secret deals resource boom loopholes transfer

Vietnam Firms Involved in Illegal Land Grabs and ...
land grabs hagl

Kofi Annan -- Africa Plundered by Secret Mining Deals

NGOs have repeatedly highlighted the issue of individual grabs of lands and of rents. But do NGOs extol our rights to a fair share of Earth and of her worth? These two 2013 excerpts are from the BBC on May 10 and 13, the latter by J. Head.

by BBC and by Jonathan Head

Tax avoidance, secret mining deals, and financial transfers are depriving Africa of the benefits of its resources boom, ex-UN chief Kofi Annan has said.

Firms that shift profits to lower tax jurisdictions cost Africa $38bn (£25bn) a year.

"Africa loses twice as much money through these loopholes as it gets from donors," Mr Annan told the BBC.

To read more

An environmental group has accused two Vietnamese rubber firms of involvement in massive land grabs in Cambodia and Laos.

In its report, Global Witness said HAGL and Vietnam Rubber Group had been allocated over 280,000 hectares for rubber plantations in the countries.

Residents had been evicted and offered inadequate or no compensation, it said.

Private land ownership was destroyed by the decades of war and revolution during and after the Vietnam War, so most is now considered state-owned. The Cambodian and Lao governments have been encouraging commercial exploitation of land.

Global Witness says the alleged land seizures in Laos and Cambodia reflect a global crisis of uncontrolled land exploitation, driven by rising prices for commodities.

HAGL is a striking Vietnamese business success story. It began as a small furniture factory in the highland town of Pleiku in 1990, not far from the Cambodian border. It then expanded, first into timber and later into hotels and property, and now rubber and sugar plantations.

Its founder and president, Doan Nguyen Duc, is now one of Vietnam's wealthiest men.

The Vietnam Rubber Group is an umbrella organisation for 22 state-owned enterprises.

Both have led an aggressive expansion of Vietnam's rubber production over the past decade, making it the world's fourth largest exporter after Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Cambodia and Laos have some of the last unexploited tracts of suitable land left in South East Asia.

Traditionally, rubber in South East Asia has been cultivated by smallholders, but these two Vietnamese companies mark a shift towards large-scale plantations operated by big corporations.

Cambodians and Laotians say they were driven off land they were cultivating, and saw their fields bulldozed and then planted with rubber trees for businesses owned or part-owned by the two Vietnamese companies.

Global Witness has also accused Deutsche Bank and the IFC, the financial arm of the World Bank, of investing in both companies, and of failing to perform due diligence on their operations in Cambodia and Laos.

Its says five of Cambodia's richest tycoons are the main beneficiaries of the millions of hectares of government land concessions.

The Cambodian security forces have repeatedly been accused of violently suppressing protests against the evictions, even when the evictions appear to be illegal.

The Cambodian courts have imposed prison sentences on protesters, but there have been no convictions of those accused of seizing land.

Last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a moratorium on land concessions for business, but left a loophole which has allowed hundreds of thousands more hectares to be approved for development.

To read more

JJS: What’s happening in poor tropical countries -- insiders selling off natural resources for their own private gain -- is not limited to there; it goes on everywhere, and has for as long as civilization has been with us. And it won’t stop. Such rapacity will continue until enough of us proclaim our rights to both some Earth and to a fair share of her worth. One powerful way to thus redefine property is to promote the policy of geonomics. This revenue reform would abolish taxes and institute land dues instead, and abolish subsidies and institute rent dividends instead. Even small applications of this policy have greatly benefited great numbers of people.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

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