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Opinions of Monday, 8 November 2010

Columnist: Baafi, Alex Bossman

Oil Find Must Change Fortunes

By Alex Bossman Baafi

On several occasions on very important platforms, very important responsible people have made the statement that the oil find will not change the fortunes of this country. They articulate their view points to the fact that the numerous mineral resources of the country including gold from the time immemorial had not significantly changed the fortunes of this country. They always do not hesitate to caution the good people of this country not to harbour any unrealistic expectations. Their opinion stem from the fact that with hindsight experiences the exploration and exploitation of our national resources such as cocoa, manganese, bauxite, timber and gold among others have not brought any meaningful or significant change in our economic development. Though these observations hold water and are facts, I personally disagree with them.

In my humble opinion, it is not true that the oil find will not change the destiny of this country for the better. We must disabuse our minds from that negative notion and start thinking critically because the oil find is a blessing and we must resolve as a nation to move towards that positive direction. As a nation we should learn from the past and make conscious efforts to avoid grave mistakes and build upon the positive strides we have made. We must be mindful of the fact that people who continue to live as their forefathers did are not susceptible to any progressive change forward. We must therefore be prepared to accept change and new ways of doing things in order to keep fear of failure at bay.

Among the oil producing countries our country is a small one in relative terms. In terms of quantum and future prospects, this nation stands the better chance to make a difference having the opportunity to learn from others. The oil comes with a bonus natural gas also in commercial quantities that had to be harnessed to boost the energy sector of the country. As a people and as a nation if we fail to seize this opportunity to change the destiny of our country and people what else can we ask for?

The motivation behind this article is not to go into any complex numbers and calculations but to put forward my candid view about the oil find which I think can propel this nation to another economic developmental level. This is because there are a lot of oil producing countries around the world with mixed blessings which we can draw experiences from and we do not have to be lazy or idle to do that so as to put in place a comprehensive and adequate laws and policies to serve as a roadmap on our journey to the land of economic prosperity.

We all know that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. We must first plan by identifying our critical needs out of our numerous wants and then prioritize in order to make optimum use of our new found oil and gas resource. We must identify and select few key sectors of the economy as pillars of economic transformation and invest heavily in these sectors with the revenues from the oil and gas so that the selected sectors will pull along the other sectors of the economy by way of inter-sectorial linkages through synergistic advantages.

If we fail to identify our priority areas which are very critical to build them as the foundation upon which our economic emancipation and development will take off, then we will be irresponsible and be doing a great disservice to posterity. In view of this, the Oil Revenue Bill in parliament must be carefully examined and debated dispassionately to ensure that the final product of the bill will be in the interest of the nation in the medium to long term and not what will make any political party win elections through the ballot box. It is in the light of this that many including the writer are worried about the fact that before the advent of a single barrel touching the surface of our land, revenue projections had already been factored into the 2011 Budget Statement with parliament expected to approve it. What kind of economic thinking is this? Is this not tantamount to counting you chicks before they are hatched? This is clearly a chosen path of oil find leading to a curse instead of a blessing. This is not the time to start supplementing national budget with expected oil revenue. I think it is premature to start eating the cake we do not even have yet.

This is the time for critical brainstorming and careful planning for what, when and where the oil and gas revenue must be disbursed to guarantee maximum benefit to the nation and not what an individual or group of individuals will pick and choose for their self interest. I am confident and convinced that with careful planning cum judicious use of the oil and gas revenue, through multiplier effect, can change the destiny of our dear nation for the better. The onus however is now on our honorable parliamentarians to make sure that this oil find is an opportunity and not a calamity or a curse.