Feature Article of Sunday, 19 August 2012
Columnist: Yeboah, L. Kojo
If there is one thing Ghanaians would forever remember the late President Mills/Mahama’s ‘better Ghana agenda’ for: It is bringing Ghana’s transcending, recurrent judgment debt from the dark vaults of governmental secrecy to the dusty streets of Ghanaian villages, towns and cities.
They have brought us Woyomegate, shown us all how an individual middleman, who has no written contract in his name with our government, can win a whopping 51 million cedi judgment debt against the later, litigating unobtrusively in our ‘top notched’ judicial system; and in the process make the word “gargantuan” a child’s call to the playground in Ghanaian parlance.
They have also brought us the CP, Waterville, ISOFOTON and Africa Automobile judgment debts. And thanks to Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa’s woeful ‘storm in a tea cup’ press conference, we now know about General Acheampong / Lt General Akuffo’s Supreme Military Council (SMC I & II) 1978 abrogation of a contract with the great Cape Company, which settlement the current government had to complete.
Some partisans among us point to the foregoing as prove that our current government is inept. Members and supporters of the ruling party however, champion an opposite viewpoint. They say the current government is responsibly meeting its obligations to make our government transparent.
This cynic will ignore both sides of the same tired argument and pose serious critical questions: Why are we as a nation repeatedly finding it necessary to abrogate so many International contracts we sign? Who negotiates for Ghana? Are we sending starry eyed boys to transact with seasoned macho men in the cut throat world of international finance and profiteering? Or do our representatives negotiate for their individual pockets (their 10% cut) at the expense of the nation?
Indeed our penchant to negotiate lousy international contracts transcends NDC 2, NPP, NDC 1, PNDC, PNP, AFRC, SMC II & I, NRC, PP, NLC and even the CPP. Our record really, really sucks in this arena of international negotiation. Consider for instance our forebears who exchanged lumps of gold for bottles of Whiteman’s liquor and copper products. In some cases, they crowned their deplorable negotiating skills by trading away human life (as slaves) for chugs of unadulterated English ale. What a bargain!
Even in seemingly good deals our nation always gets short changed. Let us consider the fine example of Ghana’s Aluminum production. At first glance, we see our country mining bauxite (aluminum ore) from the ground at Awaso and processing aluminum at the VALCO Smelting plant in Tema. A complete cycle, from raw material to a finished product: Wow! Finally, our nation got something right!
A closer look however, portrays a very different picture. Our contractual agreement has us shipping raw bauxite mined at Awaso in Ghana to smelting factories in Scotland and Canada while we import alumina for VALCO processing from the USA and Jamaica. The sad part of this twisted arrangement is that the rocks of Awaso also contain other minerals which are discarded to pollute the environment and jeopardize the health of the local people as bauxite ore is dug up and carted to foreign lands.
The folks who come to the table to negotiate with us bring along a sense of purpose, a sharp tunnel vision to protect the interests of their progeny. We send party cronies and political lackeys whose interests and mentality is simply to get an agreement on paper or a project for their party to boast about. Who cares what the terms of the contracts are? NDC did this or NPP did that is all what matters. And of course the famous (10%) kickbacks for their own pockets or party coffers!
The flip side of sending quack negotiators is the rampant abrogation of signed contracts and subsequent judgment debts. It is very disheartening and embarrassing to hear the NDC allege that in a country of over 24 million citizens, one man, Kwadwo Mpiani, the former chief of staff, could by himself abrogate an international contract and cause the state $1.3 million judgment debt in the process. It sounds like anybody in government can wake up one day and abrogate a contract. What country is ours – the Banana Republic?
Enough is enough! Fellow Ghanaians, this must stop! The definition of insanity is repeating a mistake over and over again and expecting a different result. Our nation has paid dearly every time some self-aggrandizing individual has summarily abrogated an international contract. This country remembers the acute shortages and hardships that followed General Acheampong’s ill advised “YENTUA POLICY.”
Henceforth, our government needs to change the way it does contractual negotiations. It needs to cut out the party lackeys, replace them with competent conscientious Ghanaian professionals who will go to work for the good to our dear motherland. Below is a free caption our government can use to advertise for the personnel. Attention! Competent Conscientious Ghanaians Urgently Needed!
Written and submitted by L. Kojo Yeboah, Raleigh NC, USA on Aug/16/2012.