Using Natural Reserves—Ghana’s Oil Discovery in Perspective
11/9/2011 11:30:19 PM -
Many Ghanaians were very much delighted to hear the 'good' news about oil discovery. Such excitement is justifiable given the significance of oil since the beginning of the 20th Century down to contemporary world politics and economics. Industrialization and globalization have also reiterated the importance of oil. However, although oil comes with benefits such as wealth and prosperity, history has shown that such benefits are only short-term, and that its long-term effects are rather devastating for generations upon generation if it is not properly handled.
In order to fully comprehend such adverse effects, it is important to look at countries that have had oil discoveries. Baku (a town in present day Azerbaijan), before WWII, was one of the world's largest producers of oil. However, the former USSR used the country as a source of major oil supply during WWII to fuel their jet fighters. Baku was immediately deserted after the extraction reached its peak. The people of Baku, along with the oil workers, suffered major diseases such as skin cancer in the aftermath. My point? The people who owned the land never enjoyed their 'supposed wealth.'
Another country, Saudi Arabia, is known to be the number one oil producer and exporter in the world. However, if Saudi Arabia is put under the microscope, it becomes clear that although it has the world's largest oil reserve and is a strong member of OPEC, its wealth is not being properly distributed among the Saudis. The per capita income of an average Saudi before 1970 was $20,000, but as of 2010, this has dropped to $6,000. Within the same time frame, the barrels per day have increased significantly. Where is the money? It is being distributed to the few wealthy to show off to the world. My Point? The people who own the land never enjoy their 'supposed wealth.'
Let's come home to Africa and closely look at the Niger Delta. Yes, there is oil in that region. However, there have been many lives lost due to political greed. To make matters worse, physical infrastructure in the region is far less developed. Then in Darfur, it is obvious what oil has done to innocent Sudanese because of poor management. My point? The people who own the land never enjoy their 'supposed wealth'
My fellow Ghanaians, nature has blessed us with her natural reserves. It is up to us as a people to make sure that our politicians put the right policies in place to make this a blessing instead of a curse. If properly handled, oil discovery will raise Ghana's economy to the benefit of the average Ghanaian. On the other hand, if political greed and wrong human judgment sets in, we will be in for a more devastating and disruptive economy. Guess who will suffer the major impact? It is the average Ghanaian.
I believe that we all have a choice to keep quiet and allow a few self-seeking and self-aggrandizing cabals to use our natural resources to their own advantage, or we can join voices and create awareness to prevent what happened to Baku, Saudi Arabia, the Niger Delta, and Darfur. After all, history is there to help us prevent mistakes and positively shape the future.
God bless our homeland Ghana!!!
Ernest Yarfi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
RutgersThe State University of New Jersey.