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Opinions of Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Columnist: Atiemo, Paul Obeng

Inject 30% Of Oil Revenue Into The Getfund

Since news broke on the discovery of oil in commercial quantities, to the turning on of the valve by the President and the introduction of the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill (PRMB) in Parliament.
Debate on how the oil revenue should be utilized has pointed to one direction, emphasizing the need for massive infrastructural development (roads and housing) in the country as well as the creation of jobs, inter alia.
Imperative as the need for massive infrastructural development and the creation of jobs would be, the panacea to the sustenance of all of these is EDUCATION.
The history of our former twin country, Malaysia suggests that their level of development was accelerated by 3 things i.e. EDUCATION, EDUCATION, and EDUCATION. Something that Ghana has for a long time failed to acknowledge and prioritize.
Sadly, when the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill was introduced to Parliament, topical of debate on the subject matter centered on the need to collateralize an aspect of the oil revenue to contract loans for investment in infrastructure, whilst investment in Education was relegated to the background. Perhaps the budget allocation towards education is deemed enough irrespective of the shortfalls associated with our education system.
Besides, when the President Prof. J. E. A. Mills was inaugurating the oil commercialization, he loudly muted in his speech the need for investment in education, perhaps on the pretext that, all could not be mentioned in that short while. Either way, I believe that just as he highlighted on the pending populist accomplishments of the God bless gift (oil), he equally could have briefly touched on the need for an educational role as priority.
Three days post the inauguration, the Vice President, at the 10th congregation of Takoradi Polytechnic, gracefully suggested the need to re classify the Polytechnics to take their rightful position, however, he openly acknowledged that there was pressure on the GET fund and as a result Education has lagged behind.
Furthermore, in a nation where a state institution (National Labor Commission) through negligence could halt tertiary education for a period summing 8 weeks, on the bases of minor education expenses and dinning halls in some Senior High Schools turned to dormitories as a result of lack of facilities to accommodate the students; one could without a slip in thought or deed overlook the need for a special allocation of the oil revenue towards education.
Willy-nilly, the highly technical expertise of the oil management shall be imported whilst the laborer’s job would be executed by the majority of Ghanaians employed in this sector. Indeed, media reports suggest that out of the 100 employees spotted on the tarmac (at the time the president was turning on the valve), approximately 25 were Ghanaians whilst the remaining were foreigners.
With education relegated to the background, one should expect nothing but the above scene. Neo-colonialism as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah puts, shall come to play here and in the end, I guess close to 80% if not more of the oil wealth would be expunged out of the country.
The above I believe aver the need for a special allocation of the oil revenue (say30%) for Educational purposes. Such a quota I propose should be injected into the GET fund for the purposes of education upgrading in Ghana. Moreover, the mandate of the GET fund should be broadened to as well emphasize the construction of classroom blocs especially at the rural areas. Such a move I guess will aid the accomplishment of government’s desire to abolish the shift system (prevalent at the Primary, JHS level) and studies under trees.
Notwithstanding, if we as a nation would pursue the Import Substitution Policy as suggested by the Dependency theorists in Development (where in the short run, importation of foreign expertise is recommended as we seek to train our own as substitute to the foreign expertise in the long run) then education ought to be paramount in terms of investment.
The Western Region Chiefs (sometime last year) at the time of introduction and discussion of the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill requested 10% of the oil revenue for developmental purposes in the western region and in fulfillment to a promise made by the Vice President, H. E. John Dramani Mahama. In like manner, I guess it wouldn’t be wrong if the nation should conscientiously allocate at least 30% of the oil revenue towards education.
By this, I want to call on Hon. Haruna Iddrissu, Hon. Maxwell Kofi Dwumah as well as Hon. Samuel Okudjeto (all former NUGS Presidents), Hon. Balado Manu, Hon. Alex Tetteh Enyoh, Hon. Dan Botwe and all lovers of education in both the house of Parliament and the cabinet to champion the introduction of a clause in the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill, seeking the allocation and injection of at least 30% of the oil revenue into the Get fund for the purposes of Education upgrading in Ghana.
I as well want to call on the Student Unions in Ghana (NUGS and GNUPS) to step up efforts in ensuring that a specific clause is introduced in the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill, allocating a minimum of 30% of the oil revenue towards education upgrading in Ghana before the final passage of the bill to law. In so doing, I believe your reputation of championing the desires of Ghanaian students would bring to bear your efficacy.
In conclusion, for our beloved nation (Ghana) to solidify its status as a Low Income Middle Economy, one area that must not be overlooked is reduction in the nation’s illiteracy and functional illiteracy rate which stands currently at approximately 38% and 41% respectively. This, against all odds can only be achieved when Education is prioritized.
To our President, Prof. J. E. A. Mills, regardless of the criticisms leveled against you overtly and covertly, I believe posterity and students in Ghana will eternally be grateful to you if an allocation of at least 30% oil revenue is injected into the Get fund for Education upgrading.

Paul Obeng Atiemo
Student, KNUST