Tax Havens

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tax havens are still open. The other ones are closing down...

In October, 2008 after the election of President Obama, the EU hurriedly reported to Camp David so that President George Bush (in recognition of his many successes!) could lead the world in facing the great financial crisis that was upon us. And as was to be expected (and despite this being a global problem) President Bush ignored the United Nations and delegated decision-making to the G-20, the “enlarged” group of the world’s richest countries.

And he couldn’t come up with a better solution than to “rescue” the financial institutions with public funds, provoking unprecedented indebtedness in those countries. While “rescuing” them (over 700,000 million dollars in the U.S. and around 400,000 million dollars in the EU), they were warned that the “greed and irresponsibility” (in the words of President Obama, which I like to quote) that led to this crisis should be radically avoided in the future, through adequate regulatory measures and, above all, the immediate eradication of tax havens, which enable fraudulent companies to evade taxes and the reach of the courts, and which facilitate trafficking (in arms, capital, drugs...) on a global scale... The worst was that the “rescued market” then imposed its arbitrary laws on the naïve and now impoverished “rescuers”, who have had to make adjustments in the face of attacks from speculators in a global economic system that is way off course.

Two years later, the market has replaced political leaders, money has taken the place of democratic principles... and tax havens blatantly continue to be open, while for millions of citizens directly hit by the “collateral” effects of the crisis, the “other” havens, both earthly and even heavenly, are closing down.

Let us hope that these citizens, so entertained by the immense powers of the media, rebel on time and demand that tax havens be closed and that the havens that they long for remain wide open.

Save Sakineh!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yes, save Sakineh. But let’s take advantage of this great mobilization and the media attention given to this symbolic case to ensure that civil society’s impact on world leaders doesn’t immediately fall off.

We must save all who suffer from torture; the boy-soldiers; the children of Gaza, cruelly murdered in their schools; those who die of hunger each day; the men, women and children who live in extreme poverty, without hope and neglected.

Let’s save Sakineh, but through constant use of citizen power and open and determined resistance let us help ensure that violations of human rights such as those committed in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo are not repeated, so that not only this death penalty but all of the world’s death penalties may become a thing of the past, never to recur again. Let us be the global outcry that prevents the Iranian government from committing this abominable practice; an outcry that will continue so that many other women may obtain the emancipation they so desire.

We must take advantage of these cases that get so much media attention, even with the knowledge that they sometimes reflect hidden agendas, and commence a great transition from force to the word, from a culture of imposition and violence to a culture of understanding and conciliation.

We must change the world. With this permanent will to “intervene democratically”, we must achieve fewer investments in weapons and a lot more solidarity. So that the nations understand that the time of discretionary powers and the use of aberrant and inhumane procedures of coercion and influence have come to an end. This is the time for Humanity as a whole, and not the few who for centuries have held power, to take into their hands the reins of their common destiny.

Budget Cuts for Research?

Friday, September 24, 2010

In the aftermath of the “bubbles", relocation of production in the East, enormous military spending and financial speculation that determines political action and social objectives, we must concentrate our efforts on education and science. We must innovate, we must think and meditate.

Warning! The future requires inventions, including models of government and labor reforms. And in that regard, budget cuts cannot be allowed to affect scientific research.

If, for once and for all, we really seek to change our market economy to a knowledge-based economy in order to facilitate the transition from an economy of speculation and war to an economy of global sustainable development, why are investments in R&D+innovation being reduced, contrary to the “good practices” of years past?

This is a serious error. On the part of the government, but also on the part of the private sector and a civil society that has not been sufficiently mobilized. If millions are invested in athletic performance... if footballers, coaches, racing drivers are paid such huge sums... how can we now take the sap from the “tree of science”?

