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Publish What You Pay

 Despite what is often thought, it is far from simple for less-developed countries to translate investment by foreign companies in extraction of their mineral resources into national growth and development.

The trend of mineral-rich developing countries being unable to reap the promised benefits from their ample wealth has been so widely documented in academic studies and literature that it is now known as the ‘resource curse’ phenomenon.

The 'resource curse' theory associates the activity of mineral-resource extraction in less-developed countries with the exacerbation of poverty, corruption and conflict. Research over the last decade confirms that it is not a coincidence that the mineral-rich developing countries are some of the poorest and worst governed in the world.

For these reasons, if foreign investments in extractive industry projects are to translate into future development for less-developed countries, the potential for the host governments to generate public revenue through transparent and equitable mining tax laws, and to distribute this revenue through a participatory and transparent budget process, is of paramount importance.

Yet to date, international financial reporting standards for oil, gas and mining companies have made it impossible to monitor government revenue collection from these companies in a comprehensive way.

extractive industries transparency initiative (EITI)

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) goes some way to resolving this by making governments who become candidates of EITI report publicly and accessibly each budget year on all revenues they receive from extractive companies. In turn under EITI all companies have to volunteer to submit reports to governments for public dissemination, including profits and expenditure, as well as financial remittances to government and related institutions. An aggregator then compares the respective figures and identifies and explains the inconsistencies.

The Australian Publish What You Pay Network, of which Jubilee is a founding member, is recommending that Australia promote best practice by becoming an EITI implementing country.

mandatory requirements to report payments, project by project

EITI has limitations. Most mining investment in less-developed countries is undertaken by the subsidiaries of multinational corporations registered in countries such as Australia, Canada, USA, UK or South Africa. They may also be listed on one or several international stock exchanges. Under EIIT, Multinational companies are not required to report on their profits, expenditure and taxes on a country-by-country basis. Instead, their reports reflect their aggregate financial position across all their operations. Therefore it is very difficult, if not impossible, for citizens, parliamentarians and governments to detect tax avoidance strategies. Companies cannot be forced to publish national reports using the EITI template unless national laws regulating financial reporting require them to do so.

The US set a new global standard for extractive industry transparency when in July 2010, President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which in addition to financial regulatory reform, requires all foreign companies registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to disclose, on a disaggregated basis, how much they pay governments for access to their oil, gas and minerals.

This new accounting standard will allow financial flows between parent companies and subsidiaries to be monitored, and tax avoidance to be detected. It is a major success for the international Publish What You Pay campaign, a global coalition of 600 development, environment, faith-based and human rights organisations in over 50 countries.

Jubilee has made recommendations to the Australian government that it harmonise accounting rules with the US Standards, by passing legislation that requires all domestic and foreign companies registered with the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) to publicly report how much they pay governments for access to their oil, gas and minerals.

Learn more about the fight for transparency in Niger by watching the video below.

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Visit the Publish What You Pay Australia Campaign Website for all the latest, including how to get involved.

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