General News of Sun, 24 Jun 2007210
Current Leadership Cannot Manage Oil -Thompson
AN ECONOMIST, Dr. Nii Moi Thompson has urged Ghanaians not to over jubilate over the discovery of oil in commercial quantities since the country does not have the proper institutions to manage the oil exploration.
He contended that the sort of institutions Ghana has currently could not assist the nation to develop successfully with the benefits the country would derive from the exploration because they cannot manage the resource.
“What happened to the $20million for the Ghana@50 festivities? Till now we don’t even know how this money was used; they even went to Parliament asking for more without telling us how they used the money.
He said if institutions cannot manage only $20million, how can they “manage $20billion?” “ it might end up enriching family members of some few people,” he bemoaned.
Speaking to The Chronicle after news broke that oil has been discovered in commercial quantities, Dr. Thompson, An Nkrumahist who belongs to the Convention Peoples Party, (CPP) said the country has a problem of leadership and institutions.
He reiterated that though he received the news with some happiness, he was much more saddened due to the fact that the current leadership in the country does not give him the confidence that revenue from oil could be used wisely.
Responding to whether or not the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) could do a good job in managing the oil business, he said technically they could but ultimately they are subject to political influence.
The Economist insisted that the revenue could not be invested efficiently into physical infrastructure by the government adding, “If it is about the proportion of having more money, yes I am happy but having more money is not really just the issue.”
He noted that exploration of oil would increase the country’s capacity to finance development but it does not necessarily mean that the country would be self-sufficient in financing itself in the world.
“How we utilize the oil is what matters, so it will just increase our capacity in terms of resources but we can easily misuse those resources and not do much in terms of our development,” he stressed.
He dismissed the school of thought that says oil is a curse adding that the people who manage it make it to become a curse. “Oil is doing wonders for Kuwait; it’s doing wonders for Venezuela; it’s doing wonders for Saudi Arabia so oil is not a curse but it is the useless leaders we have in Africa who have somehow made it look like a curse,” he emphasized.
Dr. Thompson lamented that an important resource like cocoa had made the country to derive a lot of foreign exchange but there were instances where people were smuggling it outside the country because the government could not manage it.
He continued that there had been instances of cocoa loaded in ships disappearing on the high seas adding that in Nigeria, there have been cases of oil loaded in ships getting missing on high seas.
“So it is not the oil money that is not going to develop Ghana. It is Ghanaians and the kind of institutions that we have. As long as we have such institutions that are tainted with corruption and corrupt leaders, we can have all the oil in the world but we will still be poor,” he contended.
He warned that Ghanaians should be wary that the country does not become affected by the Dutch Disease, where the discovery of oil leads to a disproportionate focus on the oil industry at the expense of other sectors particularly manufacturing.
He said that was what happened in the Netherlands.
Dr. Thompson intimated that he was not sure whether the government would invest in human resources as it was done in other countries when oil discovery was announced, stressing that what is priority to Ghanaians might not be priority to its leaders.