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Posts tagged ‘Davos’

Jonathan expresses fear of Boko Haram in the world stage at Davos, Switzerland, says it is his biggest challenge.


President Goodluck Jonathan has described the activities of the Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram as the biggest headache of his government.“In terms of security, Boko Haram is the biggest challenge we have at the moment,” the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati had quoted the President.Jonathan spoke during a televised debate entitled, “Africa’s Next Billion,” held at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.His statement was however contained in a snippet of the debate posted by Abati, on his Twitter handle.President Jonathan in the statement said it was wrong for anybody to say that corruption was the cause of all the problems confronting Africa.“Everything that does not happen the way it should in Africa, people say corruption is the answer. I don’t agree,” Abati quoted Jonathan as saying.The President also reportedly told the gathering that the power sector privatisation carried out by his administration was already yielding positive fruits.He claimed that Nigerians had started witnessing increased electricity supply within a short period.In the full statement, which Abati later made available to journalists, the presidential spokesman quoted Jonathan as calling on all stakeholders in the continent to continue to work for greater security and political stability, which he described as prerequisite for sustained socio-economic development.“Security and political stability are key to development. Investors will not come to any country that is insecure or politically unstable. Happily, many African countries now enjoy political stability. It is a major reason for the positive economic growth rates, which we are now witnessing on the continent and we must continue to do our best to maintain and expand the frontiers of political stability on our continent,” Jonathan said.He said, “Economic inclusion is very important and we are already taking necessary steps to improve

financial inclusion in our country. Transforming our agricultural sector is one way in which we are doing so.“We are doing all that we can to transform agriculture in Nigeria into a much more productive and job creating sector. We are also working to create more inclusive wealth through better education, skills acquisition programmes and policies that encourage the addition of value to our primary products before exportation.”

Source: Radio Biafra.

US Pressure on Swiss Banks May End Era of Secret Accounts.

Image: US Pressure on Swiss Banks May End Era of Secret Accounts

By Lisa Barron

The Swiss banking industry is slowly but surely abandoning its legacy of guarding the secrecy of customer accounts.

As many as 40 of the country’s approximately 300 banks have said they would voluntarily turn over client information to the U.S. Department of Justice in return for immunity from prosecution for helping Americans evade taxes, reports USA Today.

The Justice Department set a deadline of Dec. 31 for the banks to take deals protecting them from prosecution in exchange for handing out Americans’ account information.

“What’s really clear is that this [Justice] program is at the limit of what is tolerable for banks in Switzerland,” Sindy Schmiegel of the Swiss Bankers Association in Basel told the newspaper.

The effort is part of a government crackdown on tax evaders and overseas banks that heated up in 2009 after UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank, agreed to a $780 million settlement for concealing identities and assets from the IRS.

The Justice Department is currently investigating 14 major Swiss financial institutions, including Credit Suisse, Julius Baer, and the Swiss arm of HSBC, for shielding U.S. tax evaders, and many leading banks that are not yet being probed have been urging wealthy clients to turn themselves in to the tax man, Politico reported last month.

“The banks have every incentive to shove their American clients into compliance in order to reduce the penalties,” tax attorney Jeff Neiman, who prosecuted UBS for the U.S. government, told the publication.

Politico cited three letters from Swiss banks to U.S. clients urging them to come clean.

“Your account information may be subject to a treaty request from the United States to the Swiss Federal Tax Administration, which may result in your account information being turned over to the DOJ or IRS,” warned one letter sent by Corner Bank.

Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum taking place this week at Davos, Switzerland, will reportedly hold a forum dedicated to how the country’s banking industry can reinvent itself in the absence of banking secrecy.

“Swiss bankers accept that they are living in a new reality,” Bruno Patusi, head of wealth and asset management at Zurich-based financial services firm EY, told USA Today.

“But we will only see a change in certain areas. Confidentiality is still extremely important. It is true that we are seeing assets flow out [of Switzerland], but that’s partly because the next generation is more interested in spending than saving.”

Related stories:

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Christians Miraculously Survive Boko Haram Terror Attacks.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan
Laolu Akande, secretary general of the Christian Association of Nigeria and president of Nigerian Christians residing in the U.S., says Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan—pictured here at the 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland—should become more proactive in the fight against Boko Haram and terrorism (World Economic Forum)

Some Christian survivors of attacks by sect members of Boko Haram, the terrorist Islamic sect Nigeria, on Monday, Feb. 4, in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, recounted how 17 Christians were murdered in cold blood by Boko Haram Islamists and how they survived the attacks to tell the story.

