How Much Transparency is Too Much?
PRINCETON – Transparency seems to be the word of the day in a wide array of policy domains. But is greater transparency always good?
Ever since the financial crisis erupted in 2008, there has been a call for “greater transparency” in financial services. The financial-reform law passed by the United States Congress last month requires improved transparency from banks and other financial-services firms. Moreover, thanks to the hard work of Oxfam America and the Publish What You Pay coalition, the law also requires oil and mining companies – both US and foreign – that want to raise capital in the US to disclose their payments to the governments of countries in which they operate.
For many poor countries, wealth in natural resources is a curse rather than a benefit. Corrupt rulers can use the billions they receive from oil and mining corporations for personal extravagance, or to buy arms for troops to crush democratic resistance movements.