AIIB headquarters location should not like those of past MDBs

While the argument that “S’pore should be AIIB’s regional headquarters” (April 11) has merit, it should be up to the planners and the final list of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank participants and shareholders to decide on the bank’s headquarters.

First the writer arrogant implies that the AIIB’s headquarters should be in a country with pristine financial excellence. He fails to note that other regional development banks, such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the African Development Bank, are headquartered in less developed cities such as Manila and Abidjan, yet have a pretty successful development record.

Second, the writer cites Beijing’s poor environmental record for why Singapore should also host the AIIB. That is an unqualified and against arrogant argument almost suggesting that polluted cities should not be centres for development banks. Manila is not exactly a lean, non-polluted city, but that did not stop the ADB from being hosted there. New York isn’t exactly a clean city in many areas, yet it hosts the main United Nations Headquarters!

China, the proponent of the AIIB, will most likely be the strongest shareholder. In my view, the AIIB should not be in a city that of a dominant superpower, or it will risk becoming another International Bank for Re-construction and development (IBRD), or even a International Development Association (IDA). Time will tell though.

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The AIIB, a new MDB… Remember the past

I suppose it’s time for me to add my voice to the range of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) which has been hitting the headlines globally. I wanted to start off with an explanation of this proposed idea but their already is a website. It’s a pretty good detail of the rationale for setting up this new Multilateral Development Bank (MDB) for Asia.

As expected there’s has been stiff opposition by the US to the creation of this People’s Republic of China (PRC)-led MDB. The US has unsuccessfully tried to stop key development assistance providers such as the United Kingdom (UK), the Nordic countries and even G20 member states like Indonesia from signing up. The typical US line is that this is a 1) this is a Chinese initiative 2) China has never been fully transparent in its international financial forays/investments or development finance 3) the whole idea is a plan to usurp already well established MDBs like the World Bank/World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or Regional Development Banks (RDBs) like the Asian Development Bank (AsDB).

All this US-versus-the-rest tussle reminds me partly of the creation of the World Bank Group (WBG)’s International Development Association (IDA) and subsequently, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Most people assume that the World Bank is, well an entire entity and US-controlled organisation. They also assume that the UNDP is well, the UNDP. Not many know that the World Bank Group is actually five different organisations and one of them, the IDA, has a deeply inter-linked relationship with the UNDP. In fact, the entire World

The UN has been, in its history, was less noted for its contributions to the international or global development arena. In actual fact, the World Bank and the wider World Bank Group is in fact part the UN system. To truly understand this, one needs to walk back to the 1950s and 1960s, or what can be termed the “First Development Decade”. A good summary can be found on Jerry Silverman’s posts on his blog, In particular, read, The UN System and the WBG similarities and differences, The UN System and the WBG 40s to 50s, The UN System and the WBG 60s to 70s, establishing the World Bank and the IMF and history matters growing the UN and its specialised agencies. (There may be others, do search his blog). With respect to books, three major books cover the history the formation of the IDA and then the UNDP. These are, Jolly, R., Emmerij. L. And Ghai, D., 2004, UN Contributions to Development Thinking and Practice, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, Murphy, C.N., 2006, The United Nations Development Programme: A Better Way?, Cambridge: Cambridge University and Stokke, O., 2009, The UN and Development: From Aid to Cooperation, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Ok, what exactly is the similarity between the IDA’s creation (and then the UNDP’s) and now the debate over the AIIB? First, the IDA was a US-backed initiative back in the late 1950s to stop the creation of a development finance agency, then known as the Special United Nations Fund (SUNFED). SUNFED was and initiative within the UN General Assembly, especially the developing world. Under much political pressure from the US, the IDA was created to replace the creation of the SUNFED. Thus all ensured that global development finance would be under the high US shareholder MDB–the World Bank (then mainly the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)). SUNFED shortly afterwards became the Special Fund, and together with the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA) later merged together to form the UNDP (Jolly et al. 2004: 73-84; Murphy, 2006: 57-65; Stokke, 2009: 94-129, Chapter 7).

