Selling ourselves into 21st Century slavery; the regrettable story of ECG

Sun, 25 Sep 2016 Source: Kofi Koranteng

Kofi Koranteng

"We had traded in the market competitively perfect till you came... and cut our ribs, dried our cows." -("Expelled" by Jared Angira, Kenyan Poet)

A commonly accepted thesis is that the scramble for Africa from about 1885 until the beginning of World War I was not, of course, the result of a rush on the part of European powers.

The European occupation was gradual, subtle, clandestine, nonetheless, it was a well-conceived and coordinated strategy to dominate and exploit the continent. They "trickled in"; their ulterior motive, unknown to Africans. Some masqueraded as evangelists, others came as merchants and others as middle-men.

Little did Africans know that they would soon become slaves in their own territory. By the time Africans became aware, they had lost complete control over their lands, cattle and farms to the " invaders". How could they have built the Cape Coast Castle if the Fantes knew their intentions? Yet, gradually, they took control over trade and the souls of our people.

Regrettably, with the benefit of hindsight, it is safe to conclude that this exploitative manipulation of Africa's resources is repeating itself.

There is a new form of predatory attacks on Africa, relative to the seizure of national resources. Africa, and for that matter Ghana, will soon be encircled in 21st-century slavery. I do not know when this will palpably be felt, it might be years, decades or centuries, but if this unbridled penchants for the sale of state assets, companies, and institutions continues, future generations will read about the SECOND COLONIALISM. Do not joke with a man whose survival and satisfaction depend on your weakness and hunger.

What is happening today in Ghana has striking similarities with the process of surreptitious colonial manipulation. Slowly, but steadfastly, this nation is losing control of her strategic assets to powerful countries. Soon foreigners, with a united goal will be in charge of our economy and determine how we live our lives once again.

Soon, Ghanaian will be consigned to the position of drawers of water and hewers of wood in their own country. This is because we are selling everything on a silver platter to the so-called strategic investors for instant or short- term economic gratifications. But let us remember that as we privatise state-owned assets, we are relinquishing the right to govern ourselves.

Government is in in the process of putting Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) on concession for at least 25/30 years. Government argues that ECG is debt ridden or financially insolvent, hence the need to invite private-sector participation. Is this argument true? We will find out. Already, the following state companies are gone:

(1) Ghana Telecom is in private hands for (99 years)

(2) We are not making more than 20% from our oil exploration. (Dr Nduom has forcefully argued that if the oil revenue cannot liberate this economy, it must remain underground until such a time that we have the technical know-how to extract the oil ourselves so we can have 100% revenue.)

(3) Some government banks have been sold already.

(4) Our mining sector is 90% in foreign domination.

(5) And the other state companies have collapsed.

The above are some of the major revenue generating sectors to our nation. So if you privatize or put them on concession, how do you sustain this economy? As soon as you lose control over these strategic companies, you are virtually at the mercy of your "captors" and consequently, our nation will be reduced to rubble.

I may sound alarmist but check this: After we have sold all the income generating sectors, we will turn attention to our hospitals. In the coming years, irrespective of the party in power, all the elite hospitals in Ghana (Korle-bu, 37, Ridge, Komfo Anokye and other regional hospitals) will come under a scheme, whereby they will be weaned off the NHIS to pave way for privatization or concession as a way of generating income for the ailing economy.

Then, possibly, we will have to privatise our army and our police also, because, these institutions are a financial burden on the state - this prediction is irrational but do not be surprised if that time arrives.

The traditional arguments given by all governments when they are about to sell a state company is that the companies are not doing well. Fellow Ghanaians, this argument is not only unconvincing but more significantly, it is monotonously repetitive and boring. From 1991 - 2016, politicians have repeated this line copiously.

Will any business man buys a company with no viability? Look at the number of foreign companies that have rushed to submit bids for ECG. If ECG is debt-prone or financially insolvent or has no prospect of life, will these over 21 foreign companies apply to manage it?

Ladies and Gentlemen, several factors account for why state assets are sold. And none of them is what Government tells us. However, let us know that the mentality from First World Countries is to consign Third World Nations to a position in which we are no more than a factor of production.

To achieve this, a process of indirect subjugation and of DISPOSSESSION of state properties has been set in motion. They are impressing on African countries to sell all their assets to foreign investors. I am reasonable to accept that we do not decide what to sell. We are compelled to sell what we will ordinarily do not want to sell.

Left to any government, no state company will be sold because of the backlash from the citizenry. But the challenges and conditionalities government faces are enormous. The external pressure on Government to sell is unbearable.

