THE Norwegian Ambassador to Ghana, Mrs. Hege Hertzberg, has urged the Ghana government to use the oil resource to transform the country's economy from import dependent, to become a leading exporter on the African continent.
According to her, with the abundance of oil resource, the economic prospects of the West African country are bright. Likening Ghana's situation to Norway, Hertzberg said the discovery of oil in Norway had transformed the country from being one of the poorest countries in Europe to become one of the richest in the world, with annual per capita income of $55 000 to $60 000.
Mrs. Hertzberg, who made the call at the inaugural Ghana Oil and Gas Awards, noted that oil resource was non-renewable natural resource and so was important to invest in revenue accruing from it prudently, warning "If you inject oil money into economy inflation will eat it all." She said in the case of Norway, it used the oil money to establish a fund with which it made investments abroad and used four percent of it to finance the national budget, adding that the fund kept growing because of returns on investments.
The Norwegian diplomat, who shared the Norwegian experience in the oil industry at the event, said there was a need to understand the economic dangers of becoming an oil producing country and warned Ghana against the over-reliance on oil to the neglect of other sectors of the economy. Mrs. Hertzberg said having first discovered oil in 1969, Norway set up some common values to become the best oil producer based on respect, co-operation and equity.
Two years later, the country developed what she described as the "10 Commandments of Oil", an industry blueprint which was religiously implemented by all governments. She said the Norwegian government developed flexible and risk-friendly policies that attract foreign investors into the industry. Although the government imposed 78 percent tax on profits, the foreign companies still stay on, she stated.
Mrs. Hertzberg said there was the need for all political parties in Ghana to build consensus on the oil industry and desist from engaging in political debates over the oil resource. The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Fifi Kwetey, who chaired the event, said it is important for Ghana to learn from the experiences of other oil producing countries in order to derive maximum benefit from the natural resource.
"Our effort is to ensure that oil does not distract from other sectors of the economy", he said. Meanwhile, 18 institutions and companies, including the US and Norway embassies in Ghana, were awarded for their great contribution in supporting the development of the country's oil and gas industry.