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Opinions of Saturday, 24 November 2007

Columnist: Allotey, Henry Kpakpo

The Delusion Of Impending Oil Wealth

Sometimes, it seems to me that, the human brain has a natural propensity towards avoiding logic in its thinking process. We usually - consciously or unconsciously - ignore the obvious facts in order to arrive at the desired (but often wrong and misleading) conclusions. More often than not, we conclude without knowing or even caring about how or why we arrived at a particular conclusion and not the other. This genetic "bug", in the way we choose to process information, can attack individuals or sweep a whole nation off its feet into a mass frenzy of euphoric proportions.

This is the same deviant gene that tricks us into thinking that extending the expiration date on an imported tin of milk is okay: how can it suddenly go bad on the exact expiration date boldly printed on it by the manufacturer? Don't they know that it takes at least a month for an imported item to get to its destination? This gene can make a whole nation completely disregard the strength of an overwhelmingly powerful opposing soccer team in a competition when accessing our chances of winning. This renegade gene is also responsible for making us think that God only listens to us and completely disregards the plight of our perceived or real enemies. This is the same gene that makes all our cabinet ministers think that they are presidential material. As far as they are concerned, being a minister is just a preparation for their ultimate goal - the presidency!

The recent "re-discovery" (This is not the first time...) of black gold or oil in Ghana has to be seem with the sceptism that it deserves. After all this is not the first time that we have heard of such a finding in this beloved country of ours. What is the difference, if any, between past findings and this particular discovery? Why is the same thing being conveniently discovered (most of the time before major elections...) over and over again? These are a few of the immediate questions we have to consider before we start filling our application forms to join O.P.E.C..

Based of our unique history of wealth mismanagement since independence, every Ghanaian should know by now that the mere availability ( In abundance or otherwise) of natural resources in this country has never guaranteed wealth in the past or even the present, so why are we so sure it will be different in the future? Ghana is a classic text book example of wealth mismanagement, she has gold, diamond, bauxite, manganese, cocoa and fertile land for agriculture but does this really do anything for the average Ghanaian? The average Ghanaian lives from hand to mouth in the abundance of all these resources. Let's face it : If in over two hundred years of pre-colonial life and fifty years of post colonial existence these resources could not help us eliminate abject poverty, what gives us the impudence to think that the addition of one more resource-OIL will make any difference?

At best oil can only be a means to an end and not the end itself. There are numerous examples of mismanaged oil wealth all over the world. Our next door neighbour, Nigeria, has enough oil to export yet vehicles queue for petrol and there is a lot of civil strife over distribution of oil wealth. Quite recently, Iran (an oil producing giant) has started rationing oil. In rural Gabon abject poverty is as abundant as the oil it produces. It is not a coincidence that most of the oil in the world can be found in the desert where mirages are also abundant.

It is unfortunate, but the truth of the matter is this; the same people who have succeeded, with distinction, in mismanaging our gold, diamond etc, etc, will be the same people who will be entrusted with the job of managing the oil industry. Believe you me, they are just waiting to gulp down the oil money!

Before we appoint an oil minister, let us ponder over a few questions. Why did the over-production of rice in western and eastern countries conveniently coincide with the unprecedented anomaly of imported rice becoming cheaper than locally produced rice in Africa? Why do we have to import fish when we are also blessed with the Atlantic ocean and numerous lakes and rivers? Is is because fishes suddenly become more delicious when they swim to other countries? I don't get it! With the existence of our potential "bread basket" in the Afram Plains we do not have to import any kind of food at all, but we do. We do not need a prophet to tell us that very soon we might start depending on imported electricity because we have mismanaged or dam.

At this point in time, we are not managerially ready for oil yet! Seriously, I don't think we even need oil to further complicate our problems. What we need is, probably an undiscovered mineral that can force us to change our character and attitudes towards the way we perceive wealth as an ultimate goal. This has only led us to corruption and disregard for our fellow men.

The "re-discovery" of oil will only give us one more opportunity to do what we have always excelled at - MISMANAGEMENT!


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.