provide the country’s rebels with training, as well as military support from air and sea:

“The head of Britain’s armed forces, General Sir David Richards, hosted a confidential meeting in London a few weeks ago attended by the military chiefs of France, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and the UAE, and a three-star American general, in which the strategy was discussed at length. Other UK government departments and their counterparts in allied states in the mission have also been holding extensive meetings on the issue.

The training camps can be set up in Turkey. However, the use of air and maritime force would, in itself, be highly controversial and likely to lead to charges that, as in Libya, the West is carrying out regime change by force.
Furthermore, any such military action will have to take place without United Nations authorisation, with Russia and China highly unlikely to back a resolution after their experience over Libya where they agreed to a ‘no-fly zone’ only to see it turn into a Nato bombing campaign lasting months.”

Weak deal
The Guardian reports that environmental and anti-poverty groups are unhappy with the lack of progress made during the UN climate talks that ended in Doha over the weekend:

“ ‘A weak and dangerously ineffectual agreement is nothing but a polluters charter – it legitimises a do-nothing approach whilst creating a mirage that governments are acting in the interests of the planet and its people,’ said Asad Rehman, head of climate and energy at Friends of the Earth. ‘Doha was a disaster zone where poor developing countries were forced to capitulate to the interests of wealthy countries, effectively condemning their own citizens to the climate crisis. The blame for the disaster in Doha can be laid squarely at the foot of countries like the USA who have blocked and bullied those who are serious about tackling climate change. Our only hope lies in people being inspired to take action.’ ”

Too big to indict
The New York Times reports that US authorities have decided not to indict banking giant HSBC over alleged laundering of Mexican drug money, for fear that “criminal charges could jeopardize one of the world’s largest banks

“Instead, HSBC announced on Tuesday that it had agreed to a record $1.92 billion settlement with authorities. The bank, which is based in Britain, faces accusations that it transferred billions of dollars for nations like Iran and enabled Mexican drug cartels to move money illegally through its American subsidiaries.
While the settlement with HSBC is a major victory for the government, the case raises questions about whether certain financial institutions, having grown so large and interconnected, are too big to indict.”

Private aid
The Guardian reports on War on Want’s criticism of the UK’s increasing use of the private sector to deliver aid to Africa, a strategy the NGO contends “will do little to reduce poverty”:

“ ‘In fact [Department for International Development]-funded expansion of corporate control over agriculture in Africa is a sure way of increasing long-term vulnerability,’ [War on Want director John Hilary said].

War on Want also attacks the government for using aid to promote the commercial interests of some of the world’s most profitable food, drink and agrochemical corporations.
The report says that DfID-sponsored programmes which have funded projects in Africa and Asia with multinationals include the alcohol companies Diageo and SABMiller and the food giant Unilever. It also tracks support for initiatives to develop sales networks for agrochemical companies such as Syngenta and Monsanto. DfID is, for example, set to contribute £395m to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, an initiative that involves 45 of the largest multinational corporations investing $3bn (£1.86bn) in African agriculture.”

Suspended justice
Reuters reports that a French court has given no jail time to ex-soldiers it found guilty of murdering an Ivorian man in 2005:

“The incident – in which [Firmin] Mahe was suffocated with a plastic bag in an armored vehicle after his arrest – erupted into a diplomatic scandal after it was found the soldiers tried to cover up the crime.

The court gave Colonel Eric Burgaud, who had given the order to kill, a suspended sentence of five years, while his adjunct who had admitted to carrying out the murder, Guy Raugel, received a suspended four-year sentence.
Brigadier Chief Johannes Schnier, who helped in the killing, was handed a suspended sentence of one year. Another soldier who drove the vehicle during the killing was acquitted.”

Continent-specific justice
Inner City Press reports on concern in some diplomatic circles that the International Criminal Court’s new prosecutor is picking up where her predecessor left off, targeting only Africans for indictment:

“Another Security Council source, from a country that has signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, expressed to Inner City Press dismay at the ‘mechanism’ announcement over the weekend that new ICC prosecutor Fatima Bensouda is now looking into indicting the M23 and its supporters.
Opponents of Joseph Kabila get indicted by the ICC, from [Jean-Pierre] Bemba to Bosco [Ntaganda], the complaint runs. And what has been accomplished? Let the ICC at least try an indictment in another continent and see how it goes. Or why not look at Kabila or those in his administration, as well?”

Bloc party
The Associated Press reports that not everyone was celebrating as European Union leaders gathered in Oslo to collect this year’s Nobel Peace Prize:

“Three Peace Prize laureates — South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Adolfo Perez Esquivel from Argentina — have demanded that the prize money of $1.2 million not be paid this year. They said the bloc contradicts the values associated with the prize because it relies on military force to ensure security.
Amnesty International said Monday that EU leaders should not ‘bask in the glow of the prize,’ warning that xenophobia and intolerance are now on the rise in the continent of 500 million people.”

