Opinions Wed, 4 Aug 2010

Say NO to the STX deal!

For the sake of Ghana and its future, we must all put politics aside and say NO to the STX deal!

Good evening my fellow countrymen and professionals of the media fraternity.

I have thought deep and hard about the STX housing project and upon sober reflection, I have come to the conclusion that it is not a good deal for Ghana. Sure, it will benefit *some* Ghanaians but we must look at the greater good of the country.

As Ghanaians who love our dear country and aspire to develop it to greater heights, we must with all the strength we can muster, tell parliamant and government to abandon the STX deal that is currently before parliament for consideration and approval.

To make any meaningful headway on this, we must all put aside any partisan political considerations and look to the long term interest of Ghana. It's not about which political party gets an advantage over the other. It's not about party A losing face and party B winning the argument! It's about our dear country Ghana and its future, the future of our children and generations to come!!!

1) If for nothing at all, house building is one industry that Ghanaians are more than qualified to handle!! We don't need super technology to build houses that suits our local conditions. If in doubt, ask our local house builders such as Regimanuel Grey, Devtraco, ACP Estates, EMEFS Construction, Buena Vista Homes and Lakeside Estates.

If our local house builders have the ability to build homes of good quality suitable to our local conditions, why should government rather give such a huge housing project to a foreign company? The argument about building houses for the security agencies that government has put forward is very hollow indeed!! Given the same level of funding, the local companies can do even better and give real value-for-money to the Ghanaian tax payer!!

If we can't let our local house builders take on this job that would provide a big uplift to our economy, then we may as well give all other contracts to foreigners. That way, those foreign companies will provide what we want, in the same way that according to government, STX will build the houses for the security agencies. But at what cost to the nation? We will have a very low pace of economic development with huge negative consequences - high unemployment, high social instability, low tax revenue base, etc.

2) The STX deal is the largest ever project that the government will be involved in (if it takes off) since the birth of our nation. With the government providing sovereign guarantee, any company could easily secure funding for such a huge project on the international market. Obviously, government will be called upon to pay if that company defaults on meeting its debt repayments.

If our government can give sovereign guarantee to STX for such a huge amount, why can't it give same to the local builders through say GREDA, their umbrella body? Even with limited funds, these builders have managed and are still managing to build houses for the local market. With such a huge funding facility from government of the country, they can surely build the number of houses government wants and even more with the same amount of money!!!

3) Such a huge project will no doubt have a huge positive multiplier effect on our economy if the project is undertaken by local builders as against it being done by STX, where our local builders will take on a smaller role. Think of the building materials from local suppliers, the huge number of local workers who will be employer (architects, building engineers, quantity surveyors, artisans, etc.), the huge profits that will be retained here to develop the economy further, and so on!! This will result in a huge increase in local employment, and consequently a knock on effect for the rest of the economy and also an increase in tax revenue for government!!!

By the way, will government give the same sweetners to local builders that it will be giving to STX - tax exemptions, free land, provision of services to the building sites, etc.?

If STX is given the deal, the economy of the Republic of Korea will be the winner and that of Ghana the loser!

4) If government can provide such huge long term funding to a foreign contractor to build houses here, let us ask ourselves: will the government of the Republic of Korea do same for a Ghanaian company that has the knowhow (say Regimanuel Grey) to go and build houses there at the expense of local Korean house building companies?? Your answer is as good as mine.

5) Ghana our beloved country, shall become the laughing stock of the world. Other countries will see us as not being patriotic enough to *build our own economy with our own funds*!! For how long can we then rely on donor partners when we will rather give away to foreign companies funds that could be used internally to give a huge boost to our economy and wean us off such donations??

6) If we are going to mortgage future earnings from our oil industry, we may as well do so by investing those future earnings in our local companies that will recycle the returns from these investments in our economy. The investment in the STX deal will produce the opposite effect - it will take away from our economy any such huge returns!

As people who think about and love our country, we must all stand up against this STX deal. For the sake of posterity, please brothers of the media, take up this cause and fight for the good people of Ghana, especially the voiceless majority!!

*Whether or not the deal would make economic sense, Ghanaians and our country must come FIRST*!! We should and must stand up and be counted!!! *For once, let people from all sides of the political divide in the country put on our patriotic garb and fight for our dear country Ghana*!!! If we don't do so now, we shall forever regret our actions and inactions!!!

Our parliamentarians, please think of the poor rural folks who cannot get even a single meal a day. They would you rather ensure that local companies are supported by government to generate employment for them and the rest of the country, so they can feed themselves, pay for their children's school fees, etc.

Our dear country's destiny is in your hands, our patriotic and gallant members of parliament, so please do not fail us! I implore you to put aside partisan politics and let your conscience dictate. Do what is in the best interest of Ghana and posterity will not judge you harshly.

Thank you.

God bless Ghana.

Kofi Minim.

Columnist: Minim, Kofi