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Diasporian News of Sunday, 22 April 2012

Source: Akoma, Emil

Vice President Interacts With Ghanaians In Dubai

April 17, Dubai. The Vice President John Dramani Mahama, on his way back from the China Loan deal, spent some time in Dubai where he interacted with Ghanaian expats living in the UAE.

In an informal “Town-Hall meeting”, which was called by the Ghana Consul-General to Dubai, Alhaji Abdulai Yakubu at the Consul-General’s Umm Suqeimm Residence, the Vice paid glowing tribute to the Ghanaian expatriates living in the country. Mr Mahama said he was pleased that at last, he was standing in front of Ghanaians on the Ghana Consulate grounds, which wasn’t the case formerly, because they traveled ‘over’ Dubai without any such official Ghana facility available. Now, they would surely stop over when there is that possibility, He was particularly impressed about the arrangement for the meeting, which started at 7:30 evening, thereby enabling Ghanaians who could afford, to be able to meet him after their hectic day’s work. Mr Mahama could not hide his joy in the traditional Ghanaian Cultural Troupe based in Deira-Dubai the Mawutor Azalekor’s “Show-Time African Drummers”, which entertained the gathering. He wondered how this was possible, considering that Ghanaians in UAE aren’t so many at all, when compared to other countries. In his 32-minute address, Vice President Mahama said he was in China to conclude a loan deal that sought to spearhead Ghana’s infrastructural take-off. He recalled the very close relations Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah established with the Chinese Leader Chairman Mao Tse Tung, at the early days of Ghana’s independence. He said this relationship is what perhaps is being rekindled by the President Prof Attah Mills and his Chinese counterpart, who both had served as Vice Presidents at the same time and had known each other well.

He said from the Sino-Africa Forum in Egypt, China had increased its aid to Africa. But accepting that that wasn’t enough, Presdient Attah Mills in his state visit to China, had negotiated for a solid financing in the amount of US$3b over 3 years. The Vice President said they also signed another with the EXIM bank for a value of US6b, in trances of US2b over a period of five years. He said under the China Development Bank facility, Ghana earmarked 12 sectors, but this financing had some semi-commercial terms, whereas the EXIM bank financing had concessional terms. Hence the Government considers that the China Development Bank money be used for facilities that could make early returns on investment, such as the Gas Project, which would then energize Aboadze Power Plant as well as for local use; a Fertilizer Plant and other by-products; The Takoradi Harbour Expansion; The Western Railway Line which is very necessary due to the harm caused by the heavy haulage trucks used in moving our raw materials; The Eastern Corridor Trans-Modal Project that involves Landing Points along the Volta Lake to boost Ferry Transport; then also is the Accra City Intelligent Traffic Management System which would modernize the Traffic Lights allowing traffic movement in rush hours to be harmonious with vehicle flow; The Petroleum Products Holding/Storage System; Training of manpower among other things. Mr Mahama said the other financing was considered for social infrastructure, which had in mind, Water Provision, Building of Hospitals, Rural Electrification and other projects whose rate on return was less.

The Vice President told the gathering that as an election year, the President specifically instructed that no un-budgeted project was to be started, just because one might wish to seek political favours. Such unbudgeted ventures could lead to adverse results on the economy. He said with the growth in Ghana as acclaimed worldwide, Ghana is at a stage with the planned infrastructural take-off to place Ghana on the next level. He briefed the gathering about the country’s oil and gas reserves, and said the future looks bright for Ghana. Mr Mahama assured the expats that election fever was on, everyone wants to win, but Ghana would remain the same safe and secured place that the world knows, allowing the winner party to commence government in January next year. The Consul-General then invited about 10 questions and these came flowing one after the other, and the Vice President Mr Dramani Mahama provided detailed answers as much as he could, which lasted a full one-hour into the night. 1) Intemperate Language in this political season; how does Government plan to reasonably cushion it, such that it does not lead to extremities?

2) UAE with all its oil, is contemplating going into solar energy. What are plans in this regard?

3) The brilliant speech relates much to infrastructural development, without any mention to fighting corruption. No pragmatic steps were seen by the government to tackle this, including past officials, even looking at the “Woyome” story, which seems like money going into the wrong hands.

4) How the STX project came to pass.

5) The plans are laudable, looking at the next five years. We have influx of Companies coming into the country, and so do we have influx of outside job-seekers coming in too. We need a compact resource base to achieve these goals. What is Government strategy on tackling employment, especially the young graduates?

6) Ghana has a stubborn problem, which is about waste. Don’t we look at managing waste to become an energy source?

7) Shall Political Groupings not come together to institute a “National Agenda” which shall be binding on all political parties and allowed to flow, regardless of which Government is in power so as to allow continuity of the Ghanaian cause?

8) Does freedom of speech as being enjoyed in Ghana because of democracy mean anybody spewing out any garbage, and this cannot in any way be controlled?

9) The Aviation Sector: Are we reviving the National Airlines, and are we not developing the Kotoka Airport?

10) The advent of the Chinese in Ghana: Is Retail Trade now given to the Chinese, much against Ghana Laws, whereby foreign businesses are allowed in “Wholesale” but not “Retail”? This is because in Ghana today, the Chinese are into retail trade and even going “house-to-house” to sell.

In his closing remarks, Mr John Asante an Elder of the Ghana Community in Dubai, expressed the appreciation of resident Ghanaians to the Vice President for making it possible to share the time with them and called for many such interactions. He described the Consul-General Yakubu as a community-based official who has time for Ghanaians. Mr Asante thanked the Government for at last establishing the Consulate.

Picture shows the Vice President (standing) flanked by the Consul Alhaji Yakubu, responding to the barrage of questions as put to him. Insert is Matwutor Azalekor’s “Showtime African Drummers” in action.