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Business News of Sunday, 18 March 2012

Source: GNA

Government should institute alternative livelihoods for oil find communities

An Economic Consultant, Mr Abdallah Ali-Nakyea, on Saturday called on the Government to institute alternative livelihood support projects for the local communities in the oil find areas to avoid chaotic situations in future.

He said the major livelihood of the coastal people in the Western Region was fishing and that alternative ventures like aquaculture and small scale businesses for the locals would be appropriate since their fishing areas have been taken over by the oil companies.

Mr Ali-Nakyea made the call during a Youth Focused Oil and Gas conference held for more than 600 students drawn from the University of Cape Coast ,Cape Coast Polytechnic and Mfantsipim Senior High School in Cape Coast.

The conference which was organised by GAG Financial Research Networks in collaboration with Association of Certified Charted Economists (ACCE) and Business and Financial Times was on the theme, “Oil and Gas Resource Management : the Youth as stakeholders”.

It was to enable the participants appreciate the general principles underlying oil and Gas ownership rights in Ghana, discuss how the youth could play their stakeholders’ roles to ensure effective oil and gas resources management as well as the governance and financial implication of the heritage fund.

Mr Ali-Nakyea said earlier demands by chiefs in the Western region for royalties to be paid to them for the development of the area was in the right direction since oil production has both negative and positive impacts on the environment and people living around the oil wells and urged the Government to ensure that oil companies operating in the country adhered to all the rules and regulations pertaining to oil production.

Mr. Ali- Nakyea who spoke on “transfer-pricing –effects, dimensions and magnitude”, said Ghana would continue to lose huge sums of money through tax evasion by Multinational Enterprises (MNES) including oil companies if the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) was not well resourced to play its watchdog role.

He called for capacity building of staffs of the GRA as well as resource them to play the critical role of monitoring and evaluation to ensure that transfer pricing abuses did not thrive in Ghana.

On the way forward, Mr Ali Nakyea asked that MNEs contributed to the public finances of Ghana, their host country, by making timely payment of their tax liabilities and also comply with the tax laws and regulations in Ghana and should exert every effort to act in accordance with both the letter and spirit of those laws and regulations since obeying domestic laws was the first obligation of business.

Mr Prince Agra, an economic policy Analyst, regretted that, Ghana as a sovereign nation did not have any concrete policy on how petroleum subsidies are to be treated and stressed the need for a national debate on the issue.

He pointed out that, despite the fact that petroleum subsidy has advantages , it was equally saddled with negatives impacts such as fuel adulteration and smuggling, adding that, the effect on subsiding countries was a substantial financial transfer to smugglers, whiles recipient countries experience losses from uncollected taxes and excise duties due to reduced sales in the legitimate market.

On the way forward, Mr Agra suggested a petroleum subsidy regime that would target particular groups of people especially the youth, vulnerable in the society and sectors like agriculture, education and health.

He called for the introduction of a price stabilization levy on every litre of oil in addition to hedging where the levy and gains from hedging could be deposited into the petroleum price stabilization fund .

Mr John Gatsi a Lecturer at the UCC Business school said, since the oil find in the country, stakeholders including the youth have shown interest in every aspect of the industry including youth development programmes , community safety , transparent oil revenue management and proper work plan.

He said as part of the local content policy in the oil find, many young Ghanaians have been sponsored by the government and international oil companies (IOCs) such as Tullow oil, but regretted that much have not been done to train Ghanaian youths as drilling mechanics, instrumentation mechanics, reservoir mechanics, adding that the training was skewed towards youth with tertiary level education without any consideration for those with the SHS and technical school qualification who could be trained in pipeline maintenance.

Mr Gatsi pointed out that the proper understanding of the ownership right would help the young people address issues relating to oil and gas management properly and that any demand for a share of oil revenue should be based on proper understanding of the issues.

He reminded the youth that it was a constitution says that all minerals including oil and gas resources in their natural state are not privately owned and that the sovereign ownership of oil and gas resources meant the resources must be used in the interest of citizens, and that the youth are key stakeholders in managing the oil and gas resources in Ghana.

On the Ghana petroleum funds, he expressed concern that the investment rule did not seem to encourage investment of the Ghana petroleum fund in Ghana and called for local component investment and the adherence to the accountability rules.

The participants were taken through topics like oil and gas ownership rights in Ghana and the implications of the heritage Fund, transfer pricing-effects dimensions and magnitude and petroleum subsidy.**

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