Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The oil curse of Angola and Nigeria

As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Angola and Nigeria, it's worth another look at how oil does little to improve the lives of people there. Politicians take all of the money from oil revenues for themselves. The money and the oil make the keep the politicians from having to court voters to keep their jobs, as the two countries are democracies only in name.

Clinton is visiting the area in an effort to improve relations with the two countries. The US hopes to purchase more oil from Africa instead of relying on the Middle East.

From this Associated Press article that is hosted at Google News, Katharine Houreld does another piece on the curse of oil.

Nigeria has a history of coups and the last elections here were marred by voting irregularities and police firing tear gas at lines of voters. In Angola's last parliamentary election, money, alcohol and even cars were dished out and many polling stations didn't open for lack of materials, international observers found. Angola was in civil war from the 1970s to 2002. It has not held presidential elections since the war ended.

Just last week, Global Witness, a London-based watchdog group, reported that several shareholders of a private firm authorized by Angola's state oil company to bid for lucrative contracts have the same names as top current and former Angolan officials, including the state oil company chairman. The officials have not responded to repeated requests from Global Witness and reporters for a response.

"Despite the widespread perception that government corruption at all levels was endemic, there were no public investigations or prosecutions of government officials during the year," said a report this year by the U.S. State Department.

More than two-thirds of 12 million Angolans and more than four-fifths of 150 million Nigerians live on less than $2 a day. Many feel neglected by their leaders.

"They don't care about the small man. Not at all," said Sam Olufemi, selling phone cards amid one of Lagos' perennial traffic jams. "It's pay-as-you-go politics."

Angola has suffered unrest in Cabinda, the main oil-producing region. Human rights groups have accused the military of atrocities and claim government officials have embezzled millions of dollars in oil revenue. The government has denied the charges.

Thousands have been killed over the years in Nigeria's oil-rich Delta, where the military battles criminal gangs by firing into slums from helicopter gunships and militant groups bomb pipelines and kidnap foreigners.

1 comment:

Per Kurowski said...

There are no oil-cursed politicians, governments or policymakers ... there are only oil-cursed citizens... If you want to help, help us to wrestle the oil revenue check book out of the hands of our petro-autocrats.

Very good intention organizations such as Open Society and EITI, since they argue there are ways of managing the overconcentration of resources in the hands of a few, do unfortunately only play into the hands of the oil-autocrats.

With respect to oil revenues, improved transparency is somewhat like allowing the tortured to be able to see when and how they extract his fingernails.

Any moment the State receives more than 5% of GDP in fiscal income directly from any extractive industry or similar, then the State has become too independently wealthy and then the balance of powers can only be restored by sharing out all exceeding revenues directly to the citizens.