Serana Chinda, a Pastor of the All Denomination Church (ADC), Hauran Wanki, Police Barracks in Kano, in northern Nigeria, said eight members of his local congregation were killed for refusing to recant their Christian faith in Jesus Christ. The 13 Christians were killed in a factory. The ADC serves all Christian police officers and other ranks with their family members alongside other non-police Christian communities in the area as a worship auditorium.

Chinda narrates how the Christian factory workers were killed: “On Feb. 23, 2013, eight out of the 13 people that were killed were my members who worked in a factory. Four men wearing babanriga (flowing gowns) came in a taxi cab and parked in front of our church. They asked, ‘Are you not supposed to be in church praying? Why are you not in the church with others?’ They answered that some of them were Muslims. The four men then ordered that Christians should go to one side and Muslims to the other side. So they separated them. They were not satisfied and wanted to make sure that no Muslim was harmed. They decided to make inquiry about their names; when they finished getting their names, they killed the Christians. One of our Christian brothers escaped to tell us the story of how these Christians were killed.”

Chinda says he went to the scene of the attack and saw the corpses before he called the police who came to the place to move the bodies to the morgue: “The only one that escaped among the 14 factory workers was the one that went to fetch water. He ran to my house and informed me that they had killed our people. As I prepared to drive to the scene, my wife wanted to follow me but I refused. But when I got there, I saw the corpses everywhere. I made some calls and policemen came and took the corpses away.”

Another of the surviving Christian victims, Deborah Shettima, 45, from the city of Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria, said her husband and three of her children were killed in their home by Boko Haram members who stormed her home twice and carried out the attacks.

“On April 25, 2012, after work, I went home and discovered that everywhere was quiet. I met my husband sitting on a table. He was preparing to preach to the children at a prayer meeting. He asked me to get him water to bathe. So I went outside and saw a tricycle approaching with five persons inside it. Four of them came down and went into our house. I started running but one of them blocked me while another said they should allow me in and asked me to lie down,” Shetima said.

“When I got in,” she continued “my husband was praying and I heard him say, ‘Lord, today I’m going to visit you. I ask you to please receive my spirit.’ One of them said, ‘Have you finished praying and you think your prayer is going to save you?’ And after that, I heard four shots of gun.

“I said, ‘I will be the next target’ and started praying, Lord they’ve finished with my husband, here I am, receive my spirit, but they opened the door. When my two daughters, 9 and 7 years old, heard me, they started crying, saying ‘They have killed our father, they will soon kill our mother,’ and as they were crying, they reached out to them and took them away.

“Up till now, I have not seen them. They have not been declared dead or been seen. One of the assailants hit my eye with the gun. I cannot see with the eye. After three months, while marking the death of Yusuf Mohammed, their leader, they returned to my house and killed my last son. Someone came and told me to leave the house,” she concluded.

A vice president of the World Bank and a one-time minister of education in the Nigerian government, Oby Ezekwesili, while speaking and shedding tears laments that Nigeria does not value human lives created by God: “Whatever happens to one of us happens to every one of us. So, if we have become a nation that does not put value to human lives, then we really are in a bad place. Listening to these women particularly and seeing what these women have to carry alone, you almost feel a sense of abandonment for them,” she said.

“We must get ourselves back to a drawing table and figure what we really are; what are we and what we have become as a people and as a nation. Is it right that a mother would watch her husband killed and her two children taken away and does not know where they are up till now and nobody is concerned about it? Three months after, they came and killed her son. I know a nation where this thing happened before. It’s called Rwanda and it didn’t end well,” she cautioned the Nigerian government, stressing that now is the time to act before the country is destroyed.

The Christian victims recounted their ordeals in attacks by Boko Haram at a press conference in Abuja held by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and representative Nigerian Christians residing in the United States of America (USA). Dr. Musa Asaki and Laolu Akande, secretary general of the Christian Association of Nigeria and President of Nigerian Christians residing in the U.S., addressed the conference.

Akande, while speaking at the press conference, pleaded that Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan become more proactive in the fight against Boko Haram and terrorism in the country.

