August 23, 2012

Sunshine rules might signify more darkness

Sir, those “Sunshine rules” you refer to August 23, namely the Sec ordering US-listed companies to disclose the payments they make to the host governments, are absolutely great news… for those countries where civil society is strong enough to matter... and governments have at least the intention of listening to it.

But, in those countries where civil society is truly weak, something which so often is the case of countries suffering the curse of abundant natural resources, those sunshine rules might only mean more darkness, as they would tend to exclude the sort of more reasonable or least unethical extractive industry corporations from participating, leaving the field open to the truly unreasonable and least ethical. 

Why not invest instead all these efforts in supporting the development of strong “independent” civil societies which can demand better results where it really matters, not in the corporate reports of companies listed in the stock-exchanges of developed countries, or in an annual report of a well intention NGO, but on their own oil-fields and mines? 

Now if the SEC would follow up this by approving a list of countries where a reasonable active participation of civil society existed, and in which therefore these sunshine rules would apply, and a list of those countries where they are impossible to apply, that could be more helpful, not only for us oil cursed citizens, but even for their own listed natural resource companies. 

PS. One of the main promoters of “sunshine”, which is good, is the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and the Dodd-Frank Act even makes a direct reference to EITI. 

Nonetheless, EITI, as its second principle states: “We affirm that management of natural resource wealth for the benefit of a country’s citizens is in the domain of sovereign governments to be exercised in the interests of their national development.”, and that to me, as an oil-cursed citizen, is a totally unacceptable principle. 

I believe that the individual citizens will always, on average, make a better use of any natural resource blessings, than their government managing all of these… and using all of these so as to guarantee themselves some truly submissive citizens.