Saturday, December 01, 2007

India joins the scramble for Africa

A delegation from Chad, which met external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh, has expressed willingness to allow India to participate in oil exploration in the country. India has offered Chad training in various sectors, including the petroleum sector, in exchange for participation in oil exploration in the West African country.

The Chad government, which wants Indian expertise in setting up a fertiliser plant, a cement factory and technical know-how in the dairy and leather industry, is only too willing to trade with oil blocks. Sources said the Chad government in response to the Indian interest has said it will look at giving oil blocks to India.

Chad also has a huge reserve of minerals, including uranium. “Yes, we have uranium reserves. We have already signed contracts with three companies for carrying out exploration activities. There are more blocks, and I would invite Indian companies,”

India is looking at raising its oil and gas imports from energy-rich Africa. To meet its growing domestic demand, the country is planning to import nearly 38 per cent more crude oil from the region in the next three years. The Petroleum Secretary said India wants to acquire more oil and gas fields as well as other energy projects like refineries, petrochemical plants, and pipelines in the region.

To unlock Chad's oil wealth, a 1,000 mile pipeline from Chad through Cameroon to the coast was constructed. The project was backed by the World Bank, which lent money and support on condition Let's use oil revenues to benefit all that much of the revenue from the oil wealth would go to poverty alleviation programmes.
This was written into Chad's laws.The particulars of the agreement (actually the law) were that 80 per cent of oil revenues would be spent on development projects, particularly in the social sector. The money would be kept in a Citibank account in London.
It looked like a foolproof deal. Barely two years later in 2005, the Chadian government changed the law and gave itself more discretion to spend the oil revenue as it pleased. As is to be expected in the circumstances, some of the money was used to purchase arms to shore up efforts to beat off a rebellion against the government. So on July 14, 2006, the World Bank and Chad signed a memorandum of understanding (another agreement) under which the Government committed 70 per cent of oil revenues to poverty reduction programmes.

But some top oil producers, which include Angola, Chad and Nigeria, did not make any gains in GNP , prompting the World Bank to conclude that mineral resources "do not always determine success".

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