International oil companies such as the US giant Chevron are beginning exploration off of Liberia’s coastline. However, this new report by Global Witness and Liberian Oil and Gas Initiative (LOGI)(1) suggests that the war-ravaged country must implement urgent reforms to the functioning of its oil sector or risk any benefits being lost to the corruption and resource-fuelled instability that has blighted the country’s recent history.
Curse or Cure? How oil can boost or break Liberia’s post-war recovery shows that even before a discovery is made, there are deep-seated problems in Liberia’s oil sector: government officials and at least one company have paid bribes, contracts have been awarded illegally and companies with little experience in the oil sector have received concessions.
With a crucial election upcoming in October 2011, the new Liberian government and international donors have a choice. They can reform the country’s laws and government agencies so that Liberia’s people benefit from oil. Or they can allow Liberia to continue down its present path, undermining the country’s post-war reconstruction and risking a return to the corrupt, unstable resource management that has characterized Liberia’s history. The report provides an analysis of governance in the oil sector and sets out what must be done to reform.
Note:(1) The Liberian Oil and Gas Initiative report is comprised of four Liberian civil society groups: Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Liberia Democratic Institute (LDI), Liberia Media Initiative for Peace Democracy and Development (LMI) and Sustainable Development Institute (SDI).