State of the Nation

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Nana Yaa Ofori Atta

When Parliament resumes sitting in Ghana’s teeming capital on Tuesday January 23rd, 2018, the 275 legislators, drawn from 10 regions – particularly because we are a deeply partisan nation, in the eye, again of an economic windfall – will address a number of issues that citizens and investors, domestic and foreign, should pay calm and particular attention to.

The annual World Economic Forum, the gathering of the powerful, will be held in Davos, Switzerland.  Coincidentally it opens also on January 23rd – US President, Donald Trump will attend for the first time – to the theme: ‘Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World’.  Ghana’s delegation will be sharing information and hoping to continue creating the headlines. The type that leads to sustained economic growth.

The Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) is side stepping coquettishly, speculation of widely circulated ‘news’ that ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded multinational oil and gas company, fifth largest measured by revenue, will invest up to some $1 billion in offshore deep water exploration.  If confirmed, it will be the second official attempt by the American registered company to gain traction in Ghana, the first flirtation in 2015, during the administration of former President John (IV) Mahama was aborted.

Similarly, there is no official word but it is strongly rumoured, that LITASCO, the Geneva based energy trader of Russia’s Lukoil, will invest in oil and gas exploration in Ghana.

GIPC, under new management since 2017, set out an ambitious target of $5 billion of confirmed investment booked directly by itself with the Petroleum Commission, the Ghana Free Zones Board and the Minerals Commission.  With some usd$380 million booked by GIPC alone, in the last quarter (Q4) of 2017, it looks like that target has been met and then some.

Citizens and investors should be asking GIPC in its Q1 report for 2018 based on delivery in 2017, to delineate in precise detail, first, the overall investment into Ghana.  Then aggregated per agency, what was booked as confirmed new investment in which industry located where in the country to produce what value in employment opportunities and economic returns by when.  GIPC should be also be tasked to quantify previously undeclared further investment by existing business, domestic and foreign in Ghana. 

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The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta is expected to follow through on an investment promotion tour of Asia, a curtain raiser ahead of a presidential state visit by Nana Akufo-Addo to key countries in the region.  The Minister has news from his first year in office, to share with the investors he will be courting ahead of a proposed new bond.  Overall GDP growth of 7.8% just short of the the 7.9% target, revised upwards from 6.3 percent, on the back of increased oil production. Other critical indicators such as the budget deficit and primary balance are encouraging if not positive.

There are a number of challenges to which an injection of new capital via proceeds from a bond could be judiciously applied.  Key is bringing to life the type of industrialisation of agriculture that creates badly needed employment and sustainable value chains through the One District One Factory initiative.  Funding and expanding social programs particularly in education and health.  Given international market prices vis a vis what has been publicly pledged at home, coming to a financially viable and politically acceptable payment for Ghana’s cocoa farmers.  These demonstrate the conundrum that policy makers face. Which of the burning fires they inherited, including a deficit in roads and infrastructure, to put out, first.

Then there is the matter of outstanding debts, known and otherwise, left by the previous government.  2 weeks ago, the Vice President was able to announce that the government has paid Ghc14.1 million (some usd$4 million) owed to teachers in grants, allowances and salary between 2013 and 2016.  The teachers union, a critical constituency given this government’s ambitions to reform the education system, has provided a response worthy of Oliver Twist – they say they are owed and want more.   

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The Cardinals Are In Charge

Before he takes to the skies, President Akufo-Addo will present the annual State of the Nation address to Parliament, likely in mid February.  His speech writers must be amending and editing, regularly, with glee.  The man has a way with words and moves.

By accepting the nomination of Martin Alamisi Benz-Kaiser Amