Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 25 May 2016

We're sending out the right message

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 19/06/2013

It is seemingly part of the Northern Ireland DNA to be negative. That comes from decades of disappointment and seeing optimism quashed. But the staging of the G8 conference should be a matter of pride for everyone here. For the first time in recent history the summit made news because of progress on its agenda and for the positive image that the world leaders took away of this region.

Many people have said it, but that does not diminish the truth of the statement – money simply could not buy the good publicity for Northern Ireland which has been generated around the world.

There have been some complaints about the scale of the security operation and its £50m price tag. What did the critics expect? Previous G8 summits have been the scene of large-scale, quite violent protests, mainly from assorted anarchists, and this time there was a genuine terrorist threat from dissident republicans. The security planning ensured that none of these threats materialised. Would the critics have preferred lax security and some major incident which would have besmirched the name of Northern Ireland once again?

Instead, all the headlines have been about progress. The summit was an endorsement of the development of the peace process. It would have been unthinkable to have held such a meeting here in the very recent past.

There was also progress on the main planks of the agenda. While the West and Russia have differing opinions on how the terrible war in Syria should be resolved, at least they compromised to urge peace talks on the issue.

There were also meaningful moves on the question of global taxation information sharing. This will help tackle illegal activities such as money laundering and tax evasion, and could also bring to heel the multi-national companies who have shifted money across borders to minimise tax payments. While legal, it sends an entirely wrong message to the vast majority of people who are unable to claim any relief from their tax bills.

The summit's decision that mining companies should report what they pay to countries where they exploit natural resources is also a positive move. That will enable the world to see more clearly if the oil or natural minerals exploration companies are playing fair with the countries which are rich in resources, but who seemingly fail to benefit from their development.

Of course these fine words from the world's leaders do not mean that multi-nationals will suddenly stump up all the taxes they should pay or that developing countries will become rich from their natural resources. Policing how big corporations work and solving their complex financial arrangements still depends on countries sharing this information with each other. The reluctance of some to do so in the past should warn us that getting a transparent global taxation regime is a far removed ideal.

Yet this summit has sent out a strong message that the world's major economies want action. That is as much as could be expected.

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