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Bill Gates advises Uganda on oil cash

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Microsoft founder Bill Gates

Published On: Thu, Nov 3rd, 2011

The world’s second richest man and one of its most influential philanthropists will today advise the G20 to ask government to make details of Uganda’s oil agreements public.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is also expected to ask the G20 to ensure that government declares the money it receives from its oil resources. Mr Gates’ comments come a day after a parliamentary ad hoc committee started investigating allegations of corruption and unfair agreements in Uganda’s largely opaque oil sector which is expected to generate $2 billion per year at peak production, compared to a national budget of $3 billion.

“This oil revenue should have a huge impact on the government’s ability to address the needs of millions of poor Ugandans,” Mr Gates will today tell leaders of the G20, which include the world’s richest and most powerful countries. “However, we have no insight into the country’s oil leasing arrangements, and, as a result, Ugandan citizens have no means to protect their interests.”

Mr Gates’ comments on Uganda are part of a report on financing global development he has written for the G20 meeting at the request of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who currently holds its rotational leadership. The full report will be published today.

Mr Gates has closely been following developments in Uganda where his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a major donor to health projects, and is keen to see Uganda’s oil money spent transparently on social and economic development.

Ms Winnie Ngabiirwe of Publish What You Pay Uganda, a pro-transparency pressure group, said yesterday: “For a long time now, Ugandans have asked our government to do exactly what Mr Gates is asking for. Unfortunately, our government has continued to dismiss our concerns, treating the oil and gas sector with the highest level of secrecy. Making agreements accessible to Ugandans, and publishing what the country is earning is an important step necessary for fighting against corruption and embezzlement.”

Energy Minister Irene Muloni told Daily Monitor yesterday that there was no need to worry since the oil industry in Uganda is young. “All the appropriate laws will be put in place. Uganda’s oil resources will be adequately managed,” she said, advising this newspaper to seek President Museveni’s view over Mr Gate’s presentation.

Tullow Oil is in final stages of farming down two-thirds of its interest in Uganda’s oil fields to France’s Total and China’s CNOOC. In July 2010, the US passed the Dodd-Frank Act, which calls for all oil, gas and mining companies listed in the US to publish their payments to foreign governments.

This would include CNOOC, which is listed in the US, but not UK-listed Tullow.
However, last week the European Commission proposed a new law which would implement the same requirement for all 27 EU member countries.

If adopted, Tullow and Total would have to publish their payments to Uganda unless government passes a secrecy law making it explicitly illegal for any oil, gas or mining company to publish information about their activities in Uganda.

Mr Gates is also expected to encourage Uganda to sign up to the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and gives an example of Ghana, which used the initiative to raise minimum mining royalties from three to six per cent. “The problem is that EITI is a voluntary initiative, and only five African countries are currently compliant, although more are working towards it,” Mr Gates says. “All G20 countries should require the mining and oil companies listed on their stock exchanges to disclose payments to governments.”

By John Njoroge, Daily Monitor

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Follow the “MONEY”: Never been a better time to make Robin Hood Tax a reality

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By Roger James
Sep 29, 2011

“The Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) we propose will be banks’ contribution to a fair society,” said EU president José Manuel Barroso this week.

The EU Commission further noted that financial firms had played a role in the current “economic crisis” and was “under-taxed” compared with other sectors, also arguing that banks must make a “contribution” back to society after the €4.6 trillion of taxpayers’ money they have received in the last three years.

Earlier this year 1,000 economists urged G20 countries to accept a similar ‘Tobin tax’. France and Germany have been joined by Bill Gates alongside other leading financial actors, George Soros, Warren Buffet and the UK’s Lord Adair Turner who have stated their support for a tax on financial transactions which could raise billions for the fight against poverty and climate change.

Gates was asked by President Nicolas Sarkozy to come up with proposals for new forms of financing for development for this autumn’s meeting of the G20 meeting of the biggest twenty economies in Cannes in November.

The next few weeks leading up to the G20 are going to be critical in deciding whether an FTT is agreed and crucially whether the resources are earmarked for the fight against poverty at home and abroad and to tackle climate change.

EU Finance Ministers next week are expected to discuss the proposal as part of pre-G20 and EU summit discussions. Public and political support is building behind an EU-wide FTT before the EU Heads of State Summit on October 17 and 18 and for a global agreement before the French G20 Summit starting on November 3.

I was heartened to see it as the leading item on the 10pm news only to be followed by interviews with City of London representatives who decried the idea claiming that about 80% of the revenues of any Europe-wide financial tax would come from London.

The UK Government is currently opposed to the idea. The UK Treasury said it would “absolutely resist” any tax that was not introduced globally because it may drive business overseas. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the contrary, has clearly stated that FTTs exist in all the major financial sectors already, without driving business away.

The best example of this is the UK, where we have a stamp duty of 0.5% on all share transactions. The UK’s major competitors do not have this and there certainly is no global agreement, yet it is a successful FTT that raises around £5 billion pounds each year. It is designed so it can’t be avoided and London remains one of the biggest stock markets in the world.

The Robin Hood Tax Campaign, backed by 115 aid agencies (including Oxfam), green campaigners, trade unions and faith groups is campaigning for a tiny tax of about 0.05% on transactions like stocks, bonds, foreign currency and derivatives.

It has the potential to raise £250 billion a year globally. It will not affect retail banking, which includes savings and mortgages. It will instead introduce a micro-tax on short-term, casino-style trading which employs a small number of highly paid bankers in London, not the tens of thousands employed in high street financial services.

The world faces a dramatic economic crisis but alongside our concerns we must remember that the financial crisis has driven millions of people into poverty and put many more at risk, as the world’s poorest countries scramble to fill huge budget holes with dwindling help from richer nations. Poor people in the UK are also being hit hardest by cuts. Revenue from a Robin Hood Tax could go a long way to helping make the world a fairer place by helping tackle poverty and climate change, at home and abroad.

Oxfam and others do have concerns about the apparent EU proposals. While we welcome the fact that the FTT is moving from rhetoric to reality, a significant part of the revenues should be used as Bill Gates suggested, to help poor countries facing chilling reductions in aid, trade, and investment – not just shore up the EU budget. An FTT is not a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ unless clear commitments are made to use the revenues for tackling climate change and poverty at home and abroad

That is why huge public pressure is needed to convince the government it is more costly to ignore the people than to ignore the banks. Actor Bill Nighy has been a prominent public supporter. The UK campaign alone has a quarter of a million supporters, and there are sister campaigns across the globe. A recent EU poll of more than 27,000 people found that 61% of Europeans support FTT, including 65% of Britons.

If you are reading this article please give your support to this campaign at a critical time. Many MPs have declared they are supportive – contact your own and ask them to write to the UK Chancellor and to press their own party spokespeople to come out in support. Have a look at Robin Hood Tax site for all the low down. One fun thing to do is add your own (or friend’s) face to a RHT Video. It’s great!

If a tax is agreed, it’s crucial that a commitment is made that the resources will go towards tackling poverty and climate change – not into the general EU or national budgets. Otherwise it’s not a Robin Hood tax.

We have lots of support, both expert and popular, there has never been a better time or opportunity to make the Robin Hood Tax a reality!

Roger James is a campaigner at Oxfam South West in Bristol

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