“I think the government itself has expressed hopelessness, including President Jonathan who has said on several occasions that this problem is big,” Akande lamented. “We believe that Nigerian government cannot handle this problem anymore. There are instances of lack of political will on the part of the Federal Government. The cases of some supporters of Boko Haram like those senators who have been accused should be pursued.”

Reiterating the importance of fighting terrorism proactively, Akande said: “Government can become more aggressive in going after members of Boko Haram and those supporting this sect. Government is not proactive. It must seek support from other countries, like the United States, to deal with Boko Haram. This is an international problem. I wish government could do more in protecting the lives of Nigerians. Some of the cases are not even reported. How can somebody go to another person’s house to kill? If government cannot provide law and order it then becomes worrisome.”

He pleads with Nigerians and people of goodwill to “rise up and come to the financial and material aid of the victims of Boko Haram attacks in northern Nigeria.” It is the plight of these persecuted Christians he says has made Nigerian Christians residing in America take note of the impact of the actions of Boko Haram: “We are concerned about the widows and are touched by the plight of the orphans. We reckon that many of these individuals are left without a source of livelihood.”

Assisting these oppressed Christians, Akande says, is the most important and urgent task, facing Christians not only in other parts of the country but also posing as a challenge to global leaders like those in develop countries like America.

“If backers of terrorists are raising the money to perpetrate acts of terror, supporters of and advocates for peace can no longer look the other way,” he argued. “We want to join with CAN today to call on Nigerian philanthropists, businesses, and captains of industry, well-to-do individuals and all people of goodwill to consider the financial plight of Boko Haram victims and lend a helping hand.”

“We are an advocate for innocent and helpless people being slaughtered in their places of worship,” Akande said, speaking on the decision of their association to speak out in favor of the persecuted. “Christians are being killed, churches are being attacked and destroyed, health workers and doctors are being assassinated, markets are being ravaged, police precincts are being vanquished, and neighborhoods are being tormented. This wickedness must stop. We commend the bold leadership of CAN for speaking up in a categorical, courageous and consistent manner on the Boko Haram issue.”

In the city of Zaria where two churches were bombed by suicide bombers last year, a former Christian Nigerian Army General, Theophilus Danjuma, expressed sadness over the incessant attacks on Christians and called for a united fight against Boko Haram and other terrorists in the country.

Danjuma who was speaking at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said: “Our founding fathers sought to create a united and self-reliant society based on respect for human life and respect for the rights of others irrespective of tribe or religion. They would certainly be appalled that, today; the nation is in total anarchy. Human life is very cheap and impunity has become the norm. In the case of the North, the danger is very real indeed. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in the middle of a civil war in Northern Nigeria. There is no defined front in this particular war and, worse still; the enemy is faceless and unknown. There is no immunity for anyone.”

Danjuma was speaking to an audience consisting of Muslim and Christian leaders, academia, and others at the convocation ceremony of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.



Egypt works to finalize policies before IMF return.

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt is working to finalize its economic reform program before inviting the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Cairo to finalize a vital $4.8 billion loan deal, the finance minister said on Thursday.

The loan agreement – seen as vital to supporting Egypt’s state finances and boosting investor confidence – was agreed in principle in November. But the government delayed final approval in December when it canceled austerity measures during violent protests against President Mohamed Mursi’s rule.

“Egypt’s talks with the IMF are still ongoing,” Finance Minister Al-Mursi Al-Sayed Hegazy told the state news agency MENA. Egypt had yet to invite the IMF’s delegation to return, “awaiting the government to finalize the economic and social reform program”, he said.

Egypt’s prime minister Hisham Kandil had met with the IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde at the World Economic Forum at Davos earlier this month and said an IMF mission would return to Cairo within weeks.

Securing the IMF loan is seen as a vital step towards stabilizing the economy, both by providing a cash injection to bolster reserves and by offering an IMF seal of approval on the government’s reform plan that would reassure investors.

The Egyptian pound has lost 7.5 percent of its value against the dollar since the central bank began auctions at the end of December to try to preserve foreign reserves, which now barely cover three months of imports. The currency has hit a series of record lows.

Fitch Ratings on Wednesday cut Egypt’s sovereign credit rating one notch to B from B-plus, citing a wider budget deficit and instability caused by the country’s political transition.

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy, writing by Yasmine Saleh)



Using Official Delusion And EFCC Noise To Fight Corruption In Nigeria By Qansy Salako.

