UPDATE 2-Ghana to fast-track infrastructure for oil -Mills

* President outlines plans for deep sea port, rail upgrade

* Country poised to be major producer of oil and gas

(Updates after speech delivered, adds quotes, background)

By Kwasi Kpodo

ACCRA, Feb 25 (BestGrowthStock) – Ghana will fast-track construction
of a deep sea oil port and revamp a major rail link in 2010 to
help exploit its energy and minerals, President John Atta Mills
said in a state of the nation address on Thursday.

The west African country, already the world’s No. 2 producer
of cocoa and the continent’s No. 2 gold miner, is set to become
a major commercial oil and gas producer by the end of the year
when the huge offshore Jubilee field comes on stream.

“Beginning from this year, we are putting together the
building blocks of an oil- and gas-based industrial architecture
to ensure that by 2016, we would have exploited these resources
and changed the country’s economic paradigm, so that our
dependence on traditional raw material exports of cocoa, gold
and timber, will be a thing of the past,” he said.

“I have instructed the Energy Ministry, in collaboration
with the Ministry of Transport, to fast-track investments in the
necessary infrastructure, including a deep sea port with a
dedicated oil services facility and the rehabilitation of the
western railway corridor.”

First production from the Jubilee field will start in
November and rise to 120,000 barrels per day within six months,
Tullow Oil (TLW.L: ) said last week.

Mills narrowly won a largely peaceful presidential election
in January 2009 in the west African country, one of only a few
sub-Saharan countries with a Eurobond, succeeding John Kufuor.

He struggled early in the year with soaring inflation and
the depreciation of the cedi against the dollar and other major
currencies, although tight fiscal and monetary policies have
helped reduce inflation for seven months in a row.

“I am glad to say that we quickly halted the rapid
depreciation of the cedi and by the middle of 2009, it had begun
to appreciate against almost all the major currencies of the
world. Today, we have a stable currency as well as other
indicators pointing to healthy economic conditions for real
take-off into sustained growth,” Mills said.

He said infrastructure investments would help boost
employment and support the expansion of other industries,
including mining.

“What is more, the development of the gas sector will allow
the development of higher-efficiency gas turbines, which in turn
will ensure a dependable electricity supply at internationally
competitive tariffs,” he said.

Ghana is also planning to start developing an integrated
aluminium industry based on its rich bauxite reserves, he said.

The International Monetary Fund’s representative in Ghana,
Wayne Mitchell, said the speech was well-balanced and clearly
laid out the country’s policy objectives.

“It is now up to his ministers to implement the details for
the intended results,” he said.
(Click here for a graph showing Ghana inflation versus interest
rates: http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/0210/AF_GHINP0210.gif)

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(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Richard Valdmanis)

UPDATE 2-Ghana to fast-track infrastructure for oil -Mills