Mongolia signs up Tony Blair as government adviser

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BEIJING, CHINA - AUGUST 30:  (CHINA OUT) Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair lectures during his book launch and press conference of the Chinese Edition of A Journey by Tony Blair at Kempinski Hotel on August 30, 2011 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair – now a global consultant estimated to be worth £50 million – has signed a deal to advise the Mongolian government. Other countries which pay for Mr Blair’s consultancy services include Kazakhstan, Columbia and Kuwait. VoR’s Vivienne Nunis reports.

Labour prime minister for 10 years, Mr Blair is believed to have made tens of millions of pounds since he left office in 2007.

The former Prime Minister Tony Blair received warm applause and more than few laughs at his self-deprecating jokes, as he addressed a crowd at Stamford University in May last year.

It’s speaking engagements like that one and a string of consultancy deals with foreign governments that have earned Tony Blair an estimated £50m since leaving office.

Mongolia signs him up

His latest deal was struck with the government of Mongolia. Mr Blair signed the contract with the country’s leaders during a visit to the capital Ulaanbaatar in March.

The former leader – famous for ending the conflict in Northern Ireland – will be a key negotiator in disputes between the government and mining giant Rio Tinto.

Mr Blair’s deal comes in the midst of Mongolia’s mining boom, and although it’s not clear exactly how much his consulting firm will be paid, it’s safe to assume it’s not an insignificant figure.

A similar deal with the government of Kazakhstan is believed to be worth £13m.

Also filling Mr Blair’s consultancy portfolio, are deals with Columbia, Brazil and Albania – then there’s the £1m he was paid for writing a report for the government of Kuwait.

Why do they stump up?

So why do these countries pay so much for the services of Tony Blair?

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday. He’s also written a biography of the former prime minister.

“He brings to them a very good contacts book in that he understands international politics. He knows a lot of world leaders. He knows a lot of important corporate, business leaders and so he can help make the connections that countries like Kazakhstan and Mongolia need and I don’t think there’s anything sinister or wrong about any of that.”

John Rentoul says the governments in those countries have realised good quality governance is crucial in fostering economic development.

“If you don’t have the rule of law. If you don’t have efficient and effective public services, then it’s very difficult to get economic development following.”

Property portfolio

Mr Blair and his wife Cherie own eight homes in the UK including a townhouse in London’s Connaught Square, a mansion in Buckinghamshire, and properties in Bristol and Durham.

But it’s not just consultancies earning Tony Blair millions.

Mr Blair is a senior advisor at investment bank JP Morgan. He advises the Swiss insurance firm Zurich Financial Services on climate changes issues and – bizarrely – he also has a consulting role with French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.

Speaking circuit

Then there’s the lucrative speaker’s circuit.

Mr Blair signed to the Washington Speakers Bureau for £500,000

He typically gets paid £250,000 per 90-minute speech.

In 2009, he earned almost £400,000 for two half hour speeches in the Philippines – not bad when you consider that’s more than he earned in two years in Downing Street.

Ethical dilemma

So is there an ethical dilemma when it comes to former civil servants, like Mr Blair, earning money from the skills they gained while in public office?

Blair’s biographer, John Rentoul, says:

“I accept there is an issue about former politicians trading on knowledge they gained in the public service but generally, people like Tony Blair could’ve earned a lot more in the private sector. I don’t regard his accumulation of wealth as disproportionate or in any way offensive. I think he’s always been true to himself in that respect – New Labour was in favour of people making a success of themselves”

John Rentoul highlights Mr Blair’s charity work, pointing to the fact the former leader donated all the profits from his memoirs to the Royal British Legion.

How is Blair as Peace Envoy?

Then there’s his unpaid work for the international Quartet as Middle East Peace Envoy.

I asked John Rentoul if Mr Blair had achieved very much in that role, which he’s held since 2007.

“No, but that’s not for the want of trying. Whether the Palestinians and the Israelis are going to negotiate is beyond even his capability I’m afraid.”

The Mongolian deal doesn’t look to be the last for Tony Blair.

On Sunday night he stopped over in Romania for a dinner with Prime Minister Victor Pontor.

Source: The Voice of Russia Radio.

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