Inter Press Service » Economy & Trade http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 02 May 2016 16:54:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Odd Situation in the “Paradise” of Press Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/odd-situation-in-the-paradise-of-press-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=odd-situation-in-the-paradise-of-press-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/odd-situation-in-the-paradise-of-press-freedom/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 16:54:45 +0000 Milla Sundstrom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144930 By Milla Sundström
HELSINKI, Finland, May 2 2016 (IPS)

A strange situation has emerged in Finland where some people feel that the press freedom is currently jeopardised. The small Nordic country is a press freedom celebrity leading the index kept by Reporters Without Borders since 2009 and hosting the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The case is related to the so-called Panama Papers that were recently leaked by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The papers originate from the Panama based law company Mossack Fonseca and include information about over 210,000 companies that operate in fiscal paradises.

The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) was involved in publishing the leak and fiscal authorities of Finland now insist that the company has to hand the material over to them. The dead line expired on Friday but YLE has refused.

The company is appealing the tax authorities’ decision and stating that it’s basic freedom is to protect the news sources. Besides YLE emphasised that it does not possess the material but a few journalists just have access to it.

What has most surprised both journalists and the public here is the fact that this happens in Finland while no other country whose media is involved in the Panama case has experienced same kind of threat from the authorities.

“We understand very well about why the tax office and politicians are interested in the documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca”, the responsible editors of YLE investigative group, Ville Vilén and Marit af Björkesten, said in their statement referring to the possible tax evasions and their social consequences.

They admit having partly shared purposes with the authorities but refuse to violate old principles that have been followed for decades in the European countries that respect press freedom.

“Despite their wideness the Panama papers are not a reason to endanger the protection of the news source and the possibilities of Finnish journalists to practice influential investigative journalism on a longer run,” they continue.

“Surprisingly we are not here to celebrate press freedom but instead to ponder an amazing situation”, the president on the Finnish Council of Mass Media, Elina Grundström, said Monday on YLE’s morning television.
The Council of Mass Media is an organ of the Finnish media’s self-regulation meant to supervise the ethics of the press from all stakeholders’ angle. Grundström gave her support to YLE’s decision not to give up the Panama papers to the tax authorities.
Susanna Reinboth, the law reporter of the biggest national daily, agreed while Pekka Mervola, editor-in-chief of the regional paper Keskisuomalainen, thinking that the material could be delivered with certain reservations that are meant to protect the sources.
The problem may be at least partly solved on May 9th when the ICIJ has promised to publish part of the Panama material.

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Democratic Corruptionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/democratic-corruption/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=democratic-corruption http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/democratic-corruption/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 16:32:11 +0000 Sakib Sherani http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144931 By Sakib Sherani
May 2 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

`Chaste to her husband, frank to all beside / A teeming mistress, but a barren bride` – Alexander Pope

From Brazil to Malaysia, democracy around the world is under threat. Not from the march of army columns, but from the greed and corruption of a rapaclous global political elite. While nation-destroying corruption of leaders such as Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko, Sani Abacha, Alberto Fujimori, or Robert Mugabe was the accepted `norm` till the 1990s for a select band of unfortunate Third World countries whose people had been made destitute by their leaders` insatiable greed, the latest wave of democracy was thought to have brought in a newer, and lesstainted, leadership.

From Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan to Cristina Fernandez de Kerchner in Argentina, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta in Kenya, citizens of newly democratic countries have looked up to young, educated and dynamic leaders to provide salvation from the curse of history. But this was not to be.

Wildly popular leaders elected via freer and fairer elections proved to be a false dawn in most countries much like the lament from Alexander Pope`s Rape of the Lock.

Far from strengthening democracy in their respective countries by building or consolidating institutions, most of these leaders chose to become elected autocrats by dismantling, brick by brick, constitutional checks and balances against misrule and established systems of good governance. Their popularity – born out of a politica dynasty, a successful acting career, leadership in the independence movement or just charismatic demagoguery – combined with the decimation of legitimate democratic opposition and institutional safeguards more often than not has bred a sense of entitlement and a culture of impunity. These are fertile grounds for corruption and misuse of unbridled power.

Hence, the scale, brazenness and pervasiveness of corruption in these countries. Hugo Chavez`s family in Venezuela, Tamil Nadu`s chief minister Jayalalitha, the Rajapakse family in Sri Lanka, are just a handful among a host of other recent popularly elected leadersaccused of amassing untold wealth while in office. Similar accusations dog the family of the prime minister of Bangladesh and the erstwhile prime minister of Thailand, Ms Yingluck Shinawatra.

In Brazil, the leftist President Dilma Rouseff and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are embroiled in a multi-billion dollar embezzlement scandal involving Petrobras, the country`s stateowned oil producer. Prime Minister Najib Razzak of Malaysia has had the good fortune of `someone` crediting his account with $700 million overnight (linked to Malaysia`s state fund 1MDB), while Turkey`s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is accused of wasting state funds on building a new palace for himself costing over $600m.

Nor is abuse of public office for personal enrichment limited any longer to dirt-poor developing countries. Even in countries with an established, albeit turbulent, tradition of parliamentary democracy, such as Spain and Italy, popularly elected leaders voted into office on a promise of change have quickly become tainted with allegations of corruption.

Closer to home, proceedings of hearings before the US Senate in 1999 provide a detailed account of millions of dollars of funds being moved through Citibank`s private banking centres on behalf of Mr Zardari between 1994 and 1997, including on account of commissions by the Swiss company Cotecna.

Details of beneficial ownership of a web of offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands by the thenprime minister and her spouse is provided in the official record of the proceedings. Further material on beneficial ownership of offshore companies and transactions amounting to millions of dollars during this period is provided in the Global Corruption Report (2004) in the section titled `The hunt for looted state assets: the case of Benazir Bhutto`

Recent revelations about offshore companies and accounts belonging to the prime minister`s family dating to the 1990s a period of intense speculation about corruption involving South Korea`s Daewoo, and in the yellow cabs import scheme that apparently caused a $1 billion loss to Pakistan`s exchequer reinforce the perception that the transition to democ-racy in Pakistan has taken a familiar, and less desirable, path.

Not unlike other parts of the world, where elected kleptocrats have been caught out with their `snouts in the trough` (as the late Ardeshir Cowasjee would put it), Pakistani politicians start crying hoarse about the threat to `the system` whenever their corruption is exposed. Presumably, the system they are out to protect is not one that guarantees education, jobs or basic health services to Pakistan`s teeming poor, but one that allows the entitlement to loot.

However, there is nothing constitutional or democratic about the systematic pillage of state resources for personal enrichment. About the only democratic thing about such large-scale corruption is that, barring the handful who benefit from it, it affects all other Pakistanis indiscriminately, with the poor and the vulnerable bearing the brunt of its pernicious consequences.

These consequences have been on egregious display time and again: when public schools in Azad Kashmir collapsed due to poor construction in the October 2005 earthquake killing thousands of innocent children; when poor Thari children die each year due to lack of basic facilities; when faulty scanners are imported to protect our cities; when expired medicines and vaccines are purchased for public hospitals; when the government does not have the money to pay pensioners, doctors, nurses, teachers and Lady Health Workers their dues for months on end but can cough up $2bn for vanity bus and train projects; when an illfunded and ill-equipped police has to take on wellarmed criminal gangs baclced by powerful politicians; ad nauseam.

True democracy is an aspiration worth pursuing. But passing off large-scale looting and plunder as constitutional democracy does not serve the interest of Pakistan`s citizens or its future generations.

Banay hain ahlay hawwas muda`ee bhi, munsifbhi Kisay vakil karein, kis say munsafi chahein (Faiz)

The writer is a former economic adviser to government, and currently heads a macroeconomic consultancy based in Islamabad.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Black Colombian Activists Continue Our Struggle For Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/black-colombian-activists-continue-our-struggle-for-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=black-colombian-activists-continue-our-struggle-for-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/black-colombian-activists-continue-our-struggle-for-rights/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 23:28:03 +0000 Charo Mina Rojas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144920 By Charo Rojas
Cauca, COLOMBIA, May 1 2016 (IPS)

While Colombia’s peace talks continue in Havana, Cuba, back home in the region of North Cauca, Black Colombians have found their cries for access to their ancestral lands met with tear-gas and rubber bullets.

We saw them approach, the ESMAD, the dreaded special police unit called out to squelch popular mobilizations against the government. We pressed even closer together to maintain our lines on one of the main highways that connects Colombia’s north and south. Over a thousand of us, black Colombians from one of the poorest regions of the country, gathered to demonstrate to the government that we would not be silenced while our territories are taken away. Suddenly, without warning, the ESMAD began their assault and soon elders, children, women and our young people were choking from the tear-gas and holding parts of their bodies stinging from rubber bullets indiscriminately fired at us.

The ESMAD’s assault took place on April 25 in the region of North Cauca, Colombia. The next day, the ESMAD sabotaged conversations between the community councils and the authorities, their renewed attacks this time also effecting some of the government officials. A three month-old baby and several children were hurt by a tear-gas grenade that exploded inside their house. We black Colombians are more or less held hostage by the ESMAD, while the national government had promised a meeting at the Mayor’s office in the nearest town.

The Afrodescendant Women’s Mobilization has received numerous death threats due to our actions to protect our community’s rights and territories. However, the government fails to find the responsible persons for the illegal mining or the death threats.

The Northern Cauca region, located in the department of Cauca, is a critical area in the negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC that are currently taking place in Havana, Cuba. Yet Black communities and our interests have not been considered during these discussions, even though our ancestral territories will be compromised by at least one of the agreements: the 63 so-called campesino reserves. Most of the areas the FARC wants to settle or continue to control are in the middle of or close to black and Indigenous lands.

The main national Black organizations have been concentrated in the National Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA by its acronym in Spanish), which with the Interethnic Commission of Peace, has demanded and lobbied the Colombian government to bring our voice and interests to the table in Havana. But since our demands have been ignored we have had to find new ways to make our voices heard.

As has often been the case in our long history of struggle and resistance in Colombia we have again had to turn to protest. In November 2014, eighty Afro-descendant women mobilized and walked across the country to Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, where we seized the building of the Ministry of Interior to demand a stop to the increase in illegal mining in our territories. These mining activities have brought death, violence and tragedy. In one mine collapse alone, over 40 of our people were killed.

These mobilizations have often been led by Black women, increasingly so in recent years. We have made the government sign agreements to remove illegal mining and admit that granting mining rights to multinationals violates its own laws. We have also made the government acknowledge that these agreement violate the right to prior and informed consultation and consent, as recognized by the International Labour Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention. Yet those admissions and agreements have not translated into respect for our rights or any change in government’s actions or approach. In fact, despite the agreements, and the laws and the constitutional mandate to consult, to respect, promote and protect the rights of Black people, the Colombian government has granted mining concessions that cover seventy percent of the Cauca lands to multinationals such as Anglo Gold Ashanti.

The Afrodescendant Women’s Mobilization has received numerous death threats due to our actions to protect our community’s rights and territories. However, the government seems incapable of finding those responsible for the illegal mining or the death threats.

That is why we must continue to resist. The Community Councils will continue blocking the road until the national authorities commit to a renewed dialogue that will lead to substantive changes in how the interests of our communities are protected. It is clear for us that our Black lives matter only through our own efforts.

Charo Mina Rojas is an activist with the Black Communities’ Process in Colombia.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of IPS.

