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Promessas Untuosas

O Financial Times está, aparentemente, fazendo uma série sobre paisecos com produção petrolífera crescente. Ela é interessante porque dois dos países já publicados, pelo menos, fazem parte da região que já foi resumida no livro "Broken Dreams" - sem ser, apesar disso, as distopias simples evocadas por uma menção da Ásia Central ou da África.


In hazy winter light the newly built capital of Kazakhstan appears like a mirage rising from a bleak and windswept plain. Built from metal and glass, dominated by a tall white tower with a golden egg on top, Astana projects Kazakhstan's aspiration to be a modern, rich and powerful country in Central Asia.

But the extravagant capital is also a reminder of the dangers awaiting this oil-rich republic.

Few countries among former Soviet republics can boast the rate of growth that Kazakhstan has achieved over the past few years. Its oil-dependent economy has been growing by more than 10 per cent a year on average. Much of this growth is the result of investment in the oil sector. Some $28bn (€21.5bn, £14.8bn) in foreign direct investment has flowed in over the past decade 80 per cent of it in the oil sector.

Kazakhstan produces 1m barrels of oil a day at present but is planning to triple the volume of its output and the size of its economy by 2015. The country is blessed with the most promising part of the Caspian Sea. Five years ago a group of six oil companies led by Italy's Agip discovered Kashagan field the biggest oil find in 30 years.

São Tomé e Príncipe :

In the dilapidated Portuguese cocoa plantation houses at Agua Ize, São Tomé and Principe, residents gather under a rotting roof to avoid the rain. Above their heads, offering a tantalising glimpse of a world beyond the surrounding dank disrepair, an old election campaign poster hints at the country's anticipated oil boom. “It is now!” says the propaganda of the opposition Party of Democratic Convergence, pledging “better sharing of resources”.

Domingas da Costa Frota Pereira, an unemployed mother of three children, looks up and laughs: “They would put the money in their own pockets,” she says.

Such pessimism contrasts with the international excitement surrounding a country widely styled as Africa's newest petro-state. São Tomé, a sleepy west coast archipelago with a population of 150,000 people, is seen by many outside as the nation as having perhaps the best chance to avoid the “paradox of plenty” that has made oil-rich African countries among the world's poorest and worst-governed.

The auction for the first exploration licence in a deep water zone being developed jointly with Nigeria is expected soon to yield São Tomé about $50m, or almost four times last year's total estimated government tax revenues. Estimates of the amount of oil in the zone run to more than 10bn barrels, although no reserves have yet been proved.

Examples abound of how other developing countries have mismanaged oil revenues, sometimes with disastrous results. To the east, Gabon's President Omar Bongo marked his 37th anniversary in power last month. To the north, Nigeria has a history of coups and corruption, while Equatorial Guinea is brutally repressive.

São Tomé's strategic position in this problematic region is one reason why it is attracting attention. Surrounding countries account for 15 per cent of US crude imports and their share is predicted to rise towards a quarter by 2020. US civilian and military officials have visited São Tomé increasingly frequently. Washington is also funding a feasibility study for a deepwater harbour for oil industry activity and trade.

Trinidad e Tobago

Tourists in the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago will gyrate boldly to the endless soca and calypso melodies hammered out by steel-bands at next month’s carnival.

But inhabitants of the former British colony will be grooving to a new rhythm, as the Caribbean country’s economy pulsates in tune with an energy boom.

”We have gas out there,” says Anthony Cummings, a labourer from Port of Spain, the capital. “I haven’t seen it but the government says it’s going to help us.”

The world’s top energy companies have been flocking to Trinidad and Tobago, eager to position themselves to satisfy rising demand--and surging prices—for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the US.

In just a few years, Trinidad has been transformed into the biggest supplier of LNG in the Americas, producing almost 80 per cent of US imports and shipping about 15m metric tonnes per year. Trinidad has benefited from its proximity to the US compared with other gas rich countries, such as Qatar and Nigeria.

However, companies such as British Gas and Spain’s Repsol also see Trinidad as more stable and open to investment. In contrast, the much larger gas reserves of Venezuela to the south remain untapped as a result of the government’s unwillingness to open up the sector to foreign investors.

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