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Opinions of Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Columnist: Atta-Boakye, Ken

Don’t be excited over Oil Money.

Ghanaians are very obsessed with the prospects of the new-found Jubilee Oilfields money. They believe the oil will bring smiles on their faces with a booming economy. And apparently, they are right since the Middle East catches more attention as a more beautiful place than other parts of the world because of their oil resources. The Region can dictate world political power shift by manipulating oil prices. Ghadafi in Libya can cause political sensation with his oil money. Other North African countries with well-managed oil resources are comparatively doing well. The jubilee oilfield has the potential to transform the economy of Ghana into a prosperous nation. But I wouldn’t encourage Ghanaians to be over excited about the oil money. It would be a good idea to continue to invest massively in the cocoa industry where we have comparative advantage over other ventures. And basically, cocoa production is also in the able hands of indigenous Ghanaian farmers.

In the West African sub-region, nations producing oil are far from being successful. The oil in a way has even become a curse. It has exacerbated corruption and led to civil war and political infighting. Again, in the wake of the drilling it has produced environmental hazards. I cannot say Ghana will also go the same way. No! But we cannot escape the evils associated with oil production. Christians and Moslem should go on their knees to pray against oil misfortune in the hands of corrupt leaders. There are three major things that need to be safeguarded: Management, Revenue Acquisition and Environmental Hazard. 1. Management – I can bet you to my teeth the leaders have already lined up new companies to take advantage of oil contracts. The media hinted how the oil money was mortgaged to STX as a surety for the company to build 30,000 housing units for Ghanaians. Can this be the immediate priority? And if so why were the local Real Estate realtors not considered? Is it a question of quality? This can be solved. Accommodation, Employment and Hunger, how should these be prioritized? Think of it. 2. Revenue Acquisition – It should be connected with accountability. The two major sources of the oil revenue are the 10% equity share and property taxes. These should be monitored in such a way that all leakages could be controlled. Expenses should not exceed income through incompetence and waste. 3. Environmental Hazard – This is even a bigger problem. When gold deposits were discovered in some parts of the Brong Ahafo region, Kenyasi, Hwediem, it affected the cocoa industry. Cocoa farm lands were sold to the mining companies and the farmers were displaced. The farmers turned the capital gained into buying and selling business at the lost of cocoa production. The Jubilee Oilfield is off-shore drilling and it has the potential to affect the ecology (bionomics) of the region. The people in the area will find it hard to cope with this new challenge of occupational hazard. Farming and the timber industry will all face new challenges. Oil spillage along the coastline will also deplete plankton (fish-feed) thereby causing the fish to avoid the area. Outboard motors for deep sea fishing will be expensive option to embark upon. The fishermen will be losers. The solution is to enforce environmental safety compliance laws with the drilling company.

I have a feeling if the oil revenue will benefit Ghana and produce a better Ghana it should be tied to agriculture. We should emphasize rural development to compensate our rural population. Agriculture should be revolutionalized and the youth should be encouraged to go into it with incentives and modern equipments. In the North a full-scale agronomy- production of cereals and vegetables should receive attention. In the south, cocoa industry should be given another face lift. When the previous administration introduced organized mechanical spraying with the chiefs as the administrators it boosted cocoa production. But when the administration changed hands and it turned into partisan politics cocoa production has declined if I’m correct.

If we can see issues for their national interests, agriculture can offer employment as well as feed the hungry mouths. Review the STX housing project as against rural infrastructural services and the jobs that would be created to feed the hungry masses should there be a windfall money from the Jubilee Oilfields. Thank you.

Ken Atta-Boakye

Woodbridge (attaboakye@yahoo.com).