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Feature Article of Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Columnist: IMANI Ghana

Re: IMANI Got It Wrong On CDB

We have taken notice of an unsigned 3-page document purporting to be a rejoinder to our recent comment on the China Development Loan matters and issued on behalf of the Ministry of Information.

This “rejoinder” addresses none of the important points we raised. It has merely succeeded in creating additional uncertainty and confusion where greater clarity would have been preferred.

The central thrust of the argument in the rejoinder appears to be that IMANI “confused” two agreements – a Master Framework Agreement and a Master Facility Agreement – both of which are bonafide agreements between the Government of Ghana and the China Development Bank, albeit of different timelines.

While this is inconsequential to any of the major issues IMANI raised, the real fact of the matter is that there was no “confusion” at any point. IMANI mentioned the Master Framework Agreement, which is in the public domain - available on an official government portal - but did not mention the Master Facility Agreement, which to date has not been publicly released for the scrutiny of the general public. The document IMANI cited is a genuine agreement entered into by the Government of Ghana and the China Development Bank in September 2010.

At no point did IMANI show any pretentions of analyzing in detail any of the agreements placed before Parliament, such as the so-called Master Facility Agreement. In fact, we mentioned clearly that these agreements were not in the public domain and we are only apprised of its contents through second-hand sources. Perhaps, the Ministry should be more concerned about ensuring the wide and easy availability and accessibility of documents of public interest than in issuing overzealous rejoinders.

For the purposes of the analysis we sought to make, we had all the information we required. The only mention of the Framework Agreement in our 6-page analysis was in the context of dispelling the notion being created as a result of recent comments by Government functionaries to the effect that this country will see an infrastructure boon in 2012 due to the disbursement of $3 billion worth of loans from the China Development Bank.

What has ultimately emerged, and been reluctantly corroborated by the Ministry of Information’s own “rejoinder”, is that disbursements from the China Development Bank in the short term – 2012 to 2013 – would NOT total $3 billion and COULD be significantly less than a billion dollars.

We expect the Ministry to tell the good people of Ghana how much exactly it is anticipating would be disbursed over the 2012 to 2013 timeframe. If the sums are as significantly less spectacular than the perception that has been fuelled to date, as our analysis sought to portray, then the Ministry has a more important task ahead of it in trying to dampen heightened expectations than engaging in trifling word-contests in the mass media with independent commentators.

At no point did IMANI make any statement with regard to the tenure of the loan. Our analysis did not require it. We had only sought to point out the complete unlikelihood of $3 billion being disbursed over the short-term, which is an impression several government functionaries on occasions too numerous to recount have created. In the end this is EXACTLY the situation the Ministry has, despite its dismissive posture, confirmed.

Furthermore, the Ministry cannot deny our other key point, which is that the “disbursement process” following the approval of a loan under the circumstances we described is a delicate affair which can trip any government that places insufficient score on due diligence. We have already seen such worrying outcomes with several donor-funded projects and programs over the years in this country.

We note that the “rejoinder” from the Ministry of Information did not enlighten the populace with respect to any of the issues that were raised and which constituted the main thrust of the report issued by IMANI. It neglected to address whether Ghana has reached clear settlements on issues of oil-tied disbursements; it refused to touch the burning issue of local content; it circumvented the important questions being raised about the lack of due process in issuing the contract the government awarded to Sinopec; and it completely omitted mention of the severe underperformance of many domestic contracts for which some funds have already been disbursed.

These are the critical issues of relevance to national development that the people of Ghana want their Ministry of Information to devote its scarce time and attention to. After all, as the other ministries and departments strive to carry out the difficult task of managing development for the benefit of all of us, the Ministry of Information's only burden is to accurately reflect that process in its interactions with the general public so as to win goodwill for the shared growth and development agenda that His Excellency the President has promulgated. Antagonising independent observers who are only acting out of voluntary, patriotic, duty can only serve to distract from this official obligation.

Though the rejoinder purports to focus on “educating” IMANI, it appears the Ministry already has its hands full educating the masses of Ghanaians on sensitive matters of national interest, with respect to which information in the public domain is sorely and regrettably lacking.

We wish the Ministry and the Government well as they embark on straightening the many misconceptions surrounding the $3 billion Chinese loan.

For:

The Executive Director,

IMANI Center for Policy & Education (www.imanighana.org & www.Africanliberty.org )

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