Quelling anti-Rampal protests (with South Korean assistance)

rahnuma ahmed

It was a peaceful procession.
We had gathered under the aegis of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, outside the National Press Club in Dhaka, on October 19, 2016. After a brief rally, where speakers described the harm that the Rampal coal power plant would cause the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest straddling both sides of the Bangladesh-India border, we formed a procession, raised slogans and proceeded toward the Indian High Commission in Gulshan to deliver an open letter for the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
Since India is the major partner in building the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project, i.e., the Rampal coal power plant, the National Committee’s open letter called on the Indian prime minister to scrap the project.
It’s not only us. Forty-one Indian people’s movements, green and civil rights organisations have called on Narendra Modi to scrap the the project. So has the Unesco and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). A Unesco statement recommended the ‘Rampal power plant project be cancelled and relocated to a more suitable location’ as it could damage the world heritage site, home to 450 Royal Bengal tigers, expose downriver forests to pollution and acid rain, threaten the breeding grounds of Ganges and Irrawaddy river dolphins, far worsen the already liminal ecosystem which is being threatened by rising sea levels (The Guardian, October 18, 2016). Three large French banks, including BNP Paribas, a sponsor of the Paris climate summit in 2015, have refused to invest, while two Norwegian pension funds have withdrawn their investment. Continue reading “Quelling anti-Rampal protests (with South Korean assistance)”

RESISTING RAMPAL

‘Go back NTPC, get out India’
rahnuma ahmed

Dhaka, Bangladesh, August 20, 2016. ? Taslima Akhter
Dhaka, Bangladesh, August 20, 2016. © Taslima Akhter

Of all the slogans raised in protest against the coal power plant being built at Rampal in Bagerhat, this one’s the best. Continue reading “RESISTING RAMPAL”

Save Sunderbans: Global Protest 7th Jan 17

The Price of Gratitude
It is where the Bengal Tiger, now close to extinction, still stalks. It is where deer roam and hummingbirds fly. It is the richest terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem anywhere. Sunderbans (“beautiful forest” in Bangla), the world’s largest single tract mangrove forest is a UNESCO-declared World Heritage that has sheltered 50 million coastal people from ravaging storms. The beautiful forest is in danger. The joint project of PDB (Bangladesh) and NTPC (India) for 1320 MW Rampal imported coal-fired power plant spells disaster for Bangladesh. Thousands have taken to the streets in protest, braving arrest and torture, but the government, who have already killed protesters of other energy projects are determined to bludgeon through. We need you and we need you now.
On the 7th January 2017, we have called for a global protest. You have a role to play. Join the movement.
Stage demonstrations/human chains and send written appeals to the embassies of Bangladesh and India.
Organise bicycle rallies, boat rallies, use theatre, songs, cartoons, masks or just hold up placards. Send us your protest/solidarity video messages and photographs.
Appeal to United Nations.
Campaign to International Press/Media
Find other creative ways to resist.
Send them to: shahidul@drik.net and kallol_mustafa@yahoo.com. Share this message and make it go viral.

Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India

On behalf of the National Oil, Gas, Mineral Resource, Power and Port Protection Committee, Bangladesh

Engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah

Prof. Anu Muhammad, Member Secretary

Professor Anu Muhammad (centre) and Engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah (right)
Professor Anu Muhammad (centre) and Engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah (right). Photo Dhaka Tribune

October 18, 2016
The Honourable Prime Minister,
We respectfully address you with grave concern and anxiety. The people of Bangladesh today is sternly worried over the future of the Sundarbans, which not only happens to be the only protection barrage of the southern belt of Bangladesh, but also the largest Mangrove Forest of the world, as well as the most valuable ecological habitat of the country and the World Heritage Site. The joint venture of both India and Bangladesh to build a1320 MW capacity coal-fired power plant has caused much worry among the people of Bangladesh. Continue reading “Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India”

The Ruin of Indonesian Society

Indonesia: 50 Years After the Coup and the CIA Sponsored Terrorist Massacre. The Ruin of Indonesian Society

indonesia

Last year, I stopped travelling to Indonesia. I simply did… I just could not bear being there, anymore. It was making me unwell. I felt psychologically and physically sick.

Indonesia has matured into perhaps the most corrupt country on Earth, and possibly into the most indoctrinated and compassionless place anywhere under the sun. Here, even the victims were not aware of their own conditions anymore. The victims felt shame, while the mass murderers were proudly bragging about all those horrendous killings and rapes they had committed. Genocidal cadres are all over the government.

