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The Freedom from Debt Coalition(FDC) goes on its third day of its Tatakan/Sulatan ng GANID the MERALCO bills protest activity today at 10 am before the MERALCO Kamuning, Quezon City Branch.

FDC is calling on all consumers to express their outrage over the new power rate hike by writing or stamping on their MERALCO bills the word GANID (Greed to Express Corporate Greed). FDC also joins the initiative to wage a protest online through social media.

FDC welcomes the investigations by both houses of Congress into the highest MERALCO power rate hike so far but also warns of a trend in the ongoing official discussions on the issue to exculpate MERALCO and focus the inquiry only into the possible collusion by the major power plants in Luzon which went on almost simultaneous shutdowns along with the Malampaya maintenance shutdown this November-December period.

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A group of Bangladeshi civil society members urged global leaders to listen to the plights of climate victims and condemned industrialised countries for blocking a "loss and damage" mechanism in the UN climate change conference.

Bangladesh urges global leaders to listen to science

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Justice calls for Debt Cancellation, Climate Reparations, Not Loans

Manila, Philippines – The Freedom from Debt Coalition told the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB) to "stop hovering like vultures around a Yolanda-stricken Philippines, taking advantage of this catastrophe to suck blood profits out of our people." This is the response of FDC through its President, Ricardo Reyes, to the ADB and the World Bank loan pledges amounting to one billion dollars following the devastation of Supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

The ADB and the WB pledged loans amounting to $523M and $500M, respectively, for reconstruction and rehabilitation effort.

FDC said that Filipinos should not forget that these are the same institutions that drove our country, like many other countries of the South, deeper into debt-dependence and mal-development. Their structural adjustment programs (SAPs) – which cut public spending to basic social services – and loan conditionalities of privatization and market liberalization produced in just two decades one of the highly unequal economies of the world beset by jobless growth and massive poverty.

"This inequality and extreme poverty account for the disproportionate vulnerability of the majority population to climate-related crisis and other disasters. The poverty-stricken population and regions are the least resilient. They are the least financially capable of undertaking and sustaining disaster management and adaptation measures, such as building of sea walls, or procuring up-to-date early warning systems, or at the very least fortifying their houses so they can endure a super typhoon. Likewise, the poorest are the least materially capable to recover from the various impact of climate disasters," FDC explained.

The Philippines ranks sixth in the Climate Change Vulnerability Index, and the third most vulnerable country to disaster risks and natural hazards in the World Risk Index 2011. Climate-Change Financers

FDC also scored the IMF-WB and the ADB for their hypocrisy in claiming they have been out to fight climate change. "Far from being concerned about climate change, these IFIs are co-culprits of highly-industrialized countries and their corporate elites, with the ADB and World Bank in axis of financing climate change-inducing projects like coal and other fossil-based energy projects," FDC said.

Experts say that the power industry is a major contributor to climate change with power plants utilizing fossil fuels such as coal and diesel contributing the highest amount of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.

In the 2012 study the World Resource Institute (WRI), the WB and the ADB ranked number two and three among the top IFI funders of coal in the world, with the total funding of US5.3 billion for 29 coal plant and US3.9 billion for 21 coal plants, respectively.

In the case of the Philippines, after the ADB together with other IFIs, successfully pushed for the privatization of the power industry, the ascent of dirty energy hastened. New coal-fired power plants were built, and the capacities of existing power plants expanded. Some of these energy projects were co-financed by the WB and the ADB, like the coal-fired power plants in Masinloc, Zambales, in Calaca, Batangas and in Naga, Cebu, which they heralded as "clean and sustainable."

According to Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) data, 84% of Philippine energy is derived from fossil fuels, and as of August this year, there were 31 coal operating contracts at the development and production stage. An additional 17 coal plant projects using a total of 26 boiler facilities are in the pipeline.

Debt Cancellation, Not New Loans

FDC President Reyes said that justice for the Filipino people demands debt cancellation, especially the illegitimate ones – odious, onerous, patently illegal, violative of human rights, harmful to the people, environment and climate, and bereft of institutional processes of consent of the people.

Climate justice demands reparations to countries like the Philippines in accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) principle of common but differentiated responsibility. This responsibility takes the form of grants and aid to enable the Philippines to develop resiliency to climate change and compensation for losses and damages like what it suffered from Yolanda and previous other climate change-induced natural disasters.

Reyes challenged President Aquino to lead the call for debt cancellation and climate reparations to the international community. ###

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Bangladesh lost US$24.7 billion in illicit financial flow to foreign countries between 1976 and 2010; a research work done by the London-based Tax Justice Network (TJN) has revealed.

TJN's latest findings has also revealed that only US$1 is flowing into the poor countries as foreign aid as against an average outflow of $10 in illicit transactions to the developed countries.

TJN is an independent organisation launched in the British Houses of parliament in March 2003. It is dedicated to high level research, analysis and advocacy in the field of tax and regulations.