By Qansy Salako

I don’t hide my face behind my palms anymore when I watch our president talk, but my jaw betrays my nerves on each new occasion. My jaw droops and drops now each time I hear President Jonathan Goodluck articulates how hard his government is working and how well Nigeria is responding in progress. The last one was his 23Jan13 phone interview with CNN Christiane Amanpour, involving poignant questions on Boko Haram/Northern Mali, official corruption and electricity supply.

Goodluck repeated his usual public begging for other nations to come and help Nigeria fight Boko Haram using current affairs in Mali as his supporting evidence, dodged the question on corruption altogether but nagged that the world should not have been buying stolen crude from the Nigerian pirates, and made some self congratulatory commentary on his government record with power supply assuring Amanpour that this is an area where majority of Nigerians are giving him kudos. He even managed to look a little ticked off for being asked such questions.

This is consistent with how Jonathan has been scoring himself high grades on his fight against endemic corruption in Nigeria. On 29Dec12, President Goodluck asserted that corruption in Nigeria is not a serious issue, audaciously assuring that a good 80% of what Nigerians consider to be corruption are actually not corruption cases. I have been dismissing these obnoxious claims as the usual primitive Nigerian propaganda, perhaps for masking government incompetence and leadership breakdown. But the frequency and insistence of government on these dubious claims is making my skin turn white in terror. People, are we talking about the same Nigeria? I am scared that the crop of Nigerians who have now morphed into our leadership class may have started to believe these things they say. We say we are worse off, they insist our lot is actually better. What data are they using?

It is tribulation upon calamity for us to have our wretched situation in the country reduced to “we say, they say.” Our treacherous political class promised us one million jobs within a year of recovering the fuel subsidy savings from their collaborating oil marketer friends, but we see no jobs 13 months later. They tell us Nigeria is building more cash reserves and is in good standing with its creditors, we tell them their reserves are consigning many more millions of us to early death due to hunger and disease. Goodluck government raised the electricity output to 4500 MW for domestic use by 160 million Nigerian customers and he contends that we are celebrating him. The political elites are essentially telling us that we ordinary Nigerians are deluded about our state of affairs. We are the crazy, they are the sane.

Thank goodness, from Whitehall to White House, the “International Community” is seeing through the chicanery of our feckless leadership group. David Cameron, former UK Prime Minister, recently lashed out in bewilderment at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying: “The financial revenue Nigeria received for the whole of last year (2012) from the sale of crude oil is more than the total foreign aid the entire sub-Saharan Africa received in that same year. So, where is the money? Where is the improvement in Nigeria?”

Indeed, Nigerians too are asking, where is the improvement that our president insists he sees in Nigeria? Incidentally, my level of disappointment in Goodluck was already quite deep even before I started noticing his style of using false declarations and delusions of grandeur as executive tools to intimidate Nigerians into further silence and poverty. The only Nigerian leader with the most on-the-job training before becoming the president is Jonathan. Goodluck has been hanging around our highest corridors of power and leadership now for a total of 10 years – deputy governor (2 years), governor (2 years), vice president (2 years), acting president (2 years), president (going on 2 years). If anybody was supposed to hit the ground running on the job, it ought to be Jonathan. Yet, he is still seriously confounded and challenged on how to sort, prioritize and tackle our problems in the country. He started off shoeless with the most political credit any Nigerian leader has been given by Nigerians in modern times, but he has frittered it all away on profligacy, emptiness and now tyranny of delusion.

This is probably why government has been moving with the feet of clay against our stranglehold culture of corruption for 4 years now since Goodluck became the acting president. The whole anti-corruption package remains confusing, ancient and unforgivably ineffective. I have observed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stepping up news releases on its arrests lately. Hardly a day passes now without some EFCC newsflash – EFCC corners Babalakin in LUTH over corruption, quizzes former presidential aspirant for extortion, arrests 2 undergraduates and four others over internet scam, arrests two over N240,000 illegal cash, arraigns three for forgery, arraigns 23 over oil theft, bemoans Babalakin jumping bail, ad infinitum. You would think that EFCC’s prime objective, perhaps even directed by the presidency, is to be seen by Nigerians as doing something instead of recovering our looted wealth and securing long jail terms for the looters.

