Norwegian envoy advices Ghanaians: ‘Don’t hope for an oil-based country

Jubilee  Fields..The Counsellor of the Norwegian Embassy, Haakon Svane, has advised Ghanaians to move from the dream of becoming an oil-based country.

“Examine the realities and see what the future holds for the country,” he says.

The Counsellor argued that “the days of the hype is over, and Ghana needs to adopt realistic approaches in building a new economic sector,  bearing in mind that in several cases, it had been difficult to translate resources to improve welfare for citizens”.

Mr. Svane gave the advise when he shared his country’s experience at the Fourth Stakeholders Forum which ended here on Thursday.

Attracting participants from civil society groups, chieftaincy, security, research and academia, fisheries sector and media, the two-day forum with the theme, “Towards a decade of commercial oil discovery-progress made in addressing active citizen concerns,”   assessed the petroleum governance since Ghana found oil in 2007.

Arguing that a realistic approach was necessary in building a new economy, Mr. Svane explained that there was no quick fix to the problems in the petroleum sector, adding that Ghana had kept a diversified and promising economy which was not dependent on oil revenue, as some countries had done.

 

“The hype around the oil and gas discoveries in Ghana is over. The price has fallen and there is a slump in the industry. The reality probably is different from the dream. There is much less revenue than expected. But, look at the bright sides.”

 

He said, Ghana should have the necessary time to build the necessary management expertise, educational and industrial infrastructure, saying that “your oil and gas industry heads onshore, you have time to consult with local communities.”

Norway, he said, had close to 50 fifty years of experience on oil and gas exploration with fields development, licensing and production, revenue management and related development.

Key characteristics of the Norwegian experience included strategic ownership by the state, strong and competent institutions,continuous accumulation of technical knowledge,an advanced regulatory system with high respect for  the environment ,health and safety, determination to secure  national control over petroleum resources, he said,adding that some of these had  been relevant to other countries.

According to Svane, Norway like Ghana, did not leave all the oil and gas activities to foreign countries but also took some lessons from them, especially on strong regulations for local content and ownership in the earlier stages.

“We built the industry expertise at our colleges and universities from day one. Ghana is on its way to do so,too, and should continue with such efforts.” he added.

Continuing, the Norwegian Counselor emphasised a high level of local content, which he noted, was important for the country to benefit from the petroleum sector, but however, said local manpower needed the qualifications of international standards with government and industry cooperation.

“There is no quick fix. It took twenty years of heavy investment in oil and gas infrastructure while producing oil,before we started making profit. We have worked actively to find ways for our petroleum sector and our fishermen/women to co-exist. The interface between the global, petroleum industry and the local companies must function well.There should be fish for development programmes.” Mr. Svane suggested.

He told the participants that laws and regulations and enforcement should ring fence the activities of the petroleum sector to ensure that the revenue was wellspent, noting that “Ghana has come along way despite the challenges we are discussing today.”

He said: “A high degree of transparency is also required.The press and civil society play an indispensable role as watchdogs and are spokesmen for local communities as exploration and production of oil and gas gains traction. And journalists must be knowledgeable in  order to fulfil their important tasks.Norway supports NGOs and CSOs like OXFAM and ACEP for that purpose.”

He said, Norway supported her partners in resource management, for example, sustainable exploration and production environment and revenue management.

Svane added: “This type of conversation has to be continuous, active and inclusive. Oil and gas play an important role in many countries and has the potential to generate economic and social development. We have a lot to learn from the experience of local and traditional authorities and communities. More of such dialogues could be useful.”

From Clement Adzei Boye, Takoradi

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