Monday, December 16, 2002

Matt Prescott of Earth-Info.Net has drawn my attention to the international Publish What You Pay campaign:

"International oil, gas, and mining companies pay billions of dollars a year to the governments of many less developed countries that are rich in natural resources, such as Angola and Nigeria.

"Few of these countries' citizens benefit from this financial windfall, however, because of government corruption + mismanagement.

"The 'Publish What You Pay' campaign aims to help citizens hold their governments accountable for how these resource-related funds are managed and distributed.

"George Soros and a coalition of more than 40 NGOs (including the Open Society Institute and the campaign's co-sponsor, Global Witness) place the onus on wealthy countries' governments to require transnational extraction companies to publish net taxes, fees, royalties, and other payments made so civil society can more accurately assess the amount of money misappropriated and lobby for full transparency in local government spending."

The campaign website includes the text of an op-ed piece written by George Soros for the Financial Times last June:

"I recognize that oil and mining companies do not control how their payments are spent, or misspent. But if they are to be good corporate citizens in this age of globalization, they do have a responsibility to disclose these payments so the people of the countries concerned can hold their governments to account.

"No individual company wants to start disclosing data before its competitors do. That is why voluntary disclosure will not work. But all companies would benefit from a level playing field if disclosure were required. They would not be violating the terms of their agreements if the requirement to 'Publish What You Pay' were imposed on them."

T&T is not one of the countries singled out by the campaign for not fully disclosing its energy revenues to its citizens (though Venezuela is). But I think we should be eager nonetheless to see how the multinational corporations currently exploiting our own energy resources respond to this challenge. "Sustainable development" is everyone's talk these days, but talk is proverbially cheap; our oil & natural gas are not.

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