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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oil, our last hope; Deputy Energy Minister declares

Amidst soaring expectation of an oil boom in the country, Ghanaians have been asked to remain cautious because the short-term production of about 120,000 barrels of crude oil from the Jubilee Fields beginning from next year will not have any significant impact on the national economy.

According to a Deputy Minister of Energy, Dr Kwabena Donkor, oil, however, provided a long-term opportunity for the country to free itself from the shackles of poverty. According to him, Ghana had blown several opportunities in the past to emerge out of poverty but it could not afford to blow the latest opportunity that the oil find presented.

"We dare not fail, posterity will not forgive us if we treat the oil and gas haphazardly and blow the opportunity," he said at a World Bank-organised oil and gas conference in Accra Monday. The workshop, which was on the theme, "Potential impact of oil and gas for Ghana", formed part of the Development Dialogue Series under the auspices of the World Bank.

While urging the nation to take full advantage of the oil find, Dr Donkor cautioned that it would be a big mistake to consider the oil and gas resource as an enclave of the national economy. According to him, the short-term production of about 120,000 barrels from the Jubilee Fields would not have any significant impact on the economy, adding that it was important to manage the high expectation of the people regarding the revenue to be accrued from the oil production.

He said it was on that basis that the government was putting in place measures to link the oil industry to agriculture, such as using gas for the production of fertiliser to boost agricultural production. Dr Donkor said there were many negative examples in the oil and gas industry in neighbouring African countries that Ghana could learn from and so the country would have no excuse to repeat those mistakes.

He said Ghana's democratic credentials had soared in recent times, adding that the world was looking up to the country to set good examples in the oil and gas industry as well. He advised Ghanaians to let their intentions about the oil and gas resource go beyond parochial and political interests.

He said the government's commitment to transparency in the management of the oil industry went far beyond just the revenue to be accrued, pointing out that it was committed to promoting local content of at least 80 per cent in all areas.

He said the Ministry of Energy was working to amend legislation on the petroleum sector, such as the Petroleum Production and Exploration Law, with the view to meeting the challenges that the industry posed. Dr Donkor said the amendment also sought to strengthen the regulatory authority, indicating that it was important to have one regulatory authority for the industry. Furthermore, he said, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), was being strengthened financially to enable it to undertake petroleum exploration on its own.

The World Bank Country Director, Mr Ishac Diwan, said oil had been a curse for many countries but expressed optimism that Ghana had the chance to break away from that negative path. He said it was important for Ghana to know the dangers the industry posed in order to find ways of dealing with them. He said there was the need for broad consultation on how the' oil revenue would be spent, since the risk of not spending the money properly was very high. He said although gas presented enormous job opportunities, the major challenge was that Ghana had very little experience in the industry.

A Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr Fiifi Kwetey, gave the assurance that the government would ensure transparency in the disbursement of the oil revenue. He said it was the responsibility of the government, civil society and all stakeholders to manage the high expectations of the people about the oil find.

Source: Daily Graphic

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