Britain taxpayers’ cash used to fund dictators

By IndepthAfrica
In Southern Africa
Nov 29th, 2012
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President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe addresses 67th UN General Assembly

Britain is owed billions of pounds after lending money to dictators such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. The cash has been handed out without any checks on foreign regimes’ records on human rights or environmental issues, an MPs’ investigation has found.

Much of the money has been spent on arms, including British-made Hawk jets and 1,000 police Land-Rovers, which have been used to crush dissent in Zimbabwe. Taxpayers’ money was also lent to autocratic leaders such as president Suharto in Indonesia and Gen Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

However, £2.35billion of the loans, including to Iran, Burma and North Korea – a debt dating back to 1972 – remains unpaid. The cash was dished out by UK Export Finance, the official body which lends foreign governments money to buy British goods.

The organisation, once dubbed the ‘department of dodgy deals’, makes no human rights or environmental checks on loans under £10million.

 

 

Police riot squads often use teargas to disperse protests
Police riot squads often use teargas to disperse protests

 

 

Among its biggest debtors are Omar al-Bashir’s civil war-torn Sudan, which owes £682million, Indonesia with debts of £412million, Iraq, which owes £283million, and Zimbabwe with debts of £197million.

Also highlighted was lending for the BP-backed Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which breached 170 World Bank and European standards on human rights and the environment.

The figures are revealed in a cross-party report being published Wednesday. It calls for more stringent standards for loans and penalties for companies breaching them. MPs also want the funds made more easily available to smaller businesses rather than corporate giants which usually get the backing.

Amnesty International welcomed the report, saying it put UKEF’s record properly under the spotlight. Ann Feltham, from Campaign Against Arms Trade, added: ‘It is wrong that we are selling arms to repressive regimes and it is wrong that taxpayers are underwriting the costs.’

UKEF insisted it ‘abides by international agreements that apply to the operations of export credit agencies, including those on anti-bribery, environmental, human rights and social impacts and sustainable lending’. – Metro.co.UK

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