Equatorial Guinea’s mismanagement of its oil wealth has contributed to the chronic underfunding of its public health and education systems in violation of its human rights obligations, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.
HRW said in an 85-page report that the government spent only 2 to 3 per cent of its annual budget on health and education in 2008 and 2011, the years for which data is available, while devoting around 80 per cent to sometimes questionable
large-scale infrastructure projects.
The report is titled; Manna From Heaven’?: How Health and Education Pay the Price for Self-Dealing in Equatorial Guinea”.
It also exposes how, according to evidence presented in money laundering investigations carried out by several countries, senior Equatorial Guinea government officials reaped enormous profits from public construction
contracts awarded to companies they fully or partially owned, in many cases in partnership with foreigners, in an opaque and non-competitive process.
Little time left
“Declining oil reserves mean that there is very little time left for the government to correct course and significantly invest in improving the country’s woeful health and education indicators," says the report.
“Now that the economy has been doubly hit by declining oil production and prices, it is more critical than ever for the government to invest public funds in social services instead of dubious infrastructure
projects,” HRW quoted its business and human rights researcher Sarah Saadoun as saying.
“Ordinary people have paid the price for the ruling elite’s corruption,” she was further quoted.
Equatorial Guinea is a small central African nation of around 1 million people.
Its President Teodoro Obiang' Nguema is the world’s longest-serving leader and has ruled the former Spanish colony since 1979 when he ousted his uncle in a military coup.
Equatorial Guinea, though originally Spanish-speaking, applied to join Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking bloc) in 2006 and was admitted.
The Central African nation earned approximately $45 billion in oil revenues between 2000 and 2013, catapulting it from one of the world’s poorest countries to the one with the highest per capita income in Africa.
But since 2012, its GDP has contracted by 29 per cent and, according to the International Monetary Fund, oil reserves were expected to run dry by 2035 unless new ones were found.