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Money, Mines and Oil - Update

 

Over the weekend, the British government announced that it would be pushing for companies in the extractive industries to publish what they pay to governments in resource-rich countries.
Finance Minister George Osborne stated:

"As we enter a new decade when the resources of Africa are going to be heavily developed, I strongly believe it's in everyone's interests that mining companies and others operate to the highest standards.That's the way to ensure some of the world's poorest benefit from the wealth that lies in the ground beneath them."

This is terrific news.

For too long, governments and corrupt officials have misused and abused their power at the expense of the people they are intended to serve. As we blogged last week, take Egypt for example. It is estimated that Hosni Mubarak has a personal fortune of $70 billion while a quarter of Egyptians continue to live in poverty.

Sadly, it’s the same story in resource-rich countries, which is why Osborne’s comments are such great news.

For example, the information released will help citizens in Equatorial Guinea to hold their government to account. At the moment, average income per person in Equatorial Guinea is over $30 000. That’s right, $30 000 – the same as Italy or Spain. And yet, most people live on less than a dollar a day.

By joining Nicolas Sarkozy in calling for EU-wide legislation requiring greater transparency standards for oil, gas and mining companies the UK now has the chance to be a leader in helping to lift the veil of secrecy combating corruption in poor countries.
And it doesn’t cost a cent. The amounts are far, far greater than the sums we spend on aid. And it’s empowering too. Given greater control over their own resources and wealth it generates, citizens in resource rich countries now have the opportunity to determine their own futures.

Across the world, there are over 600 organisations, particularly in resource-rich countries, calling for greater accountability and transparency part of the Publish What You Pay coalition. They’re ready and willing to use this information and hold their governments to account.

Faith Nwadishi of Publish What You Pay Nigeria said “These transparency laws will give us the hard data we need to demand investment in services like health and education from our governments, rather than seeing the revenues from our valuable natural resources lost to corruption and mismanagement.”

And it’s them we need to get behind. We can support these organisations.

Now.

Next week, a ‘ten minute rule’ debate will occur on 1 March. Anas Sarwar MP will give a ten minute speech followed by a short time for MPs to discuss the issue.

Building on George Osborne’s announcement we can increase momentum in the push for greater transparency. We want Anas’ motion to become a formal bill and to do that we need as many MPs as possible to attend the debate. The more there are, the quicker we can achieve the legislation that the UK requires.

As Gavin Hayman from Global Witness said, “Support from the UK Government is vital as the London Stock Exchange is one of the largest and most important financial markets in the world, where more than a trillion pounds worth of oil, gas and mining shares are listed.”

At the Global Poverty Project, we care about revenue transparency in natural resource contracts between oil companies and resource-rich governments. It’s because greater transparency would put more information in the hands of citizens in some of the world’s poorest and most fragile countries, empowering them to unlock the billions of dollars in natural resource wealth for their benefit.

That's why we're campaigning extensively on this issue. We’ll be publishing blogs, interviews and a whole range of other material about natural resources and the opportunity they present to help people lift themselves out of poverty.

If like us, you feel passionate about this as a matter of justice, join our campaign. We don’t want to see this opportunity squandered.

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