LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Tuesday that his policy of nationalizing the country’s natural resources allowed him to improve its economic situation at the inauguration of the 4th Gas Exporting Countries Forum (FPEG).
Morales made his remarks in the eastern city of Santa Cruz during his speech at the Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI-Gas) meeting, a platform for international experts on natural gas, petroleum and statistics.
The Bolivian leader said that when he became president in 2006, “the Bolivian economy was carved up like Indian leader Tupac Katari.”
“The state had no control and (there was) an ongoing looting of our natural resources. As the democratically elected president, I obeyed the clamorous call which was to nationalize, recover ... this natural resource so important for Bolivia,” Morales said.
He said that now Bolivia has “its own model” for administering its natural gas, adding that those policies allowed the “country’s economic situation to be improved,” with achievements such as reducing poverty and growing the internal market.
The Morales government decreed the nationalization of hydrocarbons in May 2006, four months after he took office, and it forced transnational oil companies operating at the time in Bolivia to sign new contracts.
He said that private investment allowed within the national rules and regulations is guaranteed and is welcome, but he emphasized that what “is not permitted” are companies that seek “to illegally enrich themselves” or that make policy to “conspire” against his government.
Morales added that although his presence at the JODI-Gas event had not been scheduled in advance, he decided to “self-invite” himself because he wanted to listen and learn about the experiences of the energy sector elsewhere in the world.
The JODI-Gas meeting precedes the actual FPEG summit, which will end on Friday with the meeting of heads of state and top representatives of the forum’s member countries.
On Wednesday, there will an international seminar at which executives from 19 oil companies will speak before an audience of some 800 people, and a ministerial meeting will also be held to finalize the Declaration of Bolivia, the final document that will be approved by the heads of state on Friday.
At present, the presidents of Equatorial Guinea and Venezuela – Teodoro Obiang Nguema and Nicolas Maduro, respectively – as well as ministers and deputy ministers from the FPEG member nations have all confirmed their participation.
The Gas Exporting Countries Forum is an intergovernmental organization of 11 of the world’s leading natural gas producers made up of Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.