The International Monetary Fund says Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the world’s longest-serving ruler, should declare his assets before the nation receives more financial support.
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 to last week, the government 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, and his regime have been accused by prosecutors in the U.S. and France of squandering the tiny Central African nation’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 that equate to 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 underway 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.
The IMF will also require Equatorial Guinea to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which promotes good governance in the oil and mining industries. The country initially applied in 2008 and has since implemented several reforms to meet the membership requirements. Authorities filed a new application last month, Lisandro 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.