Mr Edwin Van-Otoo, Vice-President of Ghana Oil and Gas Service Providers Association, on Wednesday called for visionary leadership in harnessing the country’s natural resources for socio-economic development.
He said it was time Ghana took over the control of her natural resources and safeguard the current hike in their exploitation by foreign companies for their benefit.
Contributing to the topic: “Ghana’s Local Content Policy: Issues Emerging”, at the on-going 63rd Annual New Year School and Conference in Accra, Mr Van-Otoo, cited instances of the destruction of local farmlands in mining communities, the broad destruction of the environment, water bodies, forest ecologies and the fast depletion of underground mineral resources as a result of mining activities as challenges that needed urgent redress.
The 2012 New Year School and Conference on the theme: “One Year of Oil and Gas Production: Emerging Issues”, being organised by the Institute of Continuing and Distance Education (ICDE) of University of Ghana (UG), provided an avenue for the public to discuss key issues relating to the oil and gas sector and offer alternative strategies towards its efficient and effective management.
He called on government to hasten the passage of the country’s Local Content Policy, which had currently received Parliamentary approval, to provide direction on issues relating to oil and gas.
Mr Van-Otoo said the Local Content of Ghana’s Oil and Gas Policy must provide level playing fields for transparency in bidding procedures and ensuring that foreign companies were not favoured to the disadvantage of local companies.
In addition, he said, it would address challenges such as sole operation, promote partnerships to prevent the infiltration of foreign companies into the sector in Ghana.
Mr Van-Otoo noted that Ghana had the potential of becoming one of the major oil and gas producing country in the world, but “We must use what we have to position ourselves to embrace what is in store for us in the near future”.
He said it was important that Ghanaians united as a people and mobilised all resources by forming partnerships to establish giant oil companies and service providers to take over from foreigners in the petrol-chemical and other mineral mining sectors of the country.
Mr Van-Otoo explained that in the process they could create numerous job opportunities for the youth and strengthen their production capacities to meet international demands.
On local suppliers, he suggested that government should make conscious efforts to strengthen local industries and service providers with good financial standing and those with oil and gas potentials to grow and attain levels of international requirement so that they could compete favourably on the global market.
Mr Van-Otoo called on government to put in place strategies to attract Ghanaians in the Diaspora who had already acquired skills in oil and gas, who might bring along their foreign partners to invest in the economy, instead of chasing after Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
He noted that the emergence of new oil discoveries in various locations apart from the Jubilee Field presented the country with a renewed opportunity of elevation into a middle income country.
Mr Van-Otoo expressed the belief that there could be more oil underneath Ghana and therefore larger discoveries could be made in future, but stressed that these discoveries would be beneficial to the people if the country took full control of these resources and channelled their revenue into developing the capacities needed for their effective and efficient management for future development.
He stressed that the country could not produce or fight for a centre stage in the challenging oil and gas industry if it failed to acknowledge education and enhanced capacity building as key components of technology transfer for its own people, but rather chose to rely on the services of foreign expatriates and Foreign Direct Investment in its mineral sectors.
Mr Seth Twum-Akwaboah, Executive-Director, Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) said though important, the Local Content Policy might not be a panacea for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) participation in the industry.
He recommended the redress of some of the challenges of SMEs which included capacity building, information flow and feedback to unsuccessful bidders of contracts, simplify contracts, giving longer contract periods and payment terms.
Mr Twum-Akwaboah reiterated the need for government and other industries in the oil and gas industry to make conscious effort to build capacities to ensure equity in participation in the business of the sector in the areas of supply and services.
He said without such enhanced capacities most foreign companies could capitalise on the weakness of some SMEs to indulge in the illegal business of fronting for their companies in Ghana to secretly take away all the businesses.
Mr Twum-Akwaboah reminded SMEs that while they enjoyed such support from both government and other existing industries, they would be required to exhibit high level of professionalism, efficiency, promptness in the delivery of services, not compromising quality, work ethics and budget for research.