ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — The West African nation of Ghana is poised to begin pumping oil Wednesday for the first time, kicking off a lucrative new industry expected to bring $1 billion annually to a part of the world where most people still get by on less than $2 a day.

But critics warn the country, one of the most stable and democratic on the continent, has yet to pass crucial legislation to avoid what is known in Africa as the “resource curse.” In places like Congo and Nigeria, oil or mineral wealth has fueled conflict instead of boosting desperately needed development.

British-based explorer Tullow Oil PLC is leading a consortium that will start producing 55,000 barrels per day Wednesday from rigs off Ghana’s Atlantic Ocean coast in the Jubilee Field, which was discovered three years ago and holds an estimated 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

“The start of oil production represents an important opportunity … but the sudden onset of oil wealth often comes at the expense of good governance and effective development,” said Ian Gary, a policy manager for the charity Oxfam America. “Ghana’s challenge as an ‘oil hot spot’ will be to manage this industry with transparent and accountable policies and practices, so the people of Ghana can truly benefit over the long-term.”

More than three years after the discovery of oil, Gary said there is still no oil revenue management law in place, and no independent regulator established for the sector. Ghana’s parliament is currently debating an oil revenue bill, but key provisions – including preventing oil revenue from being used as collateral for loans – have been removed.

Last week, lawmakers approved a bill allowing 70 percent of oil revenues to be used for such loans, which have caused countries such as Nigeria, Angola and Republic of Congo to go “deep into debt due to unsustainable oil-backed borrowing,” Oxfam said in a statement.

Nevertheless, the money is badly needed. Most of Ghana’s 23 million people struggle to get by.

In 2009, Africa produced 13 percent of the world’s oil, “but this has yet to translate into tangible benefits for Africa’s poor,” Oxfam said. “In fact, resource-rich countries in Africa have actually experienced lower growth rates than countries with scarce resources.”

Tullow Oil has a 34.7 percent stake in the Jubilee Field. Other partners include Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (23.49 percent), Kosmos Energy (23.49 percent), The Ghana National Petroleum Company (13.75 percent), Sabre Oil and Gas (2.81 percent), and the E.O. Group (1.75 percent).

 

FrancisKokutseandToddPitman

AssociatedPress