We hear the news of arrests but we don’t know the outcome of majority of the arrests. The few outcomes that we know of offer Nigerians a glimpse of abysmal record of EFCC success rate. Many of EFCC cases have been thrown out of court for missing a document or a step in the court procedure or for inapplicable charges. Of those in its favor, EFCC is only able to recover less than one percent of stolen money, most looters usually pay insulting alternative fines and escape with golden parachutes.

I checked out EFCC website to see what I might have missed, but the same old lame stuff is all I got there. I rummaged through the place to find any usable statistics, but alas, it only says: “information is coming soon….” Imagine, EFCC does not have statistics to be proud of since about 2003 when it was established. Under the “External Cooperation/EU UNODC Project” tab though, I found that the EFCC received additional EU grant of Euro 24.7 million in 2003 (and since extended twice) which ostensibly forces it to state something about its achievement on the project. There I found the following statement on EFCC performance:  “To date, the EFCC has received more than 5000 petitions and achieved more than 400 convictions. Even more impressively, a 6.5 Billion US $ of criminal proceeds have been recovered. At the political level, Nigeria was removed by the FATF from the list of non cooperating countries and territories.” There we have what we already know – 8% conviction rate. What a joke we have become to ourselves and to onlooking nations watching us ridiculing ourselves with uncontrollable appetite for wealth like a tipsy baboon in a liquor store.

It occurred to me that the essence and difference between the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) may be confusing to most Nigerians and in particular, why the ICPC seems to be always in the shadow of the EFCC. So I checked out the ICPC website. It turns out, the ICPC is actually the babangida of our corruption fighting machine, as it has a wider mandate to fight all forms of our corruption compared to the EFCC which is focused on financial crimes. Compared to the EFCC which was established “to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalise economic and financial crimes,” the ICPC was established in 2000 with the mission “to rid Nigeria of corruption through lawful enforcement and preventive measures” and the vision to establish “a Nigeria free from all forms of corruption and corrupt practices.”

It is condemnable that Nigerians have got nothing out of these two sink-hole agencies that gulp enormous national resources yearly for doing almost nothing over a decade to even scratch the surface of our number one killer disease. These agencies have never prevented any government of the day from doing whatever it likes with damnable impunity. To date, looting of our treasury, killing of opponents, rigging of elections, personalization of state properties and resources, group impoverishment, tyranny of power, etc have progressively gone from bad to worse under successive governments since 1960. It shows that successive Nigerian leaderships might have intended and/or used these agencies as expedient apparatus of power for themselves and smokescreens for the citizens.

Given the enormity of our own brand of corruption, I always wonder how EFCC and ICPC get things done. The poor success rate of their cases probably imply inapplicable and inadequate administrative structure, poor talent pool (prosecuting attorneys, private investigators, forensic scientists, etc), inferior understanding and grasp of the Nigerian constitution and legal system, and horrible coordination and interrelationship with other state institutions (police, SSS, immigration, customs, etc). Being Nigerians, these agencies are probably riddled with our trademark incompetence, ignorance and ethnicity problems. It is perhaps why they have hitherto operated more as sidekicks to the government of the day than as truly independent institutions that function as custodian of our commonwealth and a stakeholder in piloting Nigeria out of primitivity into modernity.

Our type of corruption in Nigeria is out of this world. Many Nigerians now worship money, wealth and cash and would do anything to acquire it at the expense of their souls. The plague of corruption in our society has returned many back to the stone-age evolution when man and animal were not different in how they controlled their basic instincts and desires. Corruption is making us cannibalize our own God given resources, has warped our sense of reason and messed up our criteria for good and evil. The disorder has now completed transmitting down from the top of our leadership pyramid to the base homes of the downtrodden. We are a changed society, headed in the wrong direction that only points to self destruction. We need to reverse our track. If we truly want to fight and tame our corruption, we could consider some of the following ideas:

1.   Restructure EFCC and ICPC, for effectiveness. The ICPC mission could be further honed down and re-scoped. Perhaps even more agencies may be established and scoped for additional effectiveness and quicker results. But it may be better to have all anti-corruption agencies (ACAs) under one anti-corruption institution (ACI) umbrella. Otherwise, there should be a mechanism to harness activities of all the ACAs so they don’t work at cross purposes.

2.   Given the unprecedented size and range of our corruption, I would imagine our ACI to be a huge institution with thousands of employees, top notch technological capability and extensive reach across the globe. This means adequate funding and hiring of adequate and properly trained experts. ACI should be headed by a highly respected, experienced, seasoned and incorruptible citizen. Citizen Gani Fawehimi of blessed memory was one example of such citizenship, but we have more of them still alive. Indeed, all ACI/ACA employees should be held to a very high standard of probity and integrity to avoid conflicts of interests.

