THE government will continue to work with international oil and gas companies to prepare policies and strategies that will ensure Tanzanians benefit from the newly-found off-shore natural gas reserves, the Vice-President, Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal, has said.
He said in Dar es Salaam that the government would ensure that the oil and gas sector develop and unlock diverse economic activities that will provide employment opportunities and bring about prosperity in the communities.
"We will work together with big and international companies to prepare policies and strategies to build sustainable capacity for our people, so that at the end of the day the benefits of the gas economy should be available to all," Dr Bilal said when he was opening the second oil and gas conference at the Mwalimu Nyerere Convention Centre in the city.
The newly-found off-shore natural gas reserves, about 43.1tcf by the latest figures, are expected to propel the East African country into the gas economy with power generation enough to run existing and coming up industries and for exports.
The Minister for Energy and Minerals, Prof Sospeter Muhongo, said that the government worked in the best interest of the nation in handling of the gas and oil exploration and handing of offshore and onshore gas and oil blocks to investors.
He said the interests of the people were taken care of by the state-owned Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC), which has been tasked with ensuring that the government and the public in general benefitted from the investments in the oil and gas exploration and production activities.
"Representative of our interests is the TPDC, after some time it will have majority of shares in the gas investments and will later on sell them to the public," he told a handful of reporters at the sidelines of the conference. Prof Muhongo said TPDC would be restructured to help the country better regulate its vast natural gas discoveries.
He would not go into details, but available details show TPDC would be split into two separate entities, one to act as an upstream regulator of the fast-growing gas industry and the other as a publicly- owned commercial oil company.
The minister further said the much awaited natural gas policy of 2013 was finally out, paving the way for enactment of legislation to regulate activities and protect investments in the sector. "The gas policy is out. Ten days ago, I presented it to the Cabinet and it was endorsed," he said.
The conference and exhibition, which ends on Thursday, has been organised by the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) and the University of Dar es Salaam.
The government will hold its next oil and gas licensing round at the same venue on Friday, where seven deepwater offshore blocks and one onshore block will be offered to successful bidders.
Some of the major players in the oil exploration and production companies represented in the conference included Britain's BG Group and Ophir Energy, America's Exxon Mobil, Norwegian Statoil and Petrobras from Brazil.
Meanwhile, LUDOVICK KAZOKA reports that Dr Bilal has urged teachers and parents to encourage children to embrace science subjects from lower levels in order to address challenges of science teachers.
Dr Bilal said in Dar es Salaam that the government was making efforts to increase the number and quality of teachers in general, saying government policy is that secondary forms I and II should be handled by teachers with diplomas, while forms III and VI should be taught by teachers with degrees.
However, he noted, degree holders currently constitute only 20 per cent of secondary school teachers, saying shortages of qualified secondary school teachers are particularly acute in Mathematics, Sciences and English.
"But if we fail to impart quality education of those students at secondary school level, we will definitely fail to produce better trained students in the higher forms leading to under training of science and technology graduates," said the Vice- President during the launching ceremony of Teachers Resource Centre at Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE).
The centre is part of the Science, Technology and Higher Education Project (STHEP) which is aimed at building human resource capacity through training of high quality academic staff in science, technology and education.
In his remarks, the Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Dr Shukuru Kawambwa, said the project had a vision to develop modern, competitive and knowledge based economy in the country.
"The implementation of the programme has facilitated increase in number of teaching staff and thus reduced the number of part time lecturers in universities and other higher learning institutions," he said.