You Turn, Utong. Pees Chasing Cee

Mon, 1 Oct 2012 Source: Casely-Hayford, Sydney

Critical News, 30th September 2012

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

I need more detail on the NPP’s financial solution to free SHS. I want the scheme in place, I have 4 wards in various stages of school and I feel the pinch severely when term starts. On average, it costs no less than ghc200 even if it is a Government assisted school. Textbooks, exercise books, school uniforms, bags, shoes, transport fares, and it goes on. The way I am looking at it, if I get to save that money with a free education policy, I get to have minimum disposal income of some ghc2,400 per year (200cedis x 4wards x thrice a year). It works out more than that, but using this as a thought, can you imagine the lighter load parents will have? That is why it is absolutely important that this can happen. It matters not which party does it, I just would like to see it happen. But the numbers are not yet clear to me and I have not heard a very well thought out financial plan from the CPP or NPP or PPP. The NDC is not offering free SHS education on the grounds that it cannot be done for at least 20 years ala their education minister. The idea is long overdue.

Just when you thought it had cooled down, “District Four Five” was back in the fray again, this time the Parliamentary sub-committee recommended that CI78 should be withdrawn because it still has errors in the document. I heard Mr. Cletus Avoka on air saying that they would still go ahead and debate it and that nothing would stop CI78 from becoming law. The case will be heard in court on 4th October and things might just change again. The mess is yet to start.

The Pilipino word utong means holding one's breath, as if while underwater, and I am sure the President’s campaign team is still head under, since he signaled that he wants to make a U turn to debate his fellow Presidential aspirants. Presumably because he thinks he can talk better, has better communication skills, believes he can out-speak the others on issues, or because he believes his predecessor, now “most beloved mentor”, was wrong in refusing the invitation from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). Thus far, his campaign has been strapped to a continuation of the “Better Ghana Agenda”, a continuation of all the things that President Mills started, wanted to achieve and martyred himself in order to give JDM and the NDC a fighting chance into the next term of government. Now he is in a turn away from that agenda.

So I say President Mahama made his second mistake this past week, going back to the IEA debate. For the right reasons, but politically wrong, he has signaled a change from “A Better Ghana” to “A Different Ghana”. He is dithering on matters of integrity. The new different Ghana now defines a better Ghana as Jobs, Stability and Development. The president’s branding now describes him as “Accessible, Decisive, and Action Driven”. I suppose from now, he will pursue what is right for him and not for the better Ghana agenda, right?

The Daily Guide is not complaining, it is starting to see some full-page color advertisements. Who says party politics is not good for Ghana? I wonder though, because just a year ago, Asiedu Nketia rudely claimed that the NDC did not have any money to pay an auditor for their financial statements, but now there are billboards all over town and campaign ads on radio and TV, which costs a lot more than an audit. Maybe it is on credit, in which case the vendors should be careful, because if the NDC loses, they are in deep.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that President Mahama’s first mistake was to allow JJ an opportunity to get into this race. After bullying the Volta chiefs last two weeks, JJ has classically stayed out of the media. There certainly are frantic behind the scene moves, to which we in Chorkor and Palladium are not privy, but soon we will hear. The intrusion of the NDP is a huge factor for the NDC. If nothing at all, they have to keep guessing where JJ is heading with all of this. Most politically savvy people I speak to say the NDP is no threat to the NDC, but I see it differently. If nothing at all, they present a time-wasting depth charge, ready with a trigger. The NDC must stay engaged with JJ and Konadu. If they (Rawlings) are truly behind the NDP, it poses a serious threat to the count in the Volta and Northern Regions. Somewhere down the line he will show his hand and it will aid or destroy those votes. It would be wishful thinking to strategise otherwise.

The jury is still out whether JJ and Konadu are the National Democratic Party (NDP). Where Nana Konadu has been quoted making noises that she is part of the NDP, that her husband is behind her all the way, JJ has not given a wiggle of what he is following. At what point and will he decide to break ranks with his wife? He supported her in Sunyani when the NDC Congress was a make or break affair for President Mills. However, if the NDP is just a spoiler in the race and will make a last minute swing back to the NDC after maybe securing a power slice for the future, then the NPP now have their challenge and they too cannot afford to take their eye off the NDP indeterminate orb.

Meanwhile, Paa Kwesi Nduom is fuelling a very determined campaign. His vote count from last elections was about 110,000 with the CPP. His new Progressive People’s Party might steal share from the Convention Peoples Party’s Abu Sakara, whose limp campaign might moribund the CPP. Between them they might increase their voting share with drift from some “also-rans”. The New Patriotic Party might be immune to all this activity and certainly, the incumbent is the party to oust and that is what politics in Ghana is all about, ain’t it? All the “p”arties chasing the “C”ongress party.

But I have to put this out there. I am Vice President, my brother’s company has an outstanding loan with a Government-owned bank. It is a sizeable debt, over 19% of the total debt portfolio of the bank. This national asset is made available for sale and the Governor of the Central Bank is a significant part of my party machinery. In my view, the Governor would know in detail, everything about this contract of sale. Under the banking Act 673, paragraphs 41 onwards, there is clear regulation regarding loan limits and exposure for banks. The Banking law requires that all such loans be notified to the Bank of Ghana and breach of limits must be reported. There are rules on exposure to single entities within the portfolio and within industry. In a normal and ethical world I expect that the Governor, even without his party credentials will alert me to my brother’s exposure and urge some deliberation to avoid future embarrassment.

This is not because, according to Ibrahim Mahama his company borrowed money and the terms and conditions were changed by the bank, burdening him with a cash flow problem. It is because his bank fell foul of the regulations. It is because Merchant Bank failed over the years to stay in compliance. It is also because of his proximity to the most senior position in the country. It warrants special attention. I disagreed with Abdul Malik Kwaku Baako on Joy Newsfile this past Saturday, because the “Hotel Kuffuor” debacle was a similar case but attacked from the wrong angle. The National Investment Bank was, similar to Merchant Bank, way over its regulatory limits then and should have been sanctioned by the Central Bank for that loan. Central Bank had to shore up NIB with $100 million not too long ago, or sell it. That is the same principle with Merban. It is the breach of banking regulations and weak oversight from the Central Bank coupled with political interference in its work that causes the problem. The issue has been sidetracked to a political one, and what politician will not take advantage of an opportunity to embarrass it’s opponent?

In my eyes, December 7 has now become a second-round-vote election. Each party will displace the other depending on its weight in the political count. It is an Archimedes political principle. If the voter register holds, the numbers will have some firmness and no party can create votes to bloat the count. Do we pray for this? ‘Tis what we do in Ghana. Religious groups are still trying to broker a deal with the political parties on the 45 districts. Parliament was in session today, Sunday on its 21-day mission to birth CI78. Jesus cannot be very happy.

Ghana, Aha a ye de papa. Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!

Columnist: Casely-Hayford, Sydney