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Business News of Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Source: GNA

Govt must control the petroleum sector - Consultant

Accra, Feb. 26, GNA - Mr Farouk Al-Kasim, an Oil Resource Management Consultant from Norway has called on the government to establish a succinct policy guideline that would be the basis for governance in the petroleum sector.

He said the policy guideline, which should include the revised Petroleum Act, should address major principles guiding oil exploration and must have a wide political backing.

Presenting a paper on the way-forward at the end of the first part of the National Forum on Oil and Gas Development on Tuesday, Mr. Al-Kasim said such a policy was necessary to help government fully control operations of companies in the oil industry to ensure that their activities were carried out in the best interest of the nation. The forum was organized to enable Ghana benefit from lessons learned by other countries and international experts in the oil and gas sector following Ghana's recent discovery of oil in the West Cape Three Point Block.

The next three days, which would cover the second part of the forum, would involve a closed door meeting for public sector institutions that need capacity building to be able to manage the resource.

Mr Al-Kasim noted that government must adhere to the tenets of good governance in dealing with the petroleum sector because only clear institutional arrangements and responsibilities would facilitate good work ethics and accountability.

He said revenue from petroleum operations should be accounted for in the national budget in a transparent manner to avoid any suspicion. Mr Al-Kasim said to avoid duplication of duties, a Directorate must be established under or within the Ministry of Energy to ensure that oil exploration activities were carried out within the regulatory framework as well as the legal and contractual framework. He said long term commercial participation by government would help it to understand the workings of the industry to help it manage the resource and develop its human and technical resource. Mr Al-Kasim said the health, security and environment must be paramount in the decisions of government on the sector in order not to let the people suffer adding the oil must be a blessing and not a curse.

Ms Joyce Aryee, Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Chamber of Mines, said the nation had to be careful in its decision to make oil as a catalyst for development an opportunity that could not be utilised by the mining sector.

She said local people around the exploration area should not be neglected but must be made to benefit from the resources to be generated. Ms Aryee said government must consider revamping infrastructure in the area including the airstrip, roads, railways and telecommunication.