Views on commodities and energy
In the Angolan capital of Luanda, where oil money is driving regeneration after decades of civil war, rumour has it the former Portuguese regime was less than delighted at the prospect of sitting on millions of barrels of crude.
When an official told the Portuguese dictator Oliveira Salazar Angola was thought to have oil, he replied “that’s all we need”, or so the story goes.
He had a point. Oil money, along with diamonds, helped to fuel the nearly three decades of war that followed the end of Portuguese rule.
Now it is funding glitzy sky scrapers for oil companies and new, supposedly affordable homes in one of the world’s most expensive cities. Prices are so high partly because expats working for oil companies occupy the best property.
Ministers attending this week’s OPEC meeting in Luanda were taken to see the town of Kilamba Kiaxi, which is springing up on the outskirts of the capital.
A joint venture between Angola and China, the world’s second biggest oil consumer after the United States, the first phase of the development should be completed in 2011 and provide accommodation for around 160,000 inhabitants, officials have said. Two other phases should follow.
Ministers opening the built-in wardrobes and tapping the walls in the show homes were told they would sell for “less than $1,200″ a square metre. That compares with an average of around $5,000 per square metre in Luanda, although it is still far out of reach for the vast majority of Angolans.
Among those taking particular interest was Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani of war-torn Iraq. He was not convinced he had found a bargain, but could draw inspiration from a state that signed a peace accord only seven years ago and is trying to build a new country on the basis of foreign venture partners and a surge in oil output.