Continue reading “The Ruin of Indonesian Society”

Majority World exhibition in Rome: Justice in Focus

IDLO Photo Exhibition in Rome
Farnesina Porte Aperte 2015
22 – 29 May 2015

justice in focus in rome

IDLO’s photo exhibition “In Focus: Justice and the Post-2015 Agenda” will form part of this year’s initiative by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to open its doors to the general public. From 22 until 29 May 2015, visitors will be able to participate in “Farnesina Porte Aperte” and view the exhibition during guided tours of the building. The Farnesina’s art collection is internationally recognized, and IDLO is proud to have been chosen to exhibit alongside this.

The photographs were also featured by The Guardian.
guardian piece on justice in focus

Curated by IDLO and the photo agency Majority World, the exhibition focuses on the challenges of development and the rule of law. From gender equality and indigenous rights to energy poverty and land tenure, it presents the rule of law as lived experience. The pictures vividly explore the human side of the rule of law and its importance in everyday life.

“In Focus: Justice and the Post-2015 Agenda” illustrates these themes through 32 images – taken by photographers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, India and Kenya – ranging from the Amazonian settlement of Colniza, Brazil, where rule of law measures have reversed illegal logging and deforestation, to the energy-starved metropolis of Kibera, Africa’s largest slum.

To sign up for a guided tour, please visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation’s Farnesina Porte Aperte website and choose the “art route”, currently available from Monday 25 until Wednesday 27 May.
Before traveling to Rome, the exhibition was shown at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, to coincide with the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Over the coming months, it will be shown in Milan, New York, Washington and The Hague, and will return to Rome for an exclusive viewing in November.

For more information, please read this article in Italy’s Corriere della Sera, visit theIDLO mini-site and watch video interviews with the photographers.

Why the rise of fascism is again the issue

By John Pilger
johnpilger.com
26 February 2015

ukraine_obama_nobel.JPG

The recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism, whose Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism. Continue reading “Why the rise of fascism is again the issue”

A Planet Made of Diamond

The 6 Most Mind-Blowing Things Ever Discovered in Space

It’s actually really easy to think of space as boring. The planets in our own solar system all seem to be empty rocks or balls of gas, and you find a whole lot of nothing before you get to the next star. Meanwhile, Hollywood’s most creative minds can’t get past populating the place with planets that look a whole lot like Earth (and specifically, parts of California) featuring monsters, rapey aliens or Muppets.

But real space is far, far stranger. You just have to know where to look to find things like …

Science fiction writers have this annoying thing they do where they can only think of like five different types of planets. You know, there’s the ice planets (like Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back) and the forest planets (like in Avatar), desert planets, lava planets, etc.

But scientists have studied almost 700 real planets outside the solar system, and some of them are downright gaudy. Case in point: PSR J1719-1438 b. Planet Fancy isn’t having any of that rocky gassy stuff. Because it’s straight up made of diamond:

Via?Inewp.com
It’s a wedding gem worthy of Jesus or the Sultan of Dubai.

How Is This Even Possible?

The universe’s biggest showoff actually used to be a star, and sometimes the debris that’s left over after the star dies starts a second career as a planet. In this case, Blingworld started off life as one of two parts of a binary star. The larger twin made like a bomb and supernova-ed. What was left behind was a pulsating star, or pulsar, and a white dwarf. The dwarf stabilized just far enough away from its former brother to lose matter to the bully but to keep its carbon core.

Via?Spaceflightnow.com
What a dick!

Carbon is just a shitload of heat and pressure away from becoming a diamond. On Earth, that happens underground and creates little shiny bits for people to dig up and cram into their jewelry. But in this particular spot in space, the conditions were just right for the entire interior of that former star to harden, crystallize and turn into a planet-sized gem.

Damn it, mankind’s single goal should now be to assemble a mission to tow this bastard back to Earth. There’s one pawn shop owner who’s going to be in for a big fucking surprise.

Photos.com
“Yeah, that’s cute. Get your telescope and come with me.”

#5. A Gigantic Rain Cloud

Here’s another thing you never see in space movies: water. The Millennium Falcon doesn’t have windshield wipers. The Enterprise’s huge display screen doesn’t get fogged up because they flew through a space cloud. If you saw that in a sci-fi movie (with the pilot all “Damn, I can’t see due to all of this space rain!”), you’d laugh your ass off. “Have these people even been to space?”

