Western hypocrisy

“European leaders and the West in general are criticising Greece for their failure to collect taxes. One of the points of our commission [Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation] is that the West has created a framework for global tax avoidance, but the US is opposing the creation of a UN framework and [even] discussions among all the countries to do something about it. Here you have advanced countries trying to undermine a global effort to stop tax avoidance. Can you have a better image of hypocrisy?”

Joseph Stiglitz, 13 July, 2015, Addis Ababa

Greece – a victim of finance curse?

Those who have studied development economics will be familiar with the term ‘resource curse’ – a paradox of plenty, when countries or regions with abundance of natural resources tend to have less economic growth and worse development outcomes.

The recent developments in Greece reminded me of another phenomenon – finance curse – which is a story about ‘country capture’ where an oversized financial sector comes to control the politics of a finance-dependent country and to dominate and hollow out its economy.

One particular quote seems to be so timely to mention here: “Beyond a certain point, financial development is bad for an economy. Instead of supplying the oxygen that the real economy needs for healthy growth, it sucks the air out of the system and starts to slowly suffocate it.”

You can read more about finance curse here.

Walmart – master of tax avoidance

Walmart is the second biggest employer in the world (after army of China). Walmart is one of the most active multinational-companies lobbying for TTIP (EU-USA trade agreement) and TPP (Trans-Pasific partnership between USA and Pacific countries). And, Walmart, as the brand new, hot off the press research by Americans for Tax Fairness shows, it is also a very big and smart tax dodger. Make your own conclusions about Walmart, about how and why rich are rich, and who the real beneficiaries of TTIP/ TPP will be.

walmart

money does not smell. or does it?

in case you are among those, who wonder how the London’s properties have become so unaffordable to buy and if you wonder why in developing countries governments struggle to provide the basic public services to their citizens, here is one of the answers. Apparently, 2.25 sq miles of London property or in other words – 36,342 London properties – are held by hidden companies registered in offshore havens.

Find our more here. 

ti corruption

Paradox of growth

“Water available as a commons shared freely and protected by all provides for all. However, it does not create growth. But when Coca-Cola sets up a plant, mines the water and fills plastic bottles with it, the economy grows. But this growth is based on creating poverty – both for nature and local communities. […] Healthy societies and communities do not contribute to growth, but disease creates growth through, for example, the sale of patented medicine.”

Vandana Shiva, well-known environment activist and anti-globalist, on growth (and GDP) in her article in the Guardian.

We should remember this when next time readings news on growing GDP..

one to one with a Syrian aid worker

It was in late June, when in the evening after a long day of training I sat with Rash (name changed) in the lobby of hotel in Gaziantep, Turkey and had a long chat. He was telling me about the charity organization he works for, which helps orphans and widows in Aleppo, Syria with food, shelter and education. His eyes were really sparkling when he was telling me about the widows his organisation was supporting and of whom about 80% were illiterate. “We are teaching them to read and write. This is very important. There is no other way.” With great pride he was showing me on his organization’s Facebook page pictures of the library they had built. Also, their bread factory not only employs displaced people, but it uses the local ingredients to produce bread, which is then distributed as part of their food aid.

He was telling me how important and useful our humanitarian training was and he was encouraging my organization to deliver various training courses to as many Syrian aid workers as possible.

He was also telling me with great humbleness about the scholarship he received to study French and biotechnology in France. He had only 2 months to wait until he would travel there. He told me about the danger he was facing every day when doing his work in Aleppo. Some time ago their office building was bombarded but he, what a miracle, did not got even injured. But he keeps doing this work. He said “i have to do it. There is no other way. And, if i die, I die.”

And here i am – a week ago I found out that he has been killed by death barrel. This young, bright, smart, brave and hardworking man lost his life when saving others’. His dream about studies in France and living in a peaceful Syria will be left unfulfilled. Like many other dreams.

Brutality of this war is mind-blowing. During our Personal safety and security course, after talking about communication in conflict situations, our trainer showed a short film about European journalists kidnapped by militants in Cambodia. When introducing this film, trainer warned participants that there will be some violence, therefore if anyone feels uncomfortable, should let trainer know. Once the film finished, many of the participants laughed. “There was no violence”, they said. “Do you want to see what violence is?”, one of the participants, a young NGO worker in his late 20s working in Syria, asked trainer. He took his smart phone and showed some photos he had taken some time ago in his city. There were tens of killed dead men laying on the ground in blood.

I looked at each of the participants. Though they looked calm and relaxed, they carried memories in their minds and images on their smart phones, which were shocking to me, but ordinary to them. It reminded me of a frog in boiling water. They probably do not realize how resilient they have become and how their understanding of concept of ‘normality’ has transformed as a result of the increasing insecurity and political challenges.

Hundreds of aid workers die every year. But he is the first one i have known personally. I will remember him as a real hero. …. Life is a gift. Cherish every day. Dont waste it.

Africa’s storyteller

It was devastating to find out few days ago about the sudden death of BBC presenter Komla Dumor. He was one of my favorite BBC presenters and i always enjoyed his stories about the diverse, rising Africa. I am sharing with you here his TED talk which, i think, captures very well his professionalism, values, charismatic personality, and his approach to balanced story-telling which is particularly important when the story is told about Africa. He’s gone way too early.

R.I.P.