- Known as one of the world's most corrupt countries, oil-rich Equatorial Guinea now has pledged to increase transparency in its oil sector and fiscal accounts. The Equatoguinean presidency claims that only its "serious institutional capacity constraints" were keeping it from observing international standards of transparency.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema himself made this pledge to Agustín Carstens, the Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), who visited Equatorial Guinea for the first time this week. Mr Carstens also met with Prime Minister Miguel Abia Biteo Borico, Finance Minister Marcelino Owono Edu and other senior officials during his two-day stay in Malabo.
According to the IMF official, his talks with President Obiang had focused on Equatorial Guinea's serious corruption problems. President Obiang himself is under investigation by the US Senate for having deposited large parts of the country's oil revenues on private accounts in the US. The government is dominated by his own family, which is accused of channelling most state revenues to their private accounts.
Mr Carstens had urged President Obiang to address these problems, although in a more diplomatic phrasing. "I noted that ... the focus should be on building capacity in the priority areas identified by the IMF report on the observance of standards and codes in fiscal transparency and urged the President to ... draw on the expertise of development partners in identifying external resident advisors," he said.
Nevertheless, President Obiang had given the IMF officials promises that the situation would now improve. "In my discussion with the President, I was greatly encouraged by the importance he placed on transparency in oil resource management and public expenditure," Mr Carstens noted.
Transparency and accountability were seen as "essential for good governance, private investment, and an improved business climate" by the IMF official. Despite its sudden and large oil revenues, Equatorial Guinea needed to create "an environment conducive to private sector activity," he had told the President.
According to Mr Carstens, the two had "agreed on the need to build on the authorities' recent efforts to increase the transparency of oil related transactions and improve public accounting procedures, including by reconciling and routinely publishing oil revenue data, the government's foreign asset holdings, and the audited accounts of the state oil company."
During the discussion between the two men, President Obiang had "expressed concern about the administration's serious institutional capacity constraints, which hinder its ability to implement economic policy." He was advised to seek the support of Equatorial Guinea's development partners.
The IMF official was visiting Equatorial Guinea to participate at a resource management workshop uniting parliamentarians from the countries of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC) - Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Congo Kinshasa, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The workshop was organised at the initiative of Equatoguinean authorities.
The proceedings showed that CEMAC members had "keenly observed the experiences of other countries in sustainably exploiting natural resources." The Gulf of Guinea countries were in particular planning to copy the best of current international resource transparency initiatives.
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