President John Evans Atta Mills on Monday said Ghana’s status as an oil producing country would not lead to a dramatic shift in the country’s foreign policy.
He said: “We shall continue to be guided by the provisions of the 1992 Constitution as they relate to the conduct of our international relations.”
President Mills said this in a speech read on his behalf by Mrs Victoria Addy, Member of the Council of State, at the opening of a three-day workshop in Accra to re-examine Ghana’s foreign policy direction against her emerging oil economy and to provide a working document to serve as a guide to the formulators of the country’s foreign policy.
The President said the emphasis that the Government placed on prosecuting a dynamic and people-centred foreign policy in which ordinary citizens saw the social, economic and cultural benefits of Ghana’s relations with the rest of the world would also be maintained.
The workshop, organised by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, has brought together foreign policy practitioners, researchers, policy makers and representatives of civil society organizations.
It will focus on four main sub-themes – principles, issues and actors involved in the formulation of foreign policy in Ghana; transnational threats in Ghana’s emerging oil economy; Ghana’s relations with her neighbours and role in the quest for regional integration; and the role of development partners in Ghana’s emerging oil economy.
Ghana is expected to lift the first barrel of crude oil next month.
President Mills gave the assurance that Ghana would continue to give priority to the promotion of good relations with her neighbouring countries, respect sub-regional and continental protocols and maintain a reasonably high profile of diplomatic presence in international circles.
He said Ghana would continue to place emphasis on economic diplomacy, adding that her Missions abroad would promote the national objective of diversification and increasing the export base, and expansion of the tourism industry to create more jobs.
President Mills said a conscious effort should be made to integrate the oil and gas sector into the broad national development programme.
Parliament is debating the Petroleum Management Bill and the Petroleum Exploration and Production Bill to govern the production of oil and gas and the management of the resources emanating from the sector.
He said the revenue from the sector should best be deployed to support the traditional sectors of the economy, including agriculture, health, education infrastructure and rural development.
According to him, this would avoid the situation where the oil and gas industry would become a replacement for other sectors of the economy.
He posed some questions for the participants to ponder over, including: “How do we position ourselves to deal with the influx of foreign companies, some of which may be bogus and only seeking to cash in on our oil find, without upsetting the cordial relations we have nurtured with their countries of origin? How do we deal with a potential influx of immigrants, especially from the sub-region and beyond, to compete with our compatriots for spin-off jobs from the oil industry without creating an impression of being xenophobic?”
Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, said the Ministry, in line with the 1992 Constitution, had been undertaking activities to promote the interest of the country at both regional and international levels.
Alhaji Mumuni said the ministry anticipated the influence and impact that the imminent production of oil would have on the country’s interests. “These are complex issues that need to be interrogated conceptually, given their complexities and multi-disciplinary spread.”
Professor Kwame Boafo-Arthur, Director of LECIAD, said Ghana’s imminent oil exploration presented a number of issues including the level of development support she would continue to enjoy from her development partners, adding this underscored LECIAD’s involvement in the workshop to find adequate measures to address such challenges.
Mrs Daniela Kuzu, Resident Director of FES, said FES was involved in the workshop because it was convinced that the active engagement of citizens in the formulation of public policy was critical for the sustainability of democracy and good governance in the country.
Professor Ernest Aryeetey, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, who chaired the opening session, observed that oil exploration had become a frustration for most African countries that had found oil and expressed the hope that this would not be the path for Ghana.
Professor Aryeetey gave the assurance that the university was poised to produce the required manpower to manage the oil industry and called for increased incentives to promote research and training of personnel for the industry.