From the Secretariat: A Sort Of Homecoming

Around the holidays here in Norway, members of the staff will be sharing their stories and thoughts from their work at the EITI Secretariat. Here is Technical Director Sam Bartlett.

In calling for contributions to this series, Jonas suggested that we reflect on a typical day at the Secretariat. My last few weeks have hardly been typical. I’m writing this from Sydney. Our family has escaped the Norwegian winter for Christmas in Australia. I grew up on a small farm not far from here. I’m combining some annual leave with some weeks following up with supporters of the EITI in Australia and the region. The timing has been perfect, and not just because of the weather.

There is a vibrant debate in Australia about the impact and sustainability of high commodity prices. The booming extractive industries have cushioned Australia from the Global Financial Crisis, but the appreciation of the Australian dollar has also undermined the competitiveness of other industries. There is also a significant degree of controversy regarding the appropriate taxation arrangements for the extractive industries. The government recently enacted a minerals resource rent tax (MRRT), which will come into force in July 2012.   

In late October the Australian Government announced a series of measures relating to “mining for development”. Most significantly for the EITI, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Resources Minister announced that Australia will implement an EITI pilot. Two MSG meetings have already been held, and it has been fascinating to join these meetings as an observer. The EITI pilot period is expected to coincide with the implementation of the MRRT, so there are some excellent opportunities to use the EITI platform to build community awareness surrounding the “two speed economy” and extractive industry taxation.    

Elsewhere in the region, Indonesia is preparing its first EITI report. The Solomon Islands is preparing to apply for EITI candidacy. Stakeholders in the Philippines, PNG, Vietnam and Lao PDR are also exploring the costs and benefits of EITI implementation. 2012 will be another very busy year for the EITI, and the Secretariat.

In closing, I must admit to some homesickness when I saw Leah’s posting about Christmas in Oslo. Although worlds apart, Australia and Norway have a great deal in common. It is a great privilege to think of both countries as home.   

Best wishes for the festive season.