Professor Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere, Director of International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), yesterday called on the government to set up a special oil account to save some of the wealth that would accrue from the oil find for future generations.
'The government must open a special oil account here is Ghana, not abroad, to save some of the oil money to build infrastructure for posterity,' he said.
Prof Asenso-Okyere made the call at the Fifth Ghana Speaks Lecture/Seminar series, jointly organised by the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) and Joy FM, an Accra-based private radio station.
The lecture/seminar was designed to enable eminent Ghanaian scholars to lead and to promote informed public discussion on critical issues of national development and good governance.
Speaking on the theme: 'Living at the Expense of Future Generations: Innovating for Sustainable Development', Prof Asenso-Okyere noted that the oil would finish one day, and it was incumbent on the current generation to store some of the oil wealth to benefit generations yet unborn.
'We must avoid the Nigerian and Dutch experiences and follow the Norwegian example and stash some of the oil money away and invest it in infrastructural development for the future,' he said.
He explained that Nigeria, for instance, was estimated to have gained some US$600 billion in oil benefits but the country still remained one of the 20 poorest countries in the world because it did not save some of that wealth against the future.
In the case of the Dutch, the economy evolved around their natural gas to the detriment of all other sectors of the economy and that mistake resulted in the infamous Dutch Disease characterised by a near collapse of that economy, he said.
Prof Asenso-Okyere said: 'Let us remember that deep sea oil exploration and extraction is expensive and so a lot of the revenue that would be generated would be reinvested so we need to be wise in the use of the little that would be left.' He noted that some fishermen had made it their business to fish around the oil rig, and stressed that they should be stopped immediately and alternative fishing areas designated for them.
Prof Asenso-Okyere argued that the current trend of events around the world in terms of natural resource use and management posed a threat to future generations. He noted that the crave for survival now other than the future, was the cause of indiscriminate depletion of natural resource, resulting in climate change and its resultant disasters, conflicts over extractive mineral revenue, corruption, crime and disease.
Prof Asenso-Okyere attributed the behaviour of the present generation towards natural resources to greed, insatiable and careless consumption and blatant disregard for the needs of the yet unborn, saying that unless the current generation stopped to think about the future generation, the human race was at the risk of being extinct.
'Development strategies that have generated macro-economic growth have also widened the gap between the rich and the poor and created disparities in access to resources for maintaining decent livelihood. Growth is important but it needs to be broad-based to benefit poor people.'
Prof. Asenso-Okyere noted that 800 million of the world 1.16 billion poor people lived in rural farming communities and in Ghana the figure is up to 85 per cent, saying that for any development strategy to benefit poor people therefore it should target crop farmers.
'For every one per cent increase in agriculture produce there is 1.8 per cent reduction in poverty around the world.' He called for a Crop Insurance Scheme (CIS) in the fashion of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to ensure that crop farmers were protected against unexpected eventualities.
He also called for social protection programmes to be built into national development strategies to assist the poor and vulnerable in society and stem the poverty cycle from travelling down the generational lane.
Prof Asenso-Okyere noted that Ghana was well on to being a success story in Africa in terms of the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), saying that over the last 10 years poverty in Ghana had reduced by 24 per cent and there were indications of poverty being halved by 2015.
'But we need to accelerate the GDP growth rate from the current 5.5 per cent to 7.6 per cent per annum to reach to middle income level by 2015,' he said. He kicked against child labour and called for the strict implementation of existing laws on child rights, to ensure children were protected against exploitation and hazardous work but rather educated to secure their future.
'We need to improve the School Feeding and Food for all Schools programmes to increase the intake of children into schools for education and a better future,' he said.
Prof. Asenso-Okyere also noted that deforestation and surface mining (galamsey) also posed a threat to communities and water bodies in Africa in particular, saying that some rivers in Ghana for instance had stopped overflowing their banks due to deforestation and galamsey activities within their environs.
He said 70 per cent Ghanaians depended on natural resources for food, water, and energy sources and it was therefore imperative to protect existing natural resources such as water bodies and forests for the benefit of future generations. 'Illegal logging for instance should be stopped,' he stressed.
Dr. Leticia Obeng, President of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Science (GAAS), who presided, said living at the expense of the future generation was not something the present generation should be proud of.
'We must remember that without air we will die in minutes, without water we will die in days and without food we will die in weeks - this knowledge should be a good reason for us to think about the future generations,' she said.