Steve Coll’s new book, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, is out and Democracy Now! has an extensive interview with him about Exxon’s dirty dealings from Indonesia to Nigeria and Chad.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview about ExxonMobil’s involvement in Chad:
Chad, of course, is a benighted country—today about 181st out of 187 countries in the human development index kept by the United Nations indicating quality of life. Life expectancy there is still below 50 years. But it has oil. And its authoritarian leader, to put it politely, Idriss Déby, decided to try to develop this oil, even though Chad was landlocked and didn’t have any national capacity to build an oil company, so they invited in Exxon and the World Bank. And they undertook this experiment, really without precedent, to require Chad to use its oil profits for the good of its people, spending on education, health and social development. And Exxon was a participant in this and described it as potentially a new model to address the resource curse in Africa, where countries that are rich in minerals but try to develop through the sale of those minerals often fail to serve their people very well. So this was a kind of a grand experiment. And it failed.
I haven’t posted anything in a while, as I’m in the midst of editing. I’ll post more material soon. In the meantime, here’s some news from the recent IMF staff mission to Chad (March 4-17):
“Economic activity remained sluggish in 2009, but inflation increased further, owing to food prices. Low rainfall, and therefore agricultural output, plus the trend decline in oil production led to a contraction in real GDP of about 2 percent. The bad harvest could imply food shortage for up to 2 million people (18 percent of the population). The need for additional food is estimated at between 80,000 to 100,000 metric tons, for which the government has requested external assistance.
“The global financial crisis affected Chad mainly through the ensuing decline in oil prices. The fiscal position deteriorated sharply in 2009 to a deficit of about 20 percent of non-oil GDP as the government maintained spending levels in the face of a fall-off in oil revenues by almost depleting its oil savings and borrowing from the central bank…Overspending on security and investment in 2009 absorbed an important part of the resources that had been lined up to finance the 2010 budget.”
Hardly looks good. Chad remains desperately poor, 18% of the population risks going hungry and the government can’t pay its bills. All this despite the benefits that oil brought to the country.
Money in, money out. I think this is what economists’ call the “resource curse”, you know, what wasn’t going to happen this time…
The President of Chad, Idriss Deby, made a surprise visit to Yaounde on October 28th. As the visit was announced only 24 hours before Deby’s arrival, the private press was full of speculation on what urgent matter brought Deby to Cameroon.
Officially, Biya and Deby held a short, private meeting to discuss bilateral cooperation and the receding waters of Lake Chad, an item that both countries will bring up at the Copenhagen climate conference. Unofficially, the corruption scandal at the Bank of Central African States, in which a Chadian minister may be implicated, as well as the renegotiation of pipeline contracts, could have been items for discussion.