But, guess what: Scientists have found a big-ass pool of water just floating out there in the cosmos. This massive reservoir of floating space water vapor is in fact the biggest collection of water in the universe that we know of.

Photos.com
With the smallest concentration of child urine.

And when we say “big” we’re not talking Pacific Ocean big. We’re talking 100,000 times larger than the sun big. This is a vapor cloud so large it holds 140 trillion times more water than all of our oceans.

Photos.com
And you know what that means …?space sharks.

How Is This Even Possible?

As with everything else on this list, scientists are doing a lot of shrugging and guesstimating at what we’re actually looking at. After all, the water cloud is 10 billion light-years away, so it’s not like the next generation of astronauts are going to be packing their swimming trunks or anything. But they think that what’s going on is that there’s this massive black hole that’s chomping down on everything around it. Instead of spewing out energy like a normal black hole would, the black hole is excreting water vapor. Somehow. They’re still figuring it out.

Basically, picture the big black spot as a gaping mouth and the ring of water around as drool, and you get the idea:

Via?Universetoday.com
And all like, “Duuuuhhhh,” because black holes are stupid.

Or, if that image is disturbing, pretend the big black hole in the center is a space water park and the gassy ring around it is the universe’s most kickass lazy river.

OK, so you could totally wind up flying your spaceship through a rain cloud. But it’s not like flying through a thunderstorm. After all, there’s no lightning in space. Right?

#4. Lightning!

Wrong!

Scientists have known for a while that lightning isn’t unique to Earth. They’ve observed lightning on Mars and Saturn. What they didn’t know is that lightning could occur in the middle of goddamn space, with a force equal to a trillion lightning bolts, or to use the proper scientific terms, 50 million fucktons of electricity.

Via?Newscientist.com
Yeah, where’s your kite now, Benjamin?

That insane electrical current was discovered near galaxy 3C303. But is this huge electrical current serving as an outlet for God to plug in his blow dryer? No, it’s not doing anything that cool … it’s just firing a massive jet of electrified matter 150,000 light-years into outer space.

OK, so maybe referring to this as a lightning storm was underplaying it a bit. Instead, try imagining a single bolt of lightning 50 percent longer than the entire Milky Way galaxy.


Add a skull and the silhouette of a graveyard and you have yourself an ’80s metal album cover.

How Is This Even Possible?

Like most cool things in space, this electrical current is caused by a black hole, the prima donna of the universe. Astronomers speculate that a giant black hole in the center of 3C303 has an unusually strong magnetic field, which in turn generates a ridiculous amount of electricity.

Photos.com
Which in turn makes a wicked T-shirt design.

In fact, it’s the biggest burst of electrical current ever detected in the universe. Maybe that’s how we were able to pick it up from two billion freaking light-years away.

Not Just Another Brick In The Geopolitical Wall

By leveraging its ties with non-western powers, BRICS can check US hegemony

A different worldview?BRICS leaders profess a shared vision of inclusive global growth and the rapid socio-economic transformation of their own nations. Photo: Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR

Building blocks The BRICS bank will give priority to loans for developing countries to finance infrastructure projects and environmentally sustainable development. Photo: Media Club South Africa

Leaders of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) held their sixth annual meeting on 15-16 July in Fortaleza, Brazil. The major deliverable from the summit was economic in form and content, but its significance is primarily geopolitical. From a turn of phrase by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs in 2001, a grouping was born in 2009. It is not the product of diplomatic negotiations based on shared political values or common economic interests. They make up 40 percent of world population, 20 percent of world GDP, 15 percent of world trade and account for two-thirds of world growth. They enjoy the competitive edge in different areas from abundant natural resources to strengths in manufacturing, it and biotechnology.

By 2025, the G-8 — the world’s eight biggest economies — is likely to be, in order, the US, China, India, Japan, Germany, UK, France and Russia. BRICS serves as the key tag of the major emerging markets whose economic growth will outstrip and anchor the rest of the world. But it has been viewed with scepticism because of the diversity and spread of continents, political systems, values and economic models.

The natives are getting restless
Last October, President Dilma Rousseff was to be the first Brazilian leader in two decades to attend a White House dinner. Instead, angered by revelations that her personal phone calls and emails had been intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA), she became the first leader to cancel a State dinner hosted by a US president, lambasting American surveillance as a violation of international law and a “totally unacceptable” infringement of Brazil’s sovereignty. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is routinely demonised these days by American political leaders and media commentators as the second coming of Hitler (the downed Malaysia Airlines plane won’t help). Narendra Modi was on the US visa denial list for nine years (2005-14). It takes a particular skill to position oneself offside with leaders of three of the most important emerging powers.

