German government talks collapse; Merkel seeks to reassure

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

German government talks collapse; Merkel seeks to reassure


address the media during a news conference about the results of their exploratory talks on a coalition of their parties in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. (Michael Sohn/Associated Press)
 November 19 at 8:49 PM
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged early Monday to maintain stability after the Free Democratic Party pulled out of talks on forming a new government with her conservative bloc and the left-leaning Greens, raising the possibility of new elections.Merkel told reporters that the parties had been close to reaching a consensus on how to proceed with formal coalition talks but that the Free Democrats decided abruptly to pull out just before midnight Sunday — a move she said she respected, but found “regrettable.”

She said she would consult with Germany’s president later in the day to brief him on the negotiations and discuss what comes next.

Without bringing the Free Democrats back to the table, Merkel will be forced to try to continue her current governing coalition with the Social Democrats, although that center-left party has said it will not do so, or she could try to form a minority government, which was seen as unlikely. Otherwise, Germany will have to hold new elections.

“It is at least a day of deep reflection on how to go forward in Germany,” Merkel said. “But I will do everything possible to ensure that this country will be well led through these difficult weeks.”

Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and sister Bavaria-only Christian Social Union, the pro-business Free Democrats and the left-leaning Greens had already blown past Merkel’s own deadline of Thursday to agree on a basis for opening formal negotiations on a coalition of all four parties, a configuration that has never been tried at a national level in Germany.

Key sticking points were the issues of migration and climate change.

Among other things the Greens were pushing for Germany to end its use of coal and combustion engines by 2030, though they had signaled they were open to some compromise.

The other parties are also committed to reducing carbon emissions, but Merkel’s bloc hadn’t put a date on when to phase out coal. The Free Democrats also expressed concern about what the moves would mean for jobs and Germany’s economic competitiveness.

On migration, the Christian Social Union wanted an annual cap on refugees, while the Greens sought to allow more categories of recent migrants to bring their closest relatives to join them.

Merkel said that “we thought we were on a path where we could have reached an agreement,” when that the Free Democrats decided to pull out.

Free Democrat leader Christian Lindner told reporters that his party decided to withdraw rather than further compromise its principles and sign on to policies the party was not convinced of.

“It is better not to govern than to govern falsely,” he said.

Greens politician Reinhard Buetikofer criticized Lindner’s decision, saying on Twitter that the Free Democrat had chosen “a kind of populist agitation instead of governmental responsibility.”

Looking ahead, if it comes to a new election, polls currently suggest it would produce a very similar parliament to the current one, which would make efforts to form a new government similarly difficult.

Though Merkel could also abandon the Free Democrats and the Greens and instead form a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats, her current partners in the outgoing government, the Social Democrats have been adamant about going into opposition following its disastrous result in the Sept. 24 election.

Party leader Martin Schulz as recently as Sunday again ruled out the possibility of pairing up with Merkel’s bloc to form a new government.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Taiwan should model itself on western welfare states?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘FOCUS TAIWAN’ AND THE BLOG OF ANDY TAI)

 

BACK TO LIST

Taiwan should model itself on western welfare states: democracy pioneer

2017/11/19 22:44:33

Taipei, Nov. 19 (CNA) Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), the key figure that triggered the “Zhongli Incident” against ballot-rigging in 1977, hopes Taiwan can be a western Europe-style welfare state.

He expressed his sincere hope as he recently marked the 40 anniversary of Taiwan’s first mass demonstration since martial law was imposed in 1949.

Then a rising star in the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), Hsu broke ranks to run for magistrate of then Taoyuan County amid burgeoning opposition to one-party rule.

On the election day on Nov. 19, a large-scale riot broke out in Zhongli of Taoyuan after a voter reported witnessing the KMT rigging the ballot, culminating in the protesters setting fire on the Zhongli police station.

The KMT authorities responded to the protest with brutal force, resulting in two civilian deaths. The incident that eventually forced the KMT to accept the victory of Hsu was often seen as a “watershed” in Taiwan’s democratic development.

In a recent interview with the CNA, Hsu said that after three decades of efforts, Taiwan is now a democracy that enjoys freedom and openness and what it should pursue next is “economic democracy” because “the essence of democracy is equality.”

Taiwan should set its sights on establishing a social welfare system like those adopted in Western Europe countries to develop a humane and just society based on the principles of equal opportunity and progressive value, Hsu said.

To achieve the goals, the Democratic Progressive Party administration and whoever is in power in the future should provide adequate care for people through social welfare programs based on the respect for human rights, he added.

Turning to cross-strait relations, Hsu, who serves as chairman of Foundation on Asia-Pacific Peace Studies, a government-affiliated think tank, said that making Taiwan better in terms of the wellbeing of the people and the value it embraces, would “exert a positive influence on the development of China.”

Sponsored by the KMT to pursue a master degree in the U.K., Hsu said he was deeply influenced by the student movements around the world in the 1960s when he studied political philosophy at the University of Edinburgh from 1967 to 1969.