Mr. President: correct this mistake. Take a cue from the United States and Germany. This time their policies are worth copying

Three unfortunate comments

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The U.S. Ambassador for the Obama Administration should think before offering his comments or, perhaps to give him the benefit of the doubt, he should ensure that their transcriptions and translations are accurate, because in recent statements, among other more fortunate observations, he said the following:

1) "We still haven’t seen any fundamental changes in Cuba...". The country of the never-ending embargo, of constant pressure on the island and, above all, the country of the Guantanamo prisoners during the Bush Administration shouldn’t analyze with such disdain the impact that the Cuban government’s recently-adopted measures may have in a nation that, despite intense duress from its colossal neighbor, has never claudicated.

He answered another question –and he answered it well, quoting President Obama himself- saying that the world’s problems are too important for the U.S. to solve them alone, but that no important problem can be solved without the U.S. Great! Come on, and for once and for all help Cuba after 50 years of boycotting and stifling any possible improvement.

2) "We ask all countries to recognize Kosovo". In 1999, before invading Iraq, against the Security Council and without the support of the United Nations, NATO invaded Kosovo. As the Director General of UNESCO at that time, on several occasions I denounced that act of war, which was a discretional act that once again ignored the UN... But the process of globalization was in full swing, and it was the G-8 plutocrats who, led by the U.S., directed the world. The results are there for all to see: force always breeds suffering, deep wounds that don’t heal, divisions that can only widen, absurd situations and discriminatory treatment....

If actions are taken with impunity in the Balkans, the same will happen in the Caucasus. The desired results will not be achieved by force. Unless, of course, the intended results include deaths, injuries, displaced persons, humiliation... which don’t seem to count when assessing situations of this nature.

3) "Obama will evaluate the real situation before withdrawing troops from Afghanistan"

We didn’t expect less. But the problems of Afghanistan (and I will comment on this topic shortly) cannot be solved exclusively with military measures. The Afghans must be provided with much “personal” aid, opium crops must be replaced, the people must especially benefit from their great mining resources, particularly lithium. I do not doubt that President Obama, who understands the problem well, will endeavor to confront the inertia of the immense war machine establishment, which drops bombs at a distance from unmanned aircraft... The solution lies precisely in the “human face”, including those that are hidden behind burkas.

Innovative financial resources that cannot be postponed

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On various occasions (Blog 28.05.10; actions on the UBUNTU Forum in September, 2008, February-March...) I have written about the advisability of seeking innovative mechanisms for obtaining more funds to devote especially to sustainable development, reducing the impact of natural or man-made disasters, etc.

This can no longer be postponed, because everything is in the hands of the marketplace, of harsh and abusive speculation on the part of the “rescued”, to the point of vacating all political action and measures previously adopted to achieve social objectives.

It is time for alternative mechanisms, for “other” sources of financing. Let’s not let another day pass. Let’s support this in every possible way, in cyberspace, and especially through the Meeting of the Working Group on International Financial Transactions and Development held in Paris on September 1st.

Who regulates the regulators?

Friday, September 10, 2010

This was a question posed by Robert Kuttner in the June 19-20, 2010 issue of the International Herald Tribune.

Why weren’t the rules established by the U.S. Minerals Management Service strictly followed, which would have prevented the tragic oil spill that is devastating the waters and coastlines of the Gulf of Mexico?

Because the petroleum mining companies continued to be granted licenses “due to intense pressure from the industry and its political allies in Washington”, said Kuttner. He added, “U.S. government supervision was particularly lax and corrupt under Vice President Dick Cheney, former executive director of Halliburton... And the Obama administration has not reestablished more efficient monitoring ".

The same has occurred on the “financial front". The rating agencies haven’t been prevented from unduly issuing triple-A credit scores. These regulatory defects continued throughout the Clinton and Bush administrations.

And despite the ongoing claims of unyielding globalizers, there has been no self-regulation in the marketplace.

"Oil companies seek short-term profits and don’t invest in safety as they should".

Regulation requires honest and competent regulators. Only the political will, duly supported by the appropriate civil society organizations will be able to counteract the colossal strength of large enterprises.

Leadership. Political power. And demanding citizens. It is surprising that in the same issue of that newspaper Obama is criticized for “having pushed the limits of his executive authority” in his treatment of British Petroleum, being “determined”, in the words of the President, “to do what the citizens can’t and the companies won’t”.

