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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Blair launches anti-corruption drive
Tony Blair
Mr Blair's leadership receives a warm welcome
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair wants to spearhead a major international crackdown on corruption in developing countries by pushing oil, gas and mining companies to declare all payments to rogue governments.


This is about holding both companies and governments to account for money that is being paid

John Hilary
Save the Children
The UK Government's charge on corruption is on Mr Blair's agenda at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg on Monday.

The Publish What You Pay coalition of more than 60 non-governmental (NGO) and civil society organisations from around the world have welcomed Mr Blair's initiative.

"This is about holding both companies and governments to account for money that is being paid," Save the Children's trade policy adviser, John Hilary, told BBC News Online.

Voluntary

On Sunday, rumours were circulating that Mr Blair would tell companies that they will be removed from the London Stock Exchange unless they comply with his demands, but a member of the UK delegation told BBC News Online that this was not true.

In a speech at the summit, Mr Blair did not go into the details of the plans.

But he said: "The UK is taking a leading role in bringing together countries, businesses, development agencies and NGOs to tackle the current lack of information available, and ensure that all payments by companies are published openly."

Five major companies, including minerals giant Rio Tinto and oil companies Shell and BP, are reported to be backing the "transparency" initiative.

It is thought the government wants companies to declare payments voluntarily, although if a self-regulatory system fails it could be made law.

This is what many NGO's want both Mr Blair and other world leaders to do.

"It can only be a first step," said Mr Hilary, pointing out that the Publish What You Pay coalition believes that only regulation, rather than a voluntary framework, would ensure that companies do not flout the imitative.

"A regulatory framework would ensure that all extractive companies had to publish the net revenues they paid governments as a requirement of listing on major stock exchanges."

Beating back poverty

The anti-corruption initiative could be a major tool in the fight against poverty in Africa because corrupt governments would find it harder to hide away the cash.

"When oil and mining companies operate transparently, citizens of developing countries become less poor, because they are empowered to hold their governments to account for how revenues are spent," reasoned CAFOD private sector policy analyst, Katherine Astill.

Billions could be released into governments' budgets if transparency was imposed on multinational companies, said Global Witness campaigner Gavin Hayman.

"Our investigation in war-torn Angola suggest that at least $1bn every year for the past five years - around one third of state income - went missing from the government's coffers, most of which came from oil," he said.

"If the payee was obliged to report the net payments they make in a country, citizens could track revenues and hold their governments to account."

"The oil, gas and mining industry is important to more than 50 developing countries", Mr Hayman said.

The Publish What You Pay Coalition includes Amnesty International, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth, Global Witness, Oxfam, Save the Children and Transparency International, as well as the international financier George Soros.

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The BBC's John Pienaar
"Tony Blair was here to see and be seen"

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See also:

31 Aug 02 | Africa
28 Aug 02 | Africa
28 Aug 02 | Africa
29 Aug 02 | Business
28 Aug 02 | Africa
27 Aug 02 | Africa
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