Being able to witness firsthand the civil rights movements and the fight for democracy, freedom and human rights made him feel ashamed of himself and forced him to do things for Taiwan and his generation, Hsu said.

“I was lucky to see that the hard work so many people had done has eventually come to fruition 40 years later,” Hsu added.

Hsu said that he was drawn into the study of the European common market, the predecessor of the European Union set up in 1957 by France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, when he studied in the U.K. — when whether the U.K. should join the market was heatedly debated.

Hsu said that his views on cross-strait relations between Taiwan and China can also be traced back to what he had learned from the history of Europe.

“Is the problem between Taiwan and China more difficult to solve than the feud between France and Germany? No, it’s not. Then why can’t Taiwan and China collaborate with each other to make the world more equitable and humane?” Hsu said.

(By Wu Jui-chi, Fan Cheng-hsiang and Shih Hsiu-chuan)
Enditem/sc

 

 

Thanks To Trump: The World Wide Winner Is… China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE Philippine INQUIRER.NET)

 

OPINION / COLUMNISTS
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    SHARES

And the winner is … China

 / 05:22 AM November 19, 2017

At the festival of summits to which the Philippines dutifully played host last week, three basic standpoints by which humanity describes and criticizes the state of affairs in the world vied for space.

The first is the human rights standpoint, the modern version of the value placed by natural law on human dignity and equality, which today is encoded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The second is the semantics of national self-determination, which became deeply entrenched in the era of decolonization. The third is the working-class perspective, which took shape in the last century with the rise of socialism, but is now mostly expressed as a critique of neoliberalism.

These competing viewpoints were not visible in equal measure at these summits. But, the resonance of particular issues, alongside the muted presence of others, gives us a good picture of how today’s leaders are reacting to the complex problems brought about by globalization. These problems include the massive flows of migrants and refugees, terrorism, bigotry, uneven development and sharp inequalities within and across countries, mass poverty, ecological disasters, and war. They are problems that need the kind of global perspective for which multilateral talks might have been suited.

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But, the hands-down winner in these summits has been the nation-state perspective — and the vocabulary of national sovereignty, noninterference, and peaceful coexistence, in which it is officially articulated. The other name for it is the Chinese template. Rather than global agreements transcending nation-state divides, what we find instead are the bilateral deals by which every country tries to secure from another what it needs for itself.

No one could have formulated this standpoint more bluntly than US President Donald Trump, who had won the presidency on a campaign to put “America first.” Even as he railed at the glaring trade imbalance between the United States and China during his recent official visit to China, he ended up praising his host. To resounding applause, he declared: “After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.” For the abysmal state of affairs in which the United States finds itself today, he blames Barack Obama instead.

Though it sounded like a backhanded compliment, his fawning comment on China’s behavior merely underscores the point that in the end, it is the economic interests of their respective countries that matter most to these world leaders. Not surprisingly, Trump ended his China visit with about $250 billion in commercial deals between American and Chinese companies.

Trump’s deal-making pragmatism may appear to many as a pathetic reversal of America’s defining role in the world as the voice of humanity’s highest ideals. But this is a symptom not only of America’s decline as a world economic power but, more importantly, of the emergence of a world system without a center.

As Trump himself concedes, China has indeed become the model for today’s world. But, make no mistake about it. What this template represents is neither socialism (not even working-class solidarity) nor the primacy of universal values, but, rather, the advantages of a state-led capitalism with an authoritarian face.

On the side of the Asean Summit, there were separate summits with the United Nations and with the European Union. But, compared to the events attended by China, there was little interest in what was taken up at these meetings. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres would have been the logical interlocutor for human rights concerns. At the Asean-EU summit, he did speak briefly on the Rohingya crisis, drawing from his experience as former UN High Commissioner on Refugees, and called for humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya. But, while he expressed interest in helping to strengthen the Asean human rights commission, he avoided mentioning extrajudicial killings, speaking at length instead on the threat from terrorism and violent extremism.

European Council President Donald Tusk, who represented the European Union, took more or less the same tack in his address to the Asean leaders. He politely avoided any mention of human rights issues and dwelt almost entirely on the need for international cooperation to combat radicalization and terrorism. This is in stark contrast to the human rights concerns persistently aired by EU delegations in recent months.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the only leader who was bold enough to bring up the sensitive matter of EJKs in his brief one-on-one meeting with President Duterte on Nov. 14. He did so in the most courteous way possible, prefacing his remarks with an admission that his own country is guilty of neglect and mistreatment of its indigenous peoples. Trudeau thought that he and Mr. Duterte had “a very cordial and positive exchange.”  But, after he left, Mr. Duterte wasted no time in telling the media what he thought of Trudeau’s human rights comment — “a personal and official insult.”