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West Papuans Turn to Africa for Support in Freedom Bidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 06:30:44 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144913 Former President of Ghana, John Kufuor, voiced his support for West Papuan political aspirations during a meeting with West Papuan indigenous leader, Benny Wenda, at Ghana's 59th Independence celebrations in March this year. Credit: Benny Wenda

Former President of Ghana, John Kufuor, voiced his support for West Papuan political aspirations during a meeting with West Papuan indigenous leader, Benny Wenda, at Ghana's 59th Independence celebrations in March this year. Credit: Benny Wenda

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, Apr 30 2016 (IPS)

For more than half a century, the indigenous people of West Papua, located on the western side of the island of New Guinea, who are related to the Melanesians of the southwest Pacific Islands, have waged a resistance to governance by Indonesia and a relentless campaign for self-determination.

But despite regular bloodshed and reports of systematic human rights abuses by national security forces, which have taken an estimated half a million West Papuan lives, the international community has remained mostly unwilling to take concerted action in support of their plight.

Now Benny Wenda, a West Papuan independence leader who has lived in exile in the United Kingdom since 2003, is driving a mission to build the support of African states. Following a visit to Senegal in 2010 and two visits to South Africa last year, Wenda was welcomed at the 59th Independence anniversary celebrations in Ghana in March this year.

“There has been widespread attention and further pan-African solidarity for West Papua renewed following my diplomatic visits to these African countries, both at parliamentary and grassroots levels,” Wenda told IPS.

In Ghana, Wenda met with political and church leaders, including former Presidents, Jerry John Rawlings and John Kufuor.

‘We are honoured to fight for your people. We share a similar history. It is no surprise to me that you had support from Ghana at the UN in 1969 and that we accepted West Papuan refugees in the 1980s,’ Jerry John Rawlings said to the Ghanaian media.

The alliance which Wenda is forging is based on a sense of shared historical experience.

“Africa is the motherland to all people and we Melanesians feel this strongly….our affinity primarily lies in our shared ancestral heritage, but also in our recent history because Africa has also suffered the brutalities of colonialism,” Wenda said.

Following decolonisation of the Dutch East Indies, Indonesia gained independence in 1949, but there was disagreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia about the fate of Dutch New Guinea, which the former was preparing for self-determination. A United Nations supervised referendum on its political future, named the ‘Act of Free Choice,’ was held in 1969, but less than 1 per cent of the region’s population was selected to vote by Indonesia, guaranteeing an outcome for integration, rather than independence.

At the time, Ghana and more than a dozen other African states were the only United Nations members to reject the flawed ballot.

During Wenda’s visit to South Africa last February, other leaders, such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile ‘Mandla’ Mandela MP, added their solidarity.

‘I’m shocked to learn that West Papua is still not free. I call on the United Nations and all the relevant bodies, please, do what is right, as they know, for West Papua,’ Tutu said in a public statement.

The momentum continued when the Nigeria-based non-government organisation, Pan African Consciousness Renaissance, held a pro-West Papua demonstration outside the Indonesian Embassy in Lagos in April 2015.

Indonesia’s refusal to recognise secessionist aspirations in its far-flung troubled region is often attributed not only to concerns about national unity, but the immense mineral wealth of copper, gold, oil and natural gas which flows to the state from ‘West Papua’, the umbrella term widely used for the two Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Since coming to power in 2014 populist Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, has vowed to increase inclusive development in the region and called on security forces to refrain from abusive measures, but the suffering of West Papuans continues. In May last year, there were reports of 264 activists arrested by police ahead of planned peaceful protests. Twelve Papuans were shot by security forces in Karubaga in the central highlands in July, while in August three people were abducted and tortured by police in the Papuan capital, Jayapura, and two shot dead outside the Catholic Church in Timika.

West Papua’s political fate stands in contrast to that of East Timor at the end of last century. East Timor, a Portuguese colony militarily annexed by Indonesia in 1975, gained Independence in 2002. The positive result of an independence referendum in 1999 was widely accepted and further supported by a multi-national peacekeeping force when ensuing violence instigated by anti-independence forces threatened to derail the process.

But in the political climate of the 1960s, Wenda says “West Papua was effectively handed over to Indonesia to try and appease a Soviet friendly Indonesian government….our fate was left ignored for the sake of cold war politics.” Now Indonesia staunchly defends its right of sovereignty over the provinces.

In the immediate region, West Papua has obtained some support from Pacific Island countries, such as the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu which have voiced concerns about human rights violations at the United Nations.

And last year the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a sub-regional intergovernmental organisation, granted observer status to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua coalition. However, Indonesia, a significant trade partner in the Pacific Islands region, was awarded associate membership, giving it an influential platform within the organisation.

“Luhut Pandjaitan’s [Indonesia’s Presidential Chief of Staff] recent visit to Fiji suggests that Indonesia is continuing its efforts to dissuade Pacific states from supporting West Papua and is willing to allocate significant diplomatic and economic resources to the objective,” Dr Richard Chauvel at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute commented to IPS.

In contrast to Indonesia’s Pacific Island neighbours, Dr Chauvel continued, “African states mostly do not have significant trade, investment, diplomatic and strategic interests with Indonesia and do not have to weigh these interests against support for the West Papuan cause at the UN or elsewhere.”

How influential south-south solidarity by African leaders will be on West Papua’s bid for freedom hinges on whether championing words translate into action. In the meantime, Benny Wenda’s campaign continues.

(End)

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Opinion: Illicit Financial Flowshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-illicit-financial-flows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-illicit-financial-flows http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-illicit-financial-flows/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:34:23 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144905 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Apr 29 2016 (IPS)

International capital flows are now more than 60 times the value of trade flows. The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) is now of the view that large international financial transactions do not facilitate trade, and that excessive financial ‘elasticity’ was the cause of recent financial crises.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Illicit financial flows involve financial movements from one country to another, especially when funds are illegally earned, transferred, and/or utilized. Some examples include:
• A cartel using trade-based money laundering techniques to mix legal money, say from the sale of used cars, with illegal money, e.g., from drug sales;
• An importer using trade mis-invoicing to evade customs duties, VAT, or income taxes;
• A corrupt public official or family members using an anonymous shell company to transfer dirty money to bank accounts elsewhere;
• An illegal trafficker carrying cash across the border and depositing it in a foreign bank; or
• A terrorist financier wiring money to an operative abroad.

Global Financial Integrity (GFI) estimated that in 2013, US$1.1 trillion left developing countries in illicit financial outflows. Its methodology is considered to be quite conservative, as it does not pick up movements of bulk cash, mispricing of services, or most money laundering.

Beyond the direct economic impact of such massive haemorrhage, illicit financial flows hurt government revenues and society at large. They also facilitate transnational organized crime, foster corruption, undermine governance and decrease tax revenues.

Where Does The Money Flow To?
Most illicit financial outflows from developing countries ultimately end up in banks in countries like the US and the UK, as well as in tax havens like Switzerland, the Cayman Islands or Singapore. GFI estimates that about 45 per cent of illicit flows end up in offshore financial centres and 55 per cent in developed countries. University of California, Berkeley Professor Gabriel Zucman has estimated that 6 to 8 per cent of global wealth is offshore, mostly not reported to tax authorities.

GFI’s December 2015 report found that developing and emerging economies had lost US$7.8 trillion in illicit financial flows over the ten-year period of 2004-2013, with illicit outflows increasing by an average of 6.5 per cent yearly. Over the decade, an average of 83.4 per cent of illicit financial outflows were due to fraudulent trade mis-invoicing, involving intentional misreporting by transnational companies of the value, quantity or composition of goods on customs declaration forms and invoices, usually for tax evasion. Illicit capital outflows often involve tax evasion, crime, corruption and other illicit activities.

How Low Can You Go?
In the 1960s, there was a popular dance called the ‘limbo rock’, with the winner leaning back as much as possible to get under the bar. Many of today’s financial centres are involved in a similar game to attract customers by offering low tax rates and banking secrecy. This has, in turn, forced many governments to lower direct taxes not only on income, but also on wealth. From the early 1980s, this was dignified by US President Ronald Reagan’s embrace of Professor Arthur Laffer’s curve which claimed higher savings, investments and growth with less taxes.

With the decline of government revenue from direct taxes, especially income tax, many governments were forced to cut spending, often by reducing public services, raising user-fees and privatizing state-owned enterprises. Beyond a point, there was little room left for further cuts, and governments had to raise revenue. This typically came from indirect taxes, especially on consumption, as trade taxes were discouraged to promote trade liberalization. Many countries have since adopted value added taxation (VAT), long promoted, in recent decades, by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others as the superior form of taxation: after all, once the system is in place, raising rates is relatively easy.

A progressive tax system would seek to ensure that those with more ability to do so, pay proportionately more tax than those with less ability to do so. Instead, tax systems have become increasingly regressive, with the growing middle class bearing the main burden of taxes. Meanwhile, tax competition among developing countries has not only reduced tax revenue, but also made direct taxation less progressive, while the growth of VAT has made the overall impact of taxation more regressive as the rich pay proportionately less tax with all the loopholes available to them, both nationally and abroad. Overall tax incidence in many developing countries has not only long been regressive, but has also become more regressive over time, especially since the 1980s.

Although there are many reasons for income inequality, hidden untaxed wealth has undoubtedly also increased wealth and income inequality at the national and international level.

(End)

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World Farmers’ Organisation Meeting Eyes New Markets, Fresh Investmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:52:52 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144903 Bags of maize at the Food Reserve Agency Depot in Kasiya, Pemba district, Southern Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Bags of maize at the Food Reserve Agency Depot in Kasiya, Pemba district, Southern Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, Apr 29 2016 (IPS)

‘No Farmer, No Food’ is an old slogan that the Zambia National Farmers’ Union still uses. Some people consider it a cliché, but it could be regaining its place in history as agriculture is increasingly seen as the answer to a wide range of the world’s critical needs such as nutrition, sustainable jobs and income for the rural poor.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), agricultural investment is one of the most important and effective strategies for economic growth and poverty reduction in rural areas where the majority of the world’s poor live. Available data indicates that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth originating in other sectors.

Armed with this evidence, the world’s development trajectory is focusing on how the sector can boost the fight against hunger and extreme poverty—two of the major obstacles to achieving sustainable development. And the upcoming 6th World Farmers’ Organisation General Assembly slated for May 4-7 in Zambia is set to be dominated by, among other things, agricultural investment and market linkages."We should use the gathering to solicit for ideas and investments to improve the agricultural value chain as government sets agriculture as the mainstay of the economy." -- WFO President Evelyn Nguleka

Under the theme ‘Partnerships for Growth’, the conference is poised to deliberate on ways to encourage farmer-centered partnerships and investments aimed at improving the economic environment and livelihood of this group of producers, most of whom live in rural areas.

FAO estimates that an additional investment of 83 billion dollars will be needed annually to close the gap between what low- and middle-income countries have invested each year over the last decade and what is needed by 2050.

But for developing countries like Zambia, where would this kind of investment come from?

Evelyn Nguleka, president of the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU), believes hosting this year’s event is an opportunity for Zambia to market itself as a preferred agricultural investment destination.

“We have the land, water, human resource and good climate which supports the growing of all kinds of agricultural produce,” Dr. Nguleka told IPS. She added that the hosting of the WFO General Assembly comes at a crucial time for Zambia, which has suffered one of the worst droughts induced by the El Nino weather phenomenon sweeping across Southern Africa.

