The Sultan of oil-rich Brunei, Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, left Accra late Wednesday after a two-day visit to Ghana.
It is generally hoped that the visit by Sultan Bolkiah, who is ranked as the second richest man in the world after Bill Gates of Microsoft Corporation, would leave in its trail long-term returns for the Ghanaian economy. However, it is unclear what immediate impact the visit will make on the Ghanaian economy, especially at a time when it is going through some difficulties, which the officials related to unfavourable external pressures. Sultan Bolkiah, who arrived on Tuesday with his two wives and 23 Officials, including two ministers, cut short the visit, originally programmed to end today, and was seen off by President Jerry Rawlings and his wife, Nana Konadu.
Sources close to the organizers of the visit said the Sultan had to leave a day earlier in order to honour an equally important engagement at the British Buckingham Palace early today before returning home. While in the country, Sultan Bolkiah held talks with President Rawlings and attended a colourful national durbar of the chiefs and people. He also laid a wreath at the tomb of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, went on a drive through town and visited the Military Academy and Training Schools and the Staff College, both at Teshie in Accra. Some Ministers the GNA spoke to shortly after the departure of the Royal plane were optimistic that the visit represented one such vital engine to drive the country into the investor market. "Once you are able to receive an august visitor like the Sultan of Brunei, the whole world will focus attention on you. It creates an image for you to be able to forge economic links with those who matter," said Mr. Mike Gizo, Minister of Tourism.
Mr. Dan Abodakpi, who rated the two-day visit as "successful", said it concretized some bilateral issues that would be pursued by a joint Commission between the two countries. He said high on the agenda of the discussions are petroleum and gas exploration projects and the possibility of Brunei participating in Ghana's Free Zone trade with electronics. There are also potentials for Ghana to obtain crude oil from the South Asian country on soft terms. Mr. Abodakpi said the maiden meeting of the joint Commission is expected to take place before the end of the year.
Before the Sultan’s departure, President Rawlings held a banquet in his honor and said international economic integration trumpeted by developed countries has achieved goals for a minority of the world's people. He said this process, known as globalisation, was presented by its advocates as a global market, which would lead to faster growth, higher living standards and general happiness. But sadly, globalisation has benefited mainly the developed countries.
He said the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization had developed a liberal market agenda, which they are pursuing in the hope that it would promote global well-being. "But the experience of the South East Asian countries, which were hit by financial crisis about two years ago, has shown globalization’s ability to undermine the progress of developing economies and create instability," he added. President Rawlings said in the aftermath of the Asian crisis, the world has seen changes in the distribution of global wealth in favour of rich countries and job losses have put the security of workers at risk. In the business world, he said, great mergers and acquisitions are taking place to strengthen the monopoly of transnational corporations and to threaten fragile industries in developing countries with collapse if they fail to compete.
"The poverty gap is not narrowing but rather growing," the President said, adding that despite their reservations, developing countries have been obliged by circumstances to accept globalisation not as a choice but as a reality. "We should come together to correct the imbalances in the international economic order by initiating reforms in the rules that govern world trade and financial services. "Our collective survival lies in our joint efforts." Haji Bolkiah said President Rawlings' visit and his reciprocal visit had raised to higher pedestal relations between the two countries. He said Ghana's economic achievements had been acclaimed internationally and remarked that the country is an island of peace in a continent raked by conflicts. Haji Bolkiah said Ghana and his country could expand co-operation in oil and gas, manufacturing, tourism and education.