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And so this vicious reaction unfolds, where any hint of criticism of another government’s treatment of its own nationals is treated as an insult and an affront to national sovereignty.  Given such a standpoint, one wonders how it is possible — except in the most limited terms — to express any concern for global problems such as the plight of migrant workers, of refugees, of children, and of the millions of victims of racial bigotry, religious oppression, and misogyny across the world.

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Both The Democratic And Republican Parties Are Anti-Christ Parties!

THE DEMOCRATIC AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTIES ARE ‘ANTI-CHRIST’ PARTIES!

(I FIRST PUBLISHED THIS ARTICLE ON SEPTEMBER 4TH OF 2016, TWO MONTHS BEFORE THE U.S. ELECTIONS.)

(THE CURRENT EVENTS HERE IN NOVEMBER OF 2017 IN ALABAMA WHERE A POLITICAL CANDIDATE ‘ROY MOORE’ WHO HAS A 40+ YEAR HISTORY OF SEXUALLY ABUSING VERY YOUNG GIRLS IS BEING ALLOWED TO CAMPAIGN FROM THE PULPIT OF A BAPTIST CHURCH. FOLKS, THIS IS VERY DETRIMENTAL TO,  THE OPPOSITE OF THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS CHRIST. CHRISTIAN CHURCHES AND EVEN PEOPLE WHO CALL THEMSELVES CHRISTIANS WHO ARE BACKING SUCH A PIECE OF ‘LUKE WARM WATER’ ARE WALKING UP TO THE CROSS AND SLAPPING CHRIST IN THE FACE BY THEIR ACTIONS!) (trs) 

When I was a young child back in the 1950’s-60’s I was raised in a family who believed in the Democratic Party. My parents were folks who believed in the reality that working people if they wanted to be able to financially survive needed Union protections. They also believed that the Republican Party was solely for the wealthiest people and was clearly anti-working people. They also believed that the Democratic Party, because they cared about the poor was the party that the Churches backed. I never remember going to a Church that had a Republican Minister simply because the Republicans agendas were in direct contrast to the love, kindness and sharing teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court with their ruling on ‘Roe v Wade’ abortion ruling seemed to change the political map within the Churches. The teachings of abortion within the Scriptures are definitely anti-abortion yet almost all of the Churches and their Ministers remained as Democrats because they could not transcend over to a Party (Republicans) who were against basically all of the teachings of Jesus about how we should all treat each other. Yet, my question is how can a Church, a Minister, or their congregation openly or even behind closed door’s back abortion? How can you say you or a Minister (that word means, Servant) say you are a Christian (follower of Christ) and at the same time back abortion?

 

What I do not understand is why the people who say they are Christians have not created a third National Party! The Democratic Party strongly backs a woman’s “right” to have an abortion at any time during a pregnancy. The Republican Party wants to end all abortions seeing them as the murdering of over a million children here in the U.S. each year. So, Republicans have garnered the “conservative Christians” into their camp because of the abortion issue. This is even though the Republican Party Platform is still strongly anti-working people, and anti the people having the right to work under Union protections.

 

I am a registered voting Independent because I see both Parties as crooked and pure evil. When the people go to the polls this November we just like every other election know that either a Republican or a Democrat is going to win at every level of Government. To vote for anyone else is nothing more than a protest vote that has no effect on who actually wins the elections, it will be a Democrat or a Republican. So, just like this November we Voters are having to consider which one of the two Evils win. Especially concerning the Presidency this year, which Evil is less Evil, that is what we have to look forward to. For either of these political parties to claim to be close or closer to God is total BS. Evil is still Evil, neither of these Political Parties has the endorsement of the Scriptures of God, so how can anyone who calls themselves a Christian or Jewish endorse or support either of these Demonic structures? I used the title of them being anti-Christ, I am not saying that either Parties leadership is ‘the anti-Christ’. What I am saying is that both Parties policies are in direct indifference to the teachings of God’s Holy Scriptures, thus both Parties are Anti-Christ!

Reforms Facilitating Business Boost Investment in Saudi Arabia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Reforms Facilitating Business Boost Investment in Saudi Arabia

Saturday, 18 November, 2017 – 12:00
Cars drive past the King Abdullah Financial District, north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo
Riyadh – Shujah Baqmi

The investment climate in Saudi Arabia enjoys an advanced position among world economies. This climate resulted from the record-breaking number of reforms carried out by the kingdom, as part of its pursuit to enhance business climate for small and medium projects.

The report issued by the World Bank Doing Business 2018 confirmed this fact.

The report, released on Thursday, showed that the kingdom conducted six reforms – the highest number of reforms in the MENA in 2017.

The kingdom implemented 30 reforms since 2003, majorly focusing on starting a business (seven reforms), real-estate registration (five reforms) and getting credit (four reforms), showed the report. It added that now it takes 18 days to start a business in Riyadh compared to 81.5 days, 15 years ago.

The report revealed that procedures to start a business were facilitated through installing an e-system. As for real-estate registration, efficiency in administering lands has been enhanced through developing an e-portal.