“It is a critical point in our agricultural development that we should use the gathering to solicit for ideas and investments to improve the agricultural value chain as government sets agriculture as the mainstay of the economy,” said the ZNFU president, who is also the current World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) president.

Highlighting the challenge of market access and poor mechanisation, Nguleka is hopeful that Zambia would use the platform to learn from countries that have mechanised and are now reaping the benefits.

“As you are aware, majority producers are smallholders most of whom are women. Women are not only farmers but also home managers, and to balance these two duties requires some basic mechanisation to reduce time spent in the fields,” she said, highlighting the importance of women to agricultural development.

But for Green Living Movement, a member of the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity Conservation, the conference should ensure that the voice of smallholder farmers – usually marginalised at such big events – is heard loud and clear.

“We welcome the theme, which is timely. But we say no to one-sided partnerships that seemingly favour the bigger corporations while the smallholder farmers lose out,” said Emmanuel Mutamba, director of Green Living Movement and Chairman of the Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity Conservation.

Mutamba said WFO should guard against selfish corporate interests whose agenda is largely driven by profit. “Climate change is here to stay. We call upon our representatives at this conference to seriously consider the plight of smallholders who produce 75 percent of the country’s food requirements and are at the frontlines of climate change effects. Sustainable technologies must be sought for their continued productivity, or else whatever partnerships emerge would not make sense without production,” Mutamba told IPS, highlighting the importance of tackling climate change.

And in adding value to the win-win approach being advocated for, the Cultivate Africa’s Future (CultiAF) Project on reducing post-harvest losses of fish in Western Zambia could be a perfect example.

After introducing fishers to efficient post-harvest handling technologies, the project has moved to fund business ideas meant to up-scale workable technologies whose findings are a result of joint efforts between fishers and researchers through a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach.

Dubbed Expanding Business Opportunities for African Youth in Agricultural Value Chains in Southern Africa, the CultiAF supplementary project is funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Jonathan Tambatamba, director of Programmes at the ATDF Entrepreneurship Hub (AEH), a private company contracted by IDRC to implement the commercialisation project, said, “The project seeks to move away from the ‘business as usual’ approach of using communities for commercial interests, after which they are dumped without a sustainability plan.”

Apart from entrepreneurship training, three novel and creative business ideas would be picked and supported with a 5,000-dollar grant each, addressing some of the noted challenges in the (CultiAF) PAR process – financial sustainability and poor market access.

And for 35-year-old fish trader Joyce Inonge Nang’umbili, the idea of having access to reliable markets built around the local business value chain could be close to a miracle. “For some of us who have taken up salting as the best option for fish processing, we desire proper market access of salted fish which is not widely known by most consumers in Zambia,” she said.

As WFO representatives gather in Livingstone, many hope they will be drawn not only to farmer centered policies that address market linkages, but also responsible agricultural investments, with serious implications for the fight against climate change threatening the very existence of humanity and attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as espoused in the UN 2030 agenda.

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UN Predicts 40 Percent Water Shortfall by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/un-predicts-40-percent-water-shortfall-by-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-predicts-40-percent-water-shortfall-by-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/un-predicts-40-percent-water-shortfall-by-2030/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:04:20 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144889 The pastoralists of Ethiopia’s Somali region are forced to move constantly in search of pasture and watering holes for their animals. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS

The pastoralists of Ethiopia’s Somali region are forced to move constantly in search of pasture and watering holes for their animals. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 28 2016 (IPS)

Ten presidents and prime ministers from around the world will work together to resolve the growing global water crisis amid warnings that the world may face a 40 percent shortfall in water availability by 2030.

The figures continue to be staggering:  despite improvements, at least 663 million still do not have access to safe drinking water.

And projecting into the future, the United Nations says an estimated 1.8 billion people – out of a total world population of over 7 billion – will live in countries or regions with water scarcities.

The crisis has been aggravated by several factors, including climate change (triggering droughts) and military conflicts (where water is being used as a weapon of war in several war zones, including Iraq, Yemen and Syria).

The High Level Panel on Water, announced jointly by the the United Nations and World Bank last week. is expected to mobilise financial resources and scale up investments for increased water supplies. It will be co-chaired by President Ameenah Gurib of Mauritius and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico. The other eight world leaders on the panel include: Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia; Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; János Áder, President of Hungary; Abdullah Ensour, Prime Minister of Jordan; Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands; Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa; Macky Sall, President of Senegal; and Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan.

At a UN panel discussion last week, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson of Sweden said water lies at the nexus between sustainable development and climate action.

"If the water service fee is beyond a household’s ability to pay, it is a human rights violation.” -- Darcey O’Callaghan, Food and Water Watch.

Referring to the two extremes in weather patterns– droughts on the one hand and floods on the other – Eliasson said one of his colleagues who visited Pakistan after a huge flood, remarked: “Too much water and not a drop to drink.”

When world leaders held a summit meeting last September to adopt the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, they also approved 17 SDGs, including the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger and the provision of safe drinking water to every single individual in the world – by a targeted date of 2030.

But will this target be reached by the 15 year deadline?

Sanjay Wijesekera, Associate Director, Programmes, and Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at the UN children’s agency UNICEF, told IPS: “As we enter the SDG era, there is no doubt that the goal to get ‘safely managed’ water to every single person on earth within the next 15 years is going to be a challenge. What we have learned from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is that water cannot be successfully tackled in isolation.”

He said water safety is compromised every day from poor sanitation, which is widespread in many countries around the world, particularly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Currently, nearly two billion people worldwide are estimated to be drinking water which may be faecally contaminated.

As a result, UNICEF and others working on access to safe water, will have to redouble their efforts on improving people’s access to and use of toilets, and especially to end open defecation.

“As we address water, sanitation and hygiene, we must also take into account climate change. Droughts, floods, and extreme weather conditions all have an effect on the availability and the safety of water,” said Wijesekera.

He also pointed out that some 160 million children under-5 live in areas at high risk of drought, while around half a billion live in flood zones.

Asked how best the water crisis can be resolved, Darcey O’Callaghan, International Policy Director at Food and Water Watch, told IPS the global water crisis must be addressed in two primary ways.

“First, we must provide clean, safe, sufficient water to all people because water is a human right. Affordability is a key component of meeting this need. Second, we must protect water sustainability by not overdrawing watersheds beyond their natural recharge rate.”

“If we allow water sources to run dry, then we lose the ability to protect people’s human rights. So clearly, we must address these two components in tandem,” she said.

To keep water affordable, she pointed out, it must be managed by a public entity, not a private, for-profit one. Allowing corporations to control access to water (described as “water privatization”) has failed communities around the globe, resulting in poor service, higher rates and degraded water quality.

Corporations like Veolia and Suez — and their subsidiaries around the world—are seeking to profit off of managing local water systems, she said, pointing out that financial institutions like the World Bank and regional development banks often place conditions on loans to developing countries that require these systems to be privatized.

“But this is a recipe for disaster. Profits should not be the priority when it comes to providing water and sanitation services to people”, said O’Callaghan.

Asked if the public should pay for water, she said there is no longer any question that water and sanitation are both human rights. What the public pays for is water infrastructure upkeep and the cost of running water through the networks that deliver this resource to our homes, schools, businesses and government institutions.

“The UN has established guidelines for water affordability –three percent of household income—and these guidelines protect the human right to water. If the water service fee is beyond a household’s ability to pay, it is a human rights violation.”

One approach that has shown promise are public-public partnerships (PPPs). In contrast to privatization, which puts public needs into the hands of profit-seeking corporations, PPPs bring together public officials, workers and communities to provide better service for all users more efficiently.

PUPs allow two or more public water utilities or non-governmental organizations to join forces and leverage their shared capacities. PPPs allow multiple public utilities to pool resources, buying power and technical expertise, she said.

The benefits of scale and shared resources can deliver higher public efficiencies and lower costs. These public partnerships, whether domestic or international, improve and promote public delivery of water through sharing best practices, said O’Callaghan.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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A Tale of Twin Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-tale-of-twin-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-tale-of-twin-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-tale-of-twin-states/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 16:54:10 +0000 I.A. Rehman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144885 By I.A. Rehman
Apr 28 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Pakistani visitors to India, usually beset with anxiety about their country`s future, are sometimes relieved to find a good number of Indians similarly worried about their country.

This is perhaps due to the fact that the twin states face many identical issues, and their people thus try to find solutions in the subcontinent`s shared culture.

For instance, last week in Delhi the discussion at gatherings of left-inclined intellectuals and social activists was dominated by queries as to what will happen to India if the saffron brigade continued to bring all matters under the stamp of Hindutva.

Sparks of resistance were not denied such as the resistance by writers and artists (in renouncing state awards) or the defiance of the Jawaharlal Nehru University student leaders. But generally, the conclusion was that these actions, highly morale-boosting though they were, did not generate the kind of movement for the rejection of humbug that was needed.

One also noticed a receding enthusiasm among optimists. Perhaps most people were more disappointed with the showing of the liberals (who should not be relied upon in any case) than was objectively necessary. But in the end, somebody or the other would cut the discussion short by claiming that India would never go down in the duel with fundamentalism because the traditions of tolerance in its society were so deep-rooted and strong.

One could not help drawing parallels with similar gatherings in Pakistan where those lamenting the uncertainty of civil society (along with the state authorities) see no silver lining on the horizon.

Does this mean that India and Pakistan both are condemned to suffer for a long time at the hands of people who are equipped with mantras that cannot be spurned without inviting the charge of sacrilege? That said, it is impossible not to find the judiciary challenging the executive or the legislature for transgressing its authority. Last time, it was a former Supreme Court judge taking parliament to task for amending the law so that an 18-year-oldcould be hanged.

This time it was Uttarakhand High Court in a fiery mood in the case of the dissolution of the state government by the president. The president can be an exalted person but he can also go terribly wrong, the court said.

The crisis arose when nine of the chief minister`s supporters joined the BJP opposition and the president accepted the establishment`s view that the government had broken down. Now the BJP was eagerly waiting for an invitation to form the state government. Whatever the final outcome, the BJP will be blamed for manipulating the fall of the state government.

For Pakistani students of politics, there is nothing surprising in this story. In the early years of independence, the ruling parties in both India and Pakistan were extremely unwilling to allow any opposition party to form a state-province government, but one thought the process had ended in India after an Andhra chief minister flew into the capital with all his supporters in the assembly and compelled the centre to take back the orders of his sacking. In Pakistan, the process continued somewhat longer and was overshadowed by frequent sacking of the National Assembly by all-powerful presidents.

With regard to judiciary-executive ties, it is not clear if India is now following Pakistan`s example or whether Pakistan was earlier copying an Indian pattern.

Although Pakistani chief justices in distress might have shed tears in private, there is no record of their breaking down before the political authority. But it must be said for Chief Justice T.S. Thakur that he was pleading the cause of justice and not seeking a personal favour.

One hopes, however, that his tearful plea does not embolden the sarkar to the extent of filling the courts with Modi loyalists. Justice Thakur could have a better bargain with the executive by holding firm as the head of his brother judges.

The Delhi state government`s decision to prohibit fee increases by private educational institutions should not fail to remind the people of Punjab of a similar step taken by their provincial government sometime ago.

