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Opinions of Sunday, 5 October 2008

Columnist: Agbodza, Kwami

Free Market Oil Management Example for Ghana

Rational and sane nationalists or patriots will be celebrating the Russian victory in the TNK-BP 50-50 joint venture dispute that has had diverse consequences on share prices and investor confidence amongst others.

We encourage Readers to google TNK-BP and read for themselves how responsible Ghanaians can behave despite the free market fraud. Following the TNK-BP story itself has been exciting. Our interest is the Free Market example it offers Ghana.

Readers will recall that the BP-nominated Chief Executive of the company was Bob Dudley. The central issue that led to the dispute between the two Russian-British teams was the alleged claim by the Russians that the Top British Management Team was only interested in promoting British BP interests. As a result, the Russians sought control of the company and this led to a prolonged fight until it was finally resolved as reported by Tom Bergin and Melissa Akin (Reuters). Bob has now been sacked.

Ghana must learn how to defend its oil and other interests in the light of the Russian example. Some of the key protocols that Ghana must learn as the corporate raiders make for our shores are those employed by the Russian State, which is anything but capitulation to foreign governments as evidenced in the recent corporate plunder of Ghana Telecom with the help of the British High Commission in Ghana.

They included using immigration controls to dismiss management and workers by not renewing their visas. At one point, almost all the technical workers had to leave Russia. The Ghana Immigration Service must be empowered to use this tool to enhance Ghana’s interest.

The coming government in 2009 can use immigration control to frustrate the plunder of Ghana by Vodafone. Nevertheless, this will require transferring some of the passport functions held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs fully to the professional Ghana Immigration Service.

A second lesson is the fact that the Russians working with the State fought the British within the company to protect what they saw as Russian interest. This is novel in Ghana. Ghana Telecom is an example where unlike the Russian example some Ghanaians capitulated to foreign interests. Thus despite the free market, we can still protect our national interest.

A third lesson is how the Russian State itself backed the Russians. The Ghanaian State must be ready to back indigenous Ghanaians. We must roll red carpets for Ghanaians first and not foreigners some claiming to be foreign investors and tourists.

Kwami Agbodza