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Concern over share of oil benefits has not subsided

Editorial

Concern over share of oil benefits has not subsided

oil-wellHow will the run-of-the mill Ugandan benefit from the oil? Will there be adequate employment for us? Will it help subsidize prices for commodities for the people? Are our people going to get some jobs in the industry? These are some of the many questions that have preoccupied the citizens since the exploitation of the oil in Uganda was announced more than ten years ago.

Since then, there have been developments in the oil sector, some publicly reported; others are merely in the preserves of rumour. So far, we have developed a National Oil and Gas Policy; set up the Uganda National Oil company (UNOC); and, established a regulatory body, the Petroleum Authority of Uganda.

This is all very well, but there are still numerous concerns that have not been addressed, both as a result of these developments and the lack of certain issues they are supposed to address, but seemingly lacking in their institutions.

We can trace this to the conception of the Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) that heralded the exploration of the oil and the initial invitation of other players into the fray. These have not shown adequate signs of transparency that is likely to lead to lack of accountability and thus render the oil and the infamous, “oil curse”.

Take the issue of the Petroleum Authority: 70 per cent of the workers will be technicians; 20 per cent casual workers; and, ten per cent professionals. You may find that among the professionals and technicians already in the exploration field are many foreigners. Yet, since its announcement, there had been a policy, at least we are told, of having trained our own professionals, and therefore, our technicians.

Despite the setting up of the Oil Institute in Kigumba, and the talk of setting up other regional institutes, we have a lot of raw technicians’ capacity, in places like Katwe, which the Petroleum Authority or the Ministry of Energy, should draw from to sharpen their skills to be employable in the oil industry.

Equally, in the area of sharing the oil proceeds, as concerns the areas in the country the exploration and exploitation of the oil is from, there has been a lot to be desired. It is thought that UNOC should equitably address these.

Moreover, for the Ministry of Energy, there has been a kind of ping-pong on the establishment of, either a pipeline to carry our oil to the port of Tanga in Tanzania, or a refinery somewhere in Hoima or Nakasongola. What is going on?

This kind of demonstrable indecision will lead the ordinary Ugandan to suspect that there is an underhand process to the oil going on, in the manner that the PSAs have never been revealed. This works into the ambit of the oil being a curse, much as the officials in the Authority are declaring otherwise.

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