By Alva Mulbah Wolokolie
As Liberia prepares to craft good petroleum guiding principle that would promote transparency and accountability within the extractive industries, United States Ambassador accredited near Monrovia Madam Deborah R. Malac says as an emerging producer in the extractive industries, Liberia has an opportunity to ensure that the natural resources revenues are managed for the benefit of the people.
Considering the role of the US Government which has put good governance and transparency right at the center of the work that they do in diplomacy and development, Ambassador Malac explained that it is in the American shared interest to reduce poverty and spark economic growth around the world that would create greater security, prosperity, and even peace.
Serving as keynote speaker yesterday in Sinkor, at the Big Star Building on 20th Street at an event: “empowering the media to play active watchdog role over mining, oil, and gas revenue and resources in Liberia, the US Ambassador told participants attending the event that revenues from the oil, gas, and mineral sectors are notoriously difficult for governments to manage effectively, transparently, and inclusively.
The event was organized by Penplusbytes in association with National Black Programming Consortium with support from Humanity United. Penplusbytes is a leading training organization in Africa based in Ghana working in three areas; governance and accountability, new media and innovations as well as oil, gas and mining. The program is held under the theme: policies, laws, regulations and contracts.
In a direct and candid mood yesterday, Ambassador Malac said the lack of transparency can lead to undesirable macroeconomic impacts like currency appreciation and commodity price fluctuations. Likewise, she added it can impact the political economy by encouraging rent-seeking behaviors and corruption, and making it difficult for populations to hold their governments accountable.
Amb. Malac narrated that many persons know that corruption and the lack of transparency eat away like a cancer at the trust people should have in their government, and at the potential for broad-based, sustainable, inclusive growth.
“Corruption stifles entrepreneurship, and siphons funding away from critical services. Poor fiscal transparency makes it impossible to hold governments accountable. And if these problems go on long enough; if they run deep enough, they literally can and have been shaking societies to the core. Liberia’s own history shows this is true,” Amb. Malac asserted.
Commenting on how public resources should provide public benefit, the US Diplomat recalled that among Africa’s traditional oil and gas producers, large percentages of the population are still living on under $2 per day including Angola (66.3%), Cameroon (32.1%), Chad (81.7%) and Nigeria(45.35%).
The US Ambassador however saluted Liberia’s EITI implementation, which has been on the cutting edge by going above and beyond the basic requirements of the initiative, and encouraged Liberians to continue to try to adopt the challenging procedures that will enable the process to deliver the transparency results to which the country aspires.
As for the media, she said the press has an extremely important role to play in promoting good governance and responsible natural resource management. Madam Malac indicated that thorough and thoughtful media coverage of the extractive industries it is important to raise public awareness and facilitate constructive discussions about the desired path forward.
She pointed out that incomplete or inaccurate reporting of developments in these sensitive sectors can sometimes inadvertently inflame tensions and complicate reaching consensus. Amb. Malac further told the group that their participation at the workshop demonstrates that they understand the importance of getting it right.
Also speaking at the event was the Executive Director, African Central for Energy Policy (ACEP) Mr. Mohammed Amin Adam, an oil expert from Ghana.
Mr. Adam added that the media has a critical role to play in the oil, gas, and mining sector because oil and gas come with many benefits which provide jobs. He said it also comes with a behavior like corruption which creates room for confusion that has the tendency to strangulate development.
The Ghanaian oil expert said it is prudent that government develops a regulatory legislative framework for the petroleum sector so that revenues generated would create an impact on the lives of the people.
While these documents are being carefully handled and prepared, Mr. Adam said it is important the media gets a skill and knowledge in order to discuss the oil and gas industry. Sometimes, he added it is good for media people to monitor and contribute positively to the growth and development of the sector.