Institutionalized assassination
The Financial Times’ Gideon Rachman argues that the biggest problem with America’s drone strikes is not the remoteness of the killings but the secrecy surrounding them:

“To make the spread of drone warfare less likely – and to prevent abuses in America’s own programme – drones need to be reclaimed from the realm of covert warfare. The CIA may relish its conversion into a paramilitary force. But wars should be fought by the military and openly scrutinised by politicians and the press. Anything else is just too dangerous for a free society and for international order.”

Latest Developments, November 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Martial plan
Deutsche Welle reports that a new proposal for a military intervention in northern Mali could include troops from “two or three non-African nations”:

“West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS says it has agreed on a plan to recapture northern Mali using 3,300 troops. ECOWAS leaders meeting in Abuja said they still favor talks with Islamist insurgents holding the area.

Briefing reporters in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, [Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane] Ouattara, who is ECOWAS’s chairman, said the plan would be sent to the United Nations for approval by the end of November.

There is not total unanimity on how to end the conflict. Neighboring Algeria would prefer a negotiated solution to the conflict. France, Mali’s former colonial master, which has several citizens held hostage by al Qaeda-linked groups in the Sahara, supports a swift war scenario.”

Big deal
Press Trust of India reports that the Pentagon has said the sale of billions worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the US”:

“Saudi Arabia plans to buy 20 military transport planes and five refuelling aircraft along with related defence equipment, worth an estimated USD 6.7 billion, from the US, the Pentagon has said.

‘Saudi Arabia has requested a possible sale of 20 C-130J-30 Aircraft, 5 KC-130J Air Refuelling Aircraft, 120 Rolls Royce AE2100D3 Engines (100 installed and 20 spares), 25 Link-16 Multi-functional Information Distribution Systems, support equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, US Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related logistics support,’ [the Defense Security Cooperation Agency] said.”

Evergreening
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a new study that found tactics used by pharmaceutical companies could hold off generic competition, in some cases, by decades:

“The article looked at two key antiretroviral drugs to manage HIV, ritonavir (Norvir) and lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra), and identified 108 patents that could delay generics until 2028. That is 12 years after the expiration of the patents on drugs’ base compounds and 39 years after the first patents on ritonavir were filed.

The authors said some of the secondary patents were questionable, and called for stricter patentability standards, greater transparency, and more opportunities to challenge patents.”

Motion denied
The Hill reports that extractive industry groups have failed to persuade the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it should hold off on requiring oil and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments:

“The SEC rejected claims that initial compliance costs would be burdensome. Claims of competitive harm are too speculative to warrant a stay, the SEC said.
The order is the latest move in a long-running battle over rules required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

The industry favors disclosure carried out under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a voluntary, multilateral group that brings together energy-producing nations, companies and civil society organizations.”

Nigerian spill
The Guardian Nigeria reports that oil giant Mobil is trying to contain a new spill off the country’s coast:

“According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the spill from the Atlantic coastline in Ibeno, which started on Friday, has hit the shoreline.
Oily sediments have deposited on the shoreline in Ibeno, Esit Eket, Eastern Obollo and other settlements along the coast.
Heavy equipment, chemicals, hoses and oil spill containment equipment were being moved from the jetty to the fields.”

Cui bono
The New York Times reports on the broken promises and dashed hopes of Mozambique’s foreign investment-fuelled economic boom:

“The coal deposits in Moatize represent one of the biggest untapped reserves in the world, and the Brazilian mining company Vale has placed a big bet on it. But to get to the coal, hundreds of villagers living atop it had to be moved. The company held a series of meetings with community members and government officials, laying out its plans to build tidy new bungalows for each family and upgrade public services. As the prospect of huge new investments in their rural corner of the world beckoned, villagers anticipated a whole new life: jobs, houses, education, and even free food.
Things didn’t work out that way. The houses were poorly built and leaked when it rained. The promised water taps and electricity never arrived. Cateme is too far from the mine for anyone here to get a job there. The new fields are dusty and barren — coaxing anything from them is hard.”

Strategy adjustment
Veteran journalist Ian Birrell argues “the aid debate has been mugged by economic reality” and calls for new thinking in the fight against global injustice:

Inequality is moving up the political agenda across the world. In the west, there is justified concern over bonus-chasing bankers and plutocrats who plunder profits while cutting wages for workers. In the developing world, the issues are even more stark. But we need to recognise the pace of change on the planet. If we really want to help the world’s poor, we could liberalise immigration controls and tackle issues such as tax evasion and corruption with far tougher action against money-laundering and all those in our own countries who assist the corruption. We can do the most good by abandoning an antiquated way of talking about aid.

Robbing Africa
Journalist and filmmaker Anas Aremeyaw Anas asks why rich countries “frown publicly about corruption, yet turn a blind eye to its fruits”:

“We do not say that all of Africa’s woes are the fault of others outside the continent. Nor do we assume that criminality is the only reason why Africa, despite its many natural riches, has been kept in poverty.
But we did come away wondering why the outside world feeds Africa with one hand and takes from it with another. Why cannot the resources for aid be directed into fighting this obvious problem? Is it not about time that something was done to stop those stealing our wealth, and those helping them steal it, from evading responsibility prosecution for their crimes?”