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Equatorial Guinea

Volume 537: debated on Wednesday 7 December 2011

7. What estimate his Department has made of the number of people living in poverty in Equatorial Guinea. (85123)

Although Equatorial Guinea has one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa, nearly 70% of the population live in deep poverty. Most of that per capita income goes to the President and his family and cronies.

I declare an interest. My visit to Equatorial Guinea in the summer was paid for by the Equatorial Guinea Government.

The Secretary of State is quite right to say that one family control the wealth of Equatorial Guinea and are amassing an unimaginably vast fortune from drilling rights and oil revenue. Will he use his good offices to press upon the Obiang family the fact that the wealth of a nation belongs to its people, and that they should be using that money to alleviate poverty, particularly among children in Equatorial Guinea?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. She has been there and so is in a good position to speak out about what she has seen. I should say to her that we do not have any bilateral links with Equatorial Guinea, but she is right: it is a disgrace that its high level of oil wealth is stolen for the corrupt and personal use of an unaccountable and self-serving elite.

The Secretary of State rightly draws attention to the risk of corruption in Equatorial Guinea. Is it not the kind of country that could benefit from the legislation that is currently being proposed at European level to make extractive companies publish what they pay in developing countries along the lines of the Dodd-Frank Act in the United States?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, although he, like me, will be sceptical about our ability to persuade a country to do that. We have, however, raised the issue of Equatorial Guinea’s abusive human rights with the Human Rights Council in Geneva, in particular the lack of an independent judiciary, the use of torture and the death penalty and the constraints on the media.