Further, protection of minority investment was consolidated through increasing shareholders rights and their role in major decisions, setting conditions to increase transparency and organize disclosure. Also, the time required for importing and exporting has been shortened through reducing required documents for the customs.

Rita Ramalho, Acting Director of the World Bank’s Global Indicators Group, declared that the completed reforms during the last year are quite comprehensive and they cover six out of 10 fields linked to the business performance used to determine the countries’ position.

The kingdom’s performance is considered good in regards to protecting minority’s investors (10th rank worldwide), and it occupies rank 24 as to property registration and ranks 38 in granting licenses.

Nader Mohamed, Country Director of the GCC Countries in the MENA region of the World Bank, stated that the huge progress achieved by the kingdom in one year is a proof of the government commitment to reform investment climate.

Mohamed pointed out that the coordinated efforts among governmental parties send a strong indicator for investors interested in the kingdom – he noted that the World Bank is delighted with the foundation in which reforms were based, ensuring that the ambitious vision of the kingdom requires succession and continuity of economic reforms.

He described ongoing reforms that aim at reducing dependency on oil as significant, the thing that demands to transfer five percent of Aramco and supporting the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia to become the biggest sovereign fund in the world.

Pakistan Is Learning The Price Of Working With China: Their Sovereignty!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Not aware of Pakistan’s move to exclude PoK dam from CPEC, says China

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), runs through PoK and India has raised objections to the project.

WORLD Updated: Nov 16, 2017 18:54 IST

Press Trust of India, Beijing
In this photograph taken on October 4, 2017, Pakistani naval personnel stand guard near a ship carrying containers at Gwadar Port. Remote and impoverished, Pakistan's Gwadar port at first glance seems an unlikely crown jewel in a multi-billion dollar development project. with China aiming at constructing a 21st century Silk Road.
In this photograph taken on October 4, 2017, Pakistani naval personnel stands guard near a ship carrying containers at Gwadar Port. Remote and impoverished, Pakistan’s Gwadar port at first glance seems an unlikely crown jewel in a multi-billion dollar development project. with China aiming at constructing a 21st century Silk Road.(AFP)

Amid reports of Pakistan’s move to withdraw its bid to include Diamer-Bhasha Dam in PoK from the CPEC framework, China said on Thursday it was not aware of Islamabad’s decision but the project to connect Xinjiang and Gwadar port is “progressing smoothly for the time being”.

Pakistan’s water and power development authority (Wapda) chairman Muzammil Hussain was on Wednesday quoted by the Pakistan media as saying that “Chinese conditions for financing the Diamer-Bhasha Dam were not doable and against our interests.”

“I am not aware of the information mentioned by you,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told media in Beijing when asked about Pakistan’s decision to take the dam project off the table contending that the conditions proposed by Beijing is “not doable” and goes against its interest.

“I can tell you that China and Pakistan cooperation is extensive and profound,” Geng said. “As far as I know CPEC is progressing smoothly for the time being.”

Read more

Briefing the Public Accounts Committee on the status of the mega water and power project, Hussain had said the Chinese conditions were about taking ownership of the project, operation and maintenance cost and securitization of the Diamer-Bhasha project by pledging another operational dam.

These conditions were unacceptable, therefore, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi approved a report to finance the dam from the country’s own resources, Hussain said.

Pakistan’s decision to publicise Chinese conditions came as a surprise, considering it shares close and “all weather” ties with China.

The announcement by the Pakistan government came days before the 7th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting with China, which is scheduled for November 21 in Islamabad.

The JCC is the highest decision-making body of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through which China is infusing over $50 billion cash into Pakistan financing a host of energy projects. The CPEC passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Defending the connectivity project, Geng said “as for the CPEC we follow the principle of extensive consultation and joint shared benefits to promote the building of the CPEC. It is conducive to promote connectivity of the two countries and connectivity of the whole region. As far as I know CPEC is progressing smoothly for the time being.”

Pakistan has been struggling to raise money from international institutions like the World Bank in the face of Indian opposition to the project on the Indus River in PoK.

Neither the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) nor China would finance the dam, therefore, the government decided to construct the reservoir from its own resources, Pakistan’s Express Tribune daily yesterday quoted Water Resources Secretary Shumail Khawaja as saying.

525 Successful CEO’s Share What They’ve Learned About Leadership

(I FOUND THIS ARTICLE FROM ‘MENU INC.’ ON STUMBLE UPON AND THE ‘GEEK GAP’ AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

525 Successful CEOs Share What They’ve Learned About Leadership
New York Times reporter Adam Bryant spent 10 years asking questions. Here are some of the answers.
Adam Bryant, The New York Times Columnist, and Ursula Burns, Chairwoman, and CEO of Xerox Corporation
CREDIT: Getty Images

Running a company, department, or team is hard. Have you ever wished you could ask the most successful CEOs how they do it? Well you can’t, but someone else already has–New York Times reporter Adam Bryant, who has interviewed 525 CEOs over the past 10 years for his Corner Office column, asking them for their leadership insights rather than about their companies. On Friday, Bryant published the last of these columns, and he used his farewell piece to provide an amalgamation of everything he’d learned from the CEOs over the years. It’s a fascinating read for any leader. Here are some of their most interesting lessons:

1. There’s no right way to become a leader.

Business columnists (including me) love to write about the one quality you need to be a great leader, but Bryant says there really isn’t any such thing. “There are too many variables, many of them beyond your control, including luck, timing, and personal chemistry,” he explains. Nor is there any obvious career path for CEOs, he writes, though he does note that a surprising number of them were not straight-A students and even got bad grades.