The reasons advanced by the educational institutions on both sides are the same: mounting expenditures on teachers, rent and extracurricular facilities. The parents complain of their inability to pay fees they consider exorbitant but they are unlikely to win their case in either Delhi or Lahore.

Although the Indian government earned credit for forcing the private institutions to give relief to poor students, the patrons of private schools are likely to surrender to the argument that they cannot wish to have for their kids anything less than the best. The neo-liberal stalwarts are unlikely to cow before parents who admit to being less affluent.

It is not possible to be in Delhi and not be caught by surprise at the expansion of the metro train network or the odd-even scheme to restrict traffic that has increased the gains of operators of public transport.

The privileged car owners make no secret of their tactic to beat the system by having two cars for each user, one for odd number days and the other to be plied on even number days.

What makes Delhi a lively place despite the heat and shortage of water is the pace at which cultural activities continue.

It was good to see the tomb of Abdul Rahim Khan-i -Khana, the son of Bairam Khan who had secured the throne for the child-king Al Journalists in the doghouse: Pakistan enjoys the dubious distinction of being among the most dangerous places for journalists. In Sri Lanka, before the change of government, journalists were commonly meted out unsavoury treatment. Now Bangladesh too has taken to targeting journalists rather indiscriminately.

But what has happened to the democratic government of Nepal that Kanak Mani Dixit has been jailed? He is not afraid of making enemies, if he is being punished for that, but he must be respected as a leading exponent of the South Asian identity.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Opinion: Increasing Productivity Key to Revive Growth and Support Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-increasing-productivity-key-to-revive-growth-and-support-sustainable-development-in-asia-and-the-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-increasing-productivity-key-to-revive-growth-and-support-sustainable-development-in-asia-and-the-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-increasing-productivity-key-to-revive-growth-and-support-sustainable-development-in-asia-and-the-pacific/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 12:37:28 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144870 The author is an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. She has been the UN’s Sherpa for the G20 and previously served as Governor of the Central Bank of Pakistan and Vice President of the MENA Region of the World Bank. The full Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2016 may be downloaded free of charge at http://www.unescap.org/publications/economic-and-social-survey-asia-pacific.]]> Shamshad Akhtar

Shamshad Akhtar

By Shamshad Akhtar
BANGKOK, Thailand , Apr 28 2016 (IPS)

The Asia-Pacific region’s successful achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development needs to be driven by broad-based productivity gains and rebalancing of economies towards domestic and regional demand. This is the main message of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2016, published today by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Such a strategy will not only underpin the revival of robust and resilient economic growth, but also improve the quality of growth by making it more inclusive and sustainable.

How should Asia-Pacific policymakers go about implementing such a strategy? Approaches by developing Asia-Pacific economies that are tilted more towards reliance on export-led economic recovery will be ineffective under the current circumstances. Despite extraordinary measures, global aggregate demand remains weak and China’s economic expansion is moderating. The impact of further loosening of monetary policy is also likely to remain muted, and is not advisable. The key reason is a confluence of macroeconomic risks that are clouding the economic outlook, such as low commodity prices affecting resource-dependent economies, volatility in exchange rates, as well as growing private household and corporate debt, the impact of which is likely to be complicated by the ambiguous path of interest rate increases to be pursued by the United States.

The contribution of export-led economic growth to overall development of economies, supported by low interest rates and rising private debt, seems to have plateaued, with economic growth in developing Asia-Pacific economies in 2016 and 2017 forecast to marginally increase to 4.8% and 5% respectively from an estimated 4.6% in 2015. This is considerably below the average of 9.4% in the pre-crisis period of 2005-2007.

Along with the economic slowdown, progress in poverty reduction is slowing, inequalities are rising and prospects of decent employment are weakening. At the same time, rapid urbanization and a rising middle class are posing complex economic, social, and environmental and governance challenges. Such conditions can undermine the significant development successes of the region in recent decades, making it more difficult to deal with the unfinished development agenda, such as lifting 639 million people out of poverty. Had inequality not increased, approximately 200 million more people could have been lifted out of poverty in the three most populous countries of the region alone.

To overcome these challenges, revive the region’s economic dynamism and effectively pursue the 2030 Agenda, policymakers are advised to use all available policy levers, including countercyclical fiscal policy and supportive social protection measures, which critically calls for raising domestic resources. Such interventions would not only support domestic demand but also strengthen the foundations for future productivity-led growth by targeting areas such as: labour quality, including knowledge, skills, and health of the workforce; innovation through trade, investment and R&D; adequate infrastructure in transport, energy and ICT; and access to finance, especially by SMEs.

Fiscal measures, underpinning such initiatives, should be accompanied by sustained reforms towards efficient and fair tax systems which deliver the necessary revenues for the required investment in sustainable development

Sustained increases in domestic demand will also require steady growth in real wages. This requires linking labour productivity more closely to wage levels. Strengthening the enabling environment for collective bargaining is one necessary component in the policy arsenal of governments, with the enforcement of minimum wages as another important policy tool.

After increasing significantly over the last few decades, productivity growth has declined in recent years. This is worrying not only because wage growth has lagged behind productivity growth, but also because wage growth ultimately depends on productivity growth. Specifically, compared to the period 2000-2007, annual growth of total factor productivity has declined by more than 65% in developing countries of the region, averaging only 0.96% per year between 2008 and 2014; labour productivity growth has declined by 30%, reaching just 3.9% in 2013.

The recently-adopted Sustainable Development Goals provide an entry point to strengthen productivity. For instance, raising agricultural productivity and thus lifting rural households income must be the center of the focus to end poverty (Goal 1), to end hunger and achieve food security (Goal 2). This is because agriculture accounts for one in four workers in the region and more than half of the region’s people live in rural areas. Efforts to eradicate poverty and increase agricultural productivity would also foster development of the rural sector and encourage industrialization (Goal 9).

Higher levels of productivity in agriculture will also free-up labour, which would be available to work in the non-agricultural sector. It is therefore imperative to consider a broader development strategy that moves towards full and productive employment (Goal 8) to accommodate the “agricultural push” of labour. This will require mechanisms to provide, particularly those with low skills, access to quality education and lifelong learning (Goal 4).The need to provide quality education cannot be overemphasized in view of the skills bias of modern technology, which reduces the pace of absorption of unskilled labour released from the agricultural sector.

Thus, whereas the Goals will contribute to strengthening productivity, importantly, strengthening productivity will also contribute to the success of a number of the Goals, creating a virtuous cycle between sustainable development, productivity and economic growth.

(End)

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In sight but out of mindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/in-sight-but-out-of-mind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-sight-but-out-of-mind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/in-sight-but-out-of-mind/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 11:02:53 +0000 Upashana Salam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144868 By Upashana Salam
Apr 28 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

This year Bangladesh exceeded all expectations, achieving a GDP rate of over 7 percent. With higher growth, the issue of labour rights is also gaining prominence in our national discourse, with more and more emphasis being given on workplace safety and wellbeing. Those amongst us who are educated are becoming more and more aware of our rights in our workplace, as we unhesitatingly demand for better pay, better facilities, a better life, really. And why shouldn’t we? This is our right as promised by our Constitution and by our state. But there still remains a large portion of our workforce, over 80 percent to be precise, who are not warranted recognition by any of our state apparatuses. When we talk proudly of progress and development, we tend to take for granted that only those who fall under a formalised structure deserve acknowledgement and thereby can demand their rights under the law. We choose to ignore more than half of Bangladesh’s population who, despite their indispensible contribution, are regarded as expendable, replaceable, and thus, undeserving of formal rights or protection.

world_day_for_safety_In Asia, the informal economy accounts for 78.2 percent of total employment. It’s ironic that in a world which still depends on informal employment to run their economies, those working in this sector continue to be treated as necessary but unacknowledged and invisible clogs of society. There is a not-so-subtle disdain for those who make our beds or build our homes; we choose to ignore that as human beings they too might have the same concerns and needs as the rest of us. Most people enter the informal economy because they have no other means to sustain themselves, with no education, skills or capital to participate in the formal workforce. But this does not mean that the risks associated with their work is only theirs to accept; the employment of workers in the informal economy, including housemaids, agricultural labourers, construction workers, day labourers, fishermen, vegetable vendors, etc, might be self-managed but the services they provide is universal.

While those working in the informal economy are not even recognised as ‘workers’ in the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006, the Informal Sector Survey 2010 by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics asserted that the informal sector was the major source of employment in the country, amounting for 89 percent of the total jobs. As self-managed employment is socially unrecognised as work, it becomes easier for workers to be exploited. Thus, you hear of the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rakib Hawladar, whose former employer killed him in an inexplicably violent manner when he switched jobs. You regularly read stories of construction workers falling to their deaths, due to the lack of safety gears or adequate protection. How many times have you looked up a building to see a person dangling from a scaffolding, with nothing but a rope as a measure of safety? Every time I look up at them, I am overpowered by a sense of dread, and am forced to look away after a few minutes when I start feeling dizzy; but these people continue doing their work in the only way they know how to – with confidence galore and little attention to the risk that they are putting themselves in.

Accidents and deaths on site go largely unreported; in the rare occasions that the death of a worker is reported, there is no follow-up from the police, government, media or their own families who, in their struggle to make ends meet with one less earning member, are unwilling to demand compensation that they will not get or go to the court where their voices will be muffled.

A report published by the Asian Development Bank stated that unlike employees working under a formalised structure, workers with irregular employment don’t have any specified working hours, as they often have to work an average of 54 hours a week “with non-commensurate compensation.” Workplace safety is practically unheard of in the informal economy, and there’s no question of holidays, sick days or downtime. Brick kiln and construction workers have scarce drinking water and no toilet facilities to speak of. With wages being disbursed on a daily basis and no bargaining power with employers, they rarely take days off even when they suffer from ailments resulting from having to work long hours in intense heat. Let’s not talk about education or training opportunities, which cannot even be regarded as luxuries in a sector that is not officially recognised by the law.

Given the dearth of official data, it is difficult to even ascertain the particular health problems faced by people working in the informal economy. However, according to a report titled ‘Health Vulnerabilities of Informal workers’ by the Rockefeller Foundation, there is increased risks of malnutrition, physical and psychological disorder, respiratory trouble, heart attack, etc, due to the nature of their work, where they are forced to endure excessive labour, and an unhealthy work environment. More than a million workers who work in the brick kilns of the country, which produce over 12 million bricks a year, often suffer from skin diseases and are susceptible to bronchial infections. As per the report, workers often take drugs “to boost their physical and mental energy” when their body no longer supports their need to earn a livelihood. Rickshaw pullers, for example, are addicted to various drugs as these help them deal with the intense temperament of their work.

Article 15 of Bangladesh’s Constitution ensures guaranteed employment, work with reasonable wage, recreation and leisure for all workers, while Article 20 argues that employment should be a right for every citizen, insisting that workers should be “treated with justice.” Moreover, Article 10 prohibits social exploitation of any worker. However, in this case, there seems to be a clear divide in the treatment of those who are considered “actual workers” and the unrecognised millions who simple cannot be brought under a structure, thereby making it impossible to ensure them the same rights reserved for everyone else. Equality, once more, becomes a tool to bandy around when talking about the achievements of our country and its legal apparatus.

In fact, the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy 2015, one of the few measures taken to prevent the exploitation of a segment of the workers of the informal economy, is still to be implemented, even though a draft of the policy has already been approved by the cabinet.

