Tuesday, October 12, 2010

As an oil-cursed citizen I object the Revenue Watch Index 2010... They do recall cars, don't they?

The 2010 Revenue Watch Index on the transparency of governments in oil gas and mining industries prepared by Revenue Watch and Transparency International was released on October 2010.

And there I see that my country Venezuela ranked 14th among 41 countries with 63.0 points out of 100 possible. What does that mean? I have no idea except being absolutely sure it does not mean what it is supposed to mean.

The first and foremost reason is that there either is sufficient information for a citizen to have a reasonable understanding of what the government is up to, or there is not. What would happened if auditors could rank companies in terms of how much of the information they would need to complete an audit they receive?

I have insufficient knowledge of other countries but what is absolutely certain is that in Venezuela the citizen is not receiving the information he would require to even have a sketchy idea of what its oil industry is really up to and how it is doing. And so I absolutely object to the ranking and declare that the ranking itself is extremely little transparent.


A fact such that the Venezuelan Government, even if it wants to market itself under the brand of 21st Century Socialism, gives away gas at the pumps for around US$ 5 cents per gallon and with that disappears a big chunk of Venezuela’s GDP, from those having nothing of nothing and gives it to the motorists, is not even reflected on the Index. Just that fact alone should have placed Venezuela among the last.

As an oil cursed citizen who knows that the absolute worst part of the oil-curse is the creation of an independently wealthy government for which the citizens are almost a nuisance, what I would like to see standing out in any applicable index, is how much of the oil revenues are turned over to the citizens in cash, no questions asked, no votes expected. This has not even been referred to in the Index.

Finally if you really want to be transparent on oil, you would have to complement this index with a report of how much the foreign taxman receives from taxing gasoline because that income often exceeds the whole oil income an oil extracting country receives for sacrificing its natural resources.

I truly understand and believe that Revenue Watch and Transparency International produce this index with their best intentions, and I thank them for that, but unfortunately, when you are an oil-cursed citizen all the best intentions of the world do not cut it.

I shiver to think how many oiligarchs and petrocrats can and will use the index to convince their poor oil-cursed citizens that they are doing a great job, comparable to what the other resource countries do, and, if off-track, this is only marginally so… as the figures indicate.

I respectfully request the Revenue Watch Index 2010 to be immediately recalled because of serious and dangerous malfunctioning! They do recall cars, don't they?

Ps. If further proof about the index being totally faulty is required, it suffices to mention that in the just published Corruption Perception Index 2010, published by Transparency International my country appears as number 164 among 178.

Ps. During the recent conference “Extractive Industries and sustainable Development” organized by the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment I had the opportunity to make some of the observation against the 2010 Revenue Watch Index to Karin Lissakers, the Director of Revenue Watch Institute. She admitted they also had serious doubts about it. But if they had serious doubts, why did they then go ahead and publish it? Have they never heard of “do no harm”?