I Knew Abongo And Hannah Would Not Last.......

Fri, 26 Feb 2010 Source: Boadi-Danquah, Eugene

It’s a bit awkward for me putting this piece out, but I guess after a while now I a bit confident to let my thoughts and observations out for all of us to deliberate on. What I have been doing in this stint of writing dormancy; developing a housing model that gets a roof over Ghanaian workers for less than Ghc 20 000 and still affords them the luxuries of spacious and comfortable living. It is done now and with time, I will ensure that my good countrymen benefit from my ideas and research to clear my mind of the thoughts that I have been busy for nothing.

I admit it will be even more awkward marrying my caption with my introduction, but trust me, you will understand as you carry on.

One and half years ago, three gentlemen were vying for the position of Commander-in-chief of our noble land; they were each posed with a question for their definitions of “affordable housing”. For the centre-right candidate, it was Ghc 20 000; to the centre-left candidate, “housing is affordable only when it relates fairly to the average income of the buyers” (not exactly those words). To me, both answers were the cleverest that could come from Nana Akuffo-Addo and then candidate Attah-Mills. Why?, because they represented the political ideologies of the respective parties with no pun.

Almost a year on after the debate, there was news in the media that Ghana had signed an “affordable housing” deal with a South Korean firm called STX, worth $10 billion (all our oil revenue for the next 10years). A deal spearheaded by the then Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Albert Abongo. $10 billion was to construct 200 000 affordable houses over a period of 5 years. I am not an expert in finance, but that would work out as $50 000 per unit; wait, we were to provide land for the first phase of the construction, and equally pre-finance first phase of the project? As rightly worked out by Imani Centre for Policy Research, Ghana was to pay South Korea STX, at least $60 000 per unit. As I write now, Ayensu estate and other mid-tier local developers can put a roof over your head for $30 000. These are the kinds of contracts that Dr. Craig Murray will describe as “EXTREMELY STUPID!”.

To add salt to injury, Mr.Abongo negotiated for a 30% employment quota for Ghanaians, on our own land! Yes, 30% of the employees have to be Ghanaians. I am waiting for Graig Murray’s description of that, for a country struggling to manage its own unemployment figures. This is in no way a write up to justify other “Extremely Stupid” contracts, but at least, to bring our minds to what we are getting ourselves into, before in five years’ time, another ex-British Diplomat comes to describe us with harsher synonyms of “Extremely Stupid”.

All these said, lead vocalist of the socialists’ forum, Mr. Kwasi Pratt, was hopping from here to there, throwing fists in the air, singing melodies of what a wonderful contract Ghanaians had signed and what impeccable leadership Ghanaians had. Sister Hannah, the then Deputy Minister was fighting for recognition of her titles, especially deserving now for being the Rock of Gibraltar, behind our ever successful Works and Housing Minister, Albert Abongo. Deep inside me, I knew President Mills was not privy to these contracts (I might get smacked for saying this! sincerely ,Kwame Pianim). I also knew that with time, the eyes of Ghanaians would be open wider to appreciate what went around them, so I was in no haste to put out a piece to condemn it, but rather chose to send enquiry upon enquiry to really understand what the body of this “fictitious” contract entailed. Lo and behold, there is nothing more to it than a contract to boost the economy of South Korea through job creation, while greasing the palms of one or two Ghanaians. With this, Ghanaians will be subjected to years of financial bondage with tax-payers having to make up the difference between the cost price and the selling price. It is obviously going to be sold below how much we are paying our partners, so someone will make up the difference! Taxpayers! Importers! Someone will have to pay.

I admit that one bad decision is not enough to condemn our honourables, but as they say lightening does not strike the same place twice. After all this, Hon. Sister Dr.Hannah Bissiw(MD) says we need $20million to curb flooding in Accra, Ghc 850,000 to refurbish 7 houses (because NPP spent more), banning car wash activities as an interim solution to our water problems. That is like lightening striking more than thrice in the same place in one year.

I have been an admirer of Hon.Dr Bissiw’s energetic approach to leadership, and would in no way condemn her as corrupt or toeing a line that has never been set before, but to turn into the mouthpiece of Water Suppliers in the event of water shortages is simply ludicrous! Last I checked, Ministers stand on the side of the public in such events and with the power vested in them, demand explanations, set timelines and push the suppliers to offer solutions, both interim and long term or face the necessary sanctions. But a Minister in reverse gear would come on air; explain which machines of the water supplier are not working well, how they are getting an Engineer in to town etc. and how they are considering banning Car Washing. Oh! That is for their P.R.O.

All said, Prof. Mills has shown a great deal of commitment and maturity in getting rid of both Albert Abongo and Hannah Bissiw, and I congratulate him for that. I hope he gives an hour of basic ministerial lessons to the newly sworn in ministers. I equally wish Mr. Alban Bagbin, every success and I’m more confident that he will do better.




Columnist: Boadi-Danquah, Eugene