Piracy hits Puntland economy, brings vices-leader

Published: April 9, 2010

Piracy off the coast of Somalia has damaged livestock exports and the fishing industry in semi-autonomous Puntland, bringing vices like alcohol and prostitution, the region’s president said.
A cash bonanza from millions of dollars in ransoms has filled pirate coffers and led to an influx of gleaming cars, new villas and luxury goods into Puntland, which declared itself independent in the early 1990s when the Horn of Africa nation was plunged into anarchy and civil war.
Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole told Reuters that piracy had emerged as an industry for a wide range of people, including brokers and facilitators, disrupting the region’s traditional economy.
“They have disrupted our economy, which traditionally is based on livestock export and fisheries. No one is fishing on the waters now,” he said in the interview conducted late on Thursday. “They have spoiled the cultural and religious values, and introduced drugs, alcohol and prostitution.”
Somalia’s economy is based almost entirely on remittances, livestock exports to Gulf Arab countries and donor inflows. But the threat of hijackings in the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden has deterred livestock traders from crossing the waterway, hitting trade volumes.
Farole rejected accusations by the United Nations that pirates may be collaborating with officials in Puntland and criticised the lack of aid from foreign powers to help the region fight piracy.
He said said his government’s $20 million plan to train a 600-strong anti-piracy force and put dozens of speedboats on 80 coastguard stations had failed to attract donor attention.
“We brought this plan to many organisations including governments and the (United Nations). Everybody appreciated it but up to now we have not got any assistance,” Farole said.
The northern region has been relatively peaceful compared with southern Somalia. But Farole, who was in Kenya to meet with donors, said prisons were stretched to their limits with 264 arrested pirates and Puntland needed assistance to increase its jail capacity.
Australia’s Range Resources and partner Africa Oil Corp are exploring for crude oil in Puntland and Farole said there was a “good prospect” that their efforts would yield results.
Somalia has no proven oil reserves but a joint World Bank/U.N. survey of northeast Africa 16 years ago ranked it second only to Sudan as the top prospective producer. Geologically-similar formations in Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden, hold nearly 4 billion barrels.

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