The formation of the IDA and the UNDp shows what could happen if US political/hegemonic dominance prevails. At present, it seems likely the US can’t repeat its “no-SUNFED-have-IDA” act with regards to the AIIB. The AIIB howeer, has yet to be fully formalised. Th US may continue to voice its protests and thus hasten governance and development reform in the two US/Western dominated MDBs, the WBG and the IMF (The Business Times (Singapore), 2015, “New Urgency for governance reforms at IMF and World Bank”, The Business Times (Singapore), 2015, 9 April 2015, p. 32). This may pressure the AIIB’s Articles of Agreements (AoA) and its future governing structure to be oriented to “Western”/OECD- norms. The US hegemonic dominance thus may succeeded here. A second option is that the Us may in future, grudgingly applied to be a shareholder/member of the AIIB, and thus be able to influence it to conform to /OECD/”global” standards. Again, the US may “succeeded” in maintaining its neoliberal Global Economic Governance (GEG) system.

What next for China and other potential AIIB members who share the “Chinese route” for GEG and finance? Would they bow to US (and perhaps Japanese) interests and make the AIIB like most MDBs are–transparent but still reeking elements of neoliberalism? Would it be left as some Chinese development aid agencies are, not well structured, but “soft loan” like? The future lies in the whole governing structure of the AIIB.

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Every child in the developing world is a Malala

NB: Before you start flaming me and criticising me for this post, think through before you comment.

So across the last few years, Malala Yousafzai has been seen by many in the development community as the golden child of development. People such as Gordon Brown, Ban Ki-Moon and the Clintons have praised her courage (after being shot in the head by the Taliban) and her activism. She is the shining example against tyranny, terrorism, the child of development, blah, blah, blah…

What about those children who face violence, assault, or pain everyday? What about children who can’t even reach half of Malala’s age? What about those handicapped or maimed for life children and adults who can’t get the sort of recovery/treatment that Malaala received in Birmingham? Or that sort of upbringing or education? They might have also have campaigned for children’s education, education in general, human rights, girl’s rights etc etc. But they weren’t as “lucky” as Malala to get the treatment, the recognition, the fame, the acknowledgement.

I recognise activism and courage. But I don’t get why one girl should be fawned upon.

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A reason to maintain/increase both UK development and defence budgets

Read and understand

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No, no, no, it does not turnupsavelives

The 0.7% fetish reached its zenith today as the 0.7% bill by Michael Moore was passed today see this twitter announcement. Great, an archaic target is reached by the UK 45 years after it was not legally enshrined in the United Nations. This is a short post as I’ve said much about the 0.7 “fetish” that UK parliamentarians (most UK parliamentarians, there are those against it) have regarding this poor constituted aid target. Come rain or shine, good or bad economies, great or terrible development environments, the UK will provide 0.7% x its GDP (which changes) as Official Development Assistance. It does not save lives, it does not immediately improve development, it is not the golden bullet for development but no, the UK parliament has agreed to this outdated and quite irrelevant target.


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When Google helps, Mary Creagh’s Written Questions

The new and last Shadow Secretary of State for International Development (unless the Labour Party loses the 2015 General Election), posted similar written question to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Department for International Development. The question(s) was/were:

Foreign and Commonwealth Office
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, how much his Department allocated to the Conflict Pool in (a) 2014-15 and (b) each of the five previous financial years.

Ministry of Defence
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how much his Department allocated to the Conflict Pool in (a) 2014-15 and (b) each of the five previous financial years.

Department for International Development
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, how much her Department allocated to the Conflict Pool in (a) 2014-15 and (b) each of the five previous financial years.

Creagh got her answers from all three departments–FCO, MOD and the DFID It reveals that the Conflict Pool, soon to be the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) (see page 133 of the British Army Journal 2004) IS NOT funded by any or all of the three departments but by HM Treasury.

Yet this question is easily google-ble. Check it out (Conflict Pool Treasury Funding and Conflict, Stability and Security Fund Funding. It’s so easy and the information is provided by the long established Independent Committee for Aid Impact and other organisations. Isn’t this a waste of time asking a question which can be google-ed? And not forgetting that the question has been asked before!! (See this question by Bob Ainsworth a Labour Party Colleague. Do Shadow Ministers just aimlessly ask written questions?!

Note: Once again I am not a member of any UK political party.

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Shuffling your cards: From Harriet to Mary

First came Harriet Harman, who didn;t really shadow much of DFID (in my view).

Then came Ivan Lewis, who knew DFID from his past, but during debates.

The came Jim Murphy, Scot and not much change to relate (to)

Now comes Mary (Creagh) (sorry, I can’t think of a good poem/rhyme)

How has Miliband really focused on International/Global Development?

Disclaimer: I am not a member of the UK Labour Party or any political party in the United Kingdom or elsewhere.

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