Ghana wants to be shining model for resource-rich countries in Africa

The Ghanaian government has reiterated its resolve to become a shining model for Africa's resource-rich countries through the way it manages its own natural resources.

   It promises to create the enabling environment for government accountability, transparency and rule of law in the way it manages the extraction and revenue from these resources.
   "We are determined to shine brighter and prove that Africa's natural resources should not always be marred with conflict, corruption and under-development but a relief to our socio- economic challenges," said Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Yaw Effah Baafi, when he launched the 2013 Resource Governance Index (RGI) of Revenue Watch Institute in Accra on May 15.
   He said he believed that experiences of "Resource Curse" in many resource-rich countries on the continent where the resources failed to serve the needs of the people should send a strong signal to Ghana to plan well to manage the inflow of revenue.
   "Beside Ghana's compliance with the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), which was recognized in 2010, the government also proposes to pass an EITI Bill which will include provisions for the publication of contract terms in the industry," said Baafi.
   Sounding satisfied about Ghana's performance, the deputy minister touted the experience of the West African country, Africa's second largest producer of gold and currently an oil producer, as ample and concrete illustration of the usefulness of transparency and accountability in the mining sector.
   The Revenue Watch Institute's Resource Governance Index measures the quality of governance in the oil, gas and mining sector of 58 countries worldwide. Each country on the Index, from top-ranked Norway to last-place Myanmar, is judged on four criteria: legal framework, transparency levels, checks and balances and its broader governance context.
   "Ghana's participation in the EITI has contributed remarkably to the information available on the sector such as production, prices and revenues, and the distribution of royalties to district assemblies," said Emmanuel Kuyole, Africa Regional Coordinator for Revenue Watch.
   "The lack of systematic access to information on the licensing process and contract terms leaves a black hole in the information citizens need to make sure that the government is getting a good deal and that companies are paying what is due," he said.
   Another weakness he identified was that "while lawmakers are required to oversee the industry, they often lack the resources to do so effectively, and contracts between mining companies and the government are still kept secret from the public."
   He said the weaknesses identified in these reports had led to fiscal reforms designed to increase revenues, adding "We now need to ensure that the regular and timely publication of EITI reports is enshrined in law."
   Professor George Akilagpa Sawyerr, Chairman for the occasion, who is also chairman of Ghana's Mining Contracts Review Committee, questioned the effectiveness of parliament in its oversight responsibility.
   He lamented that most of the mining agreements his committee had been looking at had very interesting anomalies which short- changed the country, although parliament ratified them. (Xinhua)