There is an urgent need to change our perception toward informal workers, which can help bring a shift in the way they are treated in law and policy. We need to introduce a feasible wage structure, which runs parallel with their working hours and is in sync with their work environment. Moreover, experts have also stressed the need for a pension/insurance scheme, something that has already been undertaken by the Government of Delhi in September 2013 for the informal workers of India. As suggested by lawyer Kawsar Mahmood in a piece he wrote for the Dhaka Law Review, this will offer security for workers in the informal economy during their sickness or after they retire from work. “On registration, workers will be saving a portion of their income per month or per annum in a provident fund where the government will equally contribute,” he writes.

As human beings, we have the right to demand better pay, better working conditions and fair treatment from our employers. It’ll be a shame if this right continues to be reserved for some of us, while the majority are left stumbling, persisting through life as nameless, faceless beings.

The writer is a member of the editorial team, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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The Hypocrisy of the West and Fiscal Paradisehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/the-hypocrisy-of-the-west-and-fiscal-paradise/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-hypocrisy-of-the-west-and-fiscal-paradise http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/the-hypocrisy-of-the-west-and-fiscal-paradise/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 15:17:35 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144853 Roberto Savio, is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News]]>

Roberto Savio, is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Apr 27 2016 (IPS)

The publication of the Panama Papers has now been digested, like any scandal, after just a few days. We are now getting so accustomed to scandals, that it is confusing, and the general public reaction often is: all are corrupt and politics is all about corruption.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

This, of course, plays out well for the right wing, xenophobic parties, numbers of which are ever increasing in every election, from Donald Trump in the United States, to Nigel Farage in Great Britain who promptly asked for the resignation of British prime minister David Cameron, who is among the users of the legal office of Mossack and Fonseca in Panama, which has helped more than 14.000 clients to create 214,488 companies in 21 fiscal paradises.

In some cases, like Iceland, that brought the prime minister to his knees, is a concrete response to the public indignation. By and large the general reaction was similar to the model of Cameron’s style: deny any wrongdoing, and just wait for the fury to go die down.

The Panama Papers had of course a very prominent space in the media, where the issue was alive for several days (but never more than five). The media put very little effort into looking beyond the Panama Papers and to find out the real situation of the fiscal paradise. Had they done so, a very uncomfortable truth would have emerged: the same countries who speak publicly against such paradise, do very little to eliminate them.

For instance, according to the Panama papers, it emerges that more than half of the ghost companies created by Mossack-Fonseca were registered in the British Virgin Islands. It works there like in Panama: a company pays a fee to register and an annual fee after that (always less than 500 US dollars), and by law the company will have to pay taxes only on the activities realized in the country. It suffices to not have any commercial activity in Panama or in any other fiscal paradise to be completely out of the grip of local tax authorities.

It is clear that the Virgin Islands are a British territory, like the Bahamas, Bermuda, Turk and Caicos, and therefore London could oblige these territories to comply with the international laws on transparency and accountability. The Panama Papers are just, “one firm in one place” says the economist Gabriel Zucman, author of “The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens.” So, it cannot be representative of what is happening in the whole world”. The total amount of registered firms avoiding taxation is not really known. In fact, Zucman estimates that the tax heavens are now sheltering a staggering 7.6 trillion dollars, or 8% of the world’s financial wealth. And he draws attention to the fact that the United Sates is a major fiscal paradise, just after Switzerland and Hong Kong, according to the Financial Secrecy Index published by the Tax Justice Network, based in Washington.

And here comes a very good example of double standards. After it became evident that Swiss banks were hiding American capital (for which the US Treasury hit them with a heavy fine), in 2010 the US passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which requires all financial firms in the world to surrender details about Americans with offshore accounts. But the US has refused to be part of any agreement for exchanging financial information with other countries.

Edward Kleinbar and Heather A. Lowe, of Global Financial Integrity, say that American Banks are awash with money coming from foreign investors. Kleibard, who was chief of staff of the Congress’s Joint Committee on taxation, declares: “ the United Sates demands that the rest of the world tell it when an American holds an account at a foreign institution, but the US does not return the favour by providing similar information on foreign investors, in US banks to their home jurisdiction”.

But in fact, the secrecy of American banks go beyond that. In fact, several states in the US use their constitutional privileges to shelter their banks also from the central government. Heather A. Lowe, the legal counsel and director of government affairs for Global Financial Integrity, Washington, warned that the problem was in any American state, not just in the more notorious one. ”You can create anonymous companies anywhere in the US: The reason people know about Delaware, Nevada and Wyoming is because those states market themselves internationally”.

For instance, Delaware secretary of State has stressed in his annual reports that this marketing efforts have “helped the state to reach thousands of legal professionals in dozens of countries across the globe, to tell the Delaware story”. And Nevada boasted a similar advertisement on the state’s website: Why incorporate in Nevada? Minimal reporting and disclosing requirement. Stockholders are not public records”.

While the legitimacy of taxes as a concept may be up to personal interpretation, what matters in Hillary Clinton’s use of the so-called Delaware loophole, in particular, is her constant harping on the need for corporations and elite individuals to pay their fair share. In other words, Clinton’s employment of North Orange Street amounts to a telling, Do As I Say, Not As I Do. And, as the Guardian notes, both of “the leading candidates for president – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – have companies registered at 1209 North Orange, and have refused to explain why.”

John Cassara, a former special agent for the US Treasury Department, reported in the New York Times on April 8where many of the declarations are coming from, about the frustration that fiscal agents have when they try to investigate “who or what is behind that company: you basically strike out. It does not matter if is the FBI, at the federal level, state or local. Even the Department of Justice can’t get the information. There is nothing you can do.” He had to abandon an investigation in Nevada when they found a corporation that had received more than 3700 suspicious wire transfers, totalling over 381 million dollars.

Clearly, one cannot set up rules for global governance, when important rich countries have double standards and cannot even put their own house in order. But the lack of global governance becomes even more evident, when we find out that the debate about global tax negotiations is exclusive to the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and all the other countries of the world are left out. The Group of 77 and China, which has 134 members, has repeatedly asked that the UN must play a greater role in global tax cooperation but to no avail.

And it is a fact that in the list of account holders in Panama there is a large presence of personalities from Arab Countries, China, Nigeria, Brazil and so on. But there is a cultural problem, for which there is no solution. The fiscal authorities of the OECD countries think that on delicate matters, it is better to exclude the developing countries, because it would create a mechanism of negotiations where they could find themselves in the minority. That of course, would be to recognize that global governance can only be effective with a democratic system of consultation and decision. That is not at all the prevailing mood in an increasingly fractured world. Therefore, it would be normal to expect many more scandals, with spotlight for a few days on the names that could emerge, followed by a total relapse, until the next scandal explodes.

How long this can last without damaging the foundations of democracy, it is difficult to predict. And some defenders of the present system are already maintaining that scandals are proof that democracy is alive. But if the citizen’s growing lack of trust in the political and economic elites continues, it is difficult to see how scandals will help nurture democracy.

(End)

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G-77 Should Adopt South-South Climate Change Program of Action: Ambassador Djoghlafhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/g-77-should-adopt-south-south-climate-change-program-of-action-ambassador-djoghlaf/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g-77-should-adopt-south-south-climate-change-program-of-action-ambassador-djoghlaf http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/g-77-should-adopt-south-south-climate-change-program-of-action-ambassador-djoghlaf/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 18:53:36 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144835 The beauty of the Paris agreement is that it’s a universal agreement, unlike the Kyoto protocol, said Ambassador Djoghlaf. Credit: Ahmed Djoghlaf.

The beauty of the Paris agreement is that it’s a universal agreement, unlike the Kyoto protocol, said Ambassador Djoghlaf. Credit: Ahmed Djoghlaf.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 26 2016 (IPS)

The 134 members of the Group of 77 and China (G-77) made their mark on the Paris Climate Change Agreement and should now adopt a program of action to implement it, Ambassador Ahmed Djoghlaf told IPS in a recent interview.

Djoghlaf, of Algeria, was co-chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), together with Daniel Reifsnyder, of the United States, a position which allowed him to “witness very closely” the negotiation of the Paris Agreement.

“As the co-chair of the preparatory committee I can tell you that the G-77 has been a major actor during the  negotiation and a major player for the success of the Paris conference,” said Djoghlaf.

Djoghlaf said that the Group of 77 and China made its mark on the Paris agreement by mobilising a diverse range of countries and sub-groups, to “defend the collective interests of the developing countries.”

The group helped to find balance in the agreement “between mitigation issues that are important for developed countries and adaptation issues that are very close to the heart of the developing countries,” said Djoghlaf.

He also said that the group fought for equity, response measures, loss and damage as well as means of implementation, including financing, capacity building and transfer of technology.

“Those that are suffering the most nowadays are those that have less contributed to climate change crisis and they are using their own limited financial resources to address them, to adapt, to adjust to the consequences created by others,” he said.

Program of Action in Marrakech

“I hope that the G-77 through the leadership of Thailand will be able to take the lead and submit to its partners at the next conference of the parties in Marrakech a draft work program on capacity building for the implementation of the Paris agreement,” said Djoghlaf.

The 22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held in Marrakech, Morocco, from 7 to 18 Nov. 2016.

Djoghlaf said the program should address North-South as well as South-South capacity building, which is needed to ensure that developing countries can implement their commitments including on issues related to the finalisation of their nationally determined contributions and preparation of their future contributions.

“It would be important for the developing countries to be able to identify their own capacity building needs and let others do it for them. It will be also important to have a framework to coordinate the South-South cooperation on climate change similar to the Caracas Plan of Action on South-South Cooperation or the Buenos Aires Plan of Action on economic and technical cooperation among developing countries,” he said.

Quoting Victor Hugo Djoghlaf said that “not a single army in the world can stop an idea whose time has come, I do believe when it comes to South-South cooperation on climate change it’s an idea whose time has come also.”

“Within the G-77, the diverse group, you have emerging countries that are now leaders in renewable energy and the energy of tomorrow and the they have I think a responsibility to share their experience and to allow other countries from the same region and the same group to benefit from their experience,” he said.

"It is crystal clear that the Paris agreement will enter into force well before the original expected date of 2020. The clock is ticking and we cannot afford any delay” -- Ambassador Ahmed Djoghlaf

“I also believe that time has come for the G-77 to initiate it’s own program of action on climate change,” he said.

Djoghlaf said that developing countries need capacity building to ensure that they can continue to participate fully in the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Unlike developed countries, which “have fully-fledged ministries dealing with climate change,” he said, “In the South there is not a single country that has a Minister of Climate Change.”

He spoke about how during the negotiations of the Paris agreement many countries of the South had only one focal point and yet sometimes there were 15 meetings taking place at the same time and the meetings also often continued into the night.

It can be difficult for this focal point “to be able to understand and to participate, let alone be heard” when there is a “proliferation of simultaneous meetings,” he said.

Djoghlaf said that countries of the South could help address this disparity by establishing national committees, which include representatives from a number of different ministries.

“There’s not a single sector of activities which is not nowadays affected by the negative impact of climate change,” said Djoghlaf.

“All the sectors need to be engaged and we will succeed to win the battle of climate change when all these ministers, economic ministers and social ministers, will be fully integrating climate change in their planning and in their decision making processes,” he said.

