Monday, 20 May 2013
Corporates Capture To Rule
Corporate capture is real. And it is vicious. It grabs the mind. Its grip on policy structures cannot be fully understood or overthrown without a clear understanding of its logic. We need to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery as the great musician sang, decolonise our minds.
Corporations, just like other power groupings, are masters of mobilising power alignments for the furtherance of their interests. Our examination of the fact of corporate capture seeks to help us see that the degradation we see around us is not accidental but a result of power relations in which the poor and disempowered are not only overlooked but are trampled upon. This assault has not gone on without resistance. Such resistance is subdued with offers of projects, signing of memoranda of agreement of various shades and the promise of jobs. That is the carrot. The big stick consists of calling in the security forces to apply maximum force on complaining populations.
Analysts suggest that power manifests through five modalities: inducement, manipulation, seduction, coercion and authority.
First we take snapshots of the logic that has fed this vicious system.
Overall neo-liberal governing logic: The idea here is to shrink the sphere of influence of government or what is termed “minimising the state." It is taken for granted that the public sector is wasteful, inefficient and cannot deliver on anything. This logic pushes for the privatisation of everything and the remove of social safety nets.
Power logic: Corporations consult governments; governments consult corporations. Corporations draw up government’s position papers and policies. An example is the Nigerian Biofuels Policy written and probably executed by the NNPC – away from public scrutiny.
Enforced logic: Corporations sponsor chairs in universities and research centres, direct the direction of discourse and research, orchestrate the sacking of teachers who insist on teaching things that are out of line with corporate interests. This is very conspicuous in the area of genetic engineering. A subtle way is the example of the NLNG awarding a national prize on literature. Certainly no writer who focuses on the mammoth corruption that has been exposed in that project as well as their continuous polluting activities would ever win such a prize. You want to win? See no evil, hear no evil,speak no evil.
Systemic logic: the market holds the key to solving all problems. At one point the hand of the market was invisible. Now the various bailouts have exposed those hands.
Market fundamentalist logic: nature for sale. Logic demands a price tag before nature can be defended. In the words of FoEI, “this vision of the world is built on the premise of profit before people and on the creed that nature must be commodified in order to have value and stand a chance of being protected and defended. A creed aptly captured in the so-called Green Economy concept in which everything carries a monetary price tag.”
Superstructure logic: international financial institutions: World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc have best ideas for fiscal management. Singular prescriptive fixation: Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), etc. A former chief economist of the World Bank tells us that the IMF likes to go about its business without outsiders asking too many questions. In theory, the fund supports democratic institutions in the nations it assists. In practice, it undermines the democratic process by imposing policies.
Military humanistic logic: Secured oil supplies equal to national/global security. Wars on nations and attacks on communities are commonplace. Military shields are erected to protect corporations and punish the people. A special task force was set up to carry out wasting operations (which manifested in killing, raping and maiming) in Ogoniland in the early 1990s. This has metamorphosed into a Joint Military Task Force (JTF) currently occupying the entire oil communities. The JTF logic is now being applied to fight outbreak of violence/dissent in parts of Northern Nigeria.
It is possible that corporations whose profits are only assured by a steady stream of wars could be instigating studies being undertaken on environment friendly warfare. Such warfare, though nonsensical, may appeal to people who are far removed from the war zones. Dependence on computer games logic encourages use of drones and so-called smart bombs by which people being killed are not directly seen and militants are not distinguished from civilians. Non-accountability is easy because the killings are all done by remote control.
Warped or upside down logic: destruction adds to GDP. Digging deeper and hoping to get out: the logic that wreaked havoc is used to try to solve that same problem.
Disaster capitalism: seeking profit from crises. Seeing calamities as opportunities for business. Climate disaster becomes an opportunity to do business. War destroys so that reconstruction can take place. Natural disasters herald the demolition and clearance of poor people’s habitations to make way for fancy real estate. Naomi Klein’s book, Shock Doctrine, says a lot on this.
CORPORATE CAPTURE, POLITICAL NON-ACCOUNTABILITY
Multilateral negotiations, for example the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COPs). Government negotiation teams are riddled with corporate actors. Private sector representatives are also often included on government delegations. This is particularly true for delegations from some of the more industrialised developing countries, such as South Africa, Brazil, and South Korea. Analysis of a sample of 11 non-Annex I countries at COP 16 in Cancun shows a significant number of destructive industries representatives on several delegations:
Brazil’s delegation in Cancun had among the most corporate and industry representatives on their delegation (17%), including 11 delegates from Braskem petrochemical company and 9 delegates from the Petrobras Energy Company
One fifth of the Malaysian delegation (7 delegates) was from the Malaysia Palm Oil Board.
