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Ghana seeks TT expertise

Sasha Harrinanan Thursday, May 18 2017

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A delegation from Ghana visited Trinidad and Tobago last week to learn how best to develop its emerging energy sector while ensuring that private operators pay their fair share of taxes.

In an exclusive interview with Business Day on May 12, Ghana’s Deputy Finance Minister, Kwaku Kwarteng, summed up the five days of high-level meetings, May 8 to 12, as having been “very fruitful and extremely useful engagements.” “(For example), during our meeting with officials from the Ministry of Finance, we discussed matters beyond oil and gas. We went into areas of taxation, not just for the petroleum sector but for all sectors and I’m confident that our two ministries would benefit from the engagements we’ve had.” Kwarteng was accompanied by colleagues from his ministry as well as by officials from the Petroleum Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority. During their five days in TT, the delegation spoke with senior officials from the Energy Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Central Bank, the National Gas Company (NGC) Group of Companies and Republic Bank Limited (RBL).

RBL’s parent company, Republic Financial Holdings Limited, became the majority shareholder in HFC Bank (Ghana) in May 2015 with a 57.11 percent equity stake.

One of Kwarteng’s first meetings was with Energy Minister, Franklin Khan, on May 8 at the minister’s Portof- Spain office.

In a statement issued the following day, the Energy Ministry said the Ghanaians were here “to discuss best practice for revenue capture along the petroleum value chain as well as the spin -off industries, at the midstream level of the value chain that would contribute to gross domestic product (GDP).” Khan was quoted as saying, “We have a fairly good structure in Trinidad and Tobago and we are more than happy to share our history and experience in the energy sector with our Ghanaian counterparts.” The ministry said Khan urged the delegation to secure its growing energy sector through proper succession planning, whereby young people would be properly incorporated into the energy industry.

In response, Kwarteng thanked Khan for the opportunity to meet and expressed his appreciation for the guidance provided by the Energy Ministry. This is not the first time a delegation from the West African nation has visited TT. On August 23, 2016, Petrotrin’s president, Fitzroy Harewood, met with chairman of Ghana’s Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited (BOST), Ernest Benjamin Essamuah and managing director of the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR)/BOST, Kwame Awuah-Darko.

That meeting occurred during the same week that BOST/TOR met with senior officials from NGC. The August 2016 visit was a follow-up to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s May 2016 official visit to Ghana, during which a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the TT and Ghana governments.

NGC and BOST subsequently signed their own MOU in Port-of- Spain on August 24, 2016, which allows NGC to use its gas and gas pipeline expertise to the mutual benefit of NGC/TT and BOST/Ghana.

Asked why he chose to visit TT last week, Kwarteng said, “With the ever-increasing number of service providers in the petroleum sector, we found it necessary to have engagements with those economies who have been managing petroleum resources for a long time.” “TT was an obvious choice because we have had previous engagements, there’s a rapport. So, we thought we should come here and get additional information on some of the issues we have to manage, such as strategies for improving revenue mobilisation.” Kwarteng said revenue mobilisation would include matters such as “how we collect taxes from businesses, from individuals. How to collect taxes from petroleum operators and to put in place the right systems for making it difficult for taxpayers not to comply with their obligations, (thereby) assuring that the private operators in the sector pay their dues to national coffers.” He added that during their May 12 meeting with TT’s Finance Ministry, discussions included a review of systems for the management of subsidies.

“We know subsidies was one of the issues highlighted in your country’s Mid-Year Review on Wednesday (May 10). So, we sought to understand the nature of TT’s subsidies and the way you intend to manage it. Also, to share experiences from Ghana; the nature of that phenomenon in our economic management and to see what strategies are available for managing these. These were very engaging discussions and we thank the Ministry of Finance for the opportunity.” Declaring that his delegation had “picked up many strategies while in TT,” Kwarteng told Business Day they hope to use these “to reinforce the things we ourselves have been seeking to do.” “Most importantly, we go home with the assurance that TT and Ghana not only share historical ties, we have recognised that opportunity is fertile for economic co-operation, as we move into a more competitive global economic environment

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