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General News of Monday, 25 February 2008

Source: GNA

Mg't of oil must be above all sectional interests - Kufuor

Accra, Feb. 25, GNA - Ghana's oil resources must be appreciated as a national asset, whose management must be above sectional interests, President John Agyekum Kufuor, said in Accra on Monday.

The natural resource, he said, must be regulated and managed through best practices to provide a measure of security for socio-economic development and enhance opportunities to reduce poverty and generally improve the living conditions of all.

President Kufuor was opening the two-day national forum on "Gas and Oil Development" at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) aimed at helping the country to avoid the pitfalls that have become the undoing of many countries that have come by the precious commodity.

Ghana last year struck oil in commercial quantities estimated at three billion barrels, and exploration has been continuing. The Forum, attended by technocrats within the oil and mining industry, both national and international, traditional rulers, politicians from across the divide, academia, finance and banking, public, private and civil society organizations will provide the platform to brainstorm and give shape to the nation's emerging oil industry.

The four main themes to be discussed are: "Turning Oil and Gas Wealth into Sustainable and Equitable Development", "Entrenching Transparency and Stakeholder Engagement", "Effective Management of the Oil and Gas Sector", and "Safeguarding Security and the Environment." President Kufuor said he was confident that the nation was at the threshold of great things in the oil industry, and announced that just three days ago, the Chief Executive Officer of Kosmos Energy, the Oil Exploration Company, which made the first major discovery, called to break the news to him about yet another successful strike of oil in the company's block.

He said it was indeed propitious that oil had been found at a time when the national economy was stable and enjoying international respect. He spoke of the Government's continued support for efforts by the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation and the international partners in their oil exploration activities and invited all levels of investors in the oil and allied industries to invest in the economy.

At the same time, he asked the local stakeholders to begin to position themselves to take advantage of the oil boom and satisfy the demands of the industry.

President Kufuor said the tertiary institutions, for example, should reach out to the emerging industry in order to prepare and develop appropriate manpower for engagement.

The banking and financial sector, he noted, was going to be challenged to come out with new products to support the industry, while the transportation, hospitality, legal and accounting services got ready for the many opportunities.

He acknowledged that immediately, Ghana would need hired expertise but in order not to perpetuate dependence on such expertise, contracts should highlight technological transfer to local staff in the most efficient manner within the shortest possible time. Further, the industry must be harnessed towards the achievement of immediate national goals of poverty reduction and attainment of middle income status by 2015.

President Kufuor said in so doing, deliberate steps should be taken to develop in tandem traditional sectors of the economy to avoid the creation of an oil-dependent economy as has happened elsewhere. He expressed the Government's determination to widely consult over the coming months as it prepared an organic and comprehensive National Oil and Gas Policy and Master Plan for the sector.

The Norwegian Minister of Environment and International Development, Mr Erik Solheim, said it was important to accept that revenue from the oil belonged to the people and not the politicians or businesses.

This, he said, should lead to transparency in the management of the oil money.

Additionally, he drew attention to the need to go in for environmentally friendly technologies to prevent oil spills and protect the environment.

Mrs Mary Chinery-Hesse, Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Oil and Gas, said Ghana's oil discovery was an opportunity for the nation to take its destiny in its own hands and avoid pitfalls by learning from the mistakes of other countries.

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