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Archive for February 9, 2012

Rigging the Rules: unfair land deals in South Sudan

unfair land deals in South Sudan
Unfair land deals in South Sudan

Nickolas Johnson of the Oakland Institute (OI) wrote on Feb 9, 2012, at Pambazuka-news Issue #569 the following:

[According to a recent report by the Oakland Institute, ‘Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa: South Sudan’, a large influx of one-sided foreign investment has flooded into South Sudan. These unfair land deals undermine the land rights of rural communities, increase food insecurity, further entrench poverty, and might result in skewed development patterns in South Sudan. One case studied by the report involves an Egyptian equity firm, Citadel Capital.

Foreign investors have increased investment in South Sudan since 2005 and the ability to obtain one-sided agreements through local power brokers has caused conflicts. Just from 2007 to the end of 2010, private interests sought or secured more than eight percent of South Sudan’s total land area. In order to ease growing tensions, in September 2011, President Salva Kiir Mayardit promised to review lease agreements signed during the interim period as well as to pass new procurement legislation to regulate future land deals.

In 2009, Citadel Capital obtained a 25-year lease to 105,000 ha of land in Gwit and Pariang counties of Unity State in South Sudan through a portfolio company, Concord Agriculture. Concord estimates that there are about five villages in the project area with a total population of approximately 1,250 people, not including Fellata pastoralists from across the border in Sudan who pass through the area on a seasonal basis. Concord reports that the purpose of the investment is to grow maize and sorghum for sale in primarily local markets.

GROUND REALITY
Although Concord’s leasehold is entirely on community-owned land, the company signed its lease agreement directly with the state government with no lease payments for the community landowners or any other form of direct community benefit. Additionally, Concord has disregarded community requests for employment opportunities, preferring to outsource labour from other countries in Africa.
Furthermore, the 2009 Land Act requires for the first time that companies must conduct environmental and social impact assessments (ESIAs) prior to land allocation. When asked if Concord had conducted ESIAs, the Unity State governor asserted that the company had brought in an expert from the World Bank to conduct the studies. According to CEO of Concord Agriculture, Peter Schuurs, however, Concord did not conduct any assessment of likely impacts. ‘Since the funders were funding the start-up out of their own pocket, there was no need for a detailed ESIA, nor did the government or the agreement require it,’ Schuurs reasoned.
Disregarding the need for impact assessments and mitigation plan can sharply increase the risk of negative impacts on host communities.

ONE-SIDED INVESTMENT
In a conversation with the Oakland Institute researchers, Schuurs stated that the agreement ‘is strongly tilted in favour of the lessee.’ He cited that Concord is exempt from taxes on machinery, agricultural imports, and profits for the first 10 years. Concord is also permitted unlimited capital repatriation.
Although Concord asserts that it will prioritize sale of its produce in local markets in the short to medium term, its clear priority is to make money. With no export restrictions within the investment agreement, Concord is free to export as much as they would like even in times of increased food insecurity in the country. Also as reported to the Oakland Institute, the company is hoping to secure a contract for feeding the South Sudan Liberation Army.
To achieve food security, Schuurs and Unity Governor, Taban Deng, believe that large-scale industrial agriculture projects (such as that of Concord) are the answer, as opposed to smallholder farming and pastoralism in Unity State. This skepticism is due to the widely held misconception that pastoralists are solely concerned with their cattle. While agriculture is not as central to pastoralist communities as with agriculturalist communities, family farms that pastoralist communities maintain with their cattle are crucial to local food security.
Schuurs maintains that Concord will take further steps in being a responsible investor, but acknowledges that any steps taken are not binding: ‘I don’t want us to be seen as money grabbing, land grabbing thieves. But none of [these obligations are] in the investment agreement.’ This has created an agreement void of any formal community benefit and has left the possibility of future steps to be taken only through informal discussions with the Unity State government.

CARTE BLANCHE TREATMENT
Because Citadel has funded the Concord project without outside investment, it intends to scale down its interest in the company over time. According to Deng, Citadel has explored having the Bank of South Sudan (BoSS) provide a guaranty for Concord to pursue a loan or outside investors to compensate for the loss of the capital from Citadel. If Concord were to default on a loan guaranteed by the BoSS, then the government would be required to pay back the loan for Citadel. For a project that has yet to prove itself economically viable, it is shocking to see how far the government is willing to go in order to facilitate foreign investment in South Sudan.

