Recently the British High Commission presented a speech to the Zambian community on its commitment to the G8 Presidency. The speech outlined a number of issues that the British government would want to implement and spearhead during G8 presidency. The speech was supposed to be presented by
Mr. Simmonds UK Minister for Africa, but due to other engagements the speech was presented by His Excellency British High Commissioner, James Thornton.
The High Commissioner informed the gathering that his speech was made at the time Zambian, and British government were celebrating the bicentenary of David Livingstone the first British to discover Victoria Falls. He said that 19 March 2013 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of David Livingstone, and he was pleased that David Livingstone Bicentenary was aimed to strengthen the links between the UK and Zambia.
Among the issues the British government outlined in the speech included Trade, Tax and Transparency. On trade, the high commissioner said UK was at the forefront of efforts to agree a global deal to reduce tariff barriers although the Doha Round did not succeed. According to the High Commissioner the debate on Tax was very important, so he appeared to society to debate it seriously. He also appeared to the nation and the international community to explore how best they could exchange tax information so that multinationals could not play cat and mouse with revenue authorities.
On transparency, the High Commissioner said that the UK government would raise global standards so that more information was available - be it on land deals or mining contracts - helping to ensure that countries' natural resources benefit their citizens.
He also highlighted the need for Zambia to qualify for open government as he mentioned that The UK welcomes Zambia's candidature of the Open Government Partnership, which aims to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
In response to the speech, there were a number of issues that were raised by the audience the issues included tax evasion, concerns about Zambian and the need for the G8 to show seriousness to its promises.
As the High commission was presenting his speech, a lot of thoughts were running in my mind. I kept talking to myself about the G8 throughout the speech. A number of the thoughts that were running in my mind were on the benefits that many developing nation gain from the G8. The other thought that ran in my mind the concerns on different grouping in the world. My mind reminded me of the following groupings G8, G20, G77 etc and all these grouping say they were looking after the interest of the world. But the most prominent thought was about the G8.
The Group of Eight (G8) is for the governments of eight of the world's wealthiest countries. The forum originated with a 1975 summit hosted by France that brought together representatives of six governments: France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, thus leading to the name Group of Six or G6. The summit became known as the Group of Seven or G7. The G7, that is active even after the creation of the G8, is composed by the 7 wealthiest countries on Earth (as net wealth and not GDP). In 1997, Russia was added to the group which then became known as the G8. The European Union is represented within the G8 but cannot host or chair summits.
There are a number of individuals have criticized according to BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/3777557.stm) Critics of the G8 have accused the body of representing the interests of an elite group of industrialized nations, to the detriment of the needs of the wider world. The BBC report that since 2001, there has been a tendency for the summits to be held in more remote locations, with the aim of avoiding mass protests. The lengths to which security forces have gone to shield the politicians from demonstrators have served to reinforce the G8's closed-door image.
As an individual, I wish to echo the criticism on the G8. One of the criticisms I have about the G8 is that the G8 is the club for the rich. Therefore, it is very difficult for the rich to adopt pro-poor strategies or response. We all know that society has taught that the gap between the poor and the rich is big, and it will not easy for society to close the gap. As the saying goes the rich are becoming richer, and the poor are becoming poor.
If we were to call a spear a spear, G8 interests in Africa and other developing nation is not for mutual benefit. Many of the G8 nations go into Africa and other developing for self interest. They come to Africa to trade with for their benefit. There are so many trade partnerships that Africa has signed up, but these have just ended up with nothing. Some of the partnerships have just swallowed by donations.
From my own analysis, I have come to learn that most of the trade partnerships that developing nations have entered with Developed nation have just benefited the developed countries. This is reason why nations that have learnt that a country can only be developed by its own people. These countries have become a beacon of national development. Therefore, the G8 is the club for the rich and the plans it's has developed are benefiting the rich. G8 has followed the social set up in our society where the poor and rich are apart.
If the G8 want to redeem itself from been seen as a society for the rich, it should align itself with the groupings that are promoting pro-poor concepts.
The debate on Tax can only be stopped by G8 nation because many of the companies that are involved in Tax avoidance and evasion are from the G8. These are countries that host many on the companies that are even involved in corporate crimes. The financial crisis that occurred in USA between 2007 and 2009, and the jailing of the chief executives in these companies justified the fact that there are a lot of individuals in these countries that are involved in financial crimes. Therefore, G8 leaders should encourage their business men and investors to establish a watchdog that can network and be able to assist the work to fight tax avoidance and evasion.
One of the strategies that the G8 should develop is information exchange. As noted by the British High Commission to Zambia, G8 should be in the forefront to share information with developing nation on companies that are involved in corporate crimes, for instance tax avoidance and evasion. This information will be able to assist countries to ensure that they attract corporate entities that are clean.
Lastly, G8 should realize that the 21st century is the century for the poor. Therefore, strategies that will be accepted are those that are centered on developing and serving the need of the poor. Pro-rich strategies should not be supported, but they should be deterred as the world want to see the gap between the poor and the rich is closed.