2. You have to balance the opposites.

So many of the things a good leader needs to do are contradictory, Bryant writes. “Better to understand leadership as a series of paradoxes,” he states. For instance, you need humility to know what you don’t know but audacity to make bold moves. Empathy is hugely important, but so is the ability to fire someone (even while empathizing with that person).

One CEO talked about opposing leadership values: listening versus leadership, being generous versus holding people accountable, and so on. “There is a tension or a balance between them,” she said.

3. Culture comes from what you do, not what you say.

Most CEOs have at some point gone through the exercise of defining their companies’ values and culture. Bryant calls it “a predictable rite of passage.” The thing is that it doesn’t matter how many retreats you go on, or whether you provide flexible hours, unlimited vacations, ping-pong tables, or catering–there’s only one way to let employees know your company’s culture and values: by whom you discipline and whom you reward.

“No matter what people say about culture, it’s all tied to who gets promoted, who gets raises, and who gets fired,” one CEO told Bryant. Whatever you say about culture, people in your company will see the people who get promoted as role models for the behavior you want.

4. You have to be trustworthy.

If you forced him to pick one quality all good leaders need, Bryant writes, it would be trustworthiness. “We all have a gut sense of our bosses, based on our observations and experiences: Do we trust them to do the right thing?” he writes. “Do they own their mistakes; give credit where credit is due; care about their employees as people as opposed to assets?”

As one CEO put it, “If you want to lead others, you’ve got to have their trust, and you can’t have their trust without integrity.”

5. It’s all about respect–yours, not theirs.

For me, one of Bryant’s most surprising insights was about the importance of respect–but not that good leaders need to earn the respect of their employees. It’s the flip side: That the best leaders have the greatest respect for those who report to them.

One CEO put it this way: “By definition, if there’s leadership, it means there are followers, and you’re only as good as the followers. I believe the quality of the followers is in direct correlation to the respect you hold them in. It’s not how much they respect you that is most important. It’s actually how much you respect them. It’s everything.” That’s counterintuitive. And yet, it makes perfect sense.

Spend an evening with Shark Tank’s Kevin ‘Mr. Wonderful’ O’Leary at iCONIC Exchange: Austin on December 6 from 6-9 p.m. Seats are extremely limited. To learn more visit iconic.inc.com.
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The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
PUBLISHED ON: OCT 31, 2017

Paradise Papers: Invest NI and the Mauritian giveaway

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Paradise Papers: Invest NI and the Mauritian giveaway

Paradise Papers graphic

A number of business owners in Northern Ireland have been involved in aggressive tax avoidance schemes, an investigation by the BBC’s Nolan Show has revealed.

Sam McCrea MBE and his wife, Julienne, are owners of Springfarm Architectural Mouldings Ltd (SAM Mouldings) in Antrim.

The couple was involved in a Mauritian tax avoidance scheme.

The McCreas have said they have fully complied with their tax obligations.

Over a quarter of the people signed up to that scheme were from NI.

Julienne McCrea and her husband, Sam McCrea MBE, are owners of Springfarm Architectural Mouldings Ltd in Antrim
Image captionJulienne McCrea and her husband, Sam McCrea MBE, are owners of Springfarm Architectural Mouldings Ltd in Antrim

The Paradise Papers are a huge batch of leaked documents mostly from offshore law firm Appleby, along with corporate registries in 19 tax jurisdictions, which reveal the financial dealings of politicians, celebrities, corporate giants and business leaders.

The 13.4 million documents were passed to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The Nolan Show team worked alongside colleagues in BBC Panorama, the Guardian, and nearly 100 media organizations worldwide.

Multi-million pound property given away

In 2000, SAM Mouldings bought land from Stormont’s Department of Enterprise for £280,000. The company built their business on the site. By 2014, the property, with its factory and offices, was valued on its balance sheet at £4m.

But the following year, SAM Mouldings gave the multi-million pound property away for just one pound to what the company described as an ‘unconnected third party’. The beneficiary was a company in Mauritius.

Documents seen by the Nolan Show reveal that the McCreas had control of the Mauritian company – they had given the multi-million-pound property to themselves in all but name. The couple was listed as ‘investment advisors’ to the company – but the leaked files suggest they were doing much more than just advising.

