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Opinions of Thursday, 15 December 2011

Columnist: Akoto, Akwasi A. Afrifa

Mills Is Scaring Away Foreign Investors.

No president in the history of the 4th Republic -and in the history of the world for that matter-has wasted as much precious time talking about electoral outcome than President Mills. It is has become so bad that the president has now taken his obsession abroad and it has started to hurt the country economically.
For the first time in a long time, no foreign investor bought government's bonds issued last week. According to Appiah Twene Mensah, Head of Treasury at Access Bank Ghana, foreign investors factored in "political and risk and currency depreciation" and decided to stay away by making "unacceptable offers to government."
Is this coincidence? For the past 6 months, our president has been going around the world telling whoever 'd listen that the country is on a brink of war..simply because he knows he wouldn't be able to control the hawks in his government who are bent on stealing the elections. On his most recent one month vacation abroad, that is all he's been talking about. Every press statement that has come from the presidential press corp during his "absence" has focused on elections. It is as if there is no unemployment, historic corruption, poverty or any other pressing issues facing the country.
In one breath, he 'd beg foreign investors to come to Ghana; in the next breath, he 'd be telling them that Africa needs go its own way and in the same breath he d' warn foreign investors by scaring them with electoral civil war -like violence, supposedly due in Ghana. In fact, he practically offered the country's sovereignty to UN boss Ban Ki-Moon when the two supposedly met a week ago; assuring Moon of electoral excellence, as if our constitution mandated our president to report to a higher boss, the UN boss, every quarter.
But what the president is doing - and he is probably not aware - is signaling to investors that their monies are no longer safe in Ghana. Mills is saying the world that he himself has no confidence in the institutions in his country. Ghanaians of course are aware that our institutions are not the best. But you don't go around telling the world how bad your father is no matter how bad he is.
Thus when one factors in the the president nervousness whiles on his world tour, plus his spokesperson's threats - in London -to "deal with" opposition leaders -if they misbehave- it is not surprising that foreign investors didn't show any interest in the latest bond.
As the head treasurer of the Access Bank rightly said, currency depreciation, risk in general or a political climate may have contributed to the absence of the foreign investors. But of the three main factors that investors generally consider, foreign investors in particular, always almost worry about the political climate more than the others. In fact political climate continues to be the number one reason why African countries still attract less foreign investments, comparatively speaking.
And it seems the scary tactics and the apocalyptic picture the Mills administration continues to paint have finally taken its toil. It seem foreign investors' confidence in the country which the Kufuor government worked so tirelessly to restore, after almost twenty years of mis-rule, is finally eroding. Last week's bond came with the highest yield in years yet foreign investors did not take the bait.
As for the other seven bonds - unprecedented- that government has issued so far this year, last week's was also issued, ostensibly, to raise money to fix our roads...the "gang of four" maybe. Which means that the government has issued bonds totaling more than $1.5b dollars for our roads in 2011. At the same time government says he has contracted loans, including the recent $3b Chinese Master Facility for our roads. Yet where are the roads? Mills has doubled the national debt -in 3 years- in persuant of his phantom infrastructural policy yet we don't see the projects. What has happened to the money? These are the type of questions that Ghanaians need to ask themselves as we enter election year.
Bill O'reilly says his theme for next year's election is "Restore The USA." I think the NPP should also consider "Restore Ghana" as its campaign theme. The country needs to be restored to the "Golden" and investor friendly era of the Kufuor's administration.

Akwasi A. Afrifa Akoto