Angola makes oil money pledge

Oct 17, 2008 02:00 AM

by Carmen Gentile

The Angolan government has called for a more equitable distribution of the country's oil wealth to fight poverty and for other social spending following its recent self-proclaimed victory over a separatist group in the oil-rich province of Cabinda.
The head of Angola's ruling MPLA Party, Bornito de Sousa, said the Angolan government expects "greater equality in wealth distribution" following its decisive victory in national elections in September.

The MPLA defeated the former armed rebel group UNITA Party across the board in September balloting.
"The (Angolan) people expect the government to act in the fight against poverty," de Sousa said earlier. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet later to discuss, and possibly approve, a national budget.

Angolan officials have maintained that their social spending agenda would not be deterred by falling global oil prices, pledging to spend $ 50 bn on low-income housing and other projects. The upcoming budget will also focus on shoring up Angola's growing petroleum sector, according to officials, with direct investment in the country's ports.
Angola's professed commitment to invest in the country's social programs and leading export comes amid unprecedented economic expansion, up 20 % in 2007 from the previous year, according to estimates. It also follows a recent effort to stymie a persistent insurgency by separatist rebels in its main oil-producing province, Cabinda.

The southern African country, which endured three decades of civil war that ended in 2002, has been keen to keep production steady while the continent's other major producer, Nigeria, struggles to fight a continuing armed militant movement in its main oil region, the Niger Delta.
Output later surpassed the 2 mm bpd mark, surpassing Nigeria for a short while, though it since has slid to 1.95 mm bpd because of difficulties at an offshore oil field near Cabinda.

Though Angola's emergence as a regional oil contender is undeniable, some experts warned againstjust yet anointing it Africa's new petroleum titan.
"Angola is certainly a big upcoming producer," Africa oil expert John Ghazvinian, author of "Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil," told. "Although monthly (production) figures can fluctuate," he added. He noted that the return to even partial capacity of a few facilities in the delta would return Nigeria to the top spot among petroleum producers in Africa.

The oil author did note that while oil production in the delta and at offshore platforms has been interrupted numerous times since the emergence of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) three years ago, not to mention decades prior by the armed group's predecessors, Angola's petroleum sector has remained relatively free from violent disruptions.
Since its emergence from its decades-long war, Angola has significantly ramped up production and managed to attract new customers such as China, in 2006 supplanting Saudi Arabia as China's top oil supplier. However, Angola has had its own share of difficulties with armed groups vying for its country's oil wealth.

Cabinda has been the scene of violence blamed on the separatist group known as the Liberation of the Cabinda Enclave, or FLEC.
"Luanda (Angola's capital) will act to ensure that FLEC does not present an obstacle to the government's goals of becoming a major oil-producing state and using its wealth to become the geopolitical hegemony in south-central Africa," read a recent report by Stratfor Strategic Forecasting.

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