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‘The best thing that could happen to the country is if no oil is found’

Xan Rice, The Guardian
Luis Prazeres was the first native-born airline captain in São Tomé and Príncipe, and the country’s first minister of natural resources. He knew a lot about flying and nothing about oil. But neither did anyone else in the tiny African island nation, which had just been told it was on the verge of a petroleum boom.

“There were all these foreign companies telling us that we had huge oil reserves, and bringing us agreements to sign,” said Prazeres, who took up his minister’s post in 1999. “Nobody here understood how complex it was.”

Other governments are now finding themselves in similar situations. Rising oil prices have led to a surge in exploration in countries with little or no petroleum experience. Hopes of petrodollar bonanzas have already been raised in Ghana and Uganda, while prospecting companies are crawling over Gambia, Madagascar, Tanzania and Somalia.

Yet São Tomé’s bitter experience should serve as a cautionary tale. In the decade since a little known Texas oil firm wandered into government offices with an audacious plan, the 160,000 inhabitants of the lush, somnolent islands have seen dreams of their country becoming the next Brunei or Kuwait melt away in the equatorial sun.
(14 July 2008)

Côte d’Ivoire: City on Go-Slow as Residents Protest Sudden Fuel Price Rise

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
Thousands of business-owners have closed down their shops across the capital today and several of the city’s main roads have been blocked in protest of a government decision to stop fuel subsidies, which caused prices to rise steeply overnight.

The government, which has been subsidising fuel prices for the past three years, removed these subsidies on 6 July because it could no longer afford to keep them in place. As a result the price of a litre of fuel rose by 29 percent in 24 hours, and the price of diesel by 44 percent…

…While a city-wide march planned for today did not go ahead, protesters took to the streets in Kumasi, south-east Abidjan, clashing with the police. Police have been deployed at strategic points across the capital ready to disperse demonstrators.
This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations
(14 July 2008)

Japan’s fishermen: ‘We’re dying’

Kyung Lah, CNN
Two hundred thousand boats sat idle in Japan, as fishermen across the nation took to the streets on Tuesday to protest skyrocketing fuel prices.

The strike – the first ever by the country’s fishermen — hopes to convince the government that without its intervention, rising fuel costs will kill the fishermen’s businesses…

…They want the government to provide subsidies to make up for the price hike.
Trouble is, the fish are dying too, see George Monbiot’s article, Trawlermen cling on as oceans empty of fish – and the ecosystem is gasping -SO
(15 July 2008)