Atta Akyea Advocates Partnerships
…Says,‘ We Can’t Rely On Governments To Reap Full Benefits Of Oil And Gas’
By Gifty Arthur
The chairman of the Mines and Energy Committee in Parliament, Samuel Atta Akyea, has stated that, despite Ghana’s discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities, the nation will never rake in the full benefits of these natural resources, so long as investments into the sector are left in the hands of successive governments alone.
The Abuakwa South legislator, on the ticket of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), laments that Government of Ghana (GoG) has successively failed to invest heavily in the sector, though it has the potential to permanently turnaround Ghana’s economy.
The lawyer and former Water Resources, Works and Housing minister, speaking at the second edition of the Ghana Oil and Gas conference in Accra, said the sector, which is a thriving one, is starved of the needed investments.
According to him, the best way forward to harness the full benefit is through a partnership between government and the private sector.
“I am sad to tell you that we can never rely on the government of Ghana to have the full benefits of the oil and gas sector because those undertakings are serious undertakings, huge financial investments, and if you look at our challenges with stability the best is a partnership that is strongly underlined……we should have a partnership with the private sector and the GNPC, so that those who have the money, can come and drive the industry. That partnership is good. I believe that is where we should go,” he told participants.
Lack Of Investments
Mr. Atta Akyea, a lawyer, while acknowledging his lack of knowledge in the sector, expressed concerns about the lack of investments, and argued the sector can become the number one earner surpassing other traditionally known natural resources, like gold and cocoa, but noted that, pumping funds into it remains the challenge.
“But my chief concern is that oil and gas is sufficient to turnaround the economy of Ghana. I am fully persuaded that if oil and gas should be permitted to run fully responsible, Ghana will be something else, but if that is the logic and the experts converged here this morning believe that oil and gas is superior to gold and all the natural things we claim we have, why is it that our sense of investment in that area is so challenged?” he queried.
Speaking at the two-day conference that drew players of the sector from within Ghana and other parts of the world, including Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago, the chairman of the Mines and Energy Committee, decried the inadequate fundings to the Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC).
He wondered why the Finance Ministry will go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), cup in hand, to seek a bailout, when it can get more from funding the oil and gas sector.
“I can tell you on top of my head that you will find a situation in which GNPC is saying that they are expecting the Ministry of Finance to release their moneys so they do their programmes. I can’t believe that is true, but that is a fact. That is a painful fact.
“The Ministry of Finance is looking for good money. A good money is in oil and gas, but you don’t want to release some moneys through GNPC. Everybody thrives in the oil and gas industry.
“I sit down there. I always ask myself, how can we do such self-sabotage and think that we can function well? I believe if we do serious investments in the oil and gas sector we won’t go to the IMF. That is my sense of it,” he maintained.
He cited the Voltaian Basin, located at the Southeastern margin of West Africa Craton, covering about 40 percent of Ghana’s total land mass, where the GNPC is busily working on, saying the eventual outcome is going to be mind-blowing, but the rate at which the working is at a very slow pace.
“Now I am being educated that there is serious oil and gas in the Voltaian basin. That is what GNPC is working on and that undertaking, if we should ever get, can surprise us so much. Maybe, we will not get to where Saudi Arabia is, but there is going to be a turn around. But what I am seeing also at the same time is that they are saying there is serious oil and gas in the Voltaian basin, with all the complexity of doing serious business on the land; it is going on a tortoise pace where the money is, we are not paying attention,” he stated.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Upstream Petroleum Chamber, David Ampofo, attributed the lack of government investment in the sector to competition from various sectors of the economy.
He said what needs to be done is to clearly state the potential of the sector “so that it is not something that could be ignored.”
He said the industry has huge potential, which is yet to be tapped.
In his welcome address, Mr. Ampofo said, “We at Upstream Petroleum Chamber, our primary focus is supporting the creating of responsive business environment for Ghanaians and international investors who take business risks in this sector.”
“The industry is there to be harnessed, it is an untapped frontier with enormous potential both onshore and offshore. There is much to be done to realize the full potential of the industry. It all starts with exploration,” he added.
He said what needs to be done is perhaps even more importantly exploration that leads to oil fields development and on to production.
In his view, increasingly, the harnessing of natural gas that accompanies oil is becoming central to efforts at guaranteeing energy self-sufficiency and so there is work to be done.
Mr. Ampofo, stressing that though natural gas is a key component for development, said its full potential is yet to be harnessed.
“There is the need to expand critical gas infrastructure and optimize domestic gas utilization as the game changer in our quest for energy security. There is however the challenge of gas pricing needed to guide the industry investments, planning and coordinated attention ….
“There is no business without these… domestic gas supply needs harnessing and some big decisions need to be made to enable the required investment. Increased coordination between industry and government is an important act whereby businesses operate within a framework that determines to a large extent how they thrive. The more detailed, the more predicted, the more consistent public policy is, the better for the industry. Oil and gas companies are keen to work with government to address the constraints facing the industry,” he noted.
Energy Minister speaks
Delivering a speech on behalf of the sector minister, Dr. Matthew Opoku Pempeh, the director for the Upstream sector at the ministry, James Amoah, said government is doing a lot in the sector to sustain it.
According to him, the ministry is implementing some policy reforms aimed at accelerating the development of hydrocarbon resources.
He added that the petroleum exploration and production regulations have been revised to permit exploration within development and production areas, saying that, in his view, these new changes made in the upstream regulations will attract investors in the industry.
“Another interesting development in the industry is the revision of the local content including channel and strategic partnerships that will allow foreign companies to provide services and transfer knowledge to indigenous people without operating necessarily in Ghana. This has stopped some of the bottlenecks that businesses face when coming to execute short term jobs in Ghana.
“The government is also working hard to close infrastructural gap to improve the market to ensure that we improve to get the best out of our hydrocarbon resources,” he said.
He added, “It has initiated plans to establish petroleum and petrochemical hub that is Petroleum Hub Development Corporation Limited. It is intended to be the leading petroleum hydrocarbon complex created to add value to the upstream and downstream oil and gas value chain in Africa.”