3.   Funding of ACI does not have to come from the federal budget, a portion of the recovered looted resources (cash, estates, intellectual property, etc) may be used to fund the institution.

4.   Establish an adequate level of autonomy for the ACI to enable it do its job. The institution should have the authority to arrest, arraign or charge any citizen at any time without any clause of immunity of being a governor, speaker, senate leader, president, LG chairman, etc, past or present. This means our current all permissive national constitution should be updated and amended.

5.   Like all other government institutions that we currently have, our judiciary (state/federal) is mostly useless. Most of the judges are compromised and ought to be arraigned themselves for miscarriage of justice against Nigerians by handing down illogical judgments on many a corruption case. Establish a separate judiciary line for the ACI like it is done for the military institution in advanced countries.

6.   Establish a separate ACI military police unit, and similar units within the immigration, customs and SSS to facilitate cross agency supports on official anti-corruption assignments.


Topless protesters take on elite Davos forum.


DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — Three women angry over sexism and male domination of the world economy ripped off their shirts and tried to force their way into a gathering of corporate elites in a Swiss resort.

Predictably, they failed. The ubiquitous and huge security force policing the World Economic Forum in Davos carried the women away, kicking and screaming.

The women, from Ukrainian feminist activist group Femen, scaled a fence and set off pink flares in the protest Saturday. Their chests were painted with “SOS Davos,” as they sought to call attention to poverty of women around the world.

Critics of the Davos forum say the business and political leaders at the gathering spend too little time doing concrete things to solve the world’s problems and help the needy.


Associated Press

Bill Gates Hates Cash. Here’s Why.

  • Yahoo! Finance/Getty Images –

Billionaires are known for not keeping a lot of spending green in their wallets. But that’s not why Bill Gates hates cash. He hates it because of its effect on people at the opposite end of the wealth spectrum—the world’s poor and unbanked. The Better Than Cash Alliance, which was founded last September and is partially financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, hosted a breakfast at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Speakers from the Philippines, Colombia, and the U.S., among other countries, made the case for why electronic transactions are better than cash payments.

Top five reasons, according to the alliance:

Transparency: Less corruption and theft when payments can be easily tracked. In Afghanistan, U.S. aid agencies use it so workers aren’t so vulnerable to robbery.

Security: The money gets where it’s supposed to go.

Financial inclusion: Electronic payment is a way for unbanked people to establish a record of on-time payment of their bills. This can be an “on-ramp” for them to get other services, such as loans, speakers said.

Cost savings: Moving physical cash around is costlier than zipping electrons. Many poor people, however, still find it cheaper to use cash, because some cashless networks charge high fees.

Access to new markets: This benefit is mainly for providers of financial services.

Kenya is a role model for the developing world when it comes to cashless payment. Its M-Pesanetwork, launched in 2007, has agents “on every block,” says Neal Keny-Guyer, chief executive of Mercy Corps, a nonprofit that’s a member of the alliance. Mauricio Cárdenas, Colombia’s minister of finance and public credit, said in an interview that he hopes within the year the national legislature will pass a law allowing nonbanks to take in cash and issue electronic vouchers.

The key is ensuring that the people who take in the cash are as well-supervised as bank tellers. “We see this as a first step,” Cárdenas said.

BusinessWeek By Peter Coy | BusinessWeek

Davos activists occupy Shell station to protest Arctic drilling, warn of environmental danger.


DAVOS, Switzerland – Activists with a big fake polar bear have occupied a Shell service station in the Swiss resort of Davos to protest Royal Dutch Shell PLC‘s oil drilling in the Arctic.

About 25 activists from around Europe chained gas pumps together Friday at the station near where the World Economic Forum was being held and hung a banner on the roof reading “Arctic Oil – Too Risky.”

Greenpeace helped stage the protest, raising concerns about dangers to the environment from Shell’s drilling in Alaska and urging forum organizers to reconsider Shell’s participation. A Shell drill barge ran aground on a remote Alaska island on New Year‘s Eve.

Shell officials, among the 2,500 corporate and political leaders in Davos this week, did not immediately respond to phone calls about the protest.


By The Associated Press | Associated Press

Cameron: I don’t want a country called Europe.



