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Should firms publish what they pay?

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Anglo American chairman and Shell ex-chairman, thinks multinational oil and mining firms are part of the long-term solution to African development. Anglo American has a robust AIDS prevention program and supports the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

[Moody-Stuart] rejects charges from critics that multinational businesses such as his take out more from Africa than they put in. "We employ very large numbers of people in Africa. We pay those people in total something in the region of $3bn, that's more than we pay our shareholders. "Of course, as a business you have to make money. But it doesn't mean there aren't benefits for other people involved, for government, for employees, for suppliers and so on."

The Publish What You Pay (PWYP) campaign, EITI's somewhat controversial cousin, encourages oil, gas and mining firms to disclose all payments made to governments.  Norwegian firm Statoil, for instance, has made some good progress in this direction. I emailed Anglo American to find out why they promote EITI but don't do much disclosure a la PWYP.

Edward Bickham sent back a thoughtful email on why Anglo American supports EITI but not Publish What You Pay.

We have a good dialogue with a number of the leading NGOs involved in the Publish What you Pay coalition around our shared objectives. We also publish each year the most important countries for tax payments in our annual 'Report to Society' (page 12 in the 2005 Report) which is available on our website. We do not endorse 'Publish what you Pay' as such since we are sceptical that an approach which relies primarily upon mandating companies to publish their payments in the absence of a commitment on the part of host Governments to publish their receipts will deliver the desired objective. This is especially true if the key mandatory factor is the Stock Exchange Listing requirements in London and New York since this still misses many of the key Exchanges involved in Mining Finance (Toronto, Sydney, Johannesburg) and also misses a number of key players from China/Russia/Malaysia/India, State owned companies (including the world's largest copper producer Codelco of Chile) and privately held companies.

Edward raises some important points about PWYP weaknesses. It's clearly important that governments also publish their receipts. My personal feeling is that the PWYP campaign is still an important move in the right direction. Having the big firms themselves publish payments will make it much easier to encourage governments to do so, especially in countries where a weak civil society does not have the leverage to demand transparent governance. More from Edward (who graciously allowed me to reprint his thoughts):

Anglo American takes the challenge of improving the development outcomes of resource exploitation and reducing the opportunities for corruption very seriously. To that end, I represent the mining industry on the International Advisory Group of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative; we have been in the vanguard of corporate representatives seeking to get the EITI process underway in Peru; my colleagues at AngloGold Ashanti (42% owned but not controlled by Anglo American) have played a similar role in Ghana and, to a lesser extent, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea; and my Chairman, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart has been actively advocating adoption of EITI at a recent meeting of the G20 and at a number of other international conferences and through the Global Reporting Initiative.

See the IMF's Guide on Resource Revenue Transparency, or a comparison between PWYP and EITI.