27 Dec 2019
Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the world’s longest-serving ruler, must declare his assets before the nation receives more financial support, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The central African nation needs an IMF bailout to deal with a crisis that shrank its economy by a third to $13 billion last year. Under a program agreed last week, the state will be required to increase transparency, improve governance and implement reforms to fight corruption, Lisandro Abrego, the lender’s mission chief for Equatorial Guinea, said in an interview.
“Authorities will implement an asset-declaration regime for senior public officials as part of the program’s requirements,” he said by phone from Washington. “It’s our understanding that the law will apply to all senior government officials.”
Obiang, in power since August 1979, has been accused by prosecutors in the U.S. and France of squandering the tiny Central African’s vast oil wealth. As recently as 2017, Equatorial Guinea was as rich in per-capita terms as its former colonial master Spain. Today, OPEC’s smallest member is struggling to pay its debts after oil prices collapsed in 2014. The government has piled up arrears with construction firms of almost 19% of its gross domestic product, according to the World Bank.
“The economy has been hit hard by the decline in oil and gas prices, which has affected export earnings and led to a virtual depletion of foreign assets,” Lisandro said. “The economy has also been affected by longstanding governance and corruption problems.”
Audits by the government of state-owned oil and gas companies are already under way and should be completed by mid-2020, Lisandro said. All active oil and gas contracts are expected to be made public by March, he said.
Calls and text messages to Finance Minister Cesar Mba Abogo seeking comment went unanswered. A Finance Ministry official didn’t reply to questions sent by text message.
The IMF last week gave the green light to a $280 million loan. That’s about the same amount Obiang’s oldest son and vice president, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, spent between 2000 and 2011 buying luxury properties on four continents and assets including Michael Jackson memorabilia, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a 2013 money-laundering case that was settled the following year.
By Katarina Hoije and Alonso Soto, Bloomberg, 26 December 2019
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