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Opinions of Friday, 6 August 2010

Columnist: Adofo, Rockson

Secret Behind the Rush to Sign the STX Deal

– According to a Deep Throat

I am yet to read a sentence about that much hyped and now signed Korean STX - Ghana Government housing deal. I should however have placed in the public domain my Deep Throat's information prior to the signing of the deal. What is Deep Throat, one may ask? Deep Throat is the pseudonym given to the secret informant who provided information to Bob Woodward of the The Washington Post about the involvement of United States President Richard Nixon's administration in what came to be known as the Watergate scandal. This scandal finally led to the impeachment and the resignation of the late President Richard Nixon.

The President Atta Mills' NDC government had resolutely determined, based on two reasons of which one is cardinal, to sign out the contract to the Koreans regardless of the concomitant crimson tears to shed by many a Ghanaian. To them, the hullabaloos as orchestrated in Ghana by many, including GREDA, had at the background, the jealous and mischievous instigating but invisible hand of the opposition NPP as usual. Their reasons as gathered from my reliable source were or are, 1) Ghanaian contractors are renowned for, reneging on their promise, or their failure to execute contracted government projects to specifications and within time. They are noted for shilly-shallying on government contracts until a change in government to enable them abscond with the money for any undone but contracted and paid-for projects. The incoming government for various reasons based on party or other like-minded affiliations find it hard to either imprison the defaulters or recuperate the money so advanced to them. 2) The dwindling credibility of President Atta Mills' NDC government needs some sort of rejuvenation and that embarking on monstrous social housing project will do the trick. To them the construction of the social houses for key workers is a perfect remedy or bet.

I will put forward a cogent argument, expatiating on some points to help us judge for ourselves whether or not the deal with STX is actually in the interest of Ghana. There is a dearth of decent accommodation in the country. This is most evident in our cities especially Accra, where some people do not only live in slums but are sleeping rough in the streets at night. This fact alone necessitates that a gigantic housing project never envisaged in the life of Ghana is embarked on. President Mills is then right to have decided to initiate a housing project of this scale. But the question is how right is he to have chosen a foreign contractor in preference to a Ghanaian firm, offering them a sovereign guarantee with all other freebies? What is a Sovereign guarantee, a layman may wish to ask? It is a Government's guarantee that an obligation will be satisfied if the primary obligor defaults. Obligor by definition is an entity that has an obligation to pay all principal and interest payments on a debt, which in this case is STX. Wow! Could all these assurances and guarantees not have been extended to GREDA? It could, but as said, most local contractors are not honest and do things haphazardly in accordance with that inhered "Ghana deE saa" malaise or way.

To buttress my contention in support of the stance taken by "Mr. Slow but Sure", I will recount an experience from my own backyard, Kumawu. In the late General I. K. Acheampong's memorable era, in early and mid 1970s, a similar housing project got started in Kumawu about the same time as, or following from, that of Dansoman Estate. About twelve "Low Cost Houses" as it was then called, were to be built and sold to the poor. One rich family availed themselves of the opportunity to purchase almost all the houses. One Mr. Bannor put down a deposit for four, the late Mr. Bamfo for two, the late Kofi (Koo) Sei for one and Kwame Dapaah (Kwaa Paa) for one. The late Kumawu Aduanahene, Nana Nyanor Panin II aspired to buy one. All the mentioned persons put down deposit for the purchase of the house if completed. My problem is not about almost a single family buying all the houses but about the fact that the houses never got built. The foundations of about six houses got laid and that was about how far the nominated "Low Cost House" contractor could go. All those who deposited money towards the purchase of the houses lost their deposits. For about thirty five years on, the laid foundations have been buried under the thicket right opposite to the Kumawu cemetery. It is just recently that the place has again been earmarked or re-assigned for other private ventures.

The NPP government also started other similar housing projects which according to data are lying uncompleted and neglected. What a wastage of precious national resources through incompetency, mediocrity, greediness, and lack of farsightedness on the part of our Ghanaian or African governments as filtered through to our local contractors. Based on this atypical Ghanaian mindedness where local contractors who are offered government contracts often exhibit that attitude of nonchalance dotted with corruption, Mr. "Squeaky Clean" Atta Mills opted for a foreign company. He has more confidence in the Whiteman than in his fellow black Ghanaian. Let us be honest for once, although Whites can equally be corrupt, they will at least have the decency to carry out most contracted jobs than a Ghanaian contractor will do. To the Ghanaian, before the contracted job gets started, he has already begun squandering his profit or the money meant for the work. Could we please get off our high horse to acknowledge this simple truth which is an indelible canker in most Ghanaians, at least for the first time?

President Mills by contracting the supposed "affordable" housing project to the White Koreans seems to be philosophizing that idea of "White Supremacy" If not, why then this utter intransigence or resolute determination to do the unthinkable while most Ghanaians are rather clamouring, for caution, better scrutiny of the terms of contract, and redressing the perceived negative long term repercussions on the economic and social lives of Ghanaians? Not long ago the Chinese have descended on Ghana in droves with their concealed shabby agenda. They are taking Ghanaians for fools. They have come to lord it over us, for that much many intelligent people are cognizant of except those myopic ones who have decided not to know. Today it is the Koreans and tomorrow only God knows who next. Until when will Ghanaians change their negative attitudes to begin to wear that spectacle of wisdom, selflessness, patriotism, fortitude, intelligence and farsightedness? Until that day, we shall continually wallow in our stupidity, low self-esteem, ignorance and subordination to the White race. Are the racists Chinese not envisaging to vigorously constructing their homogeneous China town or enclaves in Ghana as they eventually do in most foreign countries that they migrate to for various reasons? Are they not planning to take over our newly discovered oil fields and eventually our country? May the Koreans not come in droves all in the name of the STX contract and later do as the Chinese? Oh poor and visionless Ghanaians – cry my beloved country.

President Mills is desirous to leave an indelible imprint in the minds of Ghanaians that he was able to establish townships during his tenure of office as president of Ghana. He knows when he contracts such an ideal project to the local contractors; they will fail him as they have miserably failed his predecessors. Is it also his dream to better his chances of winning the 2012 elections via the realisation of such a superb project? It could be. Why not? He is being attacked from both within and without his NDC party, accused of all unfounded allegations. Why then not do something that will court the friendship of at least the security services - the police?

The contract is now signed according as resolutely determined by President Mills and his "supposed" Team B Ministers with the support of his whether Team A, B, C, etc. parliamentarians. I hope it does better his chances of winning the 2012 elections if at all he can win it considering the disaffection of most Ghanaians for not only his slowness but the decrepit behaviour of his uncontrollably lawless NDC foot-soldiers.

Even though the contract is already signed, I shall hopefully write to comment on it once I have had time to read it. Any write-up on the subject may be too late to make a difference but for the sake of posterity, one may be obliged to register their satisfaction or dissatisfaction or disaffection with it. I hope the eagerness to approve the contract despite the numerous concerns raised does not entail any underhand dealings by the signatories. Do I agree with the deal? I cannot tell at this stage. However, I may advise that we have a duty as nationals of an emerging economy to assiduously ensure the success of the project once contracted. The die is cast so there is no turning back.

Rockson Adofo