ABOUT one billion dollars will be derived from the first phase of the development of the country's gas resources into a viable petro-chemical industry, Vice-President John Mahama has said.

He said the project, which would be done in partnership with the private sector, would create employment opportunities and help the country to be self-sufficient in electricity generation.

Vice-President Mahama said in view of the policy to develop the country's gas resources, government had entrenched into all petroleum exploration agreements a no-flaring policy to prohibit any flaring of gas, which he said, was also positive for the world environment.

The Vice-President said this when opening the second Graphic Business Roundtable Forum yesterday, themed, Ghana's emerging oil economy: Prospects and challenges� in Accra yesterday.

In December this year, Ghana will join the league of petroleum producing nations, following the announcement in 2007 of the discovery of oil reserves in commercial quantities.

Since then more discoveries have been made and conservative appraisal of the wells and available statistics based on credible scientific findings indicate that the country holds potentially, about 1.6 billion barrels of crude oil.

Vice-President Mahama pointed out that the employment that would be generated from the development of the gas resources would require the right mix of skills, such as electricians, plumbers, catering and helicopter services.

He said the local content and local participation bill that the government had drafted would ensure that companies that operate in the county's oil and gas industry employ up to 90 per cent of their staff from within Ghana by 2020.

Where the level of skill does not allow this to happen, the companies will be required to submit a detailed work plan on how they intend to make this local human resource available in Ghana, the Vice-President said, adding, the move was to ensure that the benefits of oil and gas wealth generation remained within the country.

Touching on the issue of transparency and accountability, he said the government would address those concerns through two interventions. First, was the drafting of the Oil Revenue Management Bill to determine what constituted petroleum revenue.

He said the draft proposes the establishment of the Ghana Petroleum Reserves Accounts, made up of the Ghana Petroleum Account and the Ghana Petroleum Fund.

The petroleum account is being proposed as a single destination collection account for all petroleum revenue due to and, collected on behalf of the government, to make it easier to monitor the inflows and outflows of petroleum revenue.

The petroleum fund, on the other hand, is intended as a savings fund for the purposes of smoothening government spending and in the long run, to preserve part of the value of the oil capital while living on the interest.

�It is expected that all petroleum receipts shall be treated as separate accounts to be held at and accounted for, by the Bank of Ghana, Vice-President Mahama stressed.

The government, he said, had also committed to extending the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to the oil and gas sector to further ensure transparency and good governance in the use of oil and gas revenues.

Mr. Mahama noted that the EITI, currently being applied in the mining industry, encouraged the publication of revenues received by stakeholders, such as the government, the communities and mining companies.

He said Ghana would not thread in the footsteps of the Dutch disease syndrome by reducing spending in other sectors such as agriculture just because of the inflow of petro-dollars into the economy, saying, the country was learning from the good practices of Trinidad and Tobago, and Norway.

Vice-President Mahama said the government prioritises the importance of safety and environmental protection. The lessons of the Gulf of Mexico Oil spill is a signal to us that we must put in a mechanism to closely monitor safety and environmental issues.

He said strategic plans, training, equipment and logistics for the Police Service, Air Force, and Navy were being put in place to prepare the security agencies for the challenge of protecting the country�s fledgling oil industry.

Vice-President Mahama said the theme of the forum was appropriate, timely and topical in view of Ghana's oil and gas discovery.

Ibrahim Awal, Managing Director of Graphic Communications Group Limited, said the company deemed it fit to set the oil and gas agenda for national discourse and added that the outcome of discussions would be presented to the government to help shape oil and gas policy in the country.

Ghanaian Times