Russia is being subjected to sanctions for its annexation of Crimea — which was Russian for several centuries and was voluntarily “gifted” to the Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev — despite the very concrete threats to its Russian-speaking population and to Russia’s core vital national security interests, a referendum whose margins of results may be questioned but not the overall outcome, and not one fatality.

The countries censuring Russia and imposing sanctions on it were responsible for the 2003 Iraq War whose legal and security justification was far more tenuous, the theatre was geographically distant not contiguous, and whose humanitarian and geopolitical consequences were far more horrific and destabilising.

Last December, a junior Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested and strip-searched over labour laws and wage disputes in a deliberate subordination of international conventions to domestic US law, when American diplomats posted abroad have been muscularly shielded from domestic laws even when they have killed host nationals. Chinese officials have been charged with cyber-espionage after the public revelations of the industrial-scale mass surveillance activities of the NSA. Beijing is told to solve its maritime disputes in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas — to which Washington is not party.

The hubris and arrogance of the US-led West is so breathtaking as to be scarcely believable, as though they are blind or indifferent to how others see them.

BRICS-5 as a counterpoint to G-7
That same contempt for others’ voices, values and interests lies behind the creation, consolidation and evolution of the BRICS and their key decisions at the Fortaleza summit. The term was coined as a shorthand proxy to describe the shift in market power and geopolitical clout from the developed economies of the G-7 towards the large and populous emerging market economies. As last year’s Human Development Report put it, “The rise of the South is unprecedented in its speed and scale.” Moreover: “For the first time in 150 years, the combined output of the developing world’s three leading economies — Brazil, China and India — is about equal to the combined gdp of the long-standing industrial powers of the North — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and United States.”

BRICS is among the confetti of ‘G’ groups that dot the contemporary international political, security and economic landscape. In the constellation of G groups, the G-7 is the body that brings together the big rich economies (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US); BRICS brings together the big emerging powers; the G-77 is the international trade union equivalent of the poor developing countries; and the G-20 tries to ensure that the big countries from the global North and South work collaboratively rather than confrontationally to address common global challenges. In its logic, although not in practice, the G-20 is meant to be the forum of the countries of the world with global clout: all countries that have global clout and only those countries with clout.

The BRICS comprise those emerging powers whose rapidly growing economies, substantial populations, military capabilities and expanding diplomatic reach translate into rising power profiles. They pose a challenge to the US-dominated global architecture comprising the United Nations, World Bank and IMF trinity. On the eve of the first summit in Russia in 2009, Brazil’s then president, Lula da Silva, wrote of “broken paradigms and failing multilateral institutions”. The deficiencies have eroded the legitimacy and credibility of the international institutions and fostered mistrust between the global North and South. However, can the BRICS morph from a countervailing economic grouping to a powerful political alternative? Or is BRICS a construct of the social media-driven marketplace of ideas — an attention-grabbing glib phrase in which speed is a substitute for and trumps quality and depth of analysis?

Lack of unity, coherence and focus
Similar stances on a few contentious international issues are not enough to offset the crisis of identity caused by differing and sometimes clashing national priorities. The BRICS-5 are far from homogeneous in interests, values and policy preferences that leaves them open to the dismissive comment that the BRICS lack the necessary cement to bind them together. On some issues they have common interests with one another, while on others they compete against one another and collaborate with selected western powers. For example, India might join the US in a hedging strategy against China’s rapidly growing military footprint and assertive behaviour across Asia-Pacific, but team up with China against Europe and the US on greenhouse gas emission targets. The G-7 spread of per capita incomes (purchasing power parity dollars for 2013, using World Bank data) ranges from a low of $34,303 for Italy to $53,143 for the US. By contrast, for the BRICS, the per capita annual income goes from a low of $5,410 for India to a high of $24,120 for Russia, with China, South Africa and Brazil in the $12,000-15,000 range.

The BRICS-5 are totally different countries with separate histories, contexts, political and economic systems, needs, opportunities and development trajectories. In all, domestic priorities and problems trump club solidarity. They are riven with rivalries over borders, resources and status. India and Russia have border problems with China. The anxiety of India and China about rising energy prices must be set against Russia being a beneficiary, while Brazil is both a cause and beneficiary of rising food prices. China’s highly competitive exports inflict material harm on Brazil. Two are authoritarian States. The three democracies have their own subset called IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa), although they too have a tradition of reticence in global democracy-promotion efforts. Most are stuttering economically. All retain deep and specific ties with the pivotal northern countries and for all, bilateral relations with the US are more critical than with one another.

