Conflict of interest: the welfare of people versus corporate profit

Russia is showing the way – India, Britain and the USA please note

The Financial Times reported in a subscription-only article that as part of a general drive for greater government transparency Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, ordered all government ministers to step down from the boards of Russia’s biggest state companies by July 1st in order to eliminate conflicts of interest by powerful state officials and improve corporate governance. More information on a sister site. 

The first to go was Igor Sechin, the deputy prime minister in charge of the energy sector, who is to step down as the chairman of the Rosneft oil company by the end of June, at a time when BP is negotiating an important deal with the company.  

Until this separation of interest takes place gallant souls continue to use their time and energy on behalf of others, making many enemies in the process. 

Arundhati Roy is one such, and her visit to Britain brings to mind others. Arundhati does not endorse violence, or armed struggle, but feels that tribal communities have few options to protect their way of life, as they confront the concerted efforts of state officials and large corporations to displace them. 

That is true. 

Witness is made in many ways. An article by New Delhi colleague Devinder Sharma, in the Daily News highlighted the shameful nexus between politics, industry, economists and scientists which led to hundreds of Indian people dying from poisoning by the pesticide Endosulfan, pronounced safe for humans and the environment by the Kerala Agricultural University and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and for some time approved for commercial application. 

However, India reversed its opposition to a ban on Endosulfan, paving the way for the 127 nations of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) to agree a global moratorium on the use of the highly toxic pesticide – and as the world’s largest producer of the chemical, including state run production facilities, India has the most to lose from the ban. 

Len Aldis has campaigned for compensation to be awarded to over three million Vietnamese and thousands of American servicemen and women, and their children, who continue to suffer from the serious illnesses and disabilities caused by Agent Orange. Their petition against the manufacturers of Agent Orange headed by Monsanto and Dow Chemicals, seeking Justice, was denied by the US Supreme Court on 2nd March 2009. 

U.S. Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land in Vietnam 

Len set up the British-Vietnam Friendship Society and those in sympathy can sign a petition on the British-Vietnam Friendship Society’s website, following the link given above. 

Until the power of the chemical industry worldwide, second only to armament manufacturers, is curbed, people will continue to suffer – and others to seek justice for them. 

Russia has taken a step in the right direction and India has banned a profitable pesticide – and there is much more to be done. 

Will there ever be a worldwide disruption of the ‘unholy alliances’ between politicians, industrialists, economists and scientists – a ‘political cleanup’- and governments in the global interest established? 




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