70 members (40%) of the Nigerian delegation did not give their company or organisational name, but research revealed that several delegates came from oil companies, including the Vice President of Shell in Africa, Babs Otowana.
The Indonesian delegation included representatives from Sinar Mas (forestry), Starling Resources (oil and gas exploration) and Itucho Corporation (import and export of forest products).
The South African delegation included the CEO, Chairman and Executive Manager of energy company ESKOM.
With such delegations it is clear that corporate interests must be assured.
LICENSE TO KILL
a. Military assault on communities and individuals. Examples abound in Nigeria. Ogoni, Odi, Odioma, Gbaramatu, etc
b. Pollution without redress – environmental pollution is arguably the most deadly expression of violence in the extractive sector, be it in the Niger Delta or in the artisanal mines of Zamfara State.
c. Adversarial judicial system
Revolving doors: corporate big guns take up government positions; ex government officials take up board positions in corporations. Some do this while in office and amass incredible wealth without any form of productive activity
1. OIL & GAS
Gas flaring continues because oil companies prefer it that way. A face saving measure by government is to impose a paltry fine that is computed as production costs and is technically not being paid.
Oil spills rage on and standards are not kept. NOSDRA requires teeth. NESREA is blinded to the oil sector. The oil sector actually superintends NESREA. The UNEP report on the assessment of the environment of Ogoniland shows that Shell did not obey its own standards, Nigerian standards or International standards in its operations there. Because there is no accountability here they and other companies continue with reckless poisoning of the soil, air and waters of the Niger Delta.
Narrow corporate interests linked to polluting industries and industries that are seeking to profit from the climate crisis increasingly hijack government positions. The logic here is that transiting from polluting to non-polluting production systems would be too expensive and would thus cripple industry leading to a loss of jobs. Politicians get sucked in by this logic and so refuse to take actions to reduce emissions at the source, but rather invest in activities that would export responsibilities to poor and already impacted nations.
“Paying institutions and governments in poor countries to keep people from exploiting their forests so that people in rich countries can keep on with their over consumption and polluting production systems.”
Forest degradation and conversion into plantations fit the new paradigm of investments. The fact that forest dependent communities get displaced strikes the ears of policy makers as nothing to worry about, as long as the powerful corporation is happy.
4. LAND GRABS
The poor gets disposed in the interest of corporations and the rich. The Land Use Decree ensures that this goes on in Nigeria while foreign direct investment is a cover for grabbing in other countries.
5. POLITICAL UNACCOUNTABILITY
The oil subsidy uprising in Nigeria, the several struggles across Africa indicate one thing, the gross political unaccountability of our governments. Cases of where presidents have placed their sons in key positions are not new on the continent. Examples are seen in Liberia, Equatorial Guinea, Central Africa Republic, Uganda, etc.
EMBEDED IN POWER
There are many ways by which the corporations worm themselves into the corridors of power. These include:
Open and covert lobbying, i.e. behind the scenes meetings with politicians and policy-makers
Direct arm-twisting: for example the World Bank having an office in the presidency
Direct funding of political parties
Gifts to government officials including the sort proposed in the draft PIB.
Membership of national political task forces and committees
Occupying ministerial or advisory positions – on the grounds of expertise
TILTING THE POWER
Poor countries are compelled to open up their economies while the rich engage in crass protectionism. That is why you have export free zones in poor countries and never in rich countries. And yet we wear these free dumping zones as badges of progress.
Significant economic power is transferred from the state to multinational companies through trade and investment liberalisation measures. Anything is done to keep these companies happy so that they stay on and the few jobs they create remain available for a fraction of the army of the unemployed. Consider for instance the threats of oil companies to pull out of Nigeria when they wouldn’t dare as there is no where else they can get away with the rape perpetuated daily here. The threat of closure or relocation is the stuff that entrenches a reign of unaccountability.
BREAKING THE YOKE
Breaking free of the corporate yoke requires system change, starting from mental realignment, mass mobilisations and community vigilance to stem off a relapse. It means a change in the exploitative system of power without responsibility and exploitation without accountability.