Nick Mathiason of the Observer has been in Zambia looking at the issue of tax not paid by that countries copper industry. In doing so he builds on excellent work by Christina Aid in this area, to which I made a small contribution.
His report is well worth reading, but perhaps most telling is this comment:
We say "we sold the mines but the mining companies forgot to pay us",' joked a senior government official in Zambia's capital, Lusaka, last week
I wish that were true. I think the non payment has much more to do with the "advice" provided to the Zambians on the terms of that privatisation, in which Rothschild and law firm Clifford Chance played the leading role as advisers, seven years ago.
Now the Zambians are seeking to renegotiate those terms. I applaud their efforts to do so. Liberia has succeeded in that aim with Mittal, a process in which I again played a small part. It's time that developing countries were paid the taxes that they are quite reasonably owed. It's the only way in which in the long term they can become free of aid. It's a small price for corporations to pay as a result.