For many developing countries, natural resource wealth offers a potential way out of persistant poverty. There are few places in the world where this is as true as Niger, a landlocked country with a per-capita GDP of just US$400. The country has substantial mining exports and potential oil reserves, but an opaque financial system empowers a corrupt and increasingly autocratic regime, and little wealth from natural resources has reached the people on the ground. Niger ranks 186th out of 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index.
Our friends at Publish What You Pay (PWYP) have been leading a campaign for revenue transparency in the oil, gas, and mining industries. The goal is to make sure that every time a multi-national oil, gas, or mining company makes a deal for natural resources with a government anywhere in the world, the citizens of that country know what money is coming in. This information will help them hold their governments accountable, and make sure that precious resource wealth does not disappear into a black box of corruption in places like Niger.
Of course, a lot of people stand to lose from this kind of transparency. Below is a video produced by PWYP about what their activists are struggling with in Niger.
There is good news on this issue. In August, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finalized rules requiring substantial transparency for all oil, gas, and mining deals by companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges with foreign governments. This will be a tremendous boon to activists like those of PWYP-Niger. Unfortunately, industry lobbyists are currently fighting the regulations in court.
While the SEC has stated that they will allow the rules to move forward pending the lawsuit, those industry groups need to drop the lawsuit right away. As this video shows, financial transparency is a key enabler for activism and the fight against corruption.
Disclaimer: Unless specifically stated to be the views of the Financial Transparency Coalition, the opinions expressed on this blog are solely the opinions of the individual blogger and are not necessarily those of the Financial Transparency Coalition.