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Opinions of Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Columnist: Thompson, Nii-Moi

Further Fallout from Forbes' Article

Folks: The fallout from Forbes' article keeps getting "interestingner and
interestingner". Even the CIA gets dragged in, if only indirectly so, but in the
world of espionage and dirty politics and dirty media campaigns, few things are
direct; they are perforce indirect!

But for me, beyond the cooked-up figures and the spaghetti-like intrigues of
criss-crossing interests, the larger lesson here is how the US government would do
anything to pursue US economic interest through its companies (irrespective of the
political allegiances of the owners). Are we in Ghana ready to rise above the usual
NPP-NDC foolishness that sees businesses rise and fall with the electoral cycle and
put forward a national agenda where silly partisanship would be reduced, at best, to

Chew over that (but remember, the CIA may be sharing this with you!!!!!)

Enjoy. Nii Moi.
23.06.10 Ghana Politics and Security Furore over Forbes article: US-Ghana relations
Officials in Accra are accusing Kosmos Energy of hiring Washington lobbyists to run
a vitriolic campaign against Ghana in the US press to break the deadlock over its
thwarted bid to sell its stake in the Jubileefield to ExxonMobil. The latest
manifestation of this campaign, they say, is the claim by US-based Forbes magazine
in its 10th June edition that Ghana is the ninth “worst-managed” economy in the
world. Forbes also claimed that Ghana's per capita GDP had fallen by 9 per cent and
it was “struggling to pay its bills”.
“ Ghana is a typical example of the world's worst-managed economies: It's a country
that shouldn't be poor, but it is. The West African nation's gross domestic product
per capita fell 9 per cent last year to US$621, ranking it 154th out of 184
countries tracked by the IMF, below resource-impoverished Haiti… Ghana's problems
are mostly home-grown," said Peter Allum, the IMF's mission chief to Ghana.
Irritated officials at the IMF and World Bank, which last year lent Ghana over US$2
billion on the strength of its macro-economic reforms, say the article uses
selective quotation, and conveys a distorted impression of the country. US State
Department officials have also been dragged into the dispute, according to another
report placed in the Washington Timeswhich argues that Kosmos' concerns are “being
taken seriously.”
Both sides in the year old dispute over the future of Jubilee oil field –Mills'
government and Kosmos – are raising the stakes by casting the row as a“geopolitical
clash.” Officials in the Energy Ministry and GNPC insist they have every right to
consider offers from China's Sinopec and CNOOC to invest in Jubilee, but
commentators in conservative US papers accuse the Accra government of turning
against the West.
Local business leaders in Accra argue that this increasingly poisonous climate is
making it more difficult for ExxonMobil to win support for its bid to buy the Kosmos
“The reflexes of local companies have been pro-West, and particularly pro-American
,” a senior executive in Accra told Ghana Politics & Security, “but what should be a
decision based on a informed analysis of national self-interest has become an
ideological shuttlecock.”
So heated has the local argument over the sale of the Jubilee stake been that to
argue in favour of a US company taking it over is to be seen as “anti-patriotic”,
the executive said. “This intense lobbying and denigrating Ghana in the Western
press is self-defeating,” added the executive, “because it makes it harder for Mills
to push through a deal with ExxonMobil and strengthens the nationalists in GNPC.”
According to this executive, Mills is sympathetic to the “financial and
technological case” for bringing in ExxonMobil but the fevered political debate –
both geopolitics and the parochial arguments within the ruling party - have made it
difficult for him to face down opponents of the deal.
We hear that one of the lobbyists consulted in the campaign for Kosmos is Riva
Levinson, who was hired in the 1980s by Angola's UNITA rebel movement (then
part-funded by the CIA and apartheid South Africa) to persuade the US Congress to
maintain financial support to UNITA which was then led by Jonas Savimbi who
prosecuted one of the most brutal civil wars in Africa against the
professedly-Marxist MPLA regime.
Ironically, Chevron was one of the biggest investors in MPLA-run Angola.
Paradoxically, Chevron's oil installations were protected by Cuban commandos against
attack from the avowedly pro-West UNITA guerrillas. One Washington source said that
Levinson had the tenacity of “a pit bull terrier”, and the claims by Forbes magazine
were just the opening shots of a “devastating campaign” against Ghana.
Levinson – who also represented the discredited Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National
Congress since 1999 - had been hired by Liberia's PresidentEllen Johnson Sirleaf and
former Ghana government under John Kufuorwho, it is said, then recommended her to
Kosmos because of her knowledge of Ghanaian politics.
Yet many among the business class in Ghana think such tactics may prove
counter-productive. Just as the row over the US Embassy's handling of visa
applications by the Energy Minister Oteng-Adjei, and GNPC chairman and CEO Ato Ahwoi
inflamed nationalist passions, so has the latest publication by Forbes on Ghana's
“economic failings.”
The polemical nature of the Forbes report on Ghana – and the many factual
inaccuracies it contained – suggested to many readers in Accra that it was part of a
sustained campaign against the country: first visa bans, and now press campaigns.
Even fairly conservative business people in Accra argue that Ghana is being unfairly
treated; the affair is eroding trust between the two countries and is damaging the
standing of all US companies in Ghana. The bigger US companies operating in Ghana
include Merrill Lynch, Fidelity, Accenture, IBM and General Electric . Over 50
wholly US-owned companies are operating in Ghana directly or indirectly through
joint-venture companies. Among the biggest JV operations are: Newmont Gold Ghana
Limited (in Kenyasi and Akyem mines), Cargill Ghana and Coca Cola. This week, United
Airlines started direct flights between the US and Ghana.
“Realistically, we understand that the volume of US business in Ghana is small
compared with other territories,” a company director said in Accra,“but people
cannot understand why our oil reserves and choice of industry partner have sparked
these hostile actions.”
It is hard to see who will benefit from the escalation of hostilities between the
government and Kosmos. Recently, there have been signs that ExxonMobil's more
diplomatic efforts – they secured a meeting with Mills in the face of opposition
from GNPC – appear to have been yielding results for them.
We hear that so far, the Asian companies interested in Ghana's oil – Chinese and
Korean corporations in particular – have made little progress in detailed
negotiations. Although a US$5 billion package proposed by CNOOC would cover the cost
of a stake in the Jubilee field and investments in an oil refinery and gas
distribution system, Chinese officials will not talk publicly about specific plans.
A European diplomatic source in Accra suggested that China will hold back until the
row with Kosmos burns itself out: “...Beijing sees little advantage in being seen to
confront the US in Ghana because there's little room to manoeuvre – compared to much
bigger plays such as Nigeria and Angola. Perhaps the only success of the US press
campaign against Ghana has been to persuade China to back off, at least for now.”
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana please see Ghana Politics & Security.
© 2010 Menas Associates
Nii Moi.