London Rising Tide EBRD weekly protest

Submitted by Anonymous on Tue, 11/09/2004 - 10:10

London Rising Tide will be bringing its opposition to BP's planned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline to one of its potential funders, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), every Thursday from now until October, when consultation on the public funding ends. We'll be there every thursday afternoon from 4.30-6pm. Feel free to join us; bring noise, colour and (fossil fuel-free) energy. Email for more details.

TO GET THERE: LEFT TURN FROM LIVERPOOL ST STATION (MAIN/RAIL LINE) EXIT ONTO BISHOPSGATE, (NUMBER 175)(NB. There's another entrance in Exchange Square, in case you can't find us!) - Map

Here's roughly what happened last week: From 4.30 pm on Thursday July 1st, a few people maintained a presence outside the EBRD on Bishopsgate almost next door to Liverpool street station, handing out leaflets and engaging passers by in intelligent debate. The police were called. A straggler arrived as did a gas masked penguin. The fun continued, leaflets were handed out and yet again the police were called. We got pink slips from them and were told not to return that day, else we'd be arrested to prevent us from breaching the peace. Still a powerful place to be, and people were keen to take the leaflets. Worth doing regularly throughout the 120 day period. It will be a regular thing, and has great scope for imaginative action - it is on 2 levels and 3 areas: upper private ground- lower private ground- pavement. Turn up there from 4.30, still worth it at 6 or even 6.30 as they all gather in the open air cafe/bar.

Quote of the day from EBRD employee: "but we have a whole room devoted to the environment".

BP and its partners intend that the US$ 3.3 billion cost of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline should be financed 30% by equity (capital provided by the oil companies which hold shares in the project), but primarily 70% from debt (loans from banks). A large proportion of this debt will be sought from public financial institutions (ie lenders of taxpayers‚ money), led by the International Finance Corporation (IFC ˆ the part of the World Bank which lends to companies rather than governments) and the EBRD. Its deeply flawed Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) can be seen at Comments on the ESIA can be sent by 14 October 2003 to



What are international financial institutions?

International Financial Institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and regional development banks like the EBRD, and Export Credit Agencies, wield enormous influence in the world. These taxpayer-funded institutions lend billions of dollars every year, financing projects and economic programs in poorer nations around the world. But they operate with much secrecy and little accountability. Many of the projects and economic programs they finance are environmentally destructive and fail to provide real development benefits to the world's poorest people.

Multilateral development banks

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is a member of the World Bank Group and is headquartered in Washington, DC. Like the rest of the World Bank, it exists to provide development finance, especially to the developing world, but unlike the main section of the Bank it specifically finances private sector projects. In fact, it is the largest multilateral source of loan and equity financing for private sector projects in the developing world. IFC generally operates independently of the rest of the World Bank, as it is legally and financially autonomous with its own Articles of Agreement, share capital, management and staff. Each member country is represented in IFC board and voting power is strictly connected with the shares that each country has. Therefore the G8 and few other industrialised countries control the majority of IFC board. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was established in 1991, to finance new private sector development in the recently ex-Soviet countries. It now works in 27 countries from central Europe to central Asia, and is the largest single investor in the region. It is owned by 60 countries and two intergovernmental institutions. Like the IFC, it invests mainly in private enterprises, usually together with commercial partners. It provides project financing for banks, industries and businesses, both new ventures and investments in existing companies. EBRD has a similar financial structure to the IFC board and voting system.

Export Credit Agencies

Export credit agencies can be either public or private bodies. The public agencies are run by national governments and use public money to provide exporters and their banks with insurance and guarantees against different types of risk, such as political risk, currency risk or breach of contract by a foreign government or contractor. Some ECAs also provide debt and equity. The official ECAs generally cover risks that the private sector is unwilling to bear. Broadly, export credit guarantees work as follows. Where a company deems there is a risk of not being paid for the goods it supplies to an importer abroad, it contacts its national ECA and takes out an insurance policy, for which it pays a premium. The ECA then undertakes to pay the exporter for the exported goods should the importer default on payment. The ECA in turn almost always insists on the government of the importing country giving a counter-guarantee whereby it takes over the debt from the ECA.

In the event of a default, the ECA‚s loss therefore gets added to the stock of bilateral debt owed to the ECA‚s home government. Ultimately, therefore, it is the poor of the South who end up paying the bulk of the bill for failed ECA-backed development projects. Because ECA debt is charged at commercial rates, it is particularly onerous for poorer countries. ECAs are the source of 24% of developing country debt and 56% of debt owed to official agencies. In the case of the UK, 95% of the debt owed by developing countries to the UK government is in the form of export credit debt.

Export credit agencies are the largest source of public finance for private sector projects in the world. In 2000, export credit agencies supported $500 billion in guarantees and insurance to developing countries and $58.8 in export credits. By contrast, the combined total of all the loans made by Multilateral Development Banks, such as the World Bank, was $41 billion.

IFIs and fossil fuels

All of the IFIs devote significant shares of their annual loans, investments and guarantees to fossil fuel projects. It is estimated that in the period 1995-1999, IFIs allocated around US$55 billion to projects in these sectors (not including fossil fuel thermal generating plants). However, the quality of publicly accessible data is such that it is difficult to make a precise estimate. It should be noted here that public IFIs leverage other sources of capital, which adds significantly to the total amount of investments in these sectors.

Between 1994 and early 1999, oil and gas development projects and power projects using fossil fuels made up nearly 40% of project and trade finance flows to developing countries; ECAs accounted for 20% of this financing. Friends of the Earth International and other civil society groups are calling for all International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and Export Credit Agencies (ECAs), to phase-out their financing of fossil fuel and mining projects within a period of five years. Current IFI lending practices in these sectors do not contribute to the eradication of poverty and the creation of sustainable societies, as they disregard the finite nature of natural resources and exacerbate rather than ameliorate inequities. This phase-out should cover all phases of the fossil fuel and mining cycles: prospecting, exploration, test drilling, exploitation, as well as construction of related infrastructure such as pipelines and roads, and any financial and regulatory advice or programs by IFIs that favour such projects.