63RD ANNUAL NEW YEAR SCHOOL AND CONFERENCE (Year of Oil and Gas Production; Emerging Issues) by Prof. Yaw Oheneba-Sakyi
In counting our blessings, I believe we will count today, also a blessing since we have lived to witness the organization of another New Year School and Conference. I am especially glad that it has become possible for all of us to meet and engage in an intellectual discourse on the 63rd Annual New Year School and Conference platform. The Annual New Year School and Conference is a national programme regularly held by the Institute of Continuing and Distance Education (ICDE) of the University of Ghana for one week, at the beginning of the New Year. It brings together people from all walks of life to meet and dispassionately discuss vital issues of public concern.
In the process, the event:
- Educates the general public on important topical national and international issues;
- Promotes consensus-building among people of diverse opinions and backgrounds;
- Assesses public opinion on pertinent issues in order to ensure good governance;
- and last but not the least, the gathering Provides a platform for initiating public policy as evidenced by follow-up actions on the School's communiques'.
Mr. Chairman, following last year's edition of the New Year School and Conference which was on the theme, "Harnessing the Power of the Youth for Accelerated Development" significant efforts are being made in the area of youth empowerment and development. Notable among them are the reintroduction of the National Sports Festival which has been rechristened 'The National Unity Games, and the transformation of the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) to become one of the means of Government's social intervention in job creation and youth development.
THE THEME FOR THIS YEAR
Each year, the organizers of the School and Conference select a theme which is relevant during a particular year and this year's is no exception. It could be recalled that in 2007, Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantities after many years of prospecting by international oil companies with technical support from the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC).
To the youth, it promised a good future full of employment opportunities; to the businessman, a platform to expand business frontiers; to the government, petrodollars to push for economic transformation to turn the lots of citizens around for the better, or perhaps for the best; and to ordinary Ghanaians, the new economic messiah to redeem them from the shackles of poverty, ignorance, and disease.
Despite this excitement, there seems to be a growing pessimism that government may not invest the revenues from oil and gas in critical areas of development to improve the standard of living of all Ghanaians. This has prompted questions on Ghana's ability to curb the Dutch Disease, her ability to balance agricultural development with oil and gas production and ultimately, her ability to change the socio-economic landscape of the country especially, the Western Region among others.
From the foregoing, it is evident that the dicey nature of oil and gas production and its management in a developing country like ours, calls for a holistic examination of issues that may come with its operation, hence the choice of the theme, "One Year Oil and Gas Production: Emerging Issues," for the 63rd Annual New Year School and Conference. Most people are inquiring about how this resource would benefit all of us as Ghanaians; and whether this resource would be a Blessing or a Curse.
Writing in Africa Report, Feb. 1, 2010, Patrick Smithin reports that the often heard demand from activists, politicians and business-people when discussing oil's potential in Ghana is that the situation is expected to be different from its African counterparts. The argument goes that the discovery of the Jubilee field with about 1.8bn barrels, is the first time substantial amounts of oil and gas have been found in one of Africa's established democracies. So, the question to be asked and addressed is how different really is Ghana from its African neighbours when it comes to the management of its natural resources (including the oil and gas) for the maximum benefit of its citizens?
As the country prepares for the 2012 elections, we have to be mindful that our well hailed democratic credentials in the African sub-region will once again be tested. Democratic governance is not only about elections. Instead, it is the means to attaining socio-economic development. Democratic governance cannot be sustained within the context of growing poverty, illiteracy, youth unemployment, poor environmental sanitation and the general feeling of insecurity. The question that can be asked, then, is: How will prospective candidates strive to translate the political will of the people into development agenda that would be beneficial to all the citizenry of Ghana in an Oil and Gas economy?
Click to download the addresses and presentation by the Guest Speakers:
- Address by Nana Asafu-Adjaye (CEO of GNPC)
- Address by Hon Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah (MP& Deputy Minister in charge of Petroleum)
- Progress Report by Director (ICDE)
- Keynote Address by Prof. Collier - Managing Ghana's Oil Discovery
- CEPA Presentation at Symposium on Poverty Reduction and Oil Revenue by Dr J.L.S Abbey (Executive Director, CEPA)