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Dr Yao Graham, the Co-ordinator of the Third World Network, has criticised government’s fixation on oil and gas revenue and challenged Ghanaians to rather look at its long-term benefit.

Speaking at the premiering of a documentary on Ghana’s oil find by the Institute of Financial and Economic Journalists (IFEJ), Dr Graham said since oil and gas were non-renewable resources, it was important for citizens to look beyond the immediate earnings from the sector and concentrate on the future when the resources had been exhausted.

“Whether the people in the communities and Ghanaians in general benefit or not depends not simply on how investors are attracted to invest in the production of the oil and gas, but the terms on which they invest and more significantly, the overall development vision guiding the sector,” he said.

Dr Graham challenged journalists especially to probe issues in the industry including the management of the country’s non-renewable resources, the acquisition of oil blocks and the terms under which such investors got them and the terms of the contracts for the exploitation of the resource.

Other issues include the effects of the industry on the lives of the people in the oil communities as well as local content issues.

“The development benefits that we expect from the oil and gas industry will not come if the terms under which the resources are being developed are bad,” Dr Graham said adding that in countries where natural resources had contributed to development, the focus had not only been on getting revenue but getting as much of it as possible, making the best use of it and ensuring the activity galvanised other economic activities.

Mr Emmanuel Kuyole, the Africa Deputy Director of the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NGRI), stressed the need for a national vision for the extractive sector and its link to the overall economy.

He noted that although the Companies Bill and the revised Petroleum Exploration and Extraction Bill, which were before Parliament, would address the issue of access to information, it was important for the media to advocate for appropriate provisions to address the issue of information.

“It should be possible to have provisions in the Companies Bill that require beneficial ownership disclosure and a public national registry that discloses all major contracts in the country so that Ghanaians get to know the terms and persons behind the contracts,” he said.

Mr Kuyole said provisions in the Petroleum Exploration and Extraction Bill should also go beyond a registry to disclosing beneficial ownership.

The film, directed by Yidana Hameed Kobigbilla, documents the oil find and exploration highlighting issues including expectations of citizens before extraction and the realities of unfulfilled expectations.

It also exposed the extent of local participation in the sector, capacity building, state of the communities in the region as well as the negative effects on other means of livelihoods such as fishing and farming.

Mr Allan Lassey, representative of the German Aid Agency, GIZ/SECO, which funded the project, urged IFEJ and its members to use the documentary to influence policy and to lead an advocacy campaign in the sector.
Source: GNA

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