Ahead of the G8 summit earlier this summer, David Cameron hosted a pre-event on development. I read his speech the other day, and I was pleased to find him tackling the issue of corruption.
“Corruption is wrong. It starves the poor. It poisons the system. It saps the faith of people in progress. It wrecks the case for aid. When we see it we should condemn it utterly”
That’s easy to say, and corruption is often used as an excuse to cut development aid. But here Cameron was positive about what is happening and makes his case with some good African examples:
“I know some people put their hands up in the air and say this can never change. But by ending the era of tax secrecy and driving real openness over what governments and businesses do – it can change. And there are political leaders here are who making that happen.
President Mahama of Ghana, who has opened up his country’s budget so his people can see how their money is spent. President Conde of Guinea, who has recently led the way on publishing mining contracts online. President Kikwete of Tanzania, who is working to ensure that the citizens of his country can enjoy clear and secure property rights And President Sall of Senegal, who has simplified taxes, unleashed auditors on public finances and set up a commission to tackle corruption.”
Importantly, the Prime Minister also recognises the role of developed countries, who can be complicit in corruption.
“This needs political leadership from the developed world too. We have the tools in our hands to tackle these problems. We can build international tax systems that make it easier for developing countries to collect the taxes they are due. We can ensure our extractive companies are accountable and transparent in their dealings. And we can do more to promote trade in Africa.”
He goes on to talk about tax avoidance, the ‘publish what you pay’ guidelines for extractive industries, bureaucracy and transparency. None of these are easy things to accomplish, and the G8 and G20 need to ensure that the changes proposed actually benefit developing countries. Since the poorest aren’t represented at these meetings, it’s not really the best place to negotiate such things, and there’s a danger that changes to international tax don’t actually make any difference to those who would benefit most – some tips on that here from Christian Aid. But as I wrote about a few weeks ago, progress is being made.