Thursday, September 23, 2010

Resource transparency: time for London to play fair (+ Bono)

The aid economist Paul Collier and Jamie Drummond, executive director at Bono's ONE campaign, have an article in the Guardian about transparency in the extractive industries. Transparency initiatives like EITI and the recent Cardin-Lugar amendment in the U.S. are good, they say, but don't go nearly far enough. We'd agree (and today's TJN blogger recently wrote a Chatham House report on Nigeria's EITI performance, arguing just this.)

Collier and Drummond have spotted one of the great global transparency problems, which goes way, way beyond the extractive industries:

"Clearly, though, it is not sufficient for the US to be acting alone. In the immediate future Britain has to decide whether to match American action or to connive at maintaining an advantage of dishonesty for those British companies not cross-listed in New York. The upcoming British financial services regulation bill is our equivalent of the Wall Street Reform Act. London is home to many of the major companies not covered by Cardin-Lugar, such as Gazprom. Integrity, rather than opportunism, would be consistent with the exemplary emphasis of the coalition on transparency in all areas of British government."

This would be an exceptionally positive step, but in light of Britain's performance (and its own industrial policy to support its banking sector through lax regulation) we aren't holding our breaths.

And one more thing. Drummond's organisation ONE was co-founded by the musician Bono. We've had a lot of big beefs with him (see here, for instance.) and we still do. It's nice to see his organisation pointing (in a limited way) to London's history of conniving in maintaining an advantage of dishonesty for British companies. In addition, this recent interview with Bono in Libération (in French) contains a tantalising snippet. Speaking in the context of capitalism and markets generally, he says:
"So we need a big bang. At the moment, nothing has happened about the international financial system. Not on tax havens, nor on tax evasion, nor on the corruption of big multinationals, nor on transparency.
We aren't quite sure what he means by this "nothing has happened" ('rien ne s’est produit' in the original). But it makes us wonder - is he changing his opinion about the things that concern TJN? More clarity from him would be welcome.


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