Djoghlaf acknowledged it’s not easy for ministers in developing countries to engage because they have other urgent priorities. “They tend not to see the importance of the impact of climate change because they believe that this is not a priority for them,” he said. Yet there is often evidence that supports a more cross-cutting approach. For example, said Djoghlaf, World Health Organization research, which shows that 7 million people die from air pollution every year, demonstrates that climate change should also be a priority for health ministries.

The beauty of the Paris agreement

Djoghlaf said that the beauty of the Paris agreement is that it’s a universal agreement, unlike the Kyoto protocol. The Paris agreement is “very balanced” and should last for years to come because it takes into in to consideration the evolving capacities and the evolving responsibilities of countries, he said.

“We need a North-South and a South-South global climate solidarity,” said Djoghlaf.

“Without judging the past, who is responsible now, and who is responsible tomorrow, and who is responsible yesterday, I think we are all in the same boat, we are all in the same planet and we have to contribute based on our capacity,” he said.

He described the success of the signing ceremony held here Friday, where in total 175 countries signed and 15 countries deposited their instruments of ratification as “unprecedented”. “This has never happened before,” he said, referring to the developing countries, which also ratified the agreement. “It is a resounding political message and a demonstration of leadership,” he said. “It is crystal clear that the Paris agreement will enter into force well before the original expected date of 2020. The clock is ticking and we cannot afford any delay.”

Djoghlaf also said that he was not concerned about upcoming changes to the United States domestic political situation.

“When you are a party to the Paris agreement you can’t withdraw before three years after its entry into force. In addition I do believe that this historical agreement is in the long term interest of all Parties including the United States of America” he said.

“I believe that this Paris agreement is in the long term strategic interests of every country,” in part because eventually fossil fuel energy is going to disappear.

Investment in renewable energy was six times higher in 2015 than in 2014, he added.

“We tend to ignore the tremendous impact and signal the Paris agreement has already been providing to the business community,” he said.

Another part of the Paris agreement which Djoghlaf is happy about is what he describes as a “fully-fledged article on public awareness and education.”

“It’s to ensure that each and every citizen of the world, in particular the developing countries, are fully aware about the consequences of the climate change and the need for each of us as an individual to make our contribution to address the climate change,” he said.

“There is a need also to educate the people of the world of the need to have a sustainable lifestyle this throw away society can not continue to exist forever and we need to establish a sustainable pattern of production and consumption,” said Djoghlaf.

However Djoghlaf, who was the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said that he was concerned that the negotiations in 2015 didn’t adequately reflect the importance of ecosystems and biodiversity.

“Healthy biodiversity and healthy ecosystems have a major role to play to combat climate change,” said Djoghlaf, adding that 30 percent of carbon dioxide is absorbed by forests and 30 percent by oceans.

“For each breath that we have we owe it to the forests, but also to the ocean, also wetlands have a major contribution to make, the peat lands have a major contribution to make, the land itself, the fertile soil of course has a major contribution to play, so biodiversity is part and parcel of the climate global response,” he said.

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OPINION: World Economy in Serious Difficulty: Call for Bold Measureshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-world-economy-in-serious-difficulty-call-for-bold-measures-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-world-economy-in-serious-difficulty-call-for-bold-measures-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-world-economy-in-serious-difficulty-call-for-bold-measures-2/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 15:09:19 +0000 Yilmaz Akyuz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144832 Yilmaz Akyuz is the chief economist of the South Centre, based in Geneva. A longer version of this article was originally published in the Real News network (http://therealnews.com/t2/)]]>

Yilmaz Akyuz is the chief economist of the South Centre, based in Geneva. A longer version of this article was originally published in the Real News network (http://therealnews.com/t2/)

By Yilmaz Akyuz
GENEVA, Apr 26 2016 (IPS)

The US was the cause of the crisis but has come out better than anyone else in the advanced world and better than many developing countries. During the crisis there was a widespread perception that this was the end of US hegemony. It was end of the dollar as the major reserve currency.

Yilmaz Akyuz

Yilmaz Akyuz

When we look back now, we see that the US is strengthened a lot more as a result of this crisis. Not only vis-à-vis other developed countries –“ Europe, European Union or Japan – but developing countries including China, in economic terms. The status of the dollar as a reserve currency today is unchallenged because of the crisis in Europe.

The US economy is also fragile. Usually economic expansions are often followed by contractions. This is part of the capitalist system working in boom bust cycles. The US has had 24 quarters of expansion since the beginning of the crisis. And a lot of people think simply on this observation that after such expansion US recovery or growth is supposed to come to an end on historical evidence.

But apart from that? It is very difficult to get out of the policies that US introduced in response to the crisis. It does not know how to get out of the policy of easy money. It is very hesitant in raising interest rates. But on the other hand if there is a slowdown in the US and a contraction and renewed instability they do not have any ammunition to respond to it, because they used all their ammunition to respond to the last crisis and they are still using the same except in bond purchases

We have not had a serious debt crisis in an emerging economy in the past 10 – 12 years. However, the risks are very serious now. The world is caught in a debt trap today. Why? Because the resolution of the European and American crisis – which was a debt crisis – required cutting debt. But what we have seen is that the policies implemented to resolve that crisis have given rise to the accumulation of additional debt.

In the US, the ratio of public plus private debt to gross domestic product (GDP) increased from 200% to 280%. In Japan it increased to 500%; in the Eurozone and China it doubled. And in developing countries today it is close to 200% of GDP.

The current situation has an uncanny similarity to the 1970s and 1980s. Developing countries had a boom in commodity markets in the 70s which was accompanied by massive international lending by banks recycling petrodollars [oil surpluses]. And this twin-boom in commodities and capital flows to developing countries in the 70s ended up with a bust when the US raised interest rates in 1979 and 1980. And what we had was a debt crisis in Latin America. And the situation now is somewhat similar. We had a twin boom in commodity prices and capital flows and now we have come to the end of this boom even without the US changing its monetary policy in a big way. And the question is will the outcome be the same as in the 1970s?

We are highly vulnerable to the reversal of commodity prices and capital flows. The vulnerability to commodity prices nevertheless varies among developing countries because different types of commodities fell at different rates. Some developing countries benefit from commodity price declines but no developing country would benefit from tightening of the external financial situation. Now we cannot count on reserves. Traditionally we look at the reserve adequacy in terms of their volume relative to short-term external debt, but now there is a strong presence of foreigners in domestic bond, equity and deposit markets and their exit can cause significant turmoil.

Monetary policy now faces a major dilemma. In order to stimulate demand and growth we have to cut interest rates. A cut in interest rates can trigger capital outflows. So there is a dilemma between growth and stability. If we face a liquidity crisis we no longer have enough reserves to meet our imports and stay current on our debt payments and keep the capital account open – what do we do? Business as usual? Borrow from the IMF? Keep the capital account open? Continue allowing capital to run out, using reserves and the borrowing from the IMF and practicing austerity?

Now I think there is a strong misgiving vis-à-vis the IMF among the developing countries. And I am sure they will do their best to avoid going to the IMF in the event of a serious liquidity crisis. I am not referring to a solvency crisis, default – I am talking about simple liquidity crisis when you do not have enough foreign exchange to meet your current account needs and debt payments. Then what do you do?

Of course, the unorthodox response is to use reserves to support one’s economy, imports, not to support capital outflows. Are we prepared to impose controls over capital outflows? Are we prepared to impose temporary debt standstills? Or, are we prepared to impose austerity on creditors and investors rather than austerity on the people? These are the critical issues.

In conclusion, even if we avoid a fully-fledged financial crisis, the prospects are for sluggish, erratic growth and heightened instability in the global economy. Why? Because of financial excesses we have had in the past 8-9 years. And one cannot easily restructure balance sheets; that is the problem. We need to have a better policy mix than we have been using.

A few suggestions. First, stop relying on easy money which is not good except for speculation in advanced economies, abandon fiscal orthodoxy, invest in infrastructure and create jobs and create demand. Secondly, we need better control over international capital flows not only by recipient countries but also by source countries. Because they are most destabilizing. They are at the heart of the current difficulties that we face. Third, we need a mechanism for adequate provision of international liquidity and finally we need effective and equitable debt resolution mechanisms.

Now these issues should be studied and debated extensively, particularly at the current juncture. But unfortunately Bretton Woods institutions are not the best place to do that; neither to consider the fragilities, nor to resolve the problems. The IMF has missed one of the most serious crises in the world since the second world war, the subprime crisis. The IMF at the Secretariat level is not very efficient in providing early warnings to countries about the global economic situation. And this is not just a technical expertise issue; it is also a political issue. Because such an early warning – an effective projection of the difficulties in the world requires a critical examination of the policies of countries which exert significant impact on the world economy. It would require criticizing US and European economic policy. The IMF Secretariat cannot do that. In 20018 and 2009 when we were writing that the rise of the South was a myth, the IMF was promoting that the South was becoming a locomotive for the world economy. And they changed their mind only in 2013.

Secondly the IMF is not very bold in innovation. They are not bold in the reform of the international financial architecture. Why? Because the IMF is part of that architecture and that requires to reform that very same institution…So I believe that these matters should be discussed and debated among developing countries and in other fora such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which has a much better record in anticipating these difficulties and providing proposals, which eventually became part of the mainstream.

(End)

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Mauritian Farmers Go Smarthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/mauritian-farmers-go-smart/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mauritian-farmers-go-smart http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/mauritian-farmers-go-smart/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 04:28:42 +0000 Nasseem Ackbarally http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144823 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/mauritian-farmers-go-smart/feed/ 1 Accountability Moveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/accountability-moves/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accountability-moves http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/accountability-moves/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 16:52:30 +0000 Huma Yusuf http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144821 By Huma Yusuf
Apr 25 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Behold Pakistan`s latest sporting craze: the game of accountability one-upmanship.

One Sharif called for `across-the-board accountability` and was reported to have removed a number of military officers on corruption charges; the other Sharif vowed to resign from his prime ministerial post if investigations into the leaked Panama Papers prove wrongdoing on the part of his family.

Opposition parties are gradually coordinating calls for the Supreme Court to establish a credible inquiry commission. If one is set up as the PM has suggested, one can expect the courts to take the lead in summoning politiclans from across the spectrum to account for their sins. Multidirectional corruption allegations used to be a sign in Pakistan of coups to come. There`s a throwback to this in Jamaat-iIslami leader Sirajul Haq`s decision to label corruption as `economic terrorism`. The word choice may appear to imply that the solution lies in military intervention.

The military set the stage of the JI chief`s coinage by linking the fight against corruption with winning the battle against terrorism, shifting the focus away from the violent ideologies of extremist groups to the venality of the political class.

This shift has already materialised in Sindh where paramilitary operations aimed at rooting out terrorist groups instead targeted PPP and MQM members suspected of engaging in corrupt activities, including involvement in organised crime and terrorism.

But Pakistan is meant to have outgrown its coup phase. Why would the military need to move in that direction when it has already consolidated power over the government and judiciary under the auspices of the National Action Plan and the Protection of Pakistan Act? Military courts and apex committees provide the security establishment with covert sway over the civilian sphere, saving it the trouble of overt rule. So why the renewed interest in accountability? Some of it may have to do with the evolving internal and regional security situation. While fending off corruption allegations, politicians have little time left to push back against establishment strategies in the region or mobilise civilian lawenforcement agencies to carry out counterterrorism operations, thereby winning back some oversight over domestic security.