The political crisis is much more dangerous than the financial crisis.

Let’s wholeheartedly support those who have sufficient “determination” to once and for all change an economic system that has generated so much inequality. Let’s support the progressive transition toward a knowledge-based economy to enable global sustainable development.

To do so requires political leadership. And “honest and competent” regulators ".

First, Life

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Who are those who for ulterior motives dare to criticize the procedures used to free the Spanish aid workers held captive so long in the Sahel in the murderous hands of Al Qaeda’s professional kidnappers?

This will fly back in their faces like a huge boomerang, because everyone will assume that they would have had no qualms about paying any ransom necessary if the aid workers had been their own children. First, life.

Yes: first, life. But immediately thereafter, concerted action and all of the necessary investments, not only to dismantle the refuges from which the kidnappers operate but, above all, to improve the standards of living in the countries in which they conduct these criminal activities. Once again: we can’t invest 3,000 million dollars daily in weapons and military expenditures, when the solution lies in sustainable global development, ceasing to exploit those countries’ resources in oil, gas, aluminum, gold, diamond, coltan… . Overcoming the resistance of the huge war industry conglomerates, it is urgent that we provide all of the means necessary to improve living conditions for all of the inhabitants of the earth, as their equal human dignity demands, so that they will be able to stand firm against those who offer them other compensations in the quagmire of their misery.

Together with this radical international change in the means adopted to counteract and totally annihilate terrorism, it is also necessary for private and public organizations to respect established security measures (remember that the Alakrana was fishing in a non-authorized zone and that, with the best of intentions, some NGOs conduct activities in areas that are also discouraged for security reasons).

First, life. It is priceless. But immediately thereafter, all of the measures, which thanks to the social progress achieved will make actions that warrant unanimous rejection impossible. Yes, unanimous. If we want to understand why, look at the eyes of the mothers of the rescued aid workers. That’s where you will find all of the reasons.

An increased role must be given coordinated international action, with a renewed and adequately endowed United Nations. The era of the G-8 and G-20 is over, leaving an intolerable situation behind.

Expulsion and alienation of gypsies: This is a very serious matter that cannot be tolerated

Monday, September 6, 2010

What is happening to the “gypsies” (and once again we are confining to groups people who are all “equal in dignity”, as when we speak of “the Jews”) is absolutely ethically, politically, democratically and humanly intolerable. And in the 21st century it is even less acceptable. We agree that there are rules that must be respected by all... but by all citizens, wherever they are and whatever their origin. A great number of the citizens of western countries were once immigrants, and today, the fact that “immigrants” are treated with contempt, especially if they are “moros” (like so many of us!) or black, is an outrage and must not be tolerated. The national parliaments, the European Parliament and the assemblies of the Autonomous Communities must take immediate action. And the United Nations should do likewise at the international level.

At least now, with the Football-God, it is easier to make people understand that all people are equal in dignity... and some races are particularly gifted at sports...

In Spain we have people such as Manuel Martín Ramírez, who are capable of providing all of the necessary arguments and examples. But in this entry of my “jottings” I merely want to underscore that we cannot compromise in matters such as this. We cannot remain silent. We must state categorically that the radical equal dignity of all human beings is the basis of fundamental rights, genuine democracy and peaceful and amicable coexistence.

Defenceless against disaster

They are so ready for battle with such huge benefits to be reaped that, when there is no enemy, they have to invent one, as the colossal machinery of war cannot be stopped. Submarines, aircraft carriers, battleships, piloted and pilotless planes, tanks, howitzers, short and long-range missiles, with and without nuclear warheads... .

However, when it comes to defending ourselves from the disasters that are devastating the planet, there is nothing. If they were an infrequent occurrence, it would be understandable. But they are recurrent. And, as they do not form part of conventional “defence”, the security structures –with a very short-sighted view of what “security” means- have not included them in their strategies and they lack the human and technical resources necessary in order to prevent them or, at least, to reduce their impact.

