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Opinions Tue, 29 Jun 2010

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Further Fallout from Forbes' Article

Folks: The fallout from Forbes' article keeps getting "interestingner and

interestingner". Even the CIA gets dragged in, if only indirectly so, but in the

world of espionage and dirty politics and dirty media campaigns, few things are

direct; they are perforce indirect!

But for me, beyond the cooked-up figures and the spaghetti-like intrigues of

criss-crossing interests, the larger lesson here is how the US government would do

anything to pursue US economic interest through its companies (irrespective of the

political allegiances of the owners). Are we in Ghana ready to rise above the usual

NPP-NDC foolishness that sees businesses rise and fall with the electoral cycle and

put forward a national agenda where silly partisanship would be reduced, at best, to

footnotes?

Chew over that (but remember, the CIA may be sharing this with you!!!!!)

Enjoy. Nii Moi.

23.06.10 Ghana Politics and Security Furore over Forbes article: US-Ghana relations

FORBES MAGAZINE

Officials in Accra are accusing Kosmos Energy of hiring Washington lobbyists to run

a vitriolic campaign against Ghana in the US press to break the deadlock over its

thwarted bid to sell its stake in the Jubileefield to ExxonMobil. The latest

manifestation of this campaign, they say, is the claim by US-based Forbes magazine

in its 10th June edition that Ghana is the ninth “worst-managed” economy in the

world. Forbes also claimed that Ghana's per capita GDP had fallen by 9 per cent and

it was “struggling to pay its bills”.

“ Ghana is a typical example of the world's worst-managed economies: It's a country

that shouldn't be poor, but it is. The West African nation's gross domestic product

per capita fell 9 per cent last year to US$621, ranking it 154th out of 184

countries tracked by the IMF, below resource-impoverished Haiti… Ghana's problems

are mostly home-grown," said Peter Allum, the IMF's mission chief to Ghana.

Irritated officials at the IMF and World Bank, which last year lent Ghana over US$2

billion on the strength of its macro-economic reforms, say the article uses

selective quotation, and conveys a distorted impression of the country. US State

Department officials have also been dragged into the dispute, according to another

report placed in the Washington Timeswhich argues that Kosmos' concerns are “being

taken seriously.”

Both sides in the year old dispute over the future of Jubilee oil field –Mills'

government and Kosmos – are raising the stakes by casting the row as a“geopolitical

clash.” Officials in the Energy Ministry and GNPC insist they have every right to

consider offers from China's Sinopec and CNOOC to invest in Jubilee, but

commentators in conservative US papers accuse the Accra government of turning

against the West.

Local business leaders in Accra argue that this increasingly poisonous climate is

making it more difficult for ExxonMobil to win support for its bid to buy the Kosmos

stake.

“The reflexes of local companies have been pro-West, and particularly pro-American

,” a senior executive in Accra told Ghana Politics & Security, “but what should be a

decision based on a informed analysis of national self-interest has become an

ideological shuttlecock.”

So heated has the local argument over the sale of the Jubilee stake been that to

argue in favour of a US company taking it over is to be seen as “anti-patriotic”,

the executive said. “This intense lobbying and denigrating Ghana in the Western

press is self-defeating,” added the executive, “because it makes it harder for Mills

to push through a deal with ExxonMobil and strengthens the nationalists in GNPC.”

According to this executive, Mills is sympathetic to the “financial and

technological case” for bringing in ExxonMobil but the fevered political debate –

both geopolitics and the parochial arguments within the ruling party - have made it

difficult for him to face down opponents of the deal.

We hear that one of the lobbyists consulted in the campaign for Kosmos is Riva

Levinson, who was hired in the 1980s by Angola's UNITA rebel movement (then

part-funded by the CIA and apartheid South Africa) to persuade the US Congress to

maintain financial support to UNITA which was then led by Jonas Savimbi who

prosecuted one of the most brutal civil wars in Africa against the

professedly-Marxist MPLA regime.

Ironically, Chevron was one of the biggest investors in MPLA-run Angola.

Paradoxically, Chevron's oil installations were protected by Cuban commandos against

attack from the avowedly pro-West UNITA guerrillas. One Washington source said that

Levinson had the tenacity of “a pit bull terrier”, and the claims by Forbes magazine

were just the opening shots of a “devastating campaign” against Ghana.

Levinson – who also represented the discredited Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National

Congress since 1999 - had been hired by Liberia's PresidentEllen Johnson Sirleaf and

former Ghana government under John Kufuorwho, it is said, then recommended her to

Kosmos because of her knowledge of Ghanaian politics.

Yet many among the business class in Ghana think such tactics may prove

counter-productive. Just as the row over the US Embassy's handling of visa

applications by the Energy Minister Oteng-Adjei, and GNPC chairman and CEO Ato Ahwoi

inflamed nationalist passions, so has the latest publication by Forbes on Ghana's

“economic failings.”

The polemical nature of the Forbes report on Ghana – and the many factual

inaccuracies it contained – suggested to many readers in Accra that it was part of a

sustained campaign against the country: first visa bans, and now press campaigns.

Even fairly conservative business people in Accra argue that Ghana is being unfairly

treated; the affair is eroding trust between the two countries and is damaging the

standing of all US companies in Ghana. The bigger US companies operating in Ghana

include Merrill Lynch, Fidelity, Accenture, IBM and General Electric . Over 50

wholly US-owned companies are operating in Ghana directly or indirectly through

joint-venture companies. Among the biggest JV operations are: Newmont Gold Ghana

Limited (in Kenyasi and Akyem mines), Cargill Ghana and Coca Cola. This week, United

Airlines started direct flights between the US and Ghana.

“Realistically, we understand that the volume of US business in Ghana is small

compared with other territories,” a company director said in Accra,“but people

cannot understand why our oil reserves and choice of industry partner have sparked

these hostile actions.”

It is hard to see who will benefit from the escalation of hostilities between the

government and Kosmos. Recently, there have been signs that ExxonMobil's more

diplomatic efforts – they secured a meeting with Mills in the face of opposition

from GNPC – appear to have been yielding results for them.

We hear that so far, the Asian companies interested in Ghana's oil – Chinese and

Korean corporations in particular – have made little progress in detailed

negotiations. Although a US$5 billion package proposed by CNOOC would cover the cost

of a stake in the Jubilee field and investments in an oil refinery and gas

distribution system, Chinese officials will not talk publicly about specific plans.

A European diplomatic source in Accra suggested that China will hold back until the

row with Kosmos burns itself out: “...Beijing sees little advantage in being seen to

confront the US in Ghana because there's little room to manoeuvre – compared to much

bigger plays such as Nigeria and Angola. Perhaps the only success of the US press

campaign against Ghana has been to persuade China to back off, at least for now.”

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

Nii Moi.

Columnist: Thompson, Nii-Moi

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