Feature Article of Saturday, 29 May 2004
Columnist: Asibey, Akwasi
I love to listen to JoyFM?s Super Morning Show. It provides a smorgasbord of items that can be entertaining and serious. For instance, I thought the interview with Dr. Kwesi Botchwey last week was a real germ. Dr. Botchwey was unequivocal in his support for building a modern capitalist democracy in our country ? It was an important discovery for it shows that ideologically speaking and as he pointed out on the show, ?there is no fundamental difference in policy? between the NPP and the NDC as far as the economic development of the country is concerned. Both parties believe in market reforms and macro economic stability as key to ensuring the survival of the country in this global economy. But the tactics, strategies and commitment required to achieve that goal will differ from party to party.
While we applaud the Super Morning Show for bringing quality programming to its dedicated listeners, we deploy the direction the show has taken in the past week. In its quest to unearth the facts surrounding the so called CNTCI loan, the producers of the show have unleashed a blood hound which, on the surface, is purported to dig for facts in the interest of the greater public good. But on closer examination, one gets the impression that there is a well-orchestrated plan to undermine and to embarrass the Kufour administration.
The Minster of Finance and Economic Planning, Honourable Osafo Maafo, appeared on the show prior to his departure to Kampala, Uganda for the Africa Development Bank Group annual meeting. When the Minister was asked about the controversy related the CNTCI loan, he provided some explanations and suggested that he had written to the consortium that has put the loan together and that at an appropriate time, he would go public with additional information to calm the minds of the people. More importantly, the Minister refuted the allegation making the rounds in both print and electronic media that once the loan is signed the Government of Ghana would be required to pay the service charge upfront, which at 4% of $300 million, amounts to $12 million. The Minister categorically denied this and sought to explain that in the world of international finance and banking, it is not done and that the service charge will only be paid if the loan is disbursed. For instance if the $300 million is disbursed in tranches of $100 million, the actual disbursement will be $96 million. The lender would have deducted the service charge before disbursement.
The producers of the Super Morning Show have seized on apparent errors in addresses in the loan agreement and, have sought to project the whole effort to secure a loan to support infrastructure development in certain parts of the country, as a scam. How could a loan laid before the Parliament and publicly debated and ventilated be a scam? How could a loan with specific deliverables, which can be monitored, to determine if the intended objectives and expected outputs and outcomes are being realised be a scam? How could a Minister, who is part of a Government that has jailed former ministers for showing poor judgement in the financial administration of the country, engage in a scam knowing very well that his actions could backfire and could actually land him jail?
In their eagerness to portray our government and our country in bad light, the producers of the show threw caution to the wind and made phone calls to Hong Kong and Beijing. Did the producers seek permission from Mr. Zeng, Director of Engineering of China Railway Construction Company before his comments were played live on the show?
I thought the interview with Mr. Zeng was of poor taste and unethical! It provided listeners with sound bites and not a thorough analysis and understanding of what is turning out to be a complex loan agreement. It was yellow journalism at its worst!