Thomas Friedman is right. It is only “great to have oil, gas and diamonds,” if “they’re used to build schools and a culture of lifelong learning.
In Mozambique, the prospect of billions of dollars of revenues from recently discovered natural gas and coal present a tremendous developmental opportunity for investment in future generations.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the revenues from the extractive industry and the wait predicted by some experts as to when the monies will actually be visible in the national treasury. My concern is that children don’t have the luxury of waiting a decade or two for coal and natural gas revenues to flow in and out of the national coffers and eventually into the pockets of their parents – through decent employment, their teachers – through quality education and their community health clinic – through basic vaccines and other core services. Children need their rights fulfilled now. Children are stunted due to inadequate nutrition and care practices today and will not have the capacity to grow into the leaders of tomorrow if they are physically and cognitively compromised in their first two years of life. Investing in social protection systems could make the difference to the most vulnerable and give them a fighting chance for their futures.
Many of us could spend a few moments daydreaming about winning the lottery or finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. But in resource rich countries like Mozambique, the discovery of coal and natural gas, among other mineral resources, can place a Government within a tempest of rapidly evolving circumstances where decisions with regard to the legal, policy and fiscal regimes can mean the difference between sustainable development for all or battling the resource curse for decades to come.