(Paris, June 15, 2017) – Equatorial Guinea’s mismanagement of its oil wealth has contributed to chronic underfunding of its public health and education systems in violation of its human rights obligations, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Declining oil reserves mean that there is very little time left for the government to correct course and significantly invest in improving the country’s woeful health and education indicators.
The 85-page report, “‘Manna From Heaven’?: How Health and Education Pay the Price for Self-Dealing in Equatorial Guinea,” reveals that the government spent only 2 to 3 percent of its annual budget on health and education in 2008 and 2011, the years for which data is available, while devoting around 80 percent to sometimes questionable large-scale infrastructure projects. The report also exposes how, according to evidence presented in money laundering investigations carried out by several countries, senior government officials reap enormous profits from public construction contracts awarded to companies they fully or partially own, in many cases in partnership with foreign companies, in an opaque and noncompetitive process.
In one stark example, the government is constructing a new administrative capital, Oyala, in the middle of the jungle after it spent hundreds of millions of dollars constructing government buildings in both the island capital, Malabo, and the largest city, Bata, for the same purpose. According to a 2015 IMF report, planned total spending on Oyala that year came to US$8 billion. An unpublished draft of a 2016 IMF report obtained by Human Rights Watch estimated that spending on Oyala would consume half of all public investment in 2016.
“While its oil reserves dry up, the government defends the status quo,” Saadoun said. “It may not be too late to put Equatorial Guinea’s oil wealth to good use, but the window is closing fast.”