As the fighting stage of Zarb-i-Azb draws to a close, the natural and sensible progression would be for the military to cede control to civilian authorities and empower the government to implement anti-terrorism regulation and deradicalisation initiatives.

A spotlight on the corruption of government institutions and the police in particular would boost an argument in favour of indefinite involvement by the security establishment. It would also prevent disagreementssuch as the recent one over counterterrorism operations in Punjab from gaining traction.

More broadly, the country is preparing to reap the benefits of the improved security situation through economic revival, starting with foreign investment under the auspices of CPEC. Increased accountability pressure at this juncture will help ensure that planned mega projects are not delayed or sullied by concerns about kickbacks or other corruption.

But all players in this game must remain cautious. The taint of corruption is indiscriminate and hard to wipe off. The military is already facing questions about its reticence regarding the removal of some officers allegedly involved in corrupt activities as well as reports that they continue to receive pensions and other benefits. Mounting corruption allegations are known to be a deterrent for effective governance and project implementation.

The fear of being retroactively investigated on corruption charges makes officials tasked with implementing projects reluctant to sign off on any decision. Ironically, political gamesaimed at taking control of projects may ultimately lead to slower implementation as corruption allegations fly in all directions.

This does not mean that Pakistan`s institutions civilian and military alike should not be pushed to increase transparency and accountability. Genuine anti-cor-ruption efforts are urgently required, not least to end the vicious political cycle of accusations and counter-accusations so that everyone can get on with good governance. But to truly effect change, anti-corruption initiatives will have to move beyond targeting individuals to improving institutions. Judicial inquiries may help weed out a few individuals who have engaged in heinous corruption. But they will not fix the system that enshrines a lack of transparency.

The time has come to talk about policies and institutional reforms that would genuinely lead to greater accountability financial disclosure systems; transparency around budget allocations and spending for all institutions, including the military; opening the accounts of all government-linked corporate entities for scrutiny; improving corporate governance requirements; better regulating asset declarations; and more.

Without a systemic approach, an anti-corruption drive will be little more than a game with no winners.

The writer is a freelance joumalist. huma.yusuf@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Harvesting Rainwater to Weather Drought in Northeast Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/harvesting-rainwater-to-weather-drought-in-northeast-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=harvesting-rainwater-to-weather-drought-in-northeast-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/harvesting-rainwater-to-weather-drought-in-northeast-argentina/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 07:52:29 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144799 Jésica Garay, a young mother who is studying to become a teacher, gets water from the family tank built next to her humble home in the rural municipality of Corzuela in the northeast Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Jésica Garay, a young mother who is studying to become a teacher, gets water from the family tank built next to her humble home in the rural municipality of Corzuela in the northeast Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
CORZUELA, Argentina, Apr 25 2016 (IPS)

In a semiarid region in the northeast Argentine province of Chaco, small farmers have adopted a simple technique to ensure a steady water supply during times of drought: they harvest the rain and store it in tanks, as part of a climate change adaptation project.

It’s raining in Corzuela, a rural municipality of 10,000 inhabitants located 260 km from Resistencia, the provincial capital, and the muddy local roads are sometimes impassable.

But it isn’t always like this in this Argentine region where, as local farmer Juan Ramón Espinoza puts it, “when it doesn’t rain there is no rain at all, and when it does rain, it rains too much.”

“There have always been water shortages, but things are getting worse every year,” he told IPS. “There are seasons when four or five months go by without a single drop of water falling.”“I used to bring water from the public well. My husband would go with a pony carrying a water container and bring water for the tank we have back there. But other times we would have to go and buy water, and sometimes I even had to forget about buying meat so I could pay for the water.” -- Olga Ramírez

The local residents of Corzuela blame the increasingly severe droughts on deforestation, a consequence of the spread of monoculture crops in this area since the turn of the century.

“They started to invade us with soy plantations,” Espinoza said. “There’s a lot of deforestation. They come and use their bulldozers to knock everything down, on 4,000 or 5,000 hectares. They don’t leave a single tree standing.”

This is compounded by the global effects of climate change, which has led to longer, more intense droughts.

The result is that local peasant farmers don’t have water for drinking, washing, cooking or irrigating their vegetable gardens.

“We would lose half a day going back and forth, filling tanks and containers with water for washing, cooking and bathing,” recalled Graciela Rodríguez, a mother of 11 children who often helped her hauling water.

“Now if you’re in your house and you need water, you go and get some, in your own house,” she told IPS happily, explaining that she uses the extra time she now has to cook bread, clean the house and take care of her grandchildren.

The solution was to build tanks to collect and store rainwater. But the local peasant farmers had neither the funds nor the technology to implement the system.

Today, joined together in associations, the local residents receive funds and other assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), through the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP).

The project is carried out locally with technical assistance from the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) for the construction of tanks using cement, bricks, sand, steel and stones, and from the National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI), for training in safety and hygiene.

“This project helps solve a very pressing local problem: water scarcity in the region,” said SGP technician María Eugenia Combi. “The solution is to take advantage of whatever rainfall there is to harvest and store water, for times when it is scarce.”

Local small farmer José Ramón Espinoza stands next to a recently constructed community tank for harvesting rainwater, which will enable a group of families to weather the recurrent drought in Corzuela, a rural municipality in the northeast Argentine province of Chaco. The underground tank was provided by GEF’s Small Grants Programme. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Local small farmer José Ramón Espinoza stands next to a recently constructed community tank for harvesting rainwater, which will enable a group of families to weather the recurrent drought in Corzuela, a rural municipality in the northeast Argentine province of Chaco. The underground tank was provided by GEF’s Small Grants Programme. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

The first project was carried out in this area from 2013 to 2015, when five community water tanks were built, serving 38 families. A second project began in March this year, to build another eight community tanks and 30 single-household tanks.

The technology is simple and low-cost. The roofs of the “ranchos” or poor rural dwellings are adapted with the installation of rain gutters to catch the water, which flows into 16,000-litre family tanks or 52,000-litre community tanks.

“Once the beneficiaries are trained to build the tanks, they can go out and build them in every house,” Combi told IPS.

Traditionally the main source of water for human and agricultural consumption – small-scale livestock production and small gardens – in this region has been family wells.

But as Gabriela Faggi, an INTA technical adviser to the programme, explained to IPS, besides the drought that has reduced ground-water levels, many wells have high sodium levels and are contaminated with arsenic, and in extreme cases the water cannot even be used for watering livestock or gardens, which has exacerbated the region’s food supply problems.

The new year-round availability of water has now helped alleviate that problem as well.

“I used to bring water from the public well,” said another Corzuela resident, Olga Ramírez. “My husband would go with a pony carrying a water container and bring water for the tank we have back there. But other times we would have to go and buy water, and sometimes I even had to forget about buying meat so I could pay for the water.”

The local farmers depend on subsistence farming, growing traditional crops like sweet potatoes, cassava, pumpkin and corn, and raising small livestock.

“It’s a big help for the animals,” said Ramírez. “We use the stored rainwater for washing, cooking, drinking yerba mate (a traditional herbal infusion consumed in the Rio de la Plata region), watering our chickens and other animals and the garden – for everything.”

“Now that we have this tank we can even waste water,” said Jésica Garay, a young mother who is studying to be a teacher. “We even use it to water the garden. Before, we only had enough for drinking and bathing.

“We don’t have to worry anymore about not being able to eat something, in order to buy water,” she said.

The SGP, active in 120 countries, emerged in 1992 as a way to demonstrate that small-scale community initiatives can have a positive impact on global environmental problems. The maximum grant amount per project is 50,000 dollars.

“What we are aiming at are local actions with a global impact,” the head of the programme in Argentina, Francisco Lopez Sastre, told IPS. “That is, small solutions to global environmental problems like climate change.”

He said the promotion of vegetable gardens, which complement the water tank programme “will boost consumption of fruit and vegetables, which is very low among local families due to the high cost.

“This can improve the household economy and bolster the inclusion of healthy foods, which will result in better health and food sovereignty.”

The SGP is currently carrying out another 13 projects in Chaco, for which it has provided a combined total of 537,000 dollars in grants.

Two of them involve water supply for human consumption in rural communities, complemented by agroecological gardens.

The province, which has a population of one million people, has the highest poverty level in this country of 43 million, according to independent studies. In Chaco, more than 57 percent of the population lives in poverty, and 17 percent in extreme poverty.

It is also the region with the second-largest proportion of indigenous people. Population density is 10.6 inhabitants per square km, below the national average of 14.4.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Ecosystem Conservation Gives Hope to a Vulnerable Communityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 05:55:24 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144803 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community/feed/ 0 Boosting the Future of the Food Movementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/boosting-the-future-of-the-food-movement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=boosting-the-future-of-the-food-movement http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/boosting-the-future-of-the-food-movement/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 18:11:06 +0000 Fabíola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144794 Investing in entrepreneurs will help make the food system more sustainable. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Investing in entrepreneurs will help make the food system more sustainable. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Fabíola Ortiz
WASHINGTON, Apr 24 2016 (IPS)

Investing in new entrepreneurs who bring a holistic approach to food sustainability is one way that the food movement can overcome mounting global challenges from environmental degradation to food waste.

“I grow food, I feed people, body and minds. We must look at the food system at large,” Washington told IPS during the recent Food Tank Summit.

Karen Washington, is a 62 year old community activist who co-foundered the movement Black Urban GrowersAfter decades of working as a physical therapist in the Bronx, New York City, she decided to become a food entrepreneur advocating low-income communities to have inclusive access of to fresh, healthy food and a fair market.

“I am active, it is not about talk, it is easy for people to talk, you can look at my hands, I also talk but I farm as well.”

Washington is a member of a community garden in the Bronx and also grows collectively in a three acre piece of land in Chester, New York. She grows vegetables and flowers selling to local markets and restaurants.

As a health care professional Washington saw her patients having problems with their diet and, ultimately, with their health.

“They were developing diet related diseases like type two diabetes, hypertension and obesity. And all of this had to do with the food they were eating. I looked at my patients holistically and saw they were eating the wrong thing”.

An holistic approach to food systems must also address the racial divide in the production and consumption of food.

The face of agriculture in the United States is a white male farmer. As a matter of comparison, New York state has 55,000 white farmers but only 150 are black. “If you look at some states there are no black farmers, so we felt that this was something we had to bring out and expose, racism that continues to persist in the food system,” said Washington.

“We needed to have our own stories and seek for a black leadership on agriculture. There was no place like it, where black young people could see black leadership in action or have a conversation that affected black neighbourhoods, and also to find out we could get together and look at solutions,” she said.

Activists, entrepreneurs and food experts agree there is an urgent need to reinvent the cycle of food, empowering local based solutions and intersecting with economics, education, health, environment and, of course, “the four letter word ‘race’ that no one talks about”, said Washington. “We have to look to those intersections and move the full system in the right direction”.

Supporting entrepreneurs like Washington is one way that the food system can become more sustainable, experts at the two-day summit agreed.

“We have to create a new alliance of people wanting to ensure sustainability for the present generation and also guarantee the future generations can meet their demands and needs,” Alexander Muller, leader of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) hosted project TEEB for Agriculture & Food (TEEBAgriFood), told IPS during the summit.

“If we look at the whole cycle, we see we cannot guarantee that the future generations can feed themselves and, therefore, we have to act,” said Muller.