At one stage, Sam McCrea wrote to the company in Mauritius questioning why a payment was made without his or his wife’s permission.

Email from Sam McCrea

He asked how the company could make any payments without the approval of the IA or ‘investment advisor’ – meaning either himself or his wife Julienne.

In other documents, Sam McCrea advises that the Mauritian company buys shares from himself.

Invest NI

Since 2008, SAM Mouldings has received over £431,000 in financial assistance from Invest NI – who is a preferential shareholder in the company.

After the Antrim property SAM Mouldings operated from was given to the McCreas’ company in Mauritius, SAM took on a £270,000 annual rent bill. This rent was sent through various intermediaries – and ended up in the McCreas’ Mauritian company – where the income tax rate is just 3%.

This tax avoidance mechanism was promoted by the McCreas’ tax advisors who set up the Mauritian scheme as a form of ‘rent factoring’ – that’s where in exchange for a lump sum, a company diverts future rents from property to a financier.

Under this system, SAM Mouldings paid £270,000 annual rent to the Mauritian firm but Sam McCrea received a £200,000 loan from the firm. As a loan, it was not liable for tax.

Invest NI told the BBC in a statement that as part of their project monitoring and approval procedures of SAM Mouldings Ltd they “were aware of the property transfer in question and this was taken into consideration when approving their most recent project.”

“SAM Mouldings has continued to grow in terms of both exports and employment targets and is meeting the agreed repayment schedule for the preference shares.

Paradise Papers explainer box

“A company’s tax planning is a matter between it and HMRC. If it transpires that information provided to us as part of our approval process has been misleading and would have resulted in a different decision being made, we will review the specific case, as would be normal practice.

When asked about their involvement in tax avoidance schemes, the McCreas’ lawyers said their clients “are not going to enter into a course of correspondence concerning this sensitive and confidential funding arrangements of their business, with the BBC”.

They added: “Our clients have fully complied with their obligations to HMRC, specifically with regard to the Mauritian companies.

They also said, “there will be no loss to the UK Exchequer as a result of the Mauritian companies”.

They said the allegations were “untrue, defamatory and are particularly unpleasant slurs on two people who have brought prosperity and employment to the Antrim area”, adding “Mr. McCrea holds a public honor for his services to business and he guards his reputation carefully”.

The Nolan Show will be focusing on stories from the Paradise Papers across the week.

Paradise Papers: Full coverage; follow reaction on Twitter using #ParadisePapers; in the BBC News app, follow the tag “Paradise Papers”

Watch Panorama or listen back to the Nolan show on the BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)

Zimbabwe News: Country on the brink of collapse

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ZIMBABWE NEWS AGENCY ‘NEWS.COM.AU)

 

Country on the brink of collapse

The currency is failing, the government’s digging its heels in, and tourists are staying away as this nation faces collapse.

news.com.auNOVEMBER 7, 20178:04AM

Mugabe removed as WHO goodwill ambassador

UNEMPLOYMENT is at a staggering 90 percent, the currency — or lack thereof — is a global laughing stock and any money that could be raised through tourism isn’t coming through.

Welcome to Zimbabwe: the country that’s about to collapse.

Zimbabwe’s financial ruin is a foregone conclusion for many of the world’s economists. A new currency experiment by the government, spearheaded by president Robert Mugabe, 93, is backfiring. The country can’t pay for its borrowed electricity, a cash shortage has forced people to barter to survive, and it’s managed to drive away any foreign tourists otherwise willing to spend their money there.

And while a general election will be held next year, there seems little sign of change: Mr. Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52, revealed on the weekend her plan to succeed her aging husband as the country’s first woman president.

People burn worthless note bearers cheques during a protest against the introduction of new bond notes and youth unemployment in Harare. Picture: AFP/Wilfred Kajese

People burn worthless note bearers cheques during a protest against the introduction of new bond notes and youth unemployment in Harare. Picture: AFP/Wilfred KajeseSource: AFP

But as Mr. Mugabe focuses on his party’s election victory, a cash shortage has sparked panic-buying as people struggle to find patrol and basic needs, and it echoes the economic crisis of 2009 that’s still a fresh nightmare to millions of people in the debt-ridden nation.

IT’S GOING TO GET WORSE

Zimbabwe’s currency dysfunction has long been the stuff of infamy.

The government scrapped the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009 after hyperinflation peaked at an eye-watering 500,000,000,000 percent — wiping out people’s savings and destroying businesses. At that time, a loaf of bread was more than 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollars or 40 US cents.

Zimbabwe then switched to a whole host of foreign currencies and largely settled on the US dollar. But amid a shortage of the greenback, the Mugabe government came up with a new plan — “bond notes”, equivalent to US dollars, which it introduced a year ago to boost economic growth.

