Open Oil, a consultancy that promotes transparency in the oil and gas industry, visits Venezuela and makes some quick observations. Pretty observant article, though I don’t give much care for “political harassment” as a reason for the lack of oil-related activism in Venezuela. I think the people with education are just too busy living or leaving. But whatever, go take a gander. It’s amusing to see the gap between Venezuelan kleptocracy and a European’s concerns about transparency, open contracting, and the finer points of avoiding conflicts of interest.
Oil really runs in the veins in Venezuela, not just as the century-old beating heart of the economy but as something that has truly suffused the consciousness of the Venezuelan people. But while there is chatter around kitchen tables, this noise is not replicated and amplified in civil society organisations, either national or international. Don’t expect to find here the armies of transparency activists, conferences, workshops and eager chasing of international transparency standards you might encounter in Peru. It may be a crude measure (pun only partially intended) but if we look at the World Bank’s GOXI project (which brings together together those with an interest in governance of the extractive industries across the globe) the Peru-based ‘Goxians’ number 21 (in a country with 0.1% of the world’s oil reserves and a mining sector than represents 63% of export revenues), Ecuadorian Goxians (0.4% of global oil reserves, and 50% of export earnings) number 9. Even in Colombia, where the transparency debate is very much in its infancy, 5 brave souls have signed up. Yet in Venezuela, holder of 17.9% of the world’s petroleum reserves and where oil represents 94% of export revenues, there is not a single ‘Goxian’ to be found.
Also, the always interesting Tom O’Donnell is starting to write about what Venezuelan presidential succession could mean for Venezuelan oil. Personally, I started a post on the topic and it ended up pretty boring: I say nothing will change for at least a year even if Pres. Chávez dies. In fact I would expect quicker changes in the oil industry if he remains in power than if he hands power over. He’s the only person who could raise gasoline prices, reduce the PDVSA payroll or ease the tax regime without having to face holy hell from the public. But hey, that’s just my take. Here’s Tom!