Sovereign wealth funds: Qatar’s $450b vs Ghana’s $645m

In the last couple of weeks the Investigative Unit of Qatar based Al Jazeera has broadcast a four-part episode of an undercover investigation it did on gold smuggling and money laundering in Africa. While the two countries the investigation, Gold Mafia, focused on were Zimbabwe and South Africa, other countries popped up. Ghana was one of the country’s that came up.

The investigative reporters infiltrated the ranks of the gangs smuggling gold and laundering money across the world. They secretly recorded the subjects telling their own stories and dropping names. The investigation has shocked the world and there are some ripples.

The president of Ghana, even though not mentioned by name by one of the subjects in the investigation, Alistair Mathias, has written to Al Jazeera demanding retraction and an apology, failing which he would sue Al Jazeera.

Considering the interest that the letter has generated in Ghana, unlike the investigation, we have sought to do a comparison between Ghana and Qatar, considering the fact that both countries are oil producers, and Ghana’s economy is in crisis, and for months the government has been struggling to obtain a $3 billion facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

While critics of the government say it wouldn’t need the facility if it has been managing the country’s rich natural and other resources well, its supporters say, it’s not about the money but the credibility the IMF programme would bring to the country’s economy.

Ghana and Qatar are both oil producing countries. Available information shows that Qatar has 24.5 tcm (865 tcf) of gas reserves (tcm is trillion cubic metres and tcf is trillion cubic feet), most of it offshore its  North Field. The North Field is the note as the world’s largest non-associated gasfield.

According to the Qatar National Bank, the country will be able to continue at the current level of production for another 138 years. Natural gas production in Qatar stood at 175.7 bcm (billion cubic metres) (6.2 tcf) in 2017. Qatar Petroleum manages the country’s hydrocarbons sectors.

The country also holds oil reserves of 25.7 billion barrels. In 2017, Qatar produced 1.92 million boepd of oil and liquids.

Information on Ghana says the country has 2.5 billion barrels of oil reserves and 22.7 bcm of gas.

However, as at 2016, the country is reported to hold 660 million barrels of proven oil reserves, ranking it the 43rd in the world and accounting for about 0.0% of the world’s total oil reserves of 1,650,585,140,000 barrels.

The country’s proven reserves equivalent to 20.5 times its annual consumption. This means that, without Net Exports, there would be about 21 years of oil left (at current consumption levels and excluding unproven reserves), available information says.

The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation manages the country’s hydrocarbons.

Qatar is a small country on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf, with total land area of 11,610 km² (4,483 mi²) and a total coastline of 563 km (349.8 mi). It has a population of about 2.7 million

Ghana on the other hand has a total land area of 238,540 km² (92,101 mi²) and a total coastline of 539 km (334.9 mi), and has a population of about 33 million.

Sovereign wealth funds

Both countries have created sovereign wealth funds with earnings from the sale of their oil and gas reserves. The funds are meant to cater for future generations.

The Qatar sovereign wealth fund is called the The Qatar Investment Authority, and it is estimated to be around $450 billion.

Ghana has the Ghana Heritage Fund which is the country’s sovereign fund, estimated to be around $645 million.

Al Jazeera and Ghana Broadcasting Corporation

Both countries have state-owned electronic media; Al Jazeera and Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). Al Jazeera started primarily as an Arabic TV station, but later Qatar started Al Jazeera English investing about $1 billion in it at the beginning. The Qatar Investment Authority funds Al Jazeera; the Ghana Heritage Fund doesn’t fund GBC.

By Emmanuel K Dogbevi
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