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Saturday September 16, 2006

World Bank says illegal logging costs US$10 billion-a-year


BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - The illegal cutting of forests worldwide causes US$10 billion (euro7.9 billion)-a-year in losses and undermines a country's attempt to achieve sustainable economic growth, the World Bank said in a report released Saturday. 

The report, presented at the bank's annual meeting in Singapore, said countries need to boost their law enforcement capacity and toughen laws on everything from money laundering to tax evasion to help reduce the practice. 

But it also said governments need to do more to address the management of vulnerable forests while boosting investment in rural development and poverty reduction programs. 

"With more than 90 percent of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty dependent on forests for some part of their livelihoods, good forest sector governance is integral to the bank's mission of poverty reduction, and a key component of the Bank's fight against corruption,'' Katherine Sierra, the World Bank's vice president for sustainable development, said in a statement. 

The report said governments in recent years have begun to openly address the problem, but it singled out 17 countries where illegal logging has thrived from 2000 until 2004. 

Nearly two-thirds of those countries had illegal logging rates above 50 percent, including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Peru and Bolivia which had rates above 80 percent. 

In many of these countries, governments have come under fire for failing to arrest or punish illegal loggers. 

"Unfortunately, forest crimes often go without punishment and, in the few instances where there are prosecutions, the poor are often targeted,'' said Gerhard Dieterle, a World Bank forests adviser. "Forest laws must be reformed to recognize the needs of the forest-dependent poor. Otherwise, their enforcement is the worst form of violation of equity and justice.'' 

The report said that illegal logging on public land in developing countries causes an estimated loss in assets and revenue of more than US$10 billion annually, while up to US$5 billion (euro3.9 billion) is lost every year to governments "because of evaded taxes and royalties on legally sanctioned logging.'' 

It added that 12 percent of global softwood exports and 17 percent of hardwood exports are considered suspicious. 

Meanwhile, the World Bank announced a new initiative bringing together legislators from G-8 countries, China, India as well as many key timber producing countries like Indonesia and the Republic of Congo. 

The initiative, dubbed the G8 Illegal Logging Dialogue, will aim to draw up a series of recommendations on how to curb the practice and present them in 2008. Among the issues the group will address are providing support for progressive timber companies and improving transparency in the timber sector. 

"Illegal logging cannot be tackled unilaterally and that is why it is so important to address this problem from both ends of the supply chain - from timber producing countries to timber-consuming countries,'' the British Minister of Biodiversity Barry Gardiner and Cameroon Minister of Forests and Wildlife Egbe Achuo Hillman said in a joint statement. "Together we can build agreement and make a real difference.''-AP 

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