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The 10% oil revenue kickback for the West – Bad idea
E. Ablorh-Odjidja

The notion that the West must be developed with 10% of the revenue from the new oil find is simply outrageous. Whether we have oil or not, the West must be developed in accordance to goals and objectives set up by the Ghana government, as applied across board nationally.

Claim for ALL the oil revenue is a sovereign right that only Ghana, as a nation, can make. Whoever seeded this idea in the minds of the Western chiefs, and I suspect him to be a politician, must be condemned in round terms as a nation wrecker.

Ghana has that oil because the “United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”, that came into force in 1994, said so:

“The continental shelf is defined as the natural prolongation of the land territory to the continental margin’s outer edge, or 200 nautical miles from the coastal state’s baseline, whichever is greater. State’s continental shelf may exceed 200 nautical miles until the natural prolongation ends.”

This proclamation was made with regard to STATES, not for a collection of tribal chiefs who would dare not make the same claim for lands adjacent to their tribal enclaves. Otherwise by what measure or right would they assume a share of the spoil found from under the continental shelf?

Could they define themselves as state or states or lay claim to ownership of that continental shelf by conquest, purchase, or ancestral settlement in the deep sea? And if so, when did that last ancestor move away?

It is even ridiculous to speculate that this group of tribal chiefs ever had the naval power to enforce sovereignty over ‘200 nautical’ miles of continental shelf, and then conclude that they gave everything away to the colonial powers until March 1957 when the nation of Ghana was born.

But, there are some amongst us who are encouraging the compensation idea. And these number among some of our most intellectual.

A Development Economist claimed that “his support was not based on the fact that the oil was found in that Region but purely on development enhancement mechanisms because the people of the Western Region would be the losers as a result of the exploration” said a GNA report on November 23, 2010.

In the Development Economist’s reasoning, “in every economic activity, there would be gainers and there would be major losers," adding that there was the need therefore to develop” intervention” mechanism that would ameliorate the losses of those impacted; in this case the people of the West.

Granted, but there will also be the case of those who have suffered losses in the past when territories that they can lay more substantive and tangible claims to fell into use as public domains. The 10% solution offered should, therefore, be universal and common to all in application, as would be justified by the fact that we are a nation.

And as charitable as the above approach is, the obvious is that it fails to recognize the explosive nature of the whole 10% deal.

To give you an example, assuming we go ahead and give the Western region the 10% resource they are asking for, when then are we going to compensate the people of the Lake Akosombo area, whose lands have been swallowed by the lake, based on the same mark of 10% (plus interest over 40 years) of the productive worth of the dam? Never, because the cost will be huge, colossal and unaffordable.

Or try estimating the past and current revenue due, under the same 10% scheme, that would be owed to the people of gold producing areas like Obuasi, whose lands are being dug from right under them and have had their rivers and other life support resources poisoned continuously by the gold industry for some 80 years plus?

The above claimants will have better, substantial and tangible claims over the use of resources from their tribal enclaves than those claims for oil from under a continental shelf on which soil an ancestor never stepped on or was buried.

There will be multiple claimants within Ghana with equal demands. But don’t forget the people of Accra coming back to ask for back rent for using the capital to administer the spoils we are about to pay kickbacks on!

 

This is not to contest the idea that the West lags the rest of the country in development and therefore needs help.  It is rather to point out the unimaginative policy stance that has brought this about and to prevent this being replaced by another bad policy.

In a venture like oil prospecting, there will be gains for the people just as there have been with our other resources that we have commonly shared. But the economic impact, in terms of job creation, will be mostly felt in the Western region. Companies will rush to Takoradi and towns in the West, not to Koforidua, Kumasi, Techieman or Tamale.

 

No Ghanaian in his right senses will be against the construction of good roads, hospitals, schools and the promotion of general upgrade in the quality of life of the people.  But to set aside 10% of the oil revenue for this purpose and for the West alone is bad and dangerous planning.

Not only for the monetary cost.  Any obtuse mind can easily calculate, in fiscal terms, the detrimental effect of this 10% levy on our nation’s economy. However, the intangible cost – the psychological, the political and the social cost to the self as a nation – the ticking bombshell the size of a nuclear weapon, can only be discerned by the true statesman. So, the cheap politician who would want to arm the nuclear fuse with a 10% bribe payment to the Western chiefs can go ahead.

Like in the movies, there would always be claimants who would say, “Go ahead. Make my day.” And they would vote against any political party that pays this bribe for ballots.

E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher www.ghanadot.com, November 25, 2010

Permission to publish: Please feel free to publish or reproduce, with credits, unedited. If posted at a website, email a copy of the web page to publisher@ghanadot.com . Or don't publish at all.


 

 

 

 

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