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02.12.2011 Business & Finance

EXPERTS BRAINSTORM TO BEAT THE ‘OIL CURSE’

By J. Ato Kobbie, Managing Editor
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An assembly of local and international experts of varied backgrounds, ended a three-day international conference dubbed “The Avoidance of the Oil Curse in Ghana,” with participants identifying key issues, mapping out strategies and giving recommended actions, that when factored into a national strategy, would stem the ever-threatening oil curse as Ghana joins the league of oil producing countries.

The first day of the conference, which was a collaboration between the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and the Ministry of Energy, saw the Minister of Energy, Dr. Joe Oteng-Adjei delivering the open remarks, Vice President of Ghana, Mr. John Mahama delivering the key note address, followed by six presentations that set the tone for the brainstorming session on Saturday.

The conference, which took place in the Eastern regional capital, Koforidua was kick-start by a welcome address from the Chairman of the NDPC, Mr. P. V. Obeng, on Friday, November 25, 2011 pointing out that though it was not the first since oil was discovered, it was the first to focus on the downside of the oil and gas sector.

Acknowledging the existing legal framework, which he said bode good news, Mr. Obeng said there was a negative side to every privilege that must be managed and “we don't need to look far to see examples of the oil curse.”

“We don't want oil to replace the other growth sectors,” he stressed pointing out that the social effects were already manifesting, with landlords already ejecting tenants for higher rents. He cautioned that if care was not taken, more 'Sodom and Gomorrahs' could emerge with their attendant crime and hoped participants would work together to come up with an anti-curse agenda.

He said the issues in the sector are not domestic, but international and therefore those in the private sector with a stake in the economy have equal rights to speak on the issues.

Dr. Oteng-Adjei, on his part urged participants to do a thorough job and be confident in bringing up whatever issues they felt needed to be changed rather than wait to say later that “I had wanted to say it,” which he said would not benefit anybody.

Giving the key note address Vice President Mahama said the country cannot remind itself enough about the 'oil curse' because the repercussions occurred at different levels, some not visible to the eyes.

He said the not so visible ones such as upsurge in rents, increasing food prices and general cost of living in oil communities are real, but added that Ghana was lucky because of the time that the resource has come to the fore.

“We deserve to be whipped if we failed because we have many examples to learn from. We have no excuse,” he stressed.

According to him, with Norway's best practices and Nigeria's misfortunes shared with the country, Ghana would not fall into that trap.

“The major insurance we have that makes me confident is that we are producing oil at a time when we have deepened democracy, which ensures transparency and accountability,” Mr. Mahama said.

He said the country has a chance by the oil resource to accelerate growth and development of its people by ensuring its benefits do not go to a few people but equitably distributed to cover all, including the vulnerable.

The vice president said opportunities were also afoot and that was why government was devoting $850million of the $3-Billion China Development Bank (CDB) loan into gas infrastructure, Ports and railway rehabilitation.

Mr. Mahama said a 40% local content factored into the facility is to ensure Ghanaian participation in the oil sector, concluding that recommendations from the conference were key to informing the NDPC, which has the mandate to plan Ghana's future, going forward.

In his remarks as chairman of the opening ceremony, the Omanhene of the New Juabeng Traditional Area, Daasebre Oti Boateng, oil and gas holds the prospects for determining Ghana's forward march. He said since it was generally agreed that oil and gas discovery could lead to a curse or a blessing it was important that the country focused on how to derive optimum benefit from the resource.

The presentations were made by Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah, Chairman of the week-old Petroleum Commission and a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon, Prof. Daniel Mireku-Gyimah, Vice Chancellor of the University of Mines, Tarkwa, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, an internationally recognized expert and consultant in energy and natural resources law and a former Corporate Secretary and Legal Adviser to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Torfinn Harding, a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies, at the Department of Economies and New College, University of Oxford, Mr. Steve Akuffo, an Architect and Development Consultant and Dr. Kwesi Aning, Dean and Director of Academic Affairs and Research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC).

In attendance at the conference were representations from organized labour, civil society organizations, experts from the security, health and safety, environment, etc.

The conference had Jubilee Operator, Tullow Ghana Limited as lead sponsor, with the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation (BOST), National Petroleum Authority (NPA), Vitol Upstream, Cirrus Oil and Sahara picking the rest of the bill. [email protected] [A print edition of this article was published in The Business Analyst of Wednesday, November 30 – Tuesday, December 6th, 2011]

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