Speaker of Parliament is right: 10% Allocation of Oil Revenue to the Western Region is not prudent.

The Minority Group in Parliament intends seeking redress from the Supreme Court on the Speaker of Parliament’s ruling on an amendment to the Petroleum Revenue Bill which was introduced by a Minority member. The ‘challenge’ is over the interpretation and real meaning of Article 18 of the 1992 constitution.

IMANI’s concern is not about the legal interpretations. It is true that our laws need testing to enrich our growing democracy but as a country we should be interested in the larger picture. At the core of this disagreement is how the country allocates her oil revenue. Like interpretation of laws, allocation of this important resource is equally important for our democracy but. Indeed wise allocation will make for needed development and give citizens tangible incentives to participate in our democracy.

IMANI believes allocating 10% of the oil revenue solely to the Western region is not prudent for a number of reasons. Much of the activities related to oil production would be done off shore and as long as these activities are in Ghana’s maritime waters and not the Western region’s alone, it is not sound for just the Western region to be allocated a 10% share.

The fact though is that Western Region is most likely to suffer in the case of an oil spillage, even though with recent global experiences, the spillage could extend beyond immediate environs. So, other regions on the coast too may suffer and require similar treatment. This means that environmental safety trust funds and insurance schemes instead, should be prioritized for the region.

Advocates of such an allocation had earlier argued that there was the need for such an allocation because just about 4.15% of the indigenes of the Region have access to Secondary Education with a little over 40% of Western Region connected to the national grid, which we concede, is far below the 60% national average. IMANI laments at the state of development in the region and believes that for change to be effected, the Western region should rather ask for is their share of taxes paid for on-shore related activities. More of such taxes should be kept for local development rather than carried to central government.

IMANI agrees with the Speaker of Parliament that this allocation of funds will impose costs on the consolidated fund. IMANI wishes to congratulate the Speaker on her ruling. It is commendable that the state has seen that it would not be beneficial to the entire country to allocate 10% of oil revenue to just the Western region.

IMANI hopes that future debates over our oil revenue will not be fought over technicalities. We believe, however, that due process should be followed. All Stakeholders taking crucial decisions on this important national resource should instead remain on the debate over the prudence and benefits of allocating any portion of our oil revenue and not draw attention away from the core issues. Most importantly, Politicians should learn not to make unrealistic promises in order to garner votes at the ballot since it was the sitting Vice–President who made this pledge in August 2008 on a campaign tour of the Western Region.

Broadly, IMANI is taking this stance because the country needs a fundamental shift in our political governance to ensure some level of semi-autonomy at the district level for local resources to be used to fix local problems. We believe that political decentralization is the key, not regional development funds and schemes to be managed by politicians and unaccountable representatives handpicked by the center.

IMANI is a Ghanaian think tank dedicated to fostering public awareness of important policy issues concerning business, government and civil society. In 2009, The Foreign Policy Magazine named IMANI, the fifth most influential think tank in Africa. In 2010, IMANI was the only named African think tank ranked in the top 25 most innovative think tanks in the world by the joint United Nations University and Pennsylvania University Global Think tanks Programme. Visit us today @ www.imanighana.org