No place has been more paradoxical for more years than Angola. It is potentially the richest country in Africa, with huge reserves of offshore oil and a population of just 12 million. Oil money, though, has bought decades of war, while giving Angolans a terrible standard of living. Although the war ended this spring, it’s still not clear where the money is going (or even how much there is). In the past five years, $4 billion has vanished; meanwhile, the world spends about $200 million a year to feed poor Angolans. To break this cycle, in Angola and elsewhere, a simple idea has emerged this year. It also has a catchy slogan: Publish What You Pay.
The World Bank backs the idea, as does George Soros, the financier and human rights crusader, as do 70 private aid agencies around the world. The Publish What You Pay coalition prods major companies to declare how much money they give governments in order to extract oil and minerals. If citizens know how much money comes in, they can, at the very least, figure out how much is stolen. Forcing transparency on corrupt governments would increase pressure on leaders to spend more on schools, hospitals and roads — and might motivate citizens to toss out known thieves.