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General News of Monday, 25 February 2008

Source: GNA

Stakeholders call for transparency in utilizing oil revenue

Accra, Feb. 25, GNA- Key stakeholders at the national forum on oil and gas development on Monday called for the establishment of adequate financial structures that would prevent people from stashing oil money into foreign accounts to the detriment of the nation. They said corruption was one major impediment that was bound to prevent the achievement of the paramount national interests, and that the strict adherence to transparency in the utilization of income from the oil industry would help the country derive the maximum economic benefits, both directly and indirectly.

Ghana last year struck oil in commercial quantities estimated at three billion barrels, with an estimated 200,000 barrels to be drilled per day if well managed.

The two-day forum, which has been couched in the phrase; "oil- a Blessing: Not a Curse" would discuss four main themes which 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."

The forum launches a process in which the government would consult widely over the coming months to prepare a comprehensive National Oil and Gas Policy and Master Plan for the sector in the face of the rapid pace of oil and gas development. Mr. Ebenezer B. Sekye-Hughes, Speaker of Parliament noted that the discovery of oil was a one way ticket to prosperity however, sight must not be lost of the fact that the same oil had led to hunger, poverty, diseases and environmental degradation in some countries through oil spillage and weak management, thus had resulted in a curse for those countries.

He said a strong and independent legislature, horizontal and vertical accountability, transparency, respect for fundamental human rights and the rule of law and a vibrant media would serve as a check on the industry to help yield positive results.

"We do not want an oil curse in Ghana. We want oil to bring us blessings through good schools, hospitals, roads and drinking water, among other things, to the communities that would be directly affected by the drilling process," he said.

Mr. Sekye-Hughes said operations in the petroleum sector had the potential of transforming the economy into a middle income one by 2015 and that lessons must be leant from Norway, the lead expert of the forum, which had succeeded in giving her people a high standard of living through her oil find.

He said the discovery would bring along mercenaries and people with questionable character, adding that the immigration or border control systems should be strengthened to prevent such people from coming into the country.

Nana Odeneho Gyapong Ababio, President of the National House of Chiefs called for the establishment of a fund from revenue from the oil find, which clearly outlines the criteria for selecting beneficiaries to help current and future generations.

He said employment generation must involve significant numbers of locally based Ghanaians and that it was only by that means that the people would benefit directly from the resource.

Mr. Abdulai Darimani, International Programme Officer of the Third World Network said the oil discovery in the shores of Ghana was good news but should not be an alternative to the country's continued search for a variety of energy sources relevant to national development. He said important sectors like agriculture, small producers and peasant farmers, especially from communities downstream oil installations and extraction activities should not be neglected due to the discovery. 25 Feb. 08

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