What could possibly go wrong in Ghana?

July 8th, 2010

Following on from Ghana’s recent World Cup defeat at the hands (literally) of Uruguay’s Suárez, Khadija Sharife has just posted a blog on how Ghanaian people are probably becoming victims of cheating on a far larger scale, albeit not so visible on television sets around the world.

Ghana is entering into its era of oil production. Before end-2010 the Jubilee oil field, one of Africa’s biggest offshore finds since the start of this century, could turn Ghana into the continent’s fifth largest oil-producing nation, bringing in upwards of $800 million a year. Happy days.

But dig a little deeper, and you find the first signs of the resource curse are readily discernible. As Sharife reports, ownership of the Kwame Nkrumah MV 21, the Floating Production Storage and Offloading facility used in the Ghanaian production programme, is obscured through offshore special purpose vehicles in the Netherlands, a country widely used as a conduit for shifting profits offshore.

Quite separately, but not unrelated to the large sums of mineral wealth sloshing around Western Africa, Barclays Bank in Ghana is steaming ahead with marketing offshore services provided by its Offshore Banking Unit:

The Barclays Offshore Banking Unit, the first of its kind in Ghana and indeed Africa south of the Sahara continues to offer world class banking service to non-resident private clients and corporates.

Combine oil wealth and offshore banking, add a spoonful of state negligence (the Bank of Ghana has already stated the International Financial Services Centre in Accra “should operate with a minimum of regulation”), leave to simmer for a few years while G-20 countries prevaricate about strengthening judicial cooperation and removing obstacles to market transparency, and what could possibly go wrong?

Read Khadija’s posting on the London Review of Books blog here.

Written by Tax Justice Network

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