December 15th, 2010
03:26 PM GMT
So Ghana has joined the club of oil producing nations. The taps have been turned on at the offshore Jubilee field.
So what does this mean for Ghana? How will ordinary Ghanaians benefit from this resource windfall?
The first concern that should be addressed is the perception that suddenly the country will become flush with petrodollars. Importantly, expectations must be managed. As those citizens in Nigeria or Angola know, the oil money often doesn't trickle down to the people.
Firstly, Ghanaians have to not think that oil will magically create more jobs, or make people richer. Secondly, civil society has to be tough on government and ensure they constantly monitor how proceeds are being spent.
Also, Ghanaians need to quickly implement legislation to govern the administration of this new industry; hopefully these laws will be passed soon. An independent regulator is also needed to oversee the sector.
Luckily, Ghana has a relatively diversified economy compared to other oil-rich African nations. The country earns foreign currency from gold and cocoa. This alone makes it more likely to avoid the mistakes of places like Nigeria, where oil revenue accounts for approximately 92% of the GDP, or Angola, which is just about entirely reliant on oil proceeds.
However, the numbers are staggering. The Jubilee fields are some of the richest and largest oil deposits discovered in many years. In the long term, oil production is estimated to bring in $1 billion a year. This is a lot of responsibility, as well as a wonderful gift for Ghana.
So my questions: Is this oil discovery a blessing or a curse? Can Ghana avoid the mistakes of some other African countries where oil revenue is used to enrich the elites and not the ordinary people?
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