Defenceless, in spite of the fact that the United Nations, throughout the decade of 1989-1999 carried out a thorough study, enlisting the help of top experts, of the measures that should be adopted before and immediately after these events. As Director-General of UNESCO at that time, I had the opportunity to “set in motion” the actions to be undertaken, with the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Javier Pérez de Cuellar. At the end of the period mentioned, the most suitable measures were published – "Management of Natural Disasters”- and the General Assembly of the United Nations continued to update this regularly, particularly through UNESCO.

But, as was the case with the recommendations for social and sustainable development, the formulae recommended by the United Nations System were completed discarded by the plutocratic groups of “globalisers” (G7, G8, …).

The measures to be adopted were established with regard to:

i) Hydro-meteorological disasters: cyclones, hurricanes (such as Hurricane Katrina, in New Orleans, August 2005, and the Cyclone Nargis, which had a devastating effect on Myanmar in May 2008); floods; drought; tornados; extreme temperatures; lightning;…

ii) Geological: earthquakes (August 2007, in Pisco, Peru; May 2008, Sichuan, China; April 2009, L’Aquila, Italy; 12 January 2010, Haiti; February 2010, Chile; April 2010, Qinghai, China;); volcanoes (Eyjafjalla, Iceland, April 2010); tsunamis (Indian Ocean, December 2004); landslides; glaciers…

iii) Environmental and technological: fires (August 2007, Greece; summer 2007, Canary Islands; August 2008, Los Angeles, United States…).

The four key objectives of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) are: to increase public awareness to understand risk, vulnerability and disaster reduction globally; to obtain commitment from public authorities; to stimulate interdisciplinary and intersectoral partnerships; and to improve scientific knowledge.

One of the most important recent contributions is the European Union GAP project (Guard, Anticipation and Prediction) relating to the threats to “global health”, which groups natural disasters together with nuclear disasters, large epidemics, industrial hazards and terrorism.

Today, the effects of climate change, global warming, greenhouse gases and, in particular, carbon dioxide emissions, can be included in the issues to be addressed by a “Security Council” with a broader scope of competence. The issues requiring armed forces would be entrusted to the “blue berets” and, in line with Nicole Guedj’s proposal, the establishment of the “red berets” should be encouraged as a supranational, exclusively humanitarian force, to act specifically in response to natural or man-provoked disasters. In Spain, the Military Emergency Unit, UNE (Unidad Militar de Emergencia) was established in 2005 and has already demonstrated its ability to act (fires, etc.).

The “black tide” has now been added to the proven inefficiency and inability to react in the form of rescue and rehabilitation in the case of earthquakes, floods, etc., due to the massive oil spills, resulting from the unforgiveable greed of a deepwater oil company which did not have the resources available to allow for any faults. President Obama is unduly expected to shoulder the blame which should be assumed by the British oil company alone. A spill of this nature is not a hurricane.

In the early 1990s we set up the GOOS (Global Ocean Observing System) in order to be able to give early warning of tsunamis and to denounce the oil carriers that wash the bottom of tanks offshore instead of using the appropriate port facilities.

How much longer will the majority of the world’s population continue to remain impassive, allowing things to happen “as usual”? I don’t think that it will be for much longer, because new communication technology is enabling people, who are spectators today, to become gradually more involved, and they will begin to form a worldwide network which both globally and locally will strengthen true democracy, the transition from a culture of imposition, violence and war to a culture of dialogue, reconciliation and peace; from a market economy to a sustainable global economy, from an exclusively regional security strategy to a security strategy in terms of food, health, against disasters; …

"But Don’t Forget Haiti"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Thank you, dear Forges, for your vision, capacity for synthesis, humor, irony, and for the serious messages you convey.

And a special “thank you,” because some time ago, on February 5, 2010, I said that we shouldn’t forget Haiti.

For that reason I thank you so much for reminding us of Haiti each day.

Let’s not forget Haiti. Let’s not forget that the people of Haiti don’t have access to water or to the medicines that could save their lives. Let’s not forget those who die from hunger each day.

Thank you, Forges. We forget so many things that we shouldn’t!