Ghana's oil won't be a curse - Kufuor
President J.A. Kufuor has given hints of immediate measures to ensure that Ghana will be the exception to the African paradox of oil, poverty and conflict.
Closing a two-day Consultative Group Meeting with Ghana's donor partners in Accra last Tuesday, President Kufuor said even before crude oil was found in commercial quantities, measures, including institutional, would have to be put in place now to ensure that the country fully benefited from its oil resources.
Nigeria, Gabon, Angola and Equatorial Guinea own some of the richest oil fields in Africa but their people are said to be among the world's poorest.
Against that background, the President said, "We have to be careful with this find and my government will start working immediately to ensure that the safeguards are not political but institutional to benefit the nation as a whole."
The meeting, the 14th in the series which deliberated on the way forward to accelerate Ghana's growth, particularly in agriculture, human resource development, education, health, among others, was at the instance of the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
President Kufuor said he was personally aware of both the blessings and the curses that the discovery of oil had brought to many nations and that Ghana was poised to take a cue from all the experiences to ensure that "we benefit fully from this black gold".
In countries as different as Norway and Brunei, oil has provided the foundation not only for great individual wealth but also for tremendous social gains, a feat, the President indicated, must be attained in Ghana.
On Saturday, June 16, 2007, Ghana struck oil at Cape Three Points, an area demarcated for oil exploration in the Western Region, to the delight of all, in the wake of the serious energy crisis which is virtually crippling industries and also disturbing the macro-economic fortunes of an economy which has seen consistent growth over the last six years.
In what could be described as a 50th birthday present for the nation, Kosmos Energy, an American-based oil exploration firm, dug 3,425.8 metres deep into its "Mahogany" Well to reach the 'black gold' which is highly suspected to be in commercial quantities.
President Kufuor said he had heard all the comments and concerns of the people about the oil discovery, saying the government could only assure all, including the donor partners, that nothing would be left to chance in ensuring that society became the winner and that even "when I am out, my successor will use the measures, which will include institutional, to the benefit of the entire country".
President Kufuor admitted that the energy crisis had been a bane on the economy, since it was "bedeviling our efforts" at continued growth.
He said hitherto, the economy had been on track and growing at a pace acknowledged world-wide but gave the assurance that the measures being put in place now would lead to an end to the crisis before the curtain of the year drew down.
He mentioned, for instance, Chinese support for the construction of the Bui Dam, which was expected to generate 400 megawatts of power, and the other short term measures, including the acquisition of generating plants presently under installation.
President Kufuor said the government was also considering other renewable sources, such as solar, but noted that "we need to redouble our efforts in those areas and we count on the donor community to help us to get us on top of the challenges".
He also touched on corruption in reaction to concerns raised by the donor community at the meeting.
The donors had, earlier before the President spoke, not minced words when they mentioned the issue of corruption as one of the areas that the government needed to pay greater attention to if the growth of the country was to be sustained.
He said since he made the declaration of "Zero Tolerance for Corruption" on the day of his inauguration as the President in his first term, he had not known peace but found the issue a major challenge which his government remained determined to fight until more meaningful results were achieved.
President Kufuor said while the government was keen on bringing the situation under better control, there was the need for all, including the donor partners, to help in the fight.