UNFULFILLED PROMISES
Both Schuurs and Deng claim that Concord maintains a good relationship with the local community. The locals however complain about lack of employment opportunities and Concord’s preference for migrant labourers from Southern Africa. According to Schuurs, the company employs 15 to 20 local people as casual laborers and nine permanent staff.
In addition to employment, Concord claims to provide numerous social services including a health clinic, horticultural training, and technology transfers. The residents, however, reported to the Oakland Institute that the health clinic is not functional and with a largely absent nurse. Locals further report that agricultural training, although promised, has not yet been implemented by Concord.]

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS.

About the author: Nickolas Johnson is an Intern Scholar at the Oakland Institute (OI) majoring in Political Science at San Francisco State University. This backgrounder on Concord Agriculture in South Sudan is based on OI’s project, Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa: Country Report South Sudan. Download the full report publication from this link.

Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank in Canada, bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time. Their mission is to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues in both national and international forums.

About the publisher: PAMBAZUKA News is produced and published by FAHAMU – Networks For Social Justice.

Pambazuka’ in Kiswahili means the dawn or to arise as a verb.
Pambazuka News is produced by a pan-African community of some 2,600 citizens and organisations – academics, policy makers, social activists, women’s organisations, civil society organisations, writers, artists, poets, bloggers, and commentators who together produce insightful, sharp and thoughtful analyses and make it one of the largest and most innovative and influential web forums for social justice in Africa.

The original article is at: http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/79816.

Greece and Exiting European Hotel California

Greece Withdrawal from European Hotel California
Greece Withdrawal from European Hotel California

Hotel California the lovely top hit song from the Eagles’ album of the same name that they released as a single in February 1977. The last line sounds to be fitting to the European Union.

The lyrics describe an establishment as a luxury resort where “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” On the surface, it tells the tale of a weary traveler who becomes trapped in a nightmarish luxury hotel that at first appears inviting and tempting. The song is an allegory about hedonism, self-destruction, and greed of the late 1970s. The abstract nature of the lyrics has led listeners to their own interpretations over the years.

Enjoy the lyrics first; then proceed to the grim question of could a Member State Leave the European Union and/or Euro-zone ?

Hotel California

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
This could be heaven or this could be hell
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say…

Welcome to the hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the hotel California
Any time of year, you can find it here

Her mind is tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

So I called up the captain,
Please bring me my wine
He said, we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say…

Welcome to the hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
They living it up at the hotel California
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis

Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said we are all just prisoners here, of our own device
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
The stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
Relax, said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave!

Rights of withdrawal from the European Union; Does a right of withdrawal exist?

The treaties were concluded “for an unlimited period”
● Article 53, TEU
● Article 356, TFEU
Accordingly, there is no right to withdraw from the EU unless such a right can be inferred or implied from treaty itself (Article 56, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. However, Article 50 TEU (inserted by Lisbon) now allows a Member State to withdraw from the EU in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

Provisions dealing with negotiation of withdrawal do not specifically deal with a Member State also departing from Eurozone. So there is a mechanism for withdrawal which comprises both EU and Eurozone membership under Article 50. This is followed by immediate re-application solely for EU membership under Article 49.

Rights of Withdrawal from the Eurozone

The Treaties do not create an express right of withdrawal from Eurozone. No right of withdrawal can be implied since inconsistent with Article 140(3), TFEU (which refers to the irrevocable fixing of the euro substitution rate for the acceding currency)

There is therefore no procedure available under which Member State can leave Eurozone but remain within EU. In strictly legal terms, such an outcome could only be achieved by a revision of the Treaties.

Both Member State in difficulties and all other Member States may agree that Eurozone departure would be in best interests of all. What legal avenues are open to them? Amendment/ratification of Treaties would be very time- consuming and would not answer a pressing urgency.

Suspension of treaty is allowed for a period, but merely gives time and does not affect overall legal position among the parties (Articles 60 and 72, Vienna Convention). There is therefore no treaty or legally-based mechanism allowing for a Eurozone (as opposed to an EU) exit on an urgent basis.

There is no easy way out of the Eurozone – voluntarily or compulsorily. This is to be expected given the inter-connected nature of the currency and of the European financial markets.

A Eurozone departure is not necessarily a remedy for the fiscal ills of the departing Member State and (unless a “position of strength” departure) is likely to increase its debt servicing costs, given that many external creditors will remain entitled to claim payment in Euro. Local creditors in the departing Member State itself and holders of domestic law obligations are the most likely to be disadvantaged by the withdrawal.