News / Africa

Oxfam: Ghana's New Oil Law Leaves Room for Financial Mistakes

An oil rig for oil exploration is pictured at the Port of Takoradi, Ghana, December 4, 2008 (file photo)
An oil rig for oil exploration is pictured at the Port of Takoradi, Ghana, December 4, 2008 (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio
Drew Hinshaw

Oxfam says Ghana's new oil law will not protect it from making the same financial mistakes as established oil producers such as Angola and Nigeria.

The Petrol Revenue Management Bill that Ghana's parliament ratified on March 2 is to regulate how the country spends and saves the $1 billion in oil money it expects to reap this year alone, an amount that is equal to two-thirds of the government's total anti-poverty spending.

The new law will require Ghana's government to publish a breakdown of all the oil-related money it receives and where it goes.  It establishes watchdog groups to keep an eye on the oil money.

But policy group Oxfam International says those rules alone are not enough to prevent this region's newest oil exporter from repeating the mistakes of its oldest oil giants.

Nigeria, Angola, Cameroon, Equatorial-Guinea, Republic of Congo, and Gabon - all west and central African states - have been pumping hundreds of millions of dollars worth of oil a day for decades. But that oil windfall has typically failed to bring even mundane improvements in the lives of people in those states, the majority of whom live on less than $1.25 a day.

Ghana could suffer a similar future, Oxfam Policy Manager Ian Gary says, if the country does what its neighbors did and uses oil revenue as collateral for government loans.

Unfortunately, he said, the final law stripped a provision that would have prevented Ghana from doing just that - taking on risky debt with the false sense of security that petrol profits will one day pick up the tab.

"In many cases such as Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, and others, the condition under which they took oil-backed loans were very opaque," said Gary.  "The terms were not known to the public and the interest rates were really high.  So without any public discussion, the officials were basically mortgaging the future at very bad terms."

Ghana, he said, may be already inching towards that fate.

The state has taken out a staggering $750 million loan in the form the eurobond in 2008.  Ghana's state-owned National Petroleum Company is also looking to borrow $500 million in start-up cash - a loan Gary fears, will be backed with the promise that some future oil windfall will pay off the loan if the company can't.

"There's concern that before Ghana even starts to really produce significant quantities of oil that it will have mortgaged a lot of that money," added Gary.

There are other, more intransigent concerns, too, he says for this country that may be an example against corruption within its region, but is still ranked 62nd in Transparency International's rankings of how 178 countries fare against corruption.

A series of 2009 investigations on how the country's nascent petrol proceeds were being spent found "leakage," Gary said, between the oil wells and the schools and clinics they were meant to fund.

"It's a question of how quickly Ghana can build its capacity to not just spend money, but spend money wisely," explained Gary.

In his state of the nation speech this year, Ghana's President John Atta Mills said his government will account for 100 percent of the country's petrol proceeds.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid