Friday, December 23, 2011

Angola: Fifty years of continued uprisings

Angola is reputed to be the third fastest growing country in the world. This is a prime example of a society where growth does not have a positive impact on the quality of the lives of the 99 per cent of Angolans. From the Human Development Indices of the United Nations, the people of Angola are near the bottom of the pile, ranked 148 out of 187. Exploitation and social inequality are apparent in all areas of life of the society, witness the gated communities, high-rise buildings and the latest luxury vehicles in a space where there is little delivery of basic services such as water, electricity, sewage systems and malaria prevention. For international capital, this is success.

All of the major business papers and magazines wax lyrical with news of the possibilities for investment in Angola. It is difficult to get a seat on a flight to Angola because ‘entrepreneurs’ of varying levels are on the path to El Dorado in Angola. Luanda, the capital of Angola is one of the cities of the world where the skyline is rapidly changing with a major construction boom. Plans for the building of a million new houses across Angola have ensnared Chinese, Brazilian, Spanish and Portuguese corporations with companies from every part of the capitalist world from Korea to Germany and from India to the United States jockeying to join the gravy train.

Massive and opulent shopping centres that seek to defy the laws of nature and high-rise residential complexes without water and electricity expose a political leadership who have completely lost any understanding of the society they live in. In the Bay of Luanda, a historic point of embarkation for millions of enslaved Africans, there is a US$2.3 billion dollar project to build offices, houses, and buildings for commerce, hotels, tourism and leisure. This project is dubbed the creation of a New Dubai. Although the project is marketed as a component of the reconstruction of the society involving the ministries of public works, and urbanisation and environment and the provincial government of Luanda, this multibillion project represents infrastructure projects where a few Angolans get rich in alliance with foreign construction companies.

Additionally, this massive construction project is one more effort for the very rich to enter the top league of those making illegitimate or excessively large windfall gains and enter the top league of financial entrepreneurs who are aligned to the ‘financialisation of energy markets.’ Sonangol (Sociedade Nacional de Petróleos de Angola – National Society of Petroleum of Angola), the state oil company, has entered the major league of top energy traders; one component of this trade is to build the financial infrastructure to move resources independent of government oversight. Sonangol shares some of the same characteristics as the massive operations that had been undertaken in Libya by the state-controlled Libyan Investment Authority.

Libya had entered into the opaque world of financing energy markets through the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) before their allies in Wall Street considered the unpredictability of Gaddafi of Libya too threatening. Libya is, like Angola, a top producer of petroleum products and after December 2010, the Central Bank of Libya took the controlling position in the Arab Banking Corporation based in Bahrain. The Arab Banking Corporation was owned by Kuwait Investment Authority, Central Bank of Libya, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and other shareholders with minor shares. At present very few reports have linked the Libyan dominance in the Arab Banking Corporation to the seismic events in Libya since February 2011.

After December 2010, Muhammad Layas of Libya had taken over in this major financial institution. Any move for making independent decisions in the Arab Banking Corporation threatened the web of speculators in the derivatives industry that depended on the recycling of petrodollars from the oil rich nations of Kuwait, Libya and the Emirates. After February 17 when the Libyans started to move to divest their funds from their over-exposure with British and US financial institutions, there was the freezing of the assets of Libya prior to the façade of protecting Libyans by Britain, France and NATO. Read more