If Jezebel decides to buy or take your VINEYARD for her people, nothing will deter her (1 Kings 21). As soon as any state asset attracts the greed of foreign countries, they will buy it at all cost, with the intention of depriving you of a major source of revenue, hence making you a reliant economy forever.

Ladies and Gentlemen, whenever GoG signs any financially induced contract with a foreign country, they demand, as part of the contract for the privatisation of one or two state companies. What is the rationale? The ECG workers have accused MIDA (Millennium Development Authority) of forcing government to privatize the company as a precondition for the realisation of $498 million from the Millennium Challenge Corporation under the Ghana Power Compact II Treaty between GoG and the USA.

Under the said agreement, GoG must implement six components under the Compact Program within five years. One of them is the ECG Financial and Operational Turnaround Project. This is what has necessitated the sale. So the rehearsed discordant tunes that ECG is been poorly managed is just a red herring fallacy.

Again, let us not forget the role of local and international lobbyists who have financial fulfilment in such privatization or concession. For such lobbyists, their livelihood depends on the extent to which they influence governments to put companies on divestiture or on a concession. For such lobbyists, they are driven by self-motivated income and not state interest.

Is it not surprising that upon discovery of oil in commercial quantity during the NPP's time, it was reported that the nation was to receive 15% of the revenue while the man whose company brought Tullow Oil was to receive 3%? Some people stand to make financial gains from such concessions or privatisations. Do you remember the arguments of P.C Appiah Ofori concerning the sale of Ghana Telecom?

These lobbyists include think tanks that powerful organizations in the world have planted in Africa. Some of these think tanks will support every country but their own. There are some think tanks which do not think for the country; they think for their paymasters. And they readily defend such sales because it suits their agenda.

Already, ACEP (African Center for Energy Policy) has rushed to defend the concession. They claim that in a national survey they conducted, over 80% Ghanaians support the sale of ECG. Deservedly, PUWU ( Public Utility Workers Union) has questioned the credibility of such survey, demanding to know when, where and how such survey was conducted and the respondents.

For some of the institutions or individuals defending the concession of ECG, observe them carefully when they are talking. You will realize they may be either talking to defend their positions or they are likely to benefit materially from the deal. This too does not surprise me.

In the colonial administration, certain natives were "polished" to play the role of Squirrel (in Animal Farm) in justifying everything Napoleon did. Malcolm X called them "home niggas" - Such people seek their personal aggrandisement and not the general welfare of the state. It is sad to note that we have a number of Squirrels around today.

Fellow Ghanaians, if it is a concession for 30 years, we can all conclude that ECG will end up worse than the concessionaire met it. Just as the prices of a cement bag skyrocketed after GHACEM was sold, so would the concessionaire do with electricity tariffs.

Let us gird our loins for higher bills. Again, will the concessionaire use her profits to renovate broken down turbines or do other major repairs in the twilight years of their contract? Are they also going to use their profit for the RURAL ELECTRIFICATION PROJECTS that GoG is pursuing?

Electricity has become a secondary basic need of man. So in fashioning out policies, the focus should not only be on profit. The state should think about the welfare of the masses. A concessionaire will not think about this public good because the motive is to make a profit.

The layoffs that will automatically affect the ECG workers also deserve mention. Just as most workers of Ghana Telecom suffered when Vodafone bought the company, so will ECG workers suffer in terms of retrenchments.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us realise that the first step in the process of systematic subjugation in colonialism was the dispossession of the natives of their lands and assets. We are facing the same situation today.

We are recreating the situation which colonial economy established - a class structure based on colour in which the lower socioeconomic groups will be nationals and those at the top of the pyramid are foreigners since they become managers. Ghana is becoming an exploitable commodity as the economy is being manipulated to ensure that the nation remains economic servant forever.

Compatriots, it is in our supreme interest to be in charge of ECG. Ghana is in the throes of another economic suicide if this company is handed over to a foreign investor. But Government has crossed the Rubicon in putting ECG on a concession. No argument will persuade GoG to change the policy.

However, looking at the history of such privatizations in Ghana, there is no doubt that Ghana will regret this concessionary arrangement in future. Selling your property is not a panacea to your struggles in life.

If government IS WILLING, this precious company can be structured to contribute significantly to our economic struggle. This is the noble goal we should pursue, for in selling all your properties, you risk an inexorable slide towards perpetual economic despair.

Columnist: Kofi Koranteng
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