Interior minister rejects reports of Pakistan’s inclusion on FATF watch list

In this file photo, Ahsan Iqbal Pakistan’s Minister of Planning and Development speaks with a Reuters correspondent during an interview in Islamabad, Pakistan June 12, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 February 2018
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Interior minister rejects reports of Pakistan’s inclusion on FATF watch list

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has said in a Twitter message that there had been “no official intimation of a FATF decision yet” and requested that the media not speculate until a statement was released.

It followed reports that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had placed Pakistan back on its list of non-compliant countries, days after the country’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif announced a victory against the US co-sponsored resolution.
Reuters on Friday, citing Indian media and an unnamed non-Indian diplomatic source from one of the FATF countries, reported that the anti-money laundering and terror-financing watchdog had decided Pakistan would be put back on the watch list.
“The decision was taken yesterday,” the diplomat told Reuters.
He added that the financial consequences would not kick in until June, which, in theory, could allow Pakistan wriggle room to solve terrorist-financing issues. “But the odds of that, particularly in an election year, seem slim,” he said.
The Foreign Office rejected Indian media reports of FATF including Pakistan on the “grey list,” Pakistan’s English daily The News reported.
Foreign Office spokesman Dr. Mohammed Faisal said at a press briefing: “So far, the outcome of the ICRG (International Country Risk Guide) /FATF meeting in Paris is awaited.”
“Pakistan has serious concerns over, and objections to, the introduction of this new ‘nomination’ procedure, which is unprecedented and in clear violation of established rules/practices of FATF,” he said. “Most of the concerns raised by the US side regarding deficiencies in our CFT (combating financing of terrorism) and AML (anti-money laundering) regime had already been addressed in 2015 when Pakistan got an exit from the “grey list.”
The resolution to put Pakistan on FATF’s high-risk and non-compliant list has been spearheaded by US with the support of Britain, France and Germany.
Earlier this week, Pakistan’s foreign minister said that there was “no consensus for nominating Pakistan” at the FATF plenary session, which began its six-day meeting on Sunday after members of the regulatory body failed to reach an agreement on placing the country on its grey list.
Officials at the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment to Arab News until the conclusion of the Paris meeting.
A three-month reprieve was extended by FATF to Pakistan and its Asian Pacific Group subsidiary is scheduled to review “another report” for consideration.
Senior economist Dr. Syed Nazre Hyder described the potential impact if Pakistan was included on the watch list as “near lethal.”
The cost to banks’ customers would rise, investors in the international capital market would request a much higher rate of return from Pakistan and multilateral financing organizations would add risk premiums on any money borrowed, he said.
Financial experts fear that the International Monetary Fund may also reject any loan extension Pakistan might request as a bailout to curb its widening trade deficit, or offer a new deal with stricter guidelines dictated by the US and EU.
“Pakistan will need a loan to pay off its debt burden,” Hyder told Arab News. “If it’s included on the list, the country will face a serious challenge sourcing funds for repayment, leading to the possibility of default. This would cripple Pakistan economically.”


UK investigates after labor rights expose at world’s top glove maker

Updated 17 sec ago
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UK investigates after labor rights expose at world’s top glove maker