It was hoped the bond notes, which are not valid outside Zimbabwe, would stop US dollars flowing overseas. But they divided ordinary Zimbabweans, many of whom feared the alternative currency would trigger a similar economic crisis as with the old Zimbabwean dollar.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is at the helm of another currency crisis. Picture: AFP/Zinyange Auntony

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is at the helm of another currency crisis. Picture: AFP/Zinyange AuntonySource: AFP

In the past few weeks, a lack of confidence in the bond notes has set further in and stockpiling and panic-buying have seen prices rocket. The fear is things are returning to how they were in 2008, at the height of hyperinflation.

“We are already witnessing shortages of basic commodities,” Peter Mutasa, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, told AFP.

“The situation has been triggered by lack of confidence in the bond notes. We are being driven to barter for goods as there is no hard currency in the banks.”

Meanwhile, the government is back to its notorious habit of printing more money to cover its rising costs and hyperinflation is creeping back. This year, it’s at 348 percent, according to Forbes.

Zimbabwe’s export opportunities are limited — especially in the agriculture sector, in light of farm raids. Fuel shortages have struck the capital, Harare.

The country is powered by electricity from South Africa’s state-run power company Eskom but doesn’t pay for it: Eskom threatened to cut power to Zimbabwe earlier this year. Whether the cash-strapped government finally pays its electricity bill, or it doesn’t, there’s bound to be trouble.

Introduced 12 months ago, Zimbabwe’s bond notes have sparked a multi-tier pricing structure. Picture: AFP/Wilfred Kajese

Introduced 12 months ago, Zimbabwe’s bond notes have sparked a multi-tier pricing structure. Picture: AFP/Wilfred KajeseSource: AFP

Meanwhile, protests held in the capital Harare to oppose Mr. Mugabe and his economic policies turned to violence last month, with police using tear gas on protesters.

Zimbabwe economist Prosper Chitambara said things were likely to get worse ahead of next year’s election.

“There is a lot of uncertainty due to the political situation,” he told AFP.

“That is why we have seen the re-emergence of the parallel market and a multi-tier pricing structure. As we approach the elections, the uncertainty will increase.”

WHY TOURISM ISN’T HELPING

There have been many countries in economic crisis that have at least been able to rely on tourism to inject some funds into depleted coffers. Greece, for instance, recently described its tourism revenue as its “lifejacket” during its debt crisis.

Not so in Zimbabwe.

The naturally beautiful country is famous for its safaris and the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls — the largest waterfall in the world and an Instagram sensation — and locals are famously warm and welcoming. Outside of Africa, tourists from the US, the UK, Ireland, and Germany have been among its top 10 foreign arrivals.

But Zimbabwe a notoriously expensive place to visit and that’s been a huge turn-off for travelers.

“I went to some country recently where I booked in a five-star hotel and paid a bill of $53 all inclusive. I was shocked and thought they had made a mistake in their calculations,” Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke said last year.

“This was when I realized that as a country, we need to do something to review our prices if we are not to earn a bad name as the world’s most expensive tourist destination.”

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is a major tourist attraction.

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is a major tourist attraction.Source: Supplied

Zimbabwe recently started charging foreign tourists a value-added tax of 15 percent, but that was another plan that backfired — if anything, it’s kept tourists away.

The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism president has called the tourist tax “exceptionally unhelpful, if not destructive” and last month George Manyumwa, president of Zimbabwe’s hospitality association, called for the tax to be scrapped.

“The introduction of the tax, unfortunately, resulted in an increase in the service rates in the tourism sector and reduced profitability due to a decline in demand,” Mr. Manyumwa told the Zimbabwe Independent. “The occupancy rates have remained stagnant at an average of 50 per cent.”

Mr Manyumwa said tourists were also staying away because they feared Zimbabwe’s notorious police roadblocks. The money-making initiative, which is widely considered corrupt, has targeted tourists driving around the scenic country.

“The reality of the roadblocks is that tourists felt unwelcome into the country when they were penalized for offenses unfamiliar to them,” Mr. Manyumwa said.

“The most affected market that has since declined is that of self-drive tourists, whose form of tourism benefited various parts of the country … Some indicated that they thought there were safety concerns resulting in the need for heavy police presence, implying that Zimbabwe might not be a safe destination.”

Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe said on Sunday she was willing to succeed her ageing husband Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe said on Sunday she was willing to succeed her aging husband Robert Mugabe. Picture: AP/Tsvangirayi MukwazhiSource: AP

Tourists from South Africa can usually be relied on to comprise a third of the foreign visitors in Zimbabwe, but the South African rand’s depreciation against the US dollar has seen those figures fall below 10 percent.

But tourism isn’t the focus in Zimbabwe right now. Neither is, it seems, the economy.

The ruling party, Mr Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, needs to win next year’s election. As of now, Mr. Mugabe remains the party’s candidate, despite his failing health and his wife’s recent promise to succeed him.

Meanwhile, the party is spending money as fast as it can, sociology professor Roger Southall said in a recent piece for The Conversation.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, who had been warning of the country’s economic stability, has just been dumped by Mr. Mugabe. His replacement, according to Prof Southall, is a “party loyalist, who will brook no talk of any need for structural reform”.