Around one billion people suffer from hunger worldwide, and more than two billion have food related health problems like diabetes and obesity. The global food system also relies on increasingly fragile resources. The world is losing 24 billion tons of fertile soils a year because of erosion and the food system is currently losing about 70 percent of all water withdrawn from natural cycles.

“Waiting would only increase the problems. We already see that major agriculture production systems are at risk. We need to know the true price of our food and have clear signals on the markets that sustainable food in the long-run is cheaper than unsustainable food,” said Müller.

The summit featured more than 75 speakers from the food and agriculture fields – such as researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students – that came together to discuss on topics including food waste, urban agriculture, family farmers, and farm workers.

They agreed that supporting sustainable agriculture is a a matter of urgency. The food movement is at the beginning of transforming a complex system with multiple actors, the time is now, warned Danielle Nieremberg Founder and President of Food Tank, a research organization dedicated to cultivating individuals and organizations to push for a better food system.

“A lot of innovations that farmers are using in the fields cover a great potential to be scaled up,” Nieremberg told IPS. “We have things like climate change conflicts, and we really need to move forward if we are going to make changes and leave this planet in good enough conditions for future generations,” she said.

For Jason Clay, the senior vice president of Food & Markets at WWF, there is a need to increase efficiency and change the way we value food.

“If we can reduce and eliminate waste, that would be half of the new food we need to produce by 2050. We have to double food production by that year. It also means 10 percent of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and more than 20 percent of water used to produce food that is going to be wasted,” Clay told IPS.

Clay said that bringing efficiency, conscious consumption and infrastructure to food distribution, especially in developing countries, are relevant strategies to help enhance the food cycle.

“Governments should also be investing in rehabilitating land rather than subsidising business as usual. This is an opportunity to do better,” said Clay.

For Clay and also for Muller, it is important to ensure that the positive signals from the food movements are growing faster than the negative signals of destroying the environment.

The attention on food and linking the act of eating to sustainability are the key issues. Without changing the food systems this planet will not become sustainable and the way society produces food cuts across the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed September 2015 at UN headquarters.

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Will the IMF Facility Be a Turning Point in the Economy?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-imf-facility-be-a-turning-point-in-the-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-imf-facility-be-a-turning-point-in-the-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-imf-facility-be-a-turning-point-in-the-economy/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:10:41 +0000 Editor Sunday Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144789 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
Apr 24 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

The IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) of US$ 1.5 billion with an agreement on an economic program supported by the IMF is now imminent. This could be a turning point in the economic fortunes of the country. The IMF facility would replenish the reserves, add confidence in the economy and have a salutary effect on capital inflows.

In as much as the loan is vital for getting the country out of the current critical balance of payments crisis, the commitment to the suggested economic reform program is essential to stabilise the economy and lay the foundation for a high trajectory of economic growth. The suggested corrective measures by ensuring fiscal discipline and prudent fiscal and monetary policies could get the country out of the current crisis, restore economic stability and provide the conditions for rapid economic growth.

Econ-Cartoon3-300x186IMF statement
The IMF statement of April 11th points towards the IMF granting a facility of US$ 1.5 billion with agreement on an economic program supported by the IMF. While the IMF agreement on the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) is not a fait accompli, the tenor and thrust of the statement leaves little doubt that it will be granted after the on going Annual Spring Meetings of the IMF Board and the discussions that are currently taking place in Washington D.C. between the IMF and the Sri Lankan authorities.

Economic recovery
The loan facility and the concomitant economic reform program could usher an economic recovery. The government must however have the political resolve to implement the associated economic reforms that are vital to strengthen the fiscal position, foreign exchange reserves and balance of payments.

Objectives
The broad objectives of the proposed economic program, according to the IMF, is to achieve “high and sustained levels of inclusive economic growth, restore discipline to macroeconomic and financial policies, and rebuild fiscal and reserve buffers.” The IMF identifies the key objectives underlying the reform agenda as improving revenue administration and tax policy; strengthening public financial management; reform of state enterprises; and structural reforms to enable a more outward-looking economy, deepen foreign exchange markets, and strengthen financial sector supervision.

Tax reform
One of the weakest features of the Sri Lankan economy is the low collection of government revenue. The revenue to GDP ratio has declined over the years from around 20 per cent of GDP to only 12 per cent, despite average annual GDP growth of around 7 per cent in recent years. This tax to GDP ratio is too low for the country’s level of per capita income. Countries with similar per capita incomes gather more than 20 per cent of GDP as revenue.

The low revenue collection results in high fiscal deficits and accumulation of public debt and leaves inadequate fiscal space for education, health and infrastructure development. The foreign funded high cost of infrastructure development in 2010-2014 has been the main reason for doubling of foreign indebtedness.

The reduction of the fiscal deficit is vital for economic stability. The IMF economic reform program lays considerable emphasis on fiscal consolidation. Its objective is “A durable reduction of the fiscal deficit and public debt through a growth-friendly emphasis on revenue generation.”

The cabinet has, according to the IMF statement, decided to reduce the 2016 fiscal deficit to 5.4 per cent of GDP. Although this is inadequate, it may be a realistic target. The government should take steps to achieve a fiscal deficit of 3.5 per cent of GDP in 2020 as targeted in the Prime Minister’s Economic Policy Statement of November 2015.

Strategy
The IMF strategy to increase revenue consists of broadening the tax base by reducing tax exemptions and introduction of a new Inland Revenue Act. The medium term revenue effort will be based on further reform of tax and expenditure policies, modernizing revenue administration and public financial management by implementation of key IT systems.

Pragmatic tax measures
Tax exemptions, tax avoidance and tax evasion are widespread endemic features. An effective tax system must take into account the inefficiency and corruption that prevails. The IMF proposals are essentially medium term and based on the assumption of an effective administration. New tax measures should be unavoidable and certain of collection such as withholding taxes and license fees. Otherwise the good intentions of curtailing tax evasion and tax avoidance would remain a delusion. Tax exemptions are easier to remove if the government is determined to not permit discretionary exemptions.

State enterprises
The other important economic reform that has been mooted is “a clear strategy to define and address outstanding obligations of state enterprises”. The colossal losses of state enterprises have been a heavy burden on the public finances. The reform of these enterprises is vital to redeeming the public finances. Drastic reforms, including the privatisation or part privatisation of some state owned enterprises are imperative. Will the government have the political will and courage to implement a privatisation program as was done by Chandrika Bandaranaike‘s government.

Reserves
The IMF loan facility will strengthen the country’s diminished reserves and add considerable international confidence in the Sri Lankan economy. The enhanced international confidence in the Sri Lankan economy would stem capital outflows and reduce the cost of international borrowing. As the Governor of the Central Bank, Arjuna Mahendran has stated “Depending on the success of the Extended Fund Facility with the IMF on which discussions are currently underway in Washington D.C. other global lending agencies will look at us much more favourably in the coming months.” He also said that the People’s Bank of China has given authorization to issue bonds in China in renminbi the official Chinese currency and that all these would enable the raising of US$ 3 billion at lower interest rates quite easy.

Concluding reflections
The expected IMF facility of US$ 1.5 billion will replenish the reserves and add confidence in the economy. This would have a beneficial impact on capital inflows. The corrective measures by the IMF of ensuring fiscal discipline and prudent fiscal and monetary policies are essential to get out of the crisis and restore economic stability and create conditions for higher investment and rapid growth.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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Panorama of Perfidy in the Panama Papershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/panorama-of-perfidy-in-the-panama-papers-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=panorama-of-perfidy-in-the-panama-papers-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/panorama-of-perfidy-in-the-panama-papers-2/#comments Sat, 23 Apr 2016 06:47:31 +0000 Mohammad Badrul Ahsan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144787 panama_papers_0__

By Mohammad Badrul Ahsan
Apr 23 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Ever since the Panama Papers hit the fan, the leak has been working like a series of introductions at a high-profile gathering. It’s putting a bunch of names to a bunch of faces, men and women leading a double life because of their money. It also shows that these folks have something in common with the squirrels. The rodents hide their nuts, and they hide their assets.

Don’t forget that the squirrel hoarding has a purpose for it. The animals collect and store nuts so that they will have food to last through the winter. But their thriftiness has social benefits. The nuts they bury result in trees growing in many new places.

What’s the purpose of hiding money? The simple truth is that anything that can’t be revealed is concealed. And two things are simultaneously concealed when it comes to money. Money and its source are like fire and smoke. If one is visible, the other can’t vanish.

Thus the overriding purpose of creating the shadow network of shell companies and tax havens is to create a conduit for dirty money. Offshore banking, as it appears now, is a huge Mephistophelean enterprise to provide forward linkage to kleptocracy. Capitalism needs it to accommodate greed for the same reason nuclear plants look for disposal sites to dump radioactive waste.

But it’s shocking to see how the world has been shocked by the scandal. Politicians were stealing. Dealers were dealing. Wheelers were wheeling. Banks were billing. And all that time those who know knew already that all of those things were happening. Yet the reaction of the world has been as if it was expected that all these seismic waves shouldn’t have shaken the ground.

Whether capitalism invented hypocrisy or hypocrisy invented capitalism calls for a separate discussion. But these two wheels balance the bi-cycle of modern life relentlessly pedaling itself to create more wealth. And if the president of this country and the prime minister of that country have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, it only confirms how a runaway system has been running.

It belies the basic principle of double entry bookkeeping. Take the example of the billions of taka that evaporated in this country after stock market manipulation, bank swindling and other forms of embezzlement. While we know how much has been debited, who knows where all that money has been credited? Who knows how much of that missing money has washed up on which shores?

Not to say the Panama Papers can track that missing money for us, but the scandal should shake us out of our pretentious slumber. Some of the stolen money exists around us, flaunted in the lifestyle of crooks and thieves hiding behind their fabulous masks. That flaunting has a hierarchy of its own starting with the baseline perps. Office clerks, police constables and linemen for various utility services like to have their palms greased in their quest for a solvent life.

Then it gradually goes up the totem pole of greed, climbing from necessity to luxury like mercury does in barometer. At the top of the pecking order are those who aren’t satisfied with extravagance alone. They want to steal enough to guarantee the same high life for their future generations.

Thus Panama, the Cayman Islands, the Virgin Islands and similar destinations are sanctuaries for sick money like leper colonies are for lepers. These are the places where capitalism hides its excesses outside national boundaries devoted to the care of dubious money like orphanages are to illegitimate children. These are the exotic places where toxic money takes vacation to get away from the monotony of scrutiny and suspicion at home.

In the ultimate analysis though, these tax havens are boutique shops compared to department stores for financial irregularities. How about those countries which, on the whole, are allowing foreign citizens to invest money in their economies and buy second homes? What about the Swiss banks which until recently refused to divulge the names of people who kept black money in their accounts? What about other places like Beirut, the Bahamas, Uruguay and Lichtenstein, which have taken the Swiss model to heart? Even in the United States, places like Delaware and Nevada have loose regulations and low taxes so that people can hide their activities and assets behind a corporate façade.

The Panama Papers are going to do no more than summer cleaning. It will prepare the ground for new names, new law firms and new destinations for newly stolen money, perhaps to precipitate another scandal umpteen years later. The wave of indignations triggered by the scandal is keeping us busy upstream, while nothing changes at source.

Capitalism and hypocrisy are intimately built on each other. That relationship persists because we’re hopelessly reluctant to tell the face from the façade.

The writer is the Editor of weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.
Email: badrul151@yahoo.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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