Cameron on Land Rights, Shell Companies and Corruption

Tuesday, 5 November, 2013

UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, talks at 2013 Open Government Plenary Session on promoting transparency and building legislative controls to build stable economies in the developing world:

CSR21 picks out the interesting bits from the two hour video and time codes them for quick reference:

38.00… “Property rights…the bridge between open institutions and economic development” Cameron talks about how not having your property appropriated forms the bedrock of a developing economy.

40.00 G8 has to work with developing nations. UK to work with Tanzania on building a national land registry.

41.00 Transparency in developed nations must be equal to that being demanded of developing nations; private sector disclosure on who “really” owns and controls/benefits from UK corporations; death to untraceable shell companies and hidden cash trails from megalomaniac dictators living in either Jersey or Africa alike. Furthermore the public register should not just be a government-to-government resource.

44.45 Supporting transparency groups committed to action, not just issuing communiqués. Practicalities of making things better

45.50 Cameron commits to supporting Indonesian as VP co-chair on transparency. (“Private” sector Chinese companies operating in Indonesia subject to transparency on ownership?)

46.00 Q&A

47.00 DC: ‘aligning development discussion with transparency and rule of law’

49.23 DC talks about writing commitment documents in clear easy speech as being important

50.11 International agenda on tax treaties, countries across the world facing similar issues: big budget deficits, release of data is an enormous driver for wealth creation

51.00 DC can’t speak Spanish

53.00 “Transparency is a vaccine against corruption”

56.04 Liberian representatives ask about sustainability of commitments and elections brining in new reforming governments. DC comments on Liberia’s progress out of years of deep corruption. NGO’s focused on connections between development and transparency.

This is an interesting call to arms for improving disclosure and anti-corruption in all parts of the world. G8 countries are taking a much harder line on where the cash goes; does this mean more public sanctions on sitting corrupt governments and consequent suspension of aid/development financing to people living in some of the poorest parts of the world if their president doesn’t give back the keys to the flat in Geneva?

On the last point about NGO’s being an important factor for influencing governments in, say, Africa: does this new initiative mean if 100% of aid cannot be tracked to beneficial sources it will not be, or should not be, allowed to deploy that capital? The North Korea argument remains: by subsidizing a destroyed economy with food it sustains the leadership and the huge military structures the country bends under. But to withdraw that food means the starvation of a huge number of people. It’s not quite what is being talked about here but perhaps worth thinking about as the concept of Open Government starts aligning development with stakeholder responsibility.