Angola

Angola: Oil profits looted, report claims

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JOHANNESBURG, 6 December (IRIN) - A damning report by the British lobby group Global Witness has accused oil multinationals, international banks, and key Angolan officials of contributing to the country's "humanitarian and development catastrophe."
The report, 'A Crude Awakening - The Role of the Oil and Banking Industries in Angola's Civil War and the Plunder of State Assets', alleges that a lack of corporate transparency has encouraged "massive" official corruption, impoverishing Angolans and obstructing the search for a "real peace initiative."

The 23-page report released on Sunday argues that "the international oil and banking industries are the key factor in this equation of corruption and opacity. This is because the oil companies provide the vast majority of government revenue and the banking sector provides short-term, high interest loans, severely exacerbating the negative effects of low oil prices on Angolan government income."

An oil bonanza is underway in the deep waters off Angola's coast, which could soon turn the country into sub-Saharan Africa's largest producer. But in terms of Angola's social indicators, the conflict-scarred country is one of the world's poorest.

The three decades of war against Jonas Savimbi's diamond-financed rebel movement UNITA, represents "only part of the problem," the report said. "In Angola, the other key factor is the corrupt and un-transparent use of growing oil revenues by the Angolan government", including over-priced arms deals for the benefit of a small coterie of officials.

According to Simon Taylor of Global Witness, a British NGO which focuses on the link between environmental and human rights abuse, "as Angola is set for a massive US $18 billion in oil company investment over the next four years, the starving and war-torn population will see little if no benefit from these vast investments in terms of the most basic human needs."

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has pushed for fiscal transparency from the government for a number of years. "Both the provision of short-term loans and the lack of comment from the oil sector has severely undermined this effort," the report said.

"It is time for a radical rethink in international business practice," the report argued. Global Witness urges the oil and banking industries to join the international community in insisting that the Angolan government "becomes fully accountable to its people". The rights group also calls for a loan embargo "until such time as the Angolan government adopts radical improvements in transparency."

John Rocha of the Angolan advocacy group Angola 2000 told IRIN: "The tragedy of Angola is that we have a culture that promotes the acquisition of wealth no matter the consequences for the people ... The problem Angola is dealing with is not only Savimbi, it is much more serious and much more complicated."

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