General News of 2014-04-03

$300 million is no big money for peacekeeping - Minister

Defense Minister Mark Woyongo says the 300 million dollar loan agreement being contracted to finance Ghana’s peacekeeping operations in Sudan, Mali and elsewhere is critical and must be approved before April ending.

A Russian Bank based in the UK, VTD Capital PLC, is facilitating the loan. According to reports, the arranger of the loan will earn five million dollars and the manager of the fund will also earn 6 million dollars.

Moves to get the loan agreement approved by parliament hit a dead end on Tuesday as the minority and the majority side failed to reach a consensus before taking a recess. The agreement generated heated debate with the minority in Parliament questioning the modalities of the facility and the need for due diligence to be done before approval.

But the Defense Minister, Mark Woyongo, says inasmuch as the minority’s concerns may not be entirely out of place, the loan needs to be approved urgently. He told Ultimate Radio’s Ebenezer Afanyi Dadzie that Ghanaian soldiers sent for operations in Mali and South Sudan are currently treading dangerously because they lack logistics and ammunition to confront any major armed attack.

Mr. Woyongo indicated that Ghanaians were missing a major point of the agreement being that the United Nations; (UN) will eventually reimburse Ghana with the amount.

“Let me make this very clear, the equipment we are going to buy, the UN will reimburse Ghana, it is not like we taking our money to buy equipment. There is something called work lease arrangement which means Ghana will buy and the UN will reimburse us,” he explained.

He also challenged arguments that the money was superfluous stating, “300 million is not big money; it might even not be enough because we are operating in many countries and we need to buy helicopters, arms and others.”

But his colleague Member of Parliament for Nkoranza North, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Defense and Interior, Major Rtd. Derek Oduro insists the decision to even send the troops there without the requisite logistics was in the first place “suicidal”.

“Who ever made that deployment has erred, it was suicidal. How could you have sent troops without the full support of equipment and logistics, what if something happens to them,” he questioned.

The retired military officer who also served as finance officer in the army, Major Rtd. Derek Oduro told Kumasi-based Ultimate Radio, he was the first to support a loan to replenish the armory of the Ghana armed forces but contends the loan contract in its current state was “too flawed to be permitted”.

“The loan amount is three hundred million, repayment period is three years, grace period is two years and the interest rate is seven percent which is too high. Upfront fee is 1.85% and management fee is two percent of the amount and we are going to pay all these free for people to chop with an annual default rate of two percent” the term is too high and we need not entertain this agreement,” he fumed.

He insists until the terms are re-negotiated to favor the government of Ghana, the minority will continue to kick against it until things are done appropriately. He was also of the view that some local banks could have collectively raised the amount for the same purpose.