Civil societies at a day’s round table discussion have once again renewed the appealed to Government of Ghana to carefully select key projects that can be well funded with the limited funds from the oil revenue for maximum impact and effect instead of spreading thinly available funds which in the end will not yield the needed maximum benefit or impact.
Fact finding field trips to various capital projects sites such as roads throughout the country particularly those financed from the oil revenue are unduly delayed or taken a longer time span to finish and in some cases shoddy work executed as a result of spreading thinly. It was revealed.
About 50 participants from Immani, African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), Oxfam, Financial Accountability &Transparency Africa (FAT-Africa), Ibis, Media, etc was on the theme “linking expenditure with priorities in pro-poor sectors of the economy” and discussions focused on tracking budget expenditure of extractive revenues and development.
Prioritizing capital projects by government will maximize the intended benefits and value for money as many of the projects will completed on time. By prioritizing many of the projects will avoid budget overruns which in the end cost more than budgeted for. Government was advised. For instance Government is investing in 12 projects nationwide making it very difficult for one to see exactly which of these projects Government’s focal point is unless sector budgets are perused participants heard.
The 12 priority areas captured by the Petroleum law that directs Government where to spend has accounted for the ineffective pro-poor policies not showing the reliefs and poverty reduction which is the ultimate aim of the policies as seen in Malaysia and Trinidad & Tobago examples.
While commending Government for giving detailed information this time around, Dr Mohammed Amin Adam, lead researcher on this assignment and Presenter was quick to request that more needs to be done to enhance transparency. Dr Adam observed even parliamentary select Committee on Oil and Gas do not sometimes have the relevant information on the sector as required. And so tracking budgetary spending is difficult as data from Government and various agencies are either very difficult to access or sometimes comes so late that it is of no relevance. Citing the Auditors General’s Report as an example which comes sometimes a year late. Nevertheless, Government is forth-coming with some detailed information he added.
Throwing more light on the theme “linking expenditure with priorities in the pro-poor sectors of the economy”, Mr. Abdul Karim Mohammed, Regional Program Advisor Active Citizens- Oxfam, noted that as a driver or agent of change, their aim is to see citizenry to seek answers on pro-poor policies since Government claim to be working on their behalf. He explained that Oxfam will continue to collaborate with other civil societies in budget tracking which is key if pro-poor policies in the budget are agents of development change and also follow how the allocated resources are disbursed.
Given similar instances in Malaysia which invested its oil revenue in industrialization which has led to the huge leap of industrial development and significant reduction of poverty and that of Trinidad & Tobago which chose to invest its oil revenue in Education which has seen a 99.9 % literacy rate also leading to huge poverty reduction and high standards of living for their people but civil societies say if spreading thinly is not addressed Ghana might not see that huge change.
Dr Amin wanted to know the fate of the various projects that have now been axed from the $ 3 billion Chinese loan which formed part of the initial loan now that only half of the loan ( $1.5 billion) is now going to be accessed? What is the fate of price differentials of the oil as these projects were part when the loan was negotiated for? Will Ghana still supply the 12,000 barrels of oil a day to the Chinese?
Touching on the contribution of oil revenue to education as a pro-poor strategy, he noted that although it was not much but in percentage terms it was significant in terms of oil revenue spending and civil societies have always argued that oil revenue should be spent on education. Similarly, agriculture also received budgetary allocation of 72 % of capital expenditure. Also the fisheries sector also received a sizeable amount oil revenue amongst others.
Revealing findings, Dr. Adam stated that a review of funds invested in several projects and the intended results could be classified as modest at best because of the challenge of spreading thinly and resources should be allocated to the productive areas to accelerate economic growth and development.
Making a contribution, a senior Governance Expert from Giz, Mr. Allan Lassey, observed that only 17% of capital resources was allocated to education and culture and urged other civil societies to join the fight to impress on Government to increase the allocation of resources to those areas. Collaborating, Mr. Lassey’s stance, Major Ablorh of PIAC obviously spreading thinly was not beneficial and urged the selection of a few projects for funding otherwise we many see the benefit of oil after it is gone. Responding, Dr Amin noted that there is really funding gap and that is why Government is seeking loans and for the same reason that some civil societies have argued that oil revenue should be used for education since the rewards from those investments are greater and pro-poor eradication.
The Chairman of the occasion, Mr. Kwame Jantuah, African Energy Consortium, once again also renewed the call to journalists to take great interest in the oil and gas industry so that the state will maximize the benefits. Bringing the Liberia experience to bear as a consultant to the Liberian Government, he noted that CSO’s in Ghana were in a good environment as they are able to influence policy and also called for a constant engagement of the legislature to educate them on issues pertaining to the budget and pro-poor deliverables.
Source: Seibik Bugri