posted by www.equatorialguineaonline.com – September 11th, 2012
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s regime is again looking at reforms that would make the government more accountable and the regime more transparent.
Moving the goalposts again
Even though the government has not followed through on its previous promises, it continues to make new ones. Obiang Nguema, now 69, has ruled the country for 32 years but sees the idea of presidential term limits as a potential means to win more international support for a country that attracts rafts of negative attention. In October, the US Department of Justice sought to seize more than $70m in property held by the president’s son Teodorin that they believe had been purchased through misappropriation of public funds.
The ruling Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE) remains intolerant of political opposition. The UN Human Rights Council criticised the government in Malabo in September after the authorities executed four men allegedly involved in a 2009 attack on the presidential palace, without giving them the right to appeal. In a bid to improve its international image, the PDGE began campaigning in October for changes to the fundamental law that will strengthen the presidency, create term limits of two seven-year terms and establish new institutions like the Senate, the Ombudsman’s Office and Court of Auditors. A referendum was held on the reforms on 13 November and passed without suspense.
The mining sector is resurgent but will be constrained by a lack of power, and weak transportation and processing infrastructure
The government sought to broaden its African profile by hosting the July African Union summit. There, amidst the instability in Libya, President Obiang Nguema railed against international interventions based theoretically on human rights grounds. The country will co-host the 2012 African Cup of Nations football tournament with Gabon in January and February, attracting tourists and foreign media.
Whether the country’s oil and gas will last another 10 or 30 years, the IMF and other donors are pressuring the government to diversify the economy. Priorities for economic diversification include agriculture, fisheries and tourism. World Bank officials say that institutional reforms are needed to launch the economy into another league. Togo-based Ecobank said that Equatorial Guinea offers an attractive operating environment, and it is seeking approval for a banking licence there.
Malabo may have more pedestrian bridges than any other city in Africa, but in terms of the business environment, health and education, Equatorial Guinea lags behind its continental counterparts. There is still progress to be made in the provision of electricity, and the administration plans to inaugurate the Djibloho dam built by China’s Sinohydro and financed by the government’s own funds in 2012. To improve its performance, the Sociedad de Electricidad de Guinea Ecuatorial is in the process of being restructured and privatised.
Despite best intentions, oil and gas remain the mainstays of the economy. The energy ministry predicts that oil production will rise to about 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2012 thanks to new production from the Aseng field operated by Noble Energy. Meanwhile, most companies there have plans to drill on gas prospects in the year to come. China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Noble, PetroSA, Repsol and the state were in discussions at the end of 2011 on plans for a second liquified natural gas plant, which would cost an estimated $2.2bn. Equatorial Guinea has dropped plans to source gas for the plant from Nigeria or Cameroon but the necessary capacity of the plant will only be known when more drilling is completed in 2012. In October, Ophir Energy increased the size of its acreage on Block R in order to encompass more than 3bn ft3 of indicated gas reserves.
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