Britain’s Cameron: I don’t want a country called Europe _ just a better Europe 

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — British Prime Minister David Cameronwants nothing to do with a United States of Europe, an idea that’s gaining currency as the countries that use the euro struggle to fix their debt crisis.

But what if it’s a choice between a single country called Europe or a splintered continent? Cameron is determined to avoid that scary scenario.

A day after he shook up Europe’s political landscape by offeringBritish citizens the prospect of a vote on whether to stay in the 27-country European Union, Cameron insisted Thursday he wantsBritain to remain a part of the bloc but that more unification would not be the answer.

“To try and shoehorn countries into a centralized political union would be a great mistake, andBritain would not be a part of it,” he said at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos.

In an interview with The Associated Press afterward, Cameron insisted said he wanted to makeEurope “more open, competitive, flexible — so that we can secure Britain’s place within it.”

“I think it is eminently achievable,” he said.

Many in the EU, particularly among the 17 countries that use the euro, are on a drive for closer political unification, and that’s raised particular concerns recently in Britain, which has often viewed the bloc through a business prism.

“If you mean that Europe has to be a political union, a country called Europe, then I disagree,” said Cameron. On Wednesday, Cameron put an end to months of speculation by revealing he intends to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, if he wins the next general election, expected in 2015.

But many politicians in Europe think closer political ties are exactly what is needed to maintain continental unity in the face of a debt crisis that’s laid bare fundamental flaws in the euro. TheEuropean Union, which last year won the Nobel Peace Prize, effectively started amid the rubble of World War II — the motivation to avoid future wars.

Some even think Europe’s end-game has to be to resemble the United States of America. Countries would be so tied together in their economic and social fabric to make war inconceivable.

After decades of bit-by-bit integration, the links are now so tight that many European leaders refuse to publicly acknowledge that a British exit is a possibility.

Several accuse Cameron of putting the bloc at risk to deal with domestic political problems. His Conservative Party has a hardcore element that is highly skeptical of the EU, while an anti-EU party, the UK Independence Party, is gaining ground in the polls most notably at the expense of Cameron’s Conservatives.

Italian Premier Mario Monti said Britain should set aside ideology and look at its membership in the EU with “pragmatism, which should be a British attitude of mind.”

He argued that Britons, for all their hostility to EU regulations and bureaucracy, benefit so much from the single market that they would be scared to leave — a ready access to markets and over half a billion people would be a gamble too far.

Most of British business appears to want to stay in the EU but out of the integrationist drive — but the question is whether that can be achieved.

“The vast majority of businesses across the UK want to stay in the single market, but on the basis of a revised relationship … that promotes trade and competitiveness,” said John Langworth of the British Chambers of Commerce.

He was among 56 British business leaders who issued a public letter to the Times of London on Thursday complaining about demands from Brussels and calling for “a more competitive, flexible and prosperous European Union that would bring more jobs and growth for all member states.”

Growth is certainly something that Europe is craving. The eurozone as a whole is in recession and figures Friday are expected to show the British economy, the EU’s third-largest, halfway back to its third recession in four years.

Open Europe, a London-based think tank, says that 48 percent of the UK’s goods and services exports are to the EU. The single market keeps down the cost for Britons of doing business with the EU as well as the price of goods imported from the EU for purchase by ordinary British citizens.

Membership gives British citizens the right to live and work anywhere in the EU — unlike citizens of other countries, who must seek complicated and often hard-to-get residency and work permits.

Mark Gray, a spokesman for the EU, said the bloc affects almost all aspects of the lives of Britons, from the quality of the water they swim in at beaches or in pools, to the quality of the orange juice they have for breakfast and the conditions in the offices where they work.

But many Britons — like citizens elsewhere in the EU — see the union as a faceless beast imposing rules and spending on needless things and threatening sovereignty.

Britain’s relations with Europe have been strained since the end of World War II. It did not join the European Steel and Coal Community, the forebear of what would later become the European Union, in 1951.

Britain later realized there were benefits accruing from joining up with some of its wartime friends and foes, and joined the evolving European bloc in the 1970s. It has stood against many efforts to forge closer ties, notably the creation of the euro, but was at the forefront of the drive to create a single market.


Don Melvin in Brussels and Martin Benedyk in Davos, Switzerland, contributed to this report.


By Angela Charlton, Associated Press | Associated Press

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