Ghana's Leaders Must Stop Selling Their Nation Short

Thu, 4 Sep 2014 Source: Thompson, Kofi

By Kofi Thomson

One often wonders, whether there are moments of quiet reflection, during which many patriotic Ghanaians ponder over what could possibly be the rationale, for the many one-sided agreements that some of their nation's leaders end up signing with foreign investors - even though those agreements are detrimental to Ghana's long-term interests.

Could it also be the case that perhaps those independent-minded and discerning Ghanaian patriots find it baffling that on top of that outrage, there are leading politicians (mostly highly-intelligent and well-educated individuals) prepared to publicly justify even the most reprehensible and unjustifiable of agreements, which Ghana signs with foreign multinational corporations?

The question then is: What motivates highly placed public officials and politicians in our country who let Ghana down so badly, by approving such detrimental agreements? Do they never think of the well-being of their country and the welfare of its people?

A case in point is the Atuabo port agreement between Ghana and Lonrho - which was rubber-stamped by a Parliament constitutionally mandated to scrutinise and prevent Ghana from being lumbered with precisely such patently unfair agreements.

Predictably, and true to form, many leading members of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), are now trying to justify what is an egregious example of the socialisation of private risk.

Clearly, Lonrho wants to take advantage of all the opportunities inherent in a market economy - but it also wants to eat its cake and have it in Ghana's case.

"They have no doubt had excellent coaching lessons from the foreign oil companies with whom they are planning to prosper mightily together at Mother Ghana's expense", to quote an old wag I know.

So, today, Lonrho wants the state in what is a constitutional African democracy, and a free society in which the rule of law prevails, to protect it from potential competitors - by granting it a virtual monopoly in an agreement to build a port in Ghana that flagrantly flouts the PNDC law establishing the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority. How can that be?

Yet, only recently, the NDC's Mr. Amertepe Kwame, claimed on Peace FM's Kokrokoo morning show programme that in agreeing to prevent competitors from engaging in the same kind of business sought by Lonrho, in the Atuabo port project agreement with Ghana, the NDC government was only protecting the company's investment. Amazing.

Perhaps the question that the Amertepe Kwames in our midst ought to ponder over is: Would Lonrho have dared to demand the same outrageous terms and conditions from the authorities in either the UK or Germany (or elsewhere in the European Union (EU) for that matter), in a proposal to invest in building a new port along their coastline? Definitely not, is the short answer.

A long-standing policy of the authorities in all the member states of the EU (as well as the European Commission itself in its Brussels headquarters), has been to ensure that competition is never compromised in such instances.

That is why active steps have always been taken by the European Commission and the authorities in all the EU member-states to prevent companies from establishing monopolies when investing in their national economies. Why then should the situation be any different for Lonrho in Ghana?

Has competition in the telecoms sector, for example, in which foreign telecommunications companies have invested billions of dollars, not benefitted the Ghanaian economy?

In addition to giving consumers affordable access to wireless broadband internet services, and connecting millions of Ghanaians using mobile phones to each other across the country, have they also not created employment opportunities for tens of thousands countrywide, despite the intense competition in the industry?

For the information of the Amertepe Kwames, the only 'protection' that any government of the 4th Republic can lawfully offer foreign investors - at any given point in time - is the constitutional guarantee that legitimate businesses of theirs will not be expropriated. Nothing more, nothing less.

(And lest they forget, the something-for-nothing-rip-off-culture that prevailed in Africa during the colonial era, which enabled unimaginable wealth gained through scandalous profiteering, to be shipped out of the continent, was supposed to have ended some 57 odd years ago in Ghana - when Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's government finally took over the running of our country from the British colonialists who once occupied it. But I digress.)

With respect, do we not operate a market economy in Ghana - and therefore presumably rely on market forces, not the power of the state, to determine the eventual fate of companies investing in our national economy: be they domestic or foreign?

Why help establish monopolies for foreign companies here, when what Ghana's economy actually needs is competition-driven efficiency, which will lead to the high-productivity levels necessary to make Ghana globally competitive?

Well, speaking for myself, it is heartwarming to hear that a labour union has had the courage to ask the law courts to restrain the government from selling Ghana short in yet another one-sided agreement with a foreign investor that is detrimental to Ghana's long-term interests.

Since the case is said to be before the law courts, in order not to cause an affront to the dignity of the court hearing the matter, and thereby avoid being possibly charged for contempt of court, one is constrained from any further detailed public comment on the Atuabo port agreement between Ghana and Lonrho, till the case is finally disposed of.

Alas, under the circumstances, one only can, but pray, for our current leaders - and hope that going forward they will be blessed with the wisdom to discern what is right for our nation and its people at all material times and act accordingly: particularly when negotiating agreements with foreign multinational corporations seeking to exploit business opportunities in Ghana.

It is time our ruling elites ceased selling Ghana short: Henceforth, all the agreements they sign with foreign investors ought to be win-win ones. If they don't revise their notes quickly, they may soon have to contend with a #StopSellingMotherGhanaShort social media campaign A word to the wise...

Email: peakofi.thompson@gmail.com.

Columnist: Thompson, Kofi