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Ghana: Parliament Approves Petroleum Management Bill

(Mar. 7, 2011) On March 2, 2011, the 230-member unicameral Ghanaian Parliament approved the petroleum management bill, which seeks to establish a legal framework for efficient collection, allocation, and management of petroleum revenue from the nation's oil reserves. (Daniel Nonor, Petroleum Bill Passed, THE CHRONICLE (Mar. 3, 2011).) The bill needs presidential assent before it can become law. (Id.)

Among the most notable provisions of the bill are ones that establish two funds: the Ghana Heritage Fund and the Ghana Stabilization Fund. While the Heritage Fund will be used to generate a long-term, alternate stream of income to support public expenditures and as a means of saving for future generations, the Stabilization Fund is earmarked for use as an emergency source of funds at times of budget shortfalls. (Hanibal Goitom, Ghana: Energy – Petroleum Revenue Management Bill Discussed, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Aug. 11, 2010).)

Before the bill's passage, a provision allowing the government to use the nation's oil resources as collateral for loans became a point of heated contention among MPs. The initial draft of the bill expressly prohibited the use of oil assets as collateral for loans. (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Ghana Petroleum Revenue Management: Proposal [Working Draft], § 3 (May 10, 2010).) In the version of the bill that was approved by Parliament, that provision was replaced by one of the exact opposite nature, which led some members to raise objections. (Nonor, supra.) In the end, the provision allowing the government to borrow against oil resources enjoyed support from enough MPs to remain in the version of the bill that was approved. (Id.)

There is also controversy over a procedural issue looming over the bill. This came to the fore when the Deputy Speaker of Parliament rejected an amendment seeking to earmark ten percent of all oil revenues for the development of the western region of Ghana as unconstitutional. (Id.) The Ghanaian Constitution provides under article 108 that Parliament is not to proceed on an amendment if, in the opinion of the person presiding (in this case the Deputy Speaker), the amendment results in “the imposition of a charge on the Consolidated Fund or other public funds of Ghana …,” unless it is offered by the President or on his behalf. (Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, art. 108 (a)(ii), GHANAWEB (last visited Mar. 3, 2011).) Four MPs unhappy with the Deputy Speaker's decision are planning to go before the Ghanaian Supreme Court to seek an interpretation of article 108. (Nonor, supra.)