Today I read a submission by Craig Murray, a human rights activist, writer, former British Ambassador, and, in his own words, a friend of Ghana (Read the article here). Ever since the commercial-quantities-of-oil party began, I have been very worried about what we will actually do with this oil. Will actually improve the quality of the life of the people in Bereprow (literally: ripen and rot) who cannot transport their farm produce to the markets because there are no roads connecting them, while food prices increase in the city?
Before I proceed, here is one burning question: DID WE HAVE TO HEAR THIS FROM AN "OUTSIDER"?
There used to be a time when I firmly believed Ghana to be the country that would always demonstrate to the rest of West Africa, at least, that it was possible to handle economic/political issues in ways that would ultimately prevent political turmoil. It is still my hope that as far as our plans for oil production are concerned Ghana will emerge a shining example of the way to do it right in West Africa.
However, in recent times, if the crazy driving and the ease with which tempers rise in traffic jams are anything to go by, then Ghanaians are becoming less and less the peace-loving, hospitable and accommodating people that the textbooks and newspapers talk about. For this and other reasons, concern about a future of oil rigs and pollution is not unwarranted.
Earlier this year (in this article), the Deputy Minister of Energy discouraged Ghanaian youth from having high expectations about the improvement that the oil industry would bring to the country's economy. The idea was to point out to the youth that without skills, crude oil would not make a difference in their lives. I couldn't agree more. However, in a country where the idea of the "national cake" is still at the fore of most people's minds, how does one prevent people from getting disappointed and then rebellious five to ten years down the line?
There is the Ministry of Energy, the Energy Commission, the Energy Foundation (have I missed any others?) and all these are players on the oil fields. The real concern is whether all their mission statements will go beyond talk when the oil starts to flow. There's also the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology whose overall objective is "to ensure accelerated socio-economic development of the nation through the formulation of sound policies and a regulatory frame work to promote the use of appropriate environmentally friend, scientific and technological practices and techniques."
It will soon be time to put these objectives to the test again. Let's not have Asa say to us, "I told you so" when the river overflows and we find ourselves running, wishing we had put out the fire.
Image: Courtesy http://www.alaska-in-pictures.com
The woman I was talking about
13 hours ago