Publish What you Pay

Have we got that much to hide?
This article appeared in Vol. 10, No. 3 - 2013


Will the citizens of Tanzania enjoy the benefits of the recent discovery of hydrocarbons? Source: Jane Whaley The petroleum industry works in countries throughout the world, including those with political and economic instability and low levels of development. This can bring it into difficult or ambiguous moral territory. It is important for both global supply and for resource-rich, economically poor countries that their resources are accessed, but everyone wants to avoid the much discussed ‘resource curse’ of extreme and endemic corruption coupled with continuing poverty, with Nigeria being the most frequently cited example.

In April the European Union agreed ground-breaking new rules forcing oil, gas, mining and logging companies to publish details of the payments that they make to governments around the world for access to natural resources. This is a landmark action against corruption, providing citizens of resource-rich countries with detailed information about the money generated by their natural wealth. The law includes publicising the amounts paid for each individual resource project companies invest in, thereby allowing local communities to monitor payments from developments in their local areas. It also brings Europe in line with the Dodd Frank Act, which was introduced in the US in 2012.

The introduction of these laws was driven partly by the ‘Publish What You Pay’ campaign, which seeks transparency in the extractive industries, believing that secrecy in the energy and mining sectors hinders development in resource-rich countries. Initially, oil companies reacted quite positively to this campaign, more so than mining organisations, with a number of majors responding cautiously but favourably to the idea of revenue transparency.

It is surely true that nobody in the industry is keen to actively support corruptive practices. However, it is interesting to note that several companies which had publicly backed anti-corruption and transparency measures in the past have been under pressure recently to support a lawsuit being brought by a consortium led by the Independent Petroleum Association of America to overturn the payment disclosure provision in the Dodd Frank Act. Do they represent the industry as a whole?

Have we got that much to hide?


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A Disturbing World

We live in troubling times. After the hope of the 2010 ‘Arab Spring’ in Tunisia, we have witnessed the toppling of Ghaddafi in Libya, the overthrow of two governments in Egypt, full scale civil war in Syria and Iraq looks increasingly unstable as fundamentalist fighters of IS spread their hold on the oil-rich regions of northern Iraq and Kurdistan. And Gaza and Israel continue their uneven trade in missiles. Despite this, the search for hydrocarbons goes on. Worries about energy security and conflict always bring gains and losses to someone.
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