The most potent source of BRICS cohesion is geopolitical: the common interest in checking US/western power and imperialist impulses by leveraging collaboration with the other nonwestern powers. All have a strong vested interest in protecting strategic autonomy vis-à-vis the US in global affairs. But they are divided on reform of the UN Security Council, with China’s interest lying more in a bipolar than a genuinely multipolar global order, and on the global economic effects of China’s currency value. While strong enough to veto western action, they lack the political clout and economic muscle to remake the status quo. Nor do they always act as a concerted bloc within other institutional settings. Even after the 2012 summit, a European and an American were chosen as IMF and World Bank chiefs.

Unrepresentative, yet representatives of global South
On those issues where there is a shared view among them, the BRICS can exert more significant leverage in combination than separately. Their natural constituency is the global South. Many developing countries remain worried that the forces of globalisation impinge adversely on their economic sovereignty, cultural integrity and social stability. “Interdependence” among unequals can mean the dependence of some on international markets that function under the dominance of others in setting norms and enforcing rules. The BRICS are anything but representative of the typical developing country in terms of size, area, power, economic weight, interest, capacity and resources. Only India is typical of the levels of poverty, illiteracy, low life expectancy and health indicators, etc. But what the BRICS can do and have done is to reflect and represent the interests and priorities of most developing countries, and leverage their atypical attributes of market power and geopolitical clout to negotiate with the developed countries, on many global challenges. Few other developing countries can match the BRICS in their market size and power, or legal, scientific, research and technology base. In other words, it is precisely the attributes making them atypical — size of population, GDP, military power, diplomatic reach, intellectual infrastructure — that gives the BRICS the capacity to represent the views, interests and concerns of the typical developing countries in international forums and negotiations.

But the BRICS do have the ability and will to represent the interests of developing countries on those issues where the global North-South division is salient. They can help to shape a new, post-2015 global development agenda of poverty alleviation, sustainable development and inclusive growth. They can share and learn from one another’s more relevant development experience, from China’s successes in reducing poverty and developing infrastructure to Brazil’s in clean fuel generation. And they can act as a counterweight to the West’s excesses in the UN, WTO, World Bank and the IMF. They reject militarisation of disputes and conflicts, promote political resolutions through diplomatic talks, work to soften the West’s interventionist impulse in the internal affairs of States, and are strongly opposed to infringements of territorial integrity and sovereignty. They share concerns about the financial and geopolitical dominance of the US-led West and support a rebalancing of the current global trade and financial system to reflect developing-country concerns and interests. They can give voice to developing country concerns on new rules for healthcare, pharmaceuticals, intellectual property rights, etc. Most developing countries view environmental, labour and human rights standards as disguised non-tariff barriers to protect uncompetitive western agricultural and manufacturing sectors. On intellectual property, whether it be with respect to generic lifesaving drugs and seeds for agriculture or traditional medicine, they can team up to take on the lobbying power of Big Pharma (e.g. Pfizer) and global agribusiness (Monsanto) to robustly protect the rights of poor people to affordable medicines, of poor farmers to affordable seeds, and of indigenous peoples to retain ownership of their traditional knowledge.

Global economic governance
The BRICS are at the forefront of demanding changes to both the institutions and the rules regulating the global economic order, including greater voice and vote in writing the rules and designing and controlling the institutions. They profess a shared vision of inclusive global growth and the rapid socio-economic transformation of their own nations in which no village is left behind. They come to the global governance table with a mutually reinforcing sense of historical grievances and claims to represent the interests of all developing countries. They share a commitment to State sovereignty and non-intervention. They proclaim the need for a rules-based, stable and predictable world order that respects the diversity of political systems and stages of development.

The biggest common interest of the BRICS is in global economic governance. There is an unsustainable disconnect between the highly indebted but politically dominant industrialised economies and, following that, between the distribution of decision-making authority in the existing international financial institutions and the realignment of economic power equations in the real world. Or, to put it another way, in the emerging new global balance of power, the old global political imbalances need to be readjusted to the new global economic imbalances.

