Friday, January 22, 2010

Norway opens its books

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), inaugurated amid great fanfare in 2003 by Britain's then Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2003, aims to work with governments in mineral-rich nations to publish financial and other data related to their minerals industry, as a step to improve transparency.

It is generally a good initiative, and a good idea, complementing work by others to achieve transparency through global-level initiatives, thought it does have some flaws (some of which we commented on in a Financial Times op-ed a while back). One of its greatest flaws has been that this has been seen as an initiative that corrupt and impoverished nations in Africa, Latin America and elsewhere should submit to this transparency initiative, but 'clean' governments in mostly white, rich nations were above that kind of thing.

It is a hypocrisy that has not been lost on the leaders of some of those countries being encouraged to join EITI, but now we are delighted to learn that Norway has broken the mould and decided to have the humility to submit its own oil sector to the EITI framework.

As the well-regarded industry newsletter Upstream notes:

"Norway this morning became the first western nation to publish a comprehensive report on payments made by oil companies to the government under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)."

Well done, Norway - a little late, though. Now how about some of those other countries with, ahem, 'clean' oil sectors, following Norway's lead?

Anyone for Britain? Or the United States? Who knows, it might help us understand more about these secretive industries.

And let's not forget the bigger goal: country-by-country reporting, not just for extractive industries, but for all sectors.

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