Friday, 24 April 2009

Policy #3: End Chinagate - an open letter to UN business agency and SEEDA

An Open Letter to Dr Kamellah of UNIDO the United Nations small business development agency for Third World poverty reduction. And Kent.

Dear Dr Kamellah

As Chairman of UNIDO you may be aware of a recent proposal signed by UNIDO China and James Braithwaite, Chairman of SEEDA UK regarding the ChinaGateway scandal in Thanet, Kent.

This is a strange proposal – unless its purpose is to lend a little UN kudos to what is often seen in Kent as a tale of corruption and incompetence.

UNIDO specialises in working with developing economies rather than export activity from China to UK: both members of the G20 and so with little South-South or UNIDO input or cooperation required. Certainly it's unusual for SEEDA to be involved at this stage.

No doubt a bold and imaginative use of your scarce resources.

The ChinaGateway scandal includes Thanet council – one of Britain’s most corrupt and incompetent councils as rated by the UK Government itself – suddenly and unanimously in the face of almost total public opposition allowing the development of cargo warehouses around Manston airport in the area’s largest-ever Planning application.

All to be built on top of the drinking water supply which sits underneath(!) the airport and suggested cargo warehouses – and surrounding farmland. All built directly opposite Ostend Cargo Airport.

It is claimed by CGP the development company (a holding company of 3 Directors) that Chinese companies would want to expand into UK to manufacture American Blackberry phones from China(!) or Chinese mobile phones.

Certainly the acres of already existing SEEDA warehouses at nearby Hersden suggests that there is little need for further construction – unless every regeneration problem requires a SEEDA cargo warehouse construction solution.

These claims were no doubt helped through donations to the local MP’s and political parties at the time of the Planning application – although no details of the hundreds of Chinese companies were ever provided. Reference though was made to the Chinese equivalent of SEEDA as if this was an actual company rather than a Government department.

Separate regeration projects by British Virgin Island tax haven companies have fallen flat as much of the local towns have fallen down or burned down through a mix of incompetence and "regeneration by fireball".

With SEEDA acting on behalf of the local council could you raise this within UNIDO as to your position on how your organisation is claiming to support this activity.

Separately I hope you will be able to take time to visit Kent as there are many initiatives locally to support Africa and Asia especially Sierra Leone - for example Kent village in Sierra Leone is twinned with Kent, UK with recent events including building a school and a choir concert in Canterbury Cathedral.

As a former Trade Minister though I’m sure you’ll be aware of how the reality on the ground is various different sometimes from the claims made in conference rooms.

And how many of the activities around ChinaGateway are the subject of Parliamentary Inquiries.

You may want to bring your own supply of bottled water in visiting Kent though, as there are several concerns over the pollution from Infratil into a UNESCO wetland nearby and the Thor mercury factory that was closed in South Africa by Nelson Mandela some 20 years ago but is still operating in Kent.

The poisoning of the water table and ill-health and death of the local community from mercury poisoning are well-documented by the UN.

Given these issues would UNIDO consider providing inter-governmental funding to the UK? Perhaps chem-hazard cleanup teams from South Africa? Pollution monitoring teams from China? Rural development assistance from Mozambique or good governance from Sierra Leone for our MP’s and politicians?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kindest regards.


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