  • It is been discovered that at least one Top Glove product is supplied to the NHS via a British firm
LONDON/KUALA LUMPUR: Britain is launching an investigation into medical gloves used by its health service after a Thomson Reuters Foundation expose found stocks from Malaysia could be tainted by the mistreatment of migrant workers at the world’s biggest glovemaker.
The health ministry said it would investigate standards at Top Glove Corp. Bhd — which makes rubber gloves sold to Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) — after the expose found some migrants working illegal overtime to pay off debts.
Top Glove last week vowed to do more to tackle excessive overtime after the Thomson Reuters Foundation found some workers clocked more than the amount permitted by law, and to cut ties with agents charging migrant workers huge fees to get them jobs.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation has discovered that at least one Top Glove product is supplied to the NHS via a British firm, raising doubts about Britain’s capacity to ensure its medical supply chain is free of labor abuses and unethical practices.
Labour experts, doctors and diplomats have voiced concerns to both the British and Malaysian governments about Malaysia’s rubber glove industry, which is also facing scrutiny globally from US activists to public procurement officials in Sweden.
“In line with the government’s policy and leadership on modern slavery, we take any allegations of this kind incredibly seriously,” said a spokeswoman for Britain’s health department.
“We are working with NHS Supply Chain (an organization formed by the government to supply goods to the NHS) to ensure that these issues are investigated as a matter of urgency.”
Top Glove, which accounts for more than a quarter of all rubber gloves produced worldwide and exports to 195 countries, employs at least 11,000 migrant workers, from countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India.
Top Glove was not immediately available to comment on the investigation launched by Britain’s health ministry.
But Top Glove’s managing director Lee Kim Meow told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Thursday that they would want to stop dealing with any suppliers found to be unscrupulous.
“It’s our duty to do that, we will never condone it,” he said, defending the conditions in the company’s 40 factories — 35 of which are in Malaysia.
Campaigners said this case showed Britain was struggling to monitor and manage its medical supply chain, despite the country’s claim to be a world leader in tackling modern slavery.
Britain’s landmark 2015 Modern Slavery Act requires large companies to outline the actions they have taken to combat modern slavery in their operations, but the first-of-its kind law does not apply to public procurement — or NHS Supply Chain.
“It is glaringly obvious that Britain has taken modern slavery seriously in legislative terms but that is not translating into public procurement,” said Cindy Berman, head of modern slavery strategy at the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).
“Britain is well behind at the European level when it comes to health procurement,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
U-TURN
A production list from one Top Glove factory in Malaysia showed ‘Handsafe’ gloves were shipped to UK company and NHS approved supplier HPC Healthline — now Polyco Healthline after a 2016 merger between Polyco Group and HPC Group.
The list could not be verified by the Thomson Reuters Foundation but Polyco confirmed one of their ‘Handsafe’ products which is sold to hospitals via the NHS Supply Chain’s online catalogue comes from a Top Glove factory.
“Polyco Healthline does source from factories in Malaysia and owing to past policies and practices it is recognized as a country with risks associated with migrant labor and labor rights issues,” said Nigel Watson of Polyco’s supply chain team.
“We have a detailed process for supplier selection and work closely with those that are approved, supporting them to continually improve their practices and instil a transparent approach to work-life balance and social responsibility.”
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Polyco but medical experts have questioned NHS Supply Chain’s oversight and the effectiveness of a labor standards system it introduced in 2012 requiring suppliers to assess conditions in their supply chains.
“NHS Supply Chain has tried to ... ensure its goods are sourced in an ethical and transparent way,” said Mahmood Bhutta, an NHS surgeon and founder of the Medical Fair and Ethical Trade Group at the British Medical Association (BMA) — a trade union.
“But it is clear that the system isn’t working — there is a lack of transparency and ownership on the issue,” said the BMA member, who has previously raised alarm about the manufacturing of gloves and surgical instruments destined for use in the NHS.
NHS Supply Chain said last month that it did not “knowingly procure” from a supplier using Top Glove as its manufacturer and pledged to investigate after being presented with the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s reporting on Top Glove and Polyco.
“We have a range of contractual arrangements and initiatives in place to try and prevent (labor abuses) arising,” a spokeswoman for NHS Supply Chain said in light of the findings.

GOVERNMENT CONCERNS
Malaysian labor activists over the weekend demanded action from their government into the findings and urged Top Glove to commit to further investigate their working conditions.
A spokesman for the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur — Malaysia’s capital — said it had been made aware of concerns about Top Glove’s treatment of migrant workers and was “raising our concerns to the Malaysian Ministry of Human Resources.”
Pauline Gothberg, national coordinator of the Swedish County Council Network on Sustainable Public Procurement, said her office planned to audit several government suppliers of rubber gloves which had confirmed they sourced from Malaysia
Malaysia’s Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran told the Thomson Reuters Foundation last week that major companies in the country must take the lead to ensure there are no labor abuses.
Several Top Glove workers said they worked a lot of overtime to pay off debts to recruitment agents in their home countries.
Some clocked 90 — 120 hours of overtime a month, according to documents seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, above the 104 hour overtime limit stipulated by Malaysia’s labor laws.
One worker said he had borrowed $1,100 (864 pounds) from a moneylender with a 3 percent monthly interest rate to pay back an agent in Nepal who got him a job at Top Glove in Malaysia.
“If I don’t work these extra hours, how could I possibly earn enough?” he said, requesting anonymity to protect his job. (Writing by Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change.