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Opinions of Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Columnist: Michael Sumaila Nlasia

Open letter to President Akufo-Addo: Sentencing ECG to find evidence for privatisation?

Will the privatisation of ECG render payment for electricity by government agencies? Will the privatisation of ECG render payment for electricity by government agencies?

Dear President Akufo-Addo,

I listened to your Energy Minister speak at the National Policy Summit which was held this month. It reminds me of an American Jester’s oxymoronic quotation: “My mind is made up, and facts confuse me”. It also re-echoes a similar quotation in a novel, Alice in wonderland, which says, “Sentence him and find the evidence”. That is what the Minister did that day: finding faults already without evidence.

Earlier this year, we received assurances, in your maiden State of the Nation’s Address. You spoke well of government’s will to undertake a possible review of the compact II agreement of the Millennium Challenge Account - which contains the Ghana Power Compact of $498.2 million to be used to fight poverty by transforming the country’s energy sector. This five year compact is the largest US government transaction under energy power in Africa. Perhaps, one would ask: is this bounty for free? Absolutely not! Rather this projects the geostrategic interest of the United States foreign policy in our energy sector with some sense of entitlement.

When I heard the Energy Minister speak about the inefficiency of ECG, apparently based on a meeting he had had with the United States Ambassador, I was alarmed and saddened. He spoke, without verification, about the Ambassador accusing ECG of inefficiency because they have not sent his Embassy bills for the past two years, in the face of an email from a schedule officer which later confirmed otherwise that the Embassy does not owe the ECG.

The question that comes into mind is: Do we think it is appropriate and necessary for the Minister to disclose the content of the ‘conspiratorial meeting’ he had with the Ambassador? I do not think so; because, the problem of running our country is an internal affair. Our inefficiencies and travails must not be a subject of ridicule on that platform the Minister used.

60 years of Ghana’s independence has not brought us to the desired destination which obviously must be propelled by our energy sector for foremost industrialization. Ghana is poised to become one of the largest energy producers (harbour) in Africa despite our current power crisis - as a result of our gas supply connected with FPSOs Kwame Nkrumah, Mills and John Kufuor - which would produce electricity in excess of our demand. What this means is that Ghana is at the potential level of lead industrialization in Africa.

Although it is true that ECG could be ‘inefficient’, but there are factors contributing to that, especially in the case where government agencies, including schools and hospitals, are not paying for electricity, but are among the largest electricity consumers next to industries. How can we demand efficiency from them in such a problem situation? You don’t solve problem by ignoring the facts. Again the fundamental question is that, would privatization of ECG render payment for electricity by these government’s agencies to make ECG more efficient?

There is no doubt that the United States has keen ‘strategic interest’ in our energy sector - looking at the favourable potentials – with their compact II agreement. Especially when one looks through the autobiography of former US National Security Agent, John Perkins, Confession of Economic Hit Man, he gives account of the role of the US Foreign Policy to convince leaders of underdeveloped countries to accept substantial development loans for large construction and engineering projects that would primarily help the richest families and local elites, rather than the poor, while making sure that the projects were contracted to US companies. Are we not potential victims?

Your Excellency, it is obvious that several forces are at play. Some will be inimical to the long term interest of Ghana, but GHANA MUST WIN in the long run. And the country will win, not by holding our technocrats to ridicule and dampening their initiatives. We must be honest with all the factors that are impeding the progress of the ECG and its employees. If there are problems, let Ghana fix them.