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Opinions of Monday, 4 October 2010

Columnist: Amponsah, John

What happened when President Mills visited Japan?

By John Amponsah

Is it not intriguing that while there seemed to be a good deal of media coverage of President's Mills recent visit to China, the exact opposite seemed to have occurred on his subsequent visit to Japan? While President Mills was in China, there were daily accounts of the president's activities including announcements of economic packages bestowed upon the Ghanaian people on behalf of the president and his team. In contrast, during the four-day state visit to Japan the two main headlines I was able to access addressed his arrival in Japan and his arrival back in Ghana. Why was this so?

Is it that the Japanese do things differently from the Chinese or could it be that the president's team did not make substantial deals such as the ones made with the Chinese? We have been told that the government of Japan "is to renew a number of grants to Ghana which were removed in previous years following Ghana's adoption of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative." Is that all that happened in Japan? I doubt it, and here is why. According to a GNA news release on the 28th of September 2010 entitled “President Mills due in Japan for four- day State Visit”, we were told that, "Mr Koku Anyidoho, Head of Communications at the Office the President, told journalists ahead of President Mills' arrival that the President would repeat the success chalked in China, which committed tens of billions of dollars of development assistance to Ghana. He said the President would use his visit to strengthen Ghana's bilateral ties and co-operation with Japan which had pledged its support for the ‘Better Ghana’ agenda."

If that was the case then why have we not heard that much about these deals yet, as it happened with the president's visit to China? Perhaps the Mills government was worried about public outcry similar to what now surrounds the STX deal, if large deals with Japan were announced? Perhaps the government wanted to keep possible investors at ease?

The same GNA article states that "while in Japan, President Mills, who is accompanied by a ministerial and business delegation, would hold talks with the Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Khan, and pay a courtesy call on His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito. He would also interact with the Japan Federation of Economic Organisation which consists of leading Japanese companies, as well as meet with the African Diplomatic Corps." This all sounds fascinating! It would have been great to have received a similar amount of media coverage regarding these and other meetings as was the case with the president's visit to China.

We have read of Prime Minister Naoto Khan's kind words of praise for Ghana's democratic credentials. The Japanese Prime Minister is reported to have said "Japan is pleased to have Ghana as a partner because Ghana over the years has demonstrated that Africa has the potential to rule the world if given the opportunity." As I have said in the past, Japan is one of the countries that should serve as a role model for Ghana, at least in the areas of business, education and technology.

When President Mills returned to Ghana, GNA's 3rd October 2010 article entitled “President Mills returns from Japan” only had this to say (referring to both China and Japan trips), “President Mills said a number of loans and grants were agreed upon, adding that, details of those agreements would, at the appropriate time, be explained to the nation.” This causes me to wonder what the reason is for the taciturn approach the Mills government is taking regarding possible deals made in Japan. Perhaps more light will be shed on this in the future. It is my hope that both trips to China and Japan will benefit the country in the long run.