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Politics & economics - May 2

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Anger rises in oil-rich Chad as funds don't aid the poor

Raymond Thibodeaux, Boston Globe
Three years after Chad began exporting its oil with assistance from the World Bank, few people outside the capital have access to electricity, running water, paved roads, and health clinics. Public schools are nonexistent. Life expectancy is 46 years for men, and only slightly longer for women.

The thwarted hopes of many have turned to resentment toward the government of President Idriss Déby, widely perceived here as using the nation's oil wealth to enrich himself and those close to him. It's a perception shared by Transparency International, a Berlin-based corruption watchdog, which last year rated Chad as the most corrupt country in Africa.

Growing anger in this country of nearly 10 million has spurred opposition leaders and emboldened rebel groups, which have twice in the past two months tried to overthrow the government. In the latest attempt on April 13, hundreds of rebels entered the capital just before sunrise and were cheered on by onlookers before clashing with Chad's army. A street battle killed 350 people, mainly rebels and civilians.

In the aftermath of that attack, a rattled Déby announced that a heftier portion of the country's oil profits -- estimated at $400 million in exports -- should go toward buying weapons to stave off a rebellion that he says is being orchestrated by Sudan.
(30 April 2006)


Bolivia gas under state control

BBC
Bolivia's President Evo Morales has signed a decree placing his country's energy industry under state control.

In a May Day speech, he said foreign energy firms must agree to channel all their sales through the Bolivian state, or else leave the country.

He set the firms a six-month deadline, but the military and state energy officials have already started taking control of the oil fields.

Bolivia has South America's second largest natural gas reserves.

But the country has suffered years of political crises over how to develop and profit from the industry.

The main foreign oil firms operating in Bolivia are Brazil's Petrobras, the Spanish-Argentine company Repsol YPF, British companies British Gas and British Petroleum and France's Total.

Speaking at an oilfield in the south of the country, Bolivia's left-wing president called it an "historic day".

"The pillage of our natural resources by foreign companies is over," he declared.
(1 May 2006)
Related stories at AP: Morales Nationalizes Natural Gas Industry, and elsewhere.


Venezuela buys Russian oil to avoid defaulting on deals
via MSN Money
Andy Webb-Vidal , Financial Times
Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, has struck a $2bn deal to buy about 100,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Russia until the end of the year.

Venezuela has been forced to turn to an outside source to avoid defaulting on contracts with "clients" and "third parties" as it faces a shortfall in production, according to a person familiar with the deal. Venezuela could incur penalties if it fails to meet its supply contracts.
(2X April 2006)
Registrtion is required to view the article at the Financial times.
Also posted at VHeadline.


Cabinda (Angola) sells oil licences on "freed territory"

afrol News
The oil-rich exclave of Cabinda, mostly seen as an Angolan province, has fought for independence since 1975. Cabindan rebels now follow the example of Western Sahara's exile government and have set up an oil licensing agency to lease oil and gas operations in the "territory secured by the Cabinda Defence Force". The territory is seen as immensely rich in oil.

The "Cabinda National Petroleum Plc" made this announcement from its base on the British Atlantic island of St Helena yesterday evening. According to the company, it is entitled to announce the "commencement of oil and gas lease operations in [the] territory secured by the Cabinda Defence Force," commonly known as the rebels fighting for the independence of Cabinda.

Cabinda, which is a small territory between Congo Kinshasa and Congo Brazzaville, is internationally recognised as a province of Angola. This was however not always so. Cabinda was an autonomous Portuguese colony and the 39th African state recognised by the Organisation of African States (OAU), but was occupied by Angolan troops almost immediately upon achieving independence from Portugal in 1975.

The territory, despite its small size, is of great importance to Angola and the world economy. Had it been independent, it would have been Africa's second biggest oil producer, following Nigeria. Currently, most of Cabinda's oil production is run by multi-national companies offshore, thus fully under Angolan control.

On the land territory, however, Cabindan rebels claim to control most of the countryside, something that is denied by the Angolan army, saying rebels only manage to hide out in some villages.
(26 April 2006)


High oil prices hit Thailand hard

AFP via South Asian Women's Forum
Ariya Manee has been planning her honeymoon on the Thai resort island of Koh Chang for months. But as petrol prices reach historic highs, the Bangkok office worker may have to abandon the dream trip
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...Thailand imports 90 percent of its fuel and consumes about 70 million liters a day, making its 63 million people particularly vulnerable to global prices, not only at the pump, but in almost every aspect of daily life.

Bus fares and other costs of living have increased as higher transport costs are passed on to consumers. And experts warn utility prices such as electricity will be next to increase, affecting both households and businesses.

"Now consumers are very cautious about their spending, buying only essential items," said Saowanee Thairungroi, dean of economics at the private University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.

"That's not good for the economy after we have already seen a year-on-year slump in consumption in February."
(30 April 2006)


Oil-industry graft keeps Iraq unsteady, U.S. says

Reuters via International Herald Tribune
Corruption in Iraq's oil and natural gas sector continues unchecked and could have "devastating effects" on efforts to stabilize the country, according to a U.S. government report that said Iraq's oil production still lagged well below prewar levels.

Iraq's oil output averaged 2.18 million barrels a day in March, compared with 2.58 million before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 and the target of 2.3 million set by the Iraqi Oil Ministry, said the report, which was to be released Monday.

"Corruption in the oil and gas sector is a continuing problem that could have devastating effects on both the progress of sector reconstruction and on the overall status of reconstruction and democracy-building efforts in Iraq," said the report, which was prepared by the U.S. special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction, Stuart Bowen.
(1 May 2006)

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