Friday, July 24, 2015

Sao Tome and Principe

For a very short while, at some time in the very near future, these two islands in the South Atlantic, off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, are going to become very rich, having made the discovery that oil reserves of a substantial quality are waiting to be developed. Citizens of the islands need to be aware of several historical precedents that they can avoid, if they act immediately, and for which Uruguay provides an example that it can be done.

1) While you will need the expertise of foreign oil companies to drill and extract and distribute this oil, their tendency is to take your potential wealth with them when they take your resources, leaving less than royalties behind for you; nationalisation of the oil is your best chance to prevent this.

2) Whoever controls the government controls the signing of the contracts with the oil companies, and the small print is, as always, the small print; use the media to pressure the government into full public disclosure of the planned contracts, before they are signed, so that you can scrutinise them and hold your government to account.

3) I use the word 'account' advisedly; accounts are what government ministers have in the banks of foreign countries when they need to hide the back-handers they obtained after the public scrutiny of contracts made it more difficult for them to pretend their pay-backs were simply legal and legitimate contributions to their re-election campaign and their daughter’s favourite charity. I am not accusing anybody, of course; merely offering some friendly advice based on what may, allegedly though of course unproven, have occurred elsewhere.

4) Acquire literacy in a hurry; if you read the small print in the oil contracts at the same level of literacy that you have proofread your government's official tourist website, you will be in serious trouble; and with reference to that website (facts page, paragraph one), there are indeed dangerous animals in your jungle, and they are named "oil companies".
Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

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