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Opinions of Sunday, 26 January 2014

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

President Mahama Confesses Impotence At Davos

Orangeburg, South Carolina

Sunday, 25th January, 2014

The President of Ghana, John Mahama, has confessed to the world that despite our independence, Ghana is incapable of implementing our laws in our national interest. The President told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last Wednesday that his government has been unable to implement a new windfall tax policy on mining because of threats from mining companies. According to the President, “They threatened to lay off workers if we implemented the windfall tax and because we needed the jobs and you don’t want workers laid off you are coerced to go along. So these are major issues we have.” He concluded pathetically “They will not allow us to implement a windfall tax in our country.”
Now, “who born dog?”
If over a century after Paul Kruger said, “This is my country. These are my laws and those who do not wish to obey them may leave”, this can happen in our country, it begs the question, “Are we truly independent?” It is hard to imagine Nkrumah delivering such a whiney speech—he would have been embarrassed to do this. Indeed, a half-century ago, in his landmark speech before African leaders in Addis Ababa, Nkrumah warned against this. He said, “On this continent, it has not taken us long to discover that the struggle against colonialism does not end with the attainment of independence. Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs, to conduct our society according to our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and HUMILIATING neo-colonialist control and interference.”
To be fair, President Mahama’s weak, embarrassing response to this existential crisis is not original with him. He is just the last in a long line of “Nkontomire-spined” leaders who have done nothing more than hold the coats of the imperialists and multi-national corporations as they have stolen our resources, not just in Ghana but all across the developing world. Eduardo Galeano has chronicled vividly the pillage of Latin America’s resources by the West in, “THE OPEN VEINS OF LATIN AMERICA”, the book the late Hugo Chavez handed to President Obama when they met. He documents the repeated overthrow of leaders in Latin America who would not play ball. He talks also of countries and leaders who stood up fearlessly for their people and when necccesary, nationalized resources—like Mexico with oil and sulphur. In Africa, one just has to look at Obuasi to appreciate how our God-given wealth has just benefited mostly foreigners, after a century in which Obuasi has produced over 28 million ounces of gold, according to an article in “Mining Weekly”, edited by Elizabeth Rebelo in July, 2004. It is still virtually a shanty-town, compared to say, Johannesburg, which has been producing gold for just as long. For the most part, our country and the relevant communities have just received crumbs from our God-given wealth that has gone to enrich others.
Disgustingly, it turns out that the tax reforms that have upset the mining companies existed prior to the 2006 review, in PNDC Law 122, according to the THIRD World Network’s Alhassan Atta-Quayson. In addition to the revenue changes, Ghana is seeking to reduce the amount that mining companies can write off for expenses, which is as high as 80%. Even the International Monetary Fund supports these changes in our laws.
Demanding a fair share of our natural resources is not anti-business. It is pro-fairness and pro-business. America holds those doing extractive business to very high standards of conduct and jealously safeguards the interest of her citizens and we must do the same. For too long, mining companies have operated in the developing world with callous disregard for the interest of their host countries. This must cease.
How do we move forward?
First, we should enforce our laws. The government must assert our sovereignty and Parliament must have hearings to ascertain why our government is refusing to implement our tax laws. This should also extend to how foreigners without the requisite documents can set up mining and other businesses while Ghanaians are jailed for petty thefts.
Second, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) must be implemented with vigour and given more teeth. If Ghana is a signatory to the EITI, how did the coercive activities of the mining companies escape the NGO’s? The government must move to publicize the details of the coercion so that it can mobilize public support as it moves to assert the rights of Ghanaians.
Third, the media and the NGO’s must be more active in protecting our rights. Where is the TUC when workers need them? Why are they not flexing their muscles to increase the pay of mine-workers and to make their jobs more secure? Over 3 decades ago, mineworkers from Obuasi, mobilized by the PNDC boarded buses and travelled all the way to KNUST to disrupt a NUGS Congress. Their militancy then was misdirected and wrong but militancy now, in defense of their jobs and families would be right and patriotic. Let them act.
Next, I wonder what has happened to the NDC. That is the party that, in its earlier incarnation as the PNDC, introduced the song, “We no go sit down make them cheat us every day!!” Why are they lying down for them to cheat us every day now?
Finally, what is the President going to do? Is he going to stand and fight as one standing where Nkrumah stood proudly or is he just going to whine? Mr. President, fight. Fight for Ghana! If God meant for our natural resources to enrich others, he would have put them elsewhere. Lead, Mr. President, LEAD!!!
Let us stand up for Ghana, together.