Stanbic And The Crown Jewels. Why ADB Should Not Be Sold

Fri, 7 Sep 2007 Source: Bottah, Eric Kwasi

There is something about this STANBIC business that the inner voice in my mind tells me it doesn't smell right. Yes my gut feelings tells me that if we should fail to do our home work well and look over the long term and how this monkey business would affect the under belly of the Ghanaian economy, we might wake up to realize that international capital has gotten a strangle hold of our economy and we cannot breath.

STANBIC is the bold constrictor out to choke us. This is my reasons, and I am not being an irrational alarmist. Let's look at a few businesses in Ghana tied to multinational corporations and see how they have impacted our economy. To begin with, can we say with sincerity that the Ashanti-Anglogold union has done anything to transform the local economy? Is Obuasi, forget about Ghana, any better off before and after this marriage? What about VALCO? In the end they wanted to just pack and go after they have exhausted and used us for almost half a century, without ever developing the local bauxite industry that would have given transformational value added inputs to our economy and launched Ghana into a full cycle aluminum industry.

Curiously Hon. JH Mensah arguments for offloading ADB to STANBIC smacks of the same arguments that the American HMOs proponents put forward against universal healthcare. They tell us any move towards universal healthcare would discourage capital investments, that fewer pharmaceuticals would be interested in research and development and whatnots. Baloney, capitalism thrives on the exploitation of the masses for the benefit of the few shareholders. Unless you are at both ends of the market the nature of capitalism is to draw blood to feed an obese anemic bourgeoisie far away removed from the frontline or grassroots. I am for property owning society, but I am no fool to sell away the family farm to the highest bidder.

Look at it this way. ADB as it is presently constituted has what I call national interest, social and moral conscience as a guiding principle even though its thrust is to basically advance soft loans to farmers to maintain and expand their businesses. Thusly, the ADB is your equivalent of hometown vulture, as the Akans would say; it would spare you some of your own meat, and wouldn't devour everything, as compared to the opete from afar. STANBIC business wouldn't basically be bound by this national interest, conscience, and morality; all that it would care for would be the bottom line. Thusly it would be interested in keeping the farmer, the same way the farmer keeps poultry chicken; fatten you for the market, not for your eventual freedom. We might be on the premise where Ghanaian farmers might be compelled to use their farms and lands as collateral for loans. But the threat is what would be STANBIC business policy and practice if one should default or fall behind loan payments. Trust me, they are more likely to foreclosure and auction homes and farms and throw people out of their lands. The family lands won for us by the blood and sweat of our ancestors are about to be sucked into big time international capital that does not respect borders or national sovereignty. All of a sudden Ghana looks like a desirable and attractive mademoiselle to big time capital, but not all suitors have the intent of coming to marry and stay to help develop, town and country. We have arrived at this juncture because our free fall economy has stabilized; the cedi is strong and even trading on international money markets. That is why all these multinational corporations are falling over each other to crush through the door. They won’t go to Zimbabwe or Niger. But that is to say we Ghanaians have pulled ourselves from the vicious cycle of coups and inflations, thanks in part to our present democratic dispensation, good governance, sound economic policies and best practices. It is a credit to both the government and the opposition that they have finally learned to accept each other and play the game by the books. NPP’s partner for peace is the opposition NDC and others so the credit for our present stability and growth goes to all of them. Certain misguided atrophied boom speakers and mobsters who used to scare away even local citizens, let alone attract foreign investors are adjusting to where they rightly belong, retirement. Against that backdrop certain areas of our economy should be fire-walled against predatory international capital, lest we wake up to find we have huge crisis on our hands and people have been uprooted from their ancestral lands. Here in America it is the practice of HMOs to cut off people, or force doctors to choose a less than favorable medical treatments to sickly people who have exhausted their medical insurance, or even where the best available treatment is expensive for the HMO to bear. I can see this STANBIC fiddlers coming to employ a rope-a-dope tactics to hook wink our peasants. Once they have gotten through the door it would not be difficult for them to dictate to a would-be farmer, or those already in the field what crops and techniques they would support. Farming bankruptcy, dereliction, and suicides would become a permanent stable and fixture on the land.

If all that is needed is $80 million dollars to buy this ADB Bank, what in the world stops the government from issuing IPO and floating shares to Ghanaians to buy into the bank? Our Diaspora brothers and sisters are worrying themselves sick on how to relocate back home and start some businesses. In the next 15years huge numbers of Ghanaians who left the country's shores in search of greener pastures would be looking homeward to retire. They are coming with huge amounts of money, social security and 401k pension funds. What is this our government doing to strategize in a way to tap into this potential windfall? What is the problem that they still do things like monkeys in a banana republic? Our Diaspora alone can provide the capital to float this ADB business. I find the whole thing as a lack of imagination. We better wake up before we find ourselves in another GHACEM debacle, where our farmers would have been sold for a song to strong arm monopolistic tactics. Yes we need to transform our agriculture, but trust me it is only Ghanaians who can do it. The expertise is not going to come from anybody from South Africa but from within. That is why Kwame Nkrumah of blessed memory set up the ADB. We train every year scores of BSc. Agriculture and Engineering graduates from the universities. Let’s give them the incentives to go into the field to put to use what they have learned. They, together with our farmers are the people who would transform and modernize our agricultural and rural economy, not some STANBIC who would still use local talent on the cheap to achieve the same.

No country worth its salt would open its agriculture to international capital to come in to play them like strings on a guitar. Even good old USA, the bastion of capitalism does everything to protect its farmers, and go to WTO to do the same. They know a thing or two that agriculture is truly the underbelly of their economy. So if you look critically at all their taxation laws, they are designed to shelter the farmer from the vagaries of the market place and international competition. We should rather setup state farms insurance for farmers, and protect them from predatory international capitalism. Nobody sells the hen that lays the golden eggs on the cheap and easy. Some family jewels are not for sale, period, and ADB is that kind of family jewel. Any Abusuapanin who does that should be shown the exit door.

Presented by,
Eric Kwasi Bottah, (Alias OYOKOBA)
Philadelphia, PA USA

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Columnist: Bottah, Eric Kwasi