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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 21:38 GMT 22:38 UK
Blair's plea to tackle oil corruption

By Jill McGivering
BBC World Service Asian Affairs correspondent

Shell's Ekulma flow station
Scandals involving mineral wealth are common
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has launched an initiative to persuade multinational oil, gas and mining firms to declare publicly any payments to government officials in developing countries.

The aim is to tackle corruption by making such financial transactions more transparent.

The UK-led plan was unveiled at a conference in London attended by governments from resource-rich countries, multinational oil exploration and mining firms, and lobby groups campaigning for change.

Governments and multinationals are being asked to sign up to a system designed to make public the large sums of money paid out by multinationals to governments.

Transparency

Lobby groups say billions of dollars just disappear every year, pocketed by corrupt officials. If the public knew the amounts involved, it might help them to keep track of the money, campaigners say.

Opening the conference, Mr Blair said transparency was an important step towards cracking down on corruption and fighting poverty.

"When there is corruption it is almost always the poor who suffer most," he said.

"We need therefore to use transparency in revenue and financial management to allow people to hold government to account and build public trust," he said.

He added that increased transparency would also help to create the right climate for attracting foreign investment and encouraging an enterprise culture in the developing world.

Voluntary pact

Everyone accepts that tackling corruption is going to be a tough process.

Members of ruling elites who divert revenue to their own bank accounts are not likely to welcome greater transparency and this initiative is not binding, only voluntary.

There is also concern that companies who volunteer to support the practice could be disadvantaged in competing for contracts against companies who do not.

The latest initiative will not solve the problem but it is being hailed as a key step along a long route.


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