This past week Justiça Ambiental fired off comments in response to the Natural Gas Master Plan for Mozambique which was presented in a workshop on 6th September in Maputo. The World Bank and the Government of Mozambique commissioned consultants from ICF International based in the USA to write the Master Plan.
Lack of effective participation
The timeline and the participation process was a mockery. We were given only one week to read and respond to the report. We were not provided with the full report, despite having requested it, only the Executive Summary. It would be ethically incorrect if the government or the consultants claimed that a public participation process has occurred.
Hidden Truths and False Intentions
Although the Plan says its intention is to “maximize benefits to Mozambique society”, it appears like the intention is to maximise benefits to international oil companies and Mozambican elites instead.
There are many important questions the Master Plan does not address.
- Is this the right time for gas to be explored in Mozambique?
- Does the country have the necessary critical factors in place to prevent the gas resource from turning into a resource curse?
- Does it have the necessary well-functioning legal, regulatory, and financial systems?
- Does it encourage vibrant and democratic civil society institutions?
- Does it focus on ways to improve accountability, transparency, and participation?
- Does it focus on developing small and medium industries?
- Does it effectively ameliorate social and environmental impacts?
The lack of attention in dealing with these issues will only result in feeding the growth of the corrupt elites and place Mozambique on the long list of African countries plagued by the resource curse.
Lack of effective regulatory, legal and other systems
The Master Plan is alluding that Mozambique has some readiness to approach gas development because it has “over the past decade been steadily building a regulatory framework under which to manage the development of its gas resources.”
This is totally misleading because Mozambique has at best taken steps only on paper, and these laws and regulations have not actually been transferred into reality. Mozambicans often sceptically say that these paper laws are to show foreigners and for the powerful to ignore. Many laws recently created in Mozambique have huge loopholes.
Where is the Corruption? Missing in this Master Plan!
It is quite shocking to note that the word ‘corruption’ appears in this entire 46-page document once. But that too is in reference to Nigeria, not Mozambique.
Isn’t it strange that the Gas Master Plan doesn’t even mention corruption in Mozambique when we have the dubious distinction of being in a low 120 out of 182 position on the Corruption Perception Index.
Gas or Tourism
Tourism is one of biggest contributors to Mozambique’s economy and one of the fastest-growing sectors. With gas exploration in the Rovuma basin, the tourism potential of the region will be jeopardised. The impacts of gas exploration on the Quirimbas marine reserves will be devastating.
Mega-projects: Who benefits?
The Master Plan recommends that Mozambique should prioritise mega-projects. However, the history of mega-projects in Mozambique clearly shows that they are purely self-serving, extractive, export-oriented ventures that provide Mozambique with only a small amount of low-skilled jobs and a lot of pollution.
The contribution of mega-projects to the Mozambican state in 2010 and 2011 was insignificant. The President of Mozambique’s Tax Authority said in an interview that the 2011 contribution of megaprojects to the state was even lower than the contribution of the informal sector.
Social and Environmental Impacts Ignored
The Master Plan claims that increased employment in the country is an objective. The Mozambican government does not prioritise training and capacity-building of Mozambicans, nor supporting small and medium industries, so it is clear that foreigners and local elites will walk away with the lion’s share of benefits from the gas sector.
This Master Plan pretends as if environmental impacts are small and can be ameliorated if managed properly. This is a fallacy. These activities are highly environmentally detrimental and Mozambique does not have a good track record in conducting effective Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). In most cases, the EIAs just act as a ‘rubber stamp’ whereas the political decisions for projects are made before the EIAs are even conducted.