Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Norway: Israel is unethical but investments in Turkmenistan are fine

"This is a country which does not admit journalists and which lies at the bottom of the index for press freedom together with North Korea and Myanmar. It is a completely sealed off, totalitarian dictatorship with some of the largest human rights violations in the world. StatoilHydro is, in other words, entering into a country which is far worse than countries they have been operating in previously. Among the countries in which the company is investing heavily are Nigeria, Angola and Azerbaijan. Sætre describes Turkmenistan as a suppressed nation."

Surely, this self-serving, cynical and ruthless business behaviour qualifies as fairness by Norwegian standards of morality, as this example of how Norwegian state-owned petroleum company StatoilHydro does business in less than democratic oil rich countries shows.

Source: article in Norway, Israel and the Jews blog

Norwegian left-of-centre parties are quick to criticize Israel, pointing out that with privilege (the oil/pension fund) comes ethical responsibility. The ethical thing to do, the anti-Israel lobby argues, is do desinvest from Israel. And incidentally, invest heavily in Turkmenistan.

Unauthorized translation from the communist daily Klassekampen (Class struggle) by journalists Yohan Shanmugaratnam and Eline Lønnå.

Sets up shop in dictatorship

Gas: There is little reason to believe that StatoilHydro can change the rules of the undemocratic countries they want to enter into, such as Turkmenistan, says Simen Sætre, who is publishing a book.

The Norwegian "oil adventure" is becoming increasingly international. StatoilHydro is aggressively pursuing a favourable position in "new countries" which are being opened for foreign investors, among others in the closed of and authoritarian central Asian country Turkmenistan.

- Turkmenistan is attractive for StatoilHydro. The country is being opened up and StatoilHydro, which needs something new to do after having been in neighbouring Azerbaijan for a long time, is working to establish an office there. That means they want in, says Simen Sætre, journalist in Morgenbladet and author of the new book "Petromania" to Klassekampen.

In the book he depicts a voyage through the oil-rich nations of the world, in the middle of an oil price boom, in what he came to define as "Petromania": "a condition of euphoria / megalomania / un-inhibition accompanied by an unconscious change of personality / mentality / thought patterns as well as loss of overview / self-perception / judgment as a consequence of extraordinary hydrocarbon income, connected to booming petro-States.

Sætre attempts to find the answer to the question of what oil and gas does for us Norwegians, but also what it does to the countries in possession of this natural resource which many believe geo-politics revolves around. He tells a personal story of what the situation is like in the countries where our state-owned petroleum company are entering in order to engage in business operations.

Totalitarian

- Gas deposits stand for Turkmenistan's largest source of income and, according to the International Energy Bureau, the country is the world’s tenth largest producer and sixth largest exporter.

Simen Sætre tried in all possible manners to enter the country which is the object of desire for StatoilHydro. Finally he slipped into the country as a tourist, and travelled around the nation for two weeks in order to observe the conditions.

- This is a country which does not admit journalists and which lies at the bottom of the index for press freedom together with North Korea and Myanmar. It is a completely sealed off, totalitarian dictatorship with some of the largest human rights violations in the world. StatoilHydro is, in other words, entering into a country which is far worse than countries they have been operating in previously. Among the countries in which the company is investing heavily are Nigeria, Angola and Azerbaijan. Sætre describes Turkmenistan as a suppressed nation.

- The large income from oil and gas is controlled by one person, who has spent the money on magnificent constructions and a city made of marble. No resistance, counter-arguments or free media are allowed. If StatoilHydro enters, they will be in the pocket of the leaders of the nation, he believes.

In his book Sætre points to how oil states also statistically are less democratic than others, and provides three reasons. Oil money provides larger financial room to shape the lives of the inhabitants, and state money dominates most sectors. Furthermore one requires less income from other sources, and low taxation may lead to fewer demands for representation and responsibility – central pillars of democracy. Finally it is also about the absence of a civilian society which is independent of state, trade unions and other checks and balances.

Oil plattform made of gold

During his visit to Turkmenistan, Sætre came across, among others, a gift from a Malaysian oil company to the deceased president-for-life Saparmurat Nijazov, known as Turkmenbashi ("Father of all Turkmenis"): A miniature oil platform, made of gold.

Sætre also shows to how foreign companies which desire contracts in Turkmenistan have had to translate Turkmenbashi’s book "Ruhnama" ("Book of souls") to their respective languages.

- It must be embarrassing for StatoilHydro to see what other competing companies are doing in order to gain entrance into Turkmenistan, says Sætre. Based on studies of the oil-nation Angola, Sætre has also promoted a theory on what role a Norwegian oil company can play in what is diplomatically termed "challenging countries".

According to what he calls "The heart of Darkness" theory about oil companies, it is a myth that a Norwegian company can introduce new methods and more openness in such host countries, as StatoilHydro and many Norwegians claim. Thereby it is made to appear as if the company has an ethical reason to enter into these countries, in addition to the pure business aspects. This is a myth which is built and cultivated by StatoilHydro's PR-machinery. If it holds true then one ought to get as many Norwegian oil companies into Myanmar at once, so we can get things sorted out.

After having studied Angola’s oil sector I have realized that it is Angola itself which sets the parameters. The foreign oil companies stand in line for the available contracts, and in order to get them, the companies need to play by Angola’s rules, says Sætre, who believes the analysis may be transferred to Turkmenistan.

He ties "The heart of Darkness" theory to the controversial "debate on being good" where Norway attempts to appear as a humanitarian superpower – materialized by how StatoilHydro, with its "social democratic luggage" virtually has a moral commitment to become more international.

Government follows
- There is a battle over oil-and gas resources here, and there is little left which is not already allocated. Turkmenistand is in a position where they can set Russia, China and to a certain extent the USA and the West up against one other, he points out.

– How does the Norwegian government view StatoilHydro’s ambitions in Turkmenistan?

– I can’t see that they have this on their agenda. I have been in touch with a former deputy minister who travelled there, after what I understand virtually at StatoilHydro’s bequest, in order to meet important figures of the state and to open doors for StatoilHydro. Instead of taking a critical stance here, Norway, by means of the Foreign Department and the Oil and Energy Ministry, is actively opening Turkmenistan for StatoilHydro. The opening of a large embassy in Kazakhstan is probably part of this strategy, Sætre believes.

3 comments:

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Same as with El Mundo: money talks.

Anonymous said...

one place on earth that you dont put your money in is Israel.
the best i can say about israel that they are crocked syestem

and bunch of thieves from the tax and all the people around .
listen any foreigner or any body . after the steal your money

you rember me they stole from me and my mother 20.000$ from a

land that we bought in 1992 . and i born their a placa called

mosav mazor near petah tikva .
the tax in Israel high very high. pall the have way to steal

. the whole country base on thievery .
when we try to sell the 1/4 acre the government and local

people put red tape that the can steal at
and after 18 yrs they stole at .
greenfeld meir

Agra said...

http://coomararunodaya.com.