Ghana needs to be beware of ‘economic hitmen’

Dec 11, 2011 12:00 AM

by J. Ato Kobbie

The Chairman of the board of Governors of the Petroleum Commission, Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah, has cautioned Ghanaians, to be watchful of the activities of foreign interests that always seek to control the affairs of resource-rich economies, through diabolic means, which hurt such countries and even threaten their political stability.
Speaking as a resource person at a three-day international conference on “The Avoidance of the Oil Curse”, organized by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy, Prof. Addae-Mensah said expectations that have heightened with Ghana’s oil-producing status, is not only local, but international as well.

Prof. Addae-Mensah, a former Chairman of the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), said international players also expect to benefit from Ghana’s oil resource, and they are eagerly observing to see how best to benefit with or without regard for the country’s interest.
Quoting from “Confessions of an economic Hitman”, by John Perkins and “Oil and Gas in Africa”, written for the African Development Bank and the African Union by a panel of experts, to back his assertions, Prof. Addae-Mensah, said the oil discoveries in Ghana create great opportunities.

He said however that a cost-benefit analysis of resource rich countries shows that the owners of the resource benefited the least. He said very often it is the indigenous people within communities where these resources abound that suffer most from the adverse impacts of the resource exploitation.
Prof. Addae-Mensah was speaking on the topic: Understanding What you Have and what it is worth: Avoiding The Resource Curse In A Resource-Abundant Country -- The Local And Regional Issues And Implications.

Taking participants through the activities of economic ‘hitmen’, as narrated by John Perkins, in his confessions, Prof. Addae-Mensah said “virtually every country dealt with in the book has enormous natural resources, especially oil and gas. Iran, Columbia, Ecuador, Panama, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia were all touched”!
He said “presidents of any of the countries who refused to play ball once they had been compromised, were promptly either overthrown or physically eliminated”.

According to Prof. Addae-Mensah, even at this early stage the Western Region is feeling the brunt, manifesting in high cost of living, soaring prices due to intensified land speculations, citing an example of a hotel that was charging $ 80.00 only recently, now charging $ 360.00.
Prof. Addae-Mensah said the oil is likely to change the dynamics of the Western Region and any dislocation will affect the entire country. He recommended therefore that to avoid the resource curse, it was important that spin-off industries emerged and warned against excessive borrowing, which he said could have dire consequences for the country.

“We must use local goods and services as much as possible,” he advocated, adding that Ghana has always been a pace-setter in Africa and therefore if ‘other countries have got it wrong it does not mean we should go the same way’.
“We cannot afford to do that. We simply have to get it right,” he concluded.

Prof. Addae-Mensah said, “it has often been asserted that petroleum, in particular, brings trouble --  waste, corruption, consumption, debt overhang, deterioration, falling apart of public services, wars, and other forms of conflicts, among others”.
He said growth in natural resource-abundant countries tends to be slower than expected -- considering their resource wealth -- and, in many cases, is actually slower than in resource-scarce countries.

He said however, that government’s behaviour regarding how it administered resource wealth and how they use natural resource revenues, sounding the alarm bells that studies point to the bulk of Ghana’s GDP coming from non-renewable extractive industries (oil and gold) by 2015.
Prof. Addae-Mensah said this will mean that the main agricultural produce, cocoa, and the services and other sectors, will then be playing a relatively minor role, which signals danger.

Other resource persons who addressed participants were: Prof. Daniel Mireku-Gyimah, Vice Chancellor of the University of Mines, Tarkwa, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, an international expert and consultant in energy and natural resources law and a former Corporate Secretary and Legal Adviser to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Torfinn Harding, a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies, at the Department of Economies and New College, University of Oxford, Mr Steve Akuffo, an Architect and Development Consultant and Dr Kwesi Aning, Dean and Director of Academic Affairs and Research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC).
The three-day conference was attended by representations from the business community, organized labour, civil society organizations, fishing communities, stakeholders in the oil and gas sector, experts from varied backgrounds including, security, health and safety, economists, architects, policy experts etc.

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