Mar 26, 2014

Oil for Uganda - or Ugandans? Oil for your country or for you?

Oil for Uganda - or Ugandans?
Oil for Uganda - or Ugandans?

This is the profound title of a report, by Alan Gelb and Stephanie Majerowicz from the Center for Global Development, looking at citizen dividend for Ugandans, from their oil resource. It is a question that every citizen in every country should be asking. Oil for your country or for you?

The basic question is whether the oil revenue gets confiscated by the government or it gets distributed to its citizen owners.

The report asks the most fundamental question about citizen ownership of his/her country:
"The national patrimony of a country—including historical, cultural, and natural resource wealth—belongs almost by definition to each and every citizen. Why should oil or natural gas resources extracted from Nigerian or Iraqi or Ugandan soil automatically end up as public resources to be used – or abused – as determined by the government of the day?" 
The report recommends a citizen dividend, and at the same time opines that it may be hard to find enlightened politicians who are willing to support a citizen dividend.
"Ultimately, distribution of the oil rents therefore can be considered as a way to mitigate the risk that Uganda will succumb to the resource curse. This, coupled with the benefits of the cash itself in reducing poverty, and the possibilities of building up a tax system that can produce a more accountable delivery of public services (including the much needed infrastructure)  suggests that cash transfers are an option worth considering in the Ugandan context, even though finding politicians willing to adopt such a policy may prove impossible." 
Citizens around the world will just have to look harder to find politicians willing to champion a citizen dividend. There are quite a number around. The most recent example is Justin Trudeau from the Liberal Party of Canada.

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