The BRICS called for more responsive, flexible and rapid financing to low-income countries to help them ward off the contagion effects of the global financial crisis and shore up their national developmental objectives. They also called for reforming the international monetary system, to consider diversifying beyond the dollar as the de facto global currency, to take gradual steps in expanding the role of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights as a supplemental global reserve asset option, and to give increased voice and vote on issues of global finance to developing countries. The G-20 had tried to redress the IMF’s democratic deficit by agreeing in 2009 to a 5 percent quota shift from developed to developing countries, which would have raised the latter’s share to 48 percent. The proposal has languished in the US Congress for five years and counting, effectively also sabotaging the planned further review and revisions of quotas that was to have begun in January 2013.

The New Development Bank
The system that privileges western powers and their biases is trapped in the old paradigm and out of sync with the new realities. Developing countries have noted how Europe was treated much differently during the Eurozone crisis from the harsh medicine meted out to Asia and Latin America in earlier crises. At the summit in New Delhi in 2012, BRICS advanced from being simply an expression of frustrated entitlement to sketching the outlines of an alternative configuration of global governance. The criticisms of the voting formula, funding priorities and executive directorship of the IMF and World Bank reflect both frustrations at how they are run, and growing self-confidence in their own roles as responsible stakeholder-managers of the system of global economic governance. They underlined the urgency of enhancing “the voice and representation of emerging market and developing countries” in the Bretton Woods institutions in order to “better reflect economic weights”. One critical test of whether BRICS can make the transition from a critic of the West-led system of global economic governance to a leader-cum-manager of an alternative system of, by and for developing countries, would be whether the idea of a BRICS bank floated for study in New Delhi bore fruit.

The BRICS move to set up their own development bank was a reaction to the West’s doublespeak. In 2012, Lula da Silva bluntly said the global financial crisis “was created by white men with blue eyes”. At the 2013 Durban summit, South Africa’s then finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, remarked that the “roots of the World Bank and the IMF still lie” in the post-1945 equations. The five could not agree on the amount of seed money to start the bank nor on its location. South Africa put in a strong bid based on physical and financial infrastructure strengths, including corporate governance, auditing and accounting.

At Fortaleza, the five leaders reached consensus on the objectives, functions, capital subscription size, distribution among the member countries, governance structure and operational mechanisms. Four issues were up for discussion about the proposed bank: name, location, presidency and shareholding. It will be called the New Development Bank. It will be headquartered in Shanghai (with an African Regional Centre to be based in Johannesburg). The inaugural president will come from India, which claims credit for having first floated the idea. And the five countries agreed to equal shareholding. The bank is to be capitalised initially at $50 billion (and subsequently at double that amount), with each country contributing $10 billion over the next 7-8 years. It will give priority to loans for developing countries to finance infrastructure projects, industrialisation and productive, inclusive and environmentally sustainable development.

In addition, there will be an emergency reserve pool, called the Contingency Reserve Arrangement, with a $100 billion capital, of which $41 billion will come from China, $18 billion each from Brazil, India and Russia, and $5 billion from South Africa. Its purpose will be to help developing countries avoid short-term liquidity pressure, strengthen the global financial safety net, complement existing international arrangements, and foster more cooperation among the BRICS. Developing countries will be able to draw on the reserve if they face balance of payments crises or if their currency is under pressure. Russia and Brazil get the chairmanships of the two supervising boards.

The New Development Bank is bound to create competition for the World Bank and similar regional funds like the Asian Development Bank. The World Bank’s numerous critics are quick to charge that the institution has failed to lift any country out of poverty and instead has generally deepened poverty and created dependency. Only foreign creditors have done well from its projects. The original core missions of the IMF and World Bank targeted financial stability, employment and development. As the Washington Consensus of deregulation, liberalisation and privatisation held sway after the 1980s, the conditionality attached to the “assistance” provided by the two Bretton Woods institutions inflicted significant economic cost and often grave political damage on many developing countries in trouble. Their operations and governance structures came to be seen as rigged against the voice, vote and interests of developing countries and skewed towards the industrialised bloc.

Jim O’Neill rightly commented that the establishment of the BRICS New Development Bank highlights the problems with the current system of global assistance and governance. Global governance just got a lot more interesting.

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 11 Issue 31, Dated 2 August 2014)

In pictures: India coal fires

Underground fires have been burning in the small dusty coal town of Jharia in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand for more than 80 years now. All efforts to put out the fires have been in vain. Photos: ©Arindam Mukherjee: BBC

Jharia coal fires
In places like Laltenganj, the fires are now burning overground. Continue reading “In pictures: India coal fires”