Thursday, 13 December 2018
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Ireland's development aid programme has a considerable reputation. That programme does invaluable work because it makes a difference, it is poverty focused, it is about community empowerment, it is directed at the most marginalised and it has been untied. With the new White Paper coming, how committed is the Government to policy coherence, particularly when we are seeing examples of policy incoherence? I will give one example on tax. During a previous Leaders' Questions, I outlined a number of steps where each positive step we took on tax transparency was accompanied by a "but" - a backward step. The policy incoherence is giving the aid but then not following through on the tax justice of the developing world.
At a recent event in Dublin, the Rwandan ambassador made the point that $63 billion in illicit flows leaves the developing world. That is more than the foreign direct investment and aid going into those developing countries. Policy coherence would mean Ireland taking meaningful steps on tax justice. The Tánaiste may say that we got rid of the single malt, which is positive but it does not go far enough. What was needed was to take the steps the BEPS process has designed to tackle the underlying problem and prevent replacement structures emerging.
The policy incoherence is also seen in trade treaties in the imbalance between what the developed country gains and the minor gains for the developing world. For example, the Ireland-Ghana tax treaty prevents Ghana taxing the capital gains of mines, factories and large businesses owned by Irish companies. No spillover analysis was done prior to the treaty, which allowed for that and other examples of unfairness.
It is shameful that because of our aid reputation, countries in the global south want to trade with Ireland because they trust us. I know our ambassadors and other embassy staff are working on these trade relations. Are they on that page of policy coherence? I know there is a role for the private sector, but the danger is that it is moving away from this coherence. How committed is the Government to including binding human rights agreements, rights standards and environmental standards when negotiating these treaties? Where stands the Government in implementing our business and human rights policy?
When we discussed the EU-Colombia trade agreement, we were assured about these human rights agreements and yet since then there have been land grabs, forcible displacement, exploitation and intimidation of workers. We have had the scandal of the Cerrejón mine, the role of the ESB and the fact that CMC, the Coal Marketing Company, is registered in Dublin.
If the Government was committed to policy coherence, it would implement our business and human rights policy. Where will the White Paper stand on policy coherence?