Spending PrioritiesOctober 12, 2011
As Equatorial Guinea celebrates its 43rd year of Independence, the Equatoguinean government should prioritize spending that addresses social needs and improves the wellbeing of its citizens.
Spending Should Address Social Needs
(Washington, D.C., October 12, 2011)—As the people of Equatorial Guinea celebrate their country’s 43rd year of Independence, the Equatoguinean government should prioritize spending that addresses social needs and improves the wellbeing of all citizens, EG Justice said today.
Equatorial Guinea is the 3rd largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa. Thanks to oil, the country’s per-capita wealth is comparable to that of Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Despite this wealth, many citizens still lack access to adequate sanitation facilities, potable water, a quality education, and affordable, modern healthcare. Meanwhile, the government has invested heavily on showcase infrastructure projects, including more than $800 million in a luxury resort to host the June 2011 African Union Summit, numerous presidential palaces, and ultra-modern airports that service small, sparsely populated islands whose residents remain mired in poverty.
“The government of Equatorial Guinea has questionable spending priorities,” said Joseph Kraus, Program and Development Director at EG Justice. “It is spending billions of dollars on lavish infrastructure projects that principally cater to the elite while ordinary citizens go without basic social services.”
For instance, as part of the Independence Day celebrations this week, Teodoro Obiang—Africa’s longest-ruling president—traveled to Corisco Island to inaugurate a new airport. Corisco Island, a strip of land that encompasses less than 10 square miles, is home to a few hundred mostly impoverished families, yet the new airport’s 3000 meter runway was built to accommodate some of the world’s largest airplanes.
In June 2011, the government unveiled Sipopo, a $830 million luxury resort that features a private, mile-long artificial beach, 52 beach-front villas, an 18-hole golf course, the country’s first spa, a heliport and a new conference center. Sipopo played host—for one week—to the delegates who attended the 17th African Union summit.
Last year, President Obiang celebrated Independence Day on Annobón Island, home to approximately 1500 people who live without reliable access to drinking water, electricity, and quality schools. There, he inaugurated what the government labeled “the best airport” in Equatorial Guinea, as well as a deep-sea port on which the government spent more than $135 million. The government has stated that construction projects aimed at improving access to drinking water, electricity, and better schools are “imminent.”
The government is also constructing a new capital city, Oyala, amidst prime rain forest on the mainland, at an undisclosed expense.
Meanwhile, a new presidential palace in downtown Malabo covers an area equivalent to 12 city blocks, and additional presidential palaces have been completed or are underway in many other cities, including Bata, Luba, Malabo II, Moka, Mongomo, and Oyala.
“If the government intends to convert the country’s finite oil wealth into sustainable development that improves the lives of all Equatoguineans, it needs to invest more in sectors that have a direct impact on their lives,” Kraus said.
[Note: The photo on the front page is of the new presidential palace in Malabo.]