Black Gold: The Doom of the Night.

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So to me it is just a funny mix. One man’s resource is another man’s blessing. Why is there such a thing as a resource curse? Resources are the stuff we use to make more stuff. The more stuff we have the better right? But where has Africa’s resources taken it. Let’s see, um first they brought us the slave trade alongside some massive theft of our resources without limit. From gold, to oil to diamonds to the people themselves. But is that really what happened? We were not really robbed, we actually stripped and gave them everything. There is an innate nature of Africans handing everything they own into the hands of foreigners. We never think we’re good enough, even when some Africans are doing it or have done it; it’s never good enough. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how things should be done but funny enough never does anything about it.

Where we were then.

“Commercial quantities of offshore oil reserves were discovered in the 1970s. In 1983 the government established the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) to promote exploration and production, and the company reached agreements with a number of foreign firms. In 1989 three companies, two American and one Dutch, spent US$30 million drilling wells in the Tano basin. On June 21, 1992, an offshore Tano basin well produced about 6,900 barrels of oil daily.
In the early 1990s, GNPC reviewed all earlier oil and gas discoveries to determine whether a predominantly local operation might make exploitation more commercially viable. GNPC wanted to set up a floating system for production, storage, off-loading, processing, and gas-turbine electricity generation, hoping to produce 22 billion cubic feet per day, from which 135 megawatts of power could be generated and fed into the national and regional grid. GNPC also won a contract in 1992 with Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol that provides for drilling and, ultimately, production at two of Sonangol’s offshore oilfields. GNPC will be paid with a share of the oil.” (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+gh0098)
In 1989 the Tema Oil Refinery underwent its first phase of rehabilitation and a second phase in April 1990 to the tune of $30 million. As a result, the quantity of oil supplied to be refined grew from 28000 to 34000 barrels a day.
So there was actually a plan for the oil way back in 1992, TOR was up and running and refining oil in commercial quantities and which was used to generate electricity for Ghana. Yet a few years down the line, we found oil and actually forgot the plan we had in 1992 and TOR is now an obsolete national monument and as a result we now ship our oil in its crude form to be refined to be bought back at higher prices which is how we treat our beloved gold and cocoa. (Funny how we treat all our important resources the same way). When on the other hand Norway discovered oil in the 1970’s and have been able to manage it properly. And properly I mean by theory and in terms of national wealth every Norwegian is legitimate millionaire.

When Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantities in 2010, we sought to consult the Norwegians for advice as to how best we could manage our oil in order to reap its full benefits. A two day workshop was held for our members of parliament at Koforidua with a representative of the Revenue Watch Institute so we could get the advice needed in managing our oil. Some of the recommendations given were; majority of the petroleum revenue should be channeled into the Heritage and Stabilization funds because government could earn returns on them if the funds were invested in stable securities, if public organs and citizens grew accustomed to large inefficient public expenditure, the decline in the petroleum production could cause a severe shock and degenerate into the “Dutch Disease”, checks and balances and provisions have to be incorporated to ensure transparency, effective oversight and accountability, it was wise to spread spending over time to avoid adverse macro-economic effects today because of limited absorptive capacity and to ensure inter-generational balance use of the fund. This was when Ghanaian MP’s supported the voting of a high share of the revenue now, because of the huge investment the country needs. (But what do we see now?) http://www.ghanaembassy.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,print,0&cntnt01articleid=185&cntnt01showtemplate=false&cntnt01returnid=99
So we knew and yet we said what the hell. My stomach versus the future of the country, and they chose their stomach because our MP’s decided to choose what they would eat today over what their future generations would eat. There was a Norwegian example and a Nigerian example. Where the Nigerians decided to spend a huge amount of their oil revenue now and the Norwegians who chose to rather invest it in stable securities and what do we see now?
Where we are now.

This is simple. Ghana’s debt has risen to all time high, the economy is in very bad shape and Ghanaians are in a state of economic hardship. One major problem Ghanaians had was upon the discovery of oil everyone thought things were going to become better in the shortest period of time. The only thing we failed to realize was that these things take time and the effective and efficient management of the oil revenue. We then rushed to make a deal with foreign oil companies where our country is rumored to be making less than 15% off its own oil. That’s a pretty good bargain right? And in terms of revenue management Ghana generated an estimated $650 million in 2012 and TOR is currently in shambles. Ironic how when we finally found oil of our own, state owned oil refinery decided to give up on us. While in the 1990’s GNPC could fund and facilitate rehabilitation programs for TOR, GNPC is currently neck high in debt.

Why are we where we are kraa?

It all about the issue of poor leadership, or rather no leadership, neither by us or our leaders. Let’s break that down a bit.
We have no vision. We did not even need vision. All we had to do was learn from the Norwegians who had been there and had made their resource do what resources are supposed to do; make them better off. The theory says that savings go hand-in=hand with investment. How far has that investment they needed gone? We currently just recorded a huge deficit in our national budget because our state oil company GNPC decided to reinvest its profit and not to pay dividends the government and now we’re afraid and raising concerns as to if GNPC can decide not to pay dividends to the government, and who supervises GNPC because it holds and manages a big chunk of the nation’s money. And these are supposed to be our leaders?
Greed? Are some of the people we voted into government just so eager to get the most out of their four-year all-you-can-squander bonanza that the prospects of a better life for all at the cost of some amount of sacrifice too difficult a sacrifice to make? Or do we delve into the complicated deals that were passed by the two government administrations during the pre and post oil findings that saw some people got screwed because the new government administration wanted a bigger piece of the oil cake. I encourage you to read this film review of the documentary the big men which seek to expose the shady deals and the selfish characters of our leaders and the international oil companies who seek to rip the ordinary Ghanaian off Everybody is willing to throw everyone else under the bus to increase their share of what should be national cake.
To make matters worse we have leaders who do not want to serve or sacrifice. Martin Luther king said: “no freedom till we are all equal”. I guess our leaders flipped it on its head. They will rather sell our freedom for their becoming more equal than the rest of us.
We could talk about aid but let’s not even go there. That is for another day and another blog. It’s a whole different story, talking about our increased borrowing due to increased credit worthiness even though we know very well we will not be able to pay back.

Where to go from here?

It is obviously too late to start again, so rather than just criticize the government. We could go Gaddafi on those “big men: and kick them all out, or?
In truth, I think we should stop pointing fingers at leaders. We get the leaders we deserve. We all like to talk. We need to do more than talk. There have been any times where things have gone bad yet the educated and intelligent people in the country do not lift a finger. Everybody talks and no one does anything. It’s like ‘dzi wo fie asem’ but we fail to recognize that this is our very own ‘asem’. Why not take up the idea of a shadow government, where students and lecturers and opposition parties break the status quo of ‘politricks’ as we see in the media, of pointless discussion which lead nowhere, of propaganda and cooked statistics. Let an educated community of people rise and make constructive criticism of government and go that extra step to say how the issue should be tackled. Fine it may not change the vote of parliament on any issue but in the very least it should equip us with the mental muscle to do it right when we find ourselves in positions where we are to make decisions, because believe me, we will be there.

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