Somali piracy boosts development – study

2012-01-13 14:35

Financial benefits from piracy off the coast of Somalia have boosted development in some parts of the country, making decisive political action to stop the problem “unlikely”.

According to a study published in Britain by Chatham House, the leading foreign policy think-tank, regional centres have benefited from substantial investment funded by piracy, while coastal communities have missed out.

Report author Anja Shortland says that in 2009, pirates received an estimated 70 million dollars in ransom payments.

According to a UN study, about 30% of ransom payments go to pirates, 10% to their shore-based helpers, 10% are spent on gifts and bribes and 50% are passed on to financiers and sponsors, who were generally based abroad.

The study used high-resolution daytime satellite images and analysed night light emissions over the past decade to prove that economic development has led to greater electricity consumption in certain areas.

It takes the cities of Garowe and Bosasso, in the Puntland region, as main examples. Analysis of daytime satellite image showed that Garowe almost doubled in area between 2002 and 2009, with significant housing, industrial and commercial developments.

The key pirate ports of Eyl and Hobyo, by contrast, showed evidence of only limited and relatively small improvements to their infrastructure.

The report concludes that significant amounts of ransom money are spent in the regional centres, with the benefits being shared out between a large number of people due to existing clan structures.

The political elites in the regions were therefore “unlikely to move decisively against piracy,” it said.

The report’s author argues that a land-based response is necessary to help tackle piracy.

“A negotiated solution to the piracy problem should aim to exploit local disappointment among coastal communities regarding the economic benefits from piracy and offer them an alternative that brings them far greater benefits than hosting pirates does,” she says.

“A military crack-down on the other hand would deprive one of the world’s poorest nations of an important source of income and aggravate poverty.”


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