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Feature Article of Friday, 25 May 2012

Columnist: Thompson, Kofi

The Tema Oil Refinery's Business Is The Business Of All

Patriotic Ghanaians

By Kofi Thompson

It is reported that the state-owned Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), is seeking US$450 million from the French bank, BNP Paribas - and a further US$150 million from the UK's Standard Charted Bank.

It might also receive some Ghc56 million from Ghana's Ministry of Finance soon, apparently.

Whiles the management of TOR need to be commended for their proactive and businesslike approach, they need to provide Ghanaians with answers to a number of questions.

Since this is an international business transaction by a state-owned entity, what have they done to ensure that there is consensus in the way Parliament will deal with approving the two loans?

A key factor in any Parliamentary approval of the two loans, will be how far above the prevailing low-interest rate regime in the EU and the UK, the two banks will be charging TOR.

Parliament must not countenance what will amount to TOR being charged usury rates by present-day UK and EU standards, under any circumstances.

In an era when their home governments in the UK and France are demanding that banks domiciled in their territories adhere to good governance principles, a fair profit for what after all is a calculated risk, to help turn around a potentially viable emerging market petroleum industry downstream-sector business, is what must guide and inform Parliament's approval of both loans.

TOR's management ought to bear that in mind at all material times too, in their negotiations with BNP Paribas and Standard Chattered Bank.

The rip-off days for foreign businesses dealing with the enterprise Ghana, are long gone. Its win-win partnerships that Ghanaians want, and expect, in such transactions.

Above all, in the light of the very real possibility of the company securing the two loans, is it not time for TOR's present management (in contrast to their predecessors) to be a tad more forthcoming, about the taxes levied on fuel users, towards retiring TOR' debts?

And as part of the restructuring process now underway at TOR, one humbly advices that they suggest to government that 25 percent of TOR's shares ought to be allocated to a trust for the benefit of its management and workers; and another 25 percent floated on the Ghana Stock Exchange to raise more cash for TOR, and to give ordinary Ghanaians the opportunity to own shares in the company.

Finally, TOR's current managing director, the dynamic Mr. Ato Ampiah, must understand clearly, that the taxpayers of Ghana, are shareholders in TOR. That is why TOR's business is very much their business too. He disregards them at his peril. A word to the wise...

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