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Monday, May 9, 2011

Ghana oil through the lens of Norway

By Lord Aikins Adusei

Norway and Canada are two great examples of how oil could be a blessing helping a nation to turn her fortunes around. Forty years ago Norway was an impoverished Northern European country. Then in 1969 Ocean Viking an oil exploration company discovered oil and production became intensive in the 1980s. The country's leaders vowed to pull Norway from its poverty using the oil proceeds. Today the poverty is gone, replaced with a high standard of living, which is one of the best in the world. Norway is a modern country with some of the world's best universities. Tuition up to the university level is still free. Roads and telecommunication infrastructures have been developed. Recently the government made it a policy to let every corner of the country have access to internet and internet delivery companies have instructed to implement the policy.

Because Norway knows how it feels to be a poor country she devotes 1% of its GDP to assist poor countries every year.

The secret to Norway's successes are strong and vigorous prosecution of a national energy policy agenda, sound management of oil proceeds, wise and strategic investment and vigorous attempt to fight corruption in the oil industry. Additionally, local competence in the ownership and management of oil industry was developed. Norway also developed a number of trustees in which the oil money is held and government is prevented from arbitrary dipping its hands into the trustees' funds.

Although Ghana and Norway are two distinct countries, Ghana can emulate Norway's example and her achievements. The following policy advice are in the right direct.

1. Ghana needs a national energy policy and that is why a tough Oil Bill is crucial in this regard. The oil policy must be developed in line with development policy of the country. In other words the policy must be a component of a broader national development program. This therefore means that Ghana needs a coherence national development policy NOT party manifesto on which the development of the country will be based.

2. Ghana needs not to rush to make unsound economic investment with the oil proceeds. Every investment made with the oil money must be carefully thought through to bring the highest benefit to the people.

3. The executive arm of government should not be given a free hand to use the money the way it wants it. Therefore the money from the oil should be placed in a trustee and how much is needed every year must be approved by parliament. Approval should be devoid of politics and be based on national interest.

4. Ghana needs to train its people in oil education, build the competence and capacity of the population to manage the oil assets.

5. Ghana must also encourage and assist local entrepreneurs to set up local companies to take part in the exploration, development and transport of oil. Ghanaians must own the oil.

6. Foreign and local companies in the oil industry must be made to pay their taxes, adhere to international standards of best practice, and implement their corporate social responsibility policies. The companies must not be allowed to privatize the profits and socialize the risks such as pollution and environmental degradation and destruction of coastal ecosystem. Ghana must guide against corporate green wash policies. Ghana Environmental Protection Agency must investigate every pollution thoroughly and sanction anyone who breaches the sanctity of the environment.

7. Ghana must watch out for companies that will spring up with the intension of making quick money at the expense of the country. There is no doubt that a number of companies will come with business proposals to sell projects to the nation and Ghana must be very vigilant to know which project is needed and which one is not needed in its quest to develop. It is on record that most of the money Ghana inherited during the time of our dependence went to companies from Europe and America who came to sell all kinds of projects to the country with the aim of making quick profits and Ghana never benefited from these unnecessary projects.

8. A vigorous effort must be made by government and all stakeholders to let every investment made help the nation to wean the country from dependency on foreign donors. Nation must set itself a target on how and when it intends to end poverty in the country. Therefore, Ghana must be very careful not to consume every 'advice' the IMF and World Bank give the nation for there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they represent the interest of corporations and governments in Europe and America.

9. The fight against corruption in the oil sector must be fought with all the energy required. Every effort must be made to let individuals and institutions that handle oil money or implement projects on behalf of the nation to fully account for their stewardship. Stiffer penalties and jail terms must be imposed on individuals and institutions that try to cheat the nation through corruption, inflation of procurement contracts, and award of contracts etc. Every effort must be made not to repeat the factors and conditions that prevented Ghana from benefiting fully from similar resources such as gold and timber. The sad story of Nigeria should remind us of what corruption can do to our nation.

10. Ghana must also decide whether to join OPEC or not. Not joining OPEC will enable the country to sell the her oil based on international market conditions and not through the dictates of the OPEC Cartel.

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