“Zimbabwe is living on borrowed time and borrowed money,” Prof Southall, of Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, said.

“It will again end in financial ruin, as it did in 2008.

“But all ZANU-PF cares about is ensuring that it wins the next election and allowing its political elite to ‘eat’.”

To resolve the problem in Kashmir, acknowledge the suffering of its people

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KASHMIR OBSERVER)

 

To resolve the problem in Kashmir, acknowledge the suffering of its people

If the Narendra Modi government has appointed Dineshwar Sharma to arrange the surrender of the separatist movement, nothing will happen


After a year of hammering the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir – killing more than 160 militants in targeted operations in 2017 alone and arresting at least 10 overground separatist leaders for their role in suspicious financial transactions – the Indian government is seeking to apply a balm. These are fairly standard tactics, but will they work?

The answer depends on many factors, primarily the character of the movement.

As of now, it is not clear what exactly Dineshwar Sharma’s role is in Jammu and Kashmir. Union minister Jitendra Singh pointedly said Sharma was not an interlocutor but merely “a special representative” of the government. Indeed, the October 24 notification appointing him described Sharma as a “representative of the government of India” whose task was to “carry forward the dialogue” with elected representatives, various organizations, and individuals. The day before, Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke of Sharma as a “special representative” who would “have full freedom to engage in talks with anyone he likes”.

At one level, it doesn’t really matter. “Interlocutor” was a word of convenience that fitted in the diverse collection of individuals and groups who have sought to work outside formal government structures to suggest solutions for the Kashmir problem. The way the government works, it does not really have to listen to anything such interlocutors tell it. Their role is strictly recommendatory and facilitative.

For the record, there has been no dearth of interlocutors who were interested in promoting a political solution to the issues roiling Kashmir and who had access to the highest levels of government. Some were self-appointed well-meaning folk, others informally asked to do the needful, yet others who were formally appointed and laid out their recommendations in formal reports. The Jammu and Kashmir legislature, too, added its bit by examining the issue of autonomy and sending its recommendations to Delhi in 2000, only to have them rejected peremptorily.

All had one thing in common – they were not the Government of India. At the end of the day, only the central government has the authority to take decisions on such matters. Yet, despite years and decades of reports, recommendations, cogitation, the government has not spelled out what it is willing to offer. True, there have been statements by prime ministers that the “sky is the limit” when it comes to autonomy, or that the issue needs to resolved within the ambit of insaniyat, or humanity. Most recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that Kashmir’s problems could not be resolved by bullets but “only by embracing its people”. But these are rhetorical statements that give no clues as to the Union Government’s bottom line.

Emphasise reconciliation

So what can we expect now? A great deal depends on what Modi wants. If the government has appointed Sharma to arrange the surrender of the separatist movement, nothing will happen. The Kashmiri insurgency is now nearly three decades old, having taken the lives of some 45,000 people, roughly half of them militants, 14,000 civilians and some 6,000 security personnel. The way the government sees it probably is that its policy of relentless police action and attrition has brought the militancy to its knees, and this is the best moment to step in with an offer of political dialogue. It is possible that the movement can be brought to a point of exhaustion by relentless police action. But it is like a fire where even embers can give life to a dying blaze if there is sufficient combustible material around.

Parse that another way and one could argue that having been willing to shed so much blood, Kashmiris will not accept a settlement that offers them nothing more than status quo ante as of January 1, 1990.

So, parse that another way and one could argue that has been willing to shed so much blood, Kashmiris will not accept a settlement that offers them nothing more than status quo ante as of January 1, 1990.

In the government’s reckoning, it is really unemployed youth and the internet that is causing the problem and so if jobs can be assured and the internet kept in check, things will work out. Things are not that simple. Historically, Kashmiris buttressed by geography, have had a sense of their uniqueness. The circumstances of their accession and the commitment of a plebiscite made by India and endorsed by the United Nations remain. No country in the world recognizes Jammu and Kashmir to be a part of India; all see it as disputed territory, including our big friend the United States.

Not many in India realize that the counter-insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir has been brutal. Extra-judicial killings, torture, and intimidation have been its constant features. And this for the last 30 years. So, on one hand, you have a hardened population and, on the other, an embittered one. Therefore, the political effort that you initiate must be thought through. Empty gestures are not going to mean much. Neither will they achieve the end you have in mind – the normalization of the situation.

What needs to be adopted is a perspective that emphasizes reconciliation. That’s a carefully chosen word. A brutal struggle has gone on in Kashmir for the past 30 years. To wish it away or to pretend it did not happen is to live in an imaginary world. The more honorable and pragmatic path is to accept that things happened and are happening and that there is a need to overcome them through the process of dialogue, negotiation, and compromise. The alternative is repeated cycles of violence and alienation, with fits of political intervention that will not really get you anywhere.

The Article First Appeared In Scroll.In

(Manoj Joshi is Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi).

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