The TJN finding was disclosed Saturday at a press conference, organised by the Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh (Equity BD), held at the National Press Club in the city to officially launch the Financial Secrecy Index 2013 (FSI) prepared by TJN in Bangladesh.

The FSI, published by TJN on November 7 ranked jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their activities using 15 indicators.

Ahsanul Karim Babor, Deputy Director of Equity BD presented the keynote of the programme styled "TJN Financial Secrecy Index Report, Countries in Top Ranks: Bangladesh Perspective".

Mr Babor presented a summary of the FSI-2013 which ranked Switzerland, Hong Kong, UK, Bahrain, Panama, Mauritius, Malaysia, Dubai, Bermuda and Lebanon as 10 top countries out of 82 nations fetching illicit financial flow mostly from developing countries.

The paper mentioned that an estimated $21 to $32 trillion of private financial wealth is located, untaxed or lightly taxed, in secrecy jurisdictions around the world.

It said illicit cross-border financial flows add up to an estimated $1-1.6 trillion each year.

"Since the 1970s African countries alone are estimated to have lost over $1 trillion in capital flight, dwarfing their current external debts of just $190 billion and making Africa a major net creditor to the world".

The report also pointed out that those assets are in the hands of a few wealthy people, protected by offshore secrecy, while the debts are shouldered by broad African populations.

Citing from TJN's research on Bangladesh in 2011, Babor's paper said that Bangladesh lost $24.7 billion as illicit financial flow from 1976 to 2010 which is bigger in size than the budget for the last financial year (2012-13).

The paper also said that the country's black money is between 48 and 84 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a big chunk of it is spent during the general elections.

Citing from a 2006 World Bank report, the paper said total expenditure in a general parliamentary election is more than Tk 200 billion in Bangladesh.

The paper suggested taking examples from Indian government to stop illicit financial flow and its recovery.

India published white paper on black money and illicit financial flow and recovered around $4.43 billion alone in fiscal year 2011-2012.

"In the last ten years, India has initiated the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with 88 countries. They have also reformed there tax administration," the paper pointed out.

Chief Moderator of EquityBD Rezaul Karim, director at the same organisation Mostafa Kamal Akanda, journalists Shwapan Bhuyian and Asjadul Kibria, joint secretary of Bangladesh Krishok Federation Md Mainul Islam among others spoke.

However, FSI-2013 also mentioned that besides the developing countries, richer nations are also victims of illicit money flow.

"In the recent global financial crisis, European countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal have been brought to their knees by decades of secrecy and tax evasion," it said.

It pointed out that a global industry has developed involving the world's biggest banks, law practices and accounting firms which not only provide secretive offshore structures to their tax- and law-dodging clients, but aggressively market them.

'Competition' between jurisdictions to provide secrecy facilities has, particularly since the era of 'the financial globalisation' took off in the 1980s, become a central feature of global financial markets, it said.

"The problems go far beyond tax. In providing secrecy, the offshore world corrupts and distorts markets and investments, shaping them in ways that have nothing to do with efficiency" the FSI said.

"This is not just a 'developing country' issue either: it hurts citizens of rich and poor countries alike" FSI said in its introductory remark.

Photo Courtesy of The Financial Express.

Article published in The Financial Express.

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Six rights groups and civil society networks yesterday demanded that the government conduct a survey and assessment on the internal climate-induced migration in Bangladesh before taking the issue to the upcoming international climate negotiations.

The Bangladesh delegation must demand a solid programme on climate migrants in the Poland conference due in November so that there is some agreement in Paris in 2015, said Qumrul Isalm Chowdhury of Forum of Environmental Journalists of Bangladesh (BEJF), addressing a seminar at the capital’s Jatiya Press Club.

Environment and Forest Minister Hasan Mahumd declared that Bangladesh Climate Change Strategic Action Plan would be revised and money would be allocated there for researches on climate migrants.

He said the developed countries had to take the responsibility of these migrants, and the definition of the UN refugee had to be revised to accommodate them.

At the seminar, “Climate-induced migrants: Responsibilities at national and international level”, Dr Ahsanuddin of CGC said that if Bangladesh failed to present the estimated number of climate migrants, it would not get proper response at international level.

Bangladesh must tell the developed world that within its limited capacity, the country is spending almost $1 billion annually on safety net programmes, he added.

The seminar was jointly organised by Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, Bangladesh Indigenous People Network on Climate Change and Biodiversity, Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network, Climate Change Development Forum, Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh, and Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihood.

Citing data of CristianAid and prediction of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Hasan Mehdi, chief executive of Humanitywatch, said 2.5 crore people of the world were displaced due to climate change in 2007, while 15-20 crore people would be displaced by 2050. In Bangladesh, it causes displacement of 6-10 lakh people annually, he said.

Published in The Daily Star.