Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How to buy a government

You are a large natural resources extraction company. You want to control the natural resources of an impoverished nation, but the government refuses. So, you fly half their MPs to an exclusive resort, wine and dine them, and pay them to switch sides so as to destabilise the government and force an election. Then you fund the opposition in that election to ensure there will be a change of government, and that the new regime will do exactly what you want.

It sounds like the plot of a movie, but its been happening right in our backyard. Australian-based phosphate company Getax wanted complete control of Nauru's phosphate reserves, and when the company refused their predatory loan deal, they bribed government MPs and bankrolled the opposition in order to get it. And they almost succeeded, producing a parliamentary deadlock that has continued for six months. The company and its dealings are now under investigation by the Australian Federal Police (this sort of bribery being a crime under the United Nations Convention against Corruption). Hopefully they'll succeed in bringing charges. As for Nauru, its still under emergency rule, and the deadlocked Parliament has not been summoned for months. The real casualty here has been Nauru's democracy.