Thursday, April 23, 2015

Big Men

Yesterday I saw the movie Big Men. Now I too want to be a Big Man. But, to be a Big Man you need Big Money and in West Africa the biggest money is oil. In Nigeria corrupt officials have stolen over $440 billion dollars of oil money meant for the people of Nigeria since 1960. That is some serious corruption. Ghana is just starting along this path. So far the Jubilee oil field has yielded $2 billion of revenue of which $440 million went to the Ghanaian government and the rest to Kosmos Energy based in Dallas Texas. None of the $440 million cut taken by the Ghanaian government seems to have trickled down to either education where I am a public employee or health care. While the Ghanaian government at one time discussed following the Norwegian model for administering its oil revenues it seems that it is instead moving in the direction of emulating the Nigerian model. The Niger River Delta of Nigeria where much of the oil is extracted is a truly distopian nightmare. Despite the incredible amount of oil wealth generated in Nigeria, the majority of the population of the country are now on average poorer and worse off than before it began the massive extraction and export of oil. Corruption extends down from the rotten head of the Federal Government in Abuja all the way down to individual oil workers illegally siphoning off semi-refined petrol for sale on the black market. Despite producing oil since 2010 the currency of Ghana has gotten much weaker. The cedi fell from 1.6 to the dollar in 2011 to 4 to the dollar in summer of 2014. A massive infusion of two multi-billion dollar loans brought it back up to 3 to the dollar. But, the currency has again fallen to 4 to the dollar and there is no end in sight and it appears no possibility of any more IMF or Cocoa Board Loans to bring it back up like last year. At the same time we have constant black outs. We now have black outs extending in Greater Accra from my flat in the Adenta to the north to the university in Legon. These black outs last 24 hours and occur every other day. Supposedly University of Ghana is a world class university. But, what world class university has no electricity all day and night between three and four times a week? The power outages are wrecking an already weak economy and the production of oil has done nothing to alleviate it. Indeed just as in Nigeria things have gotten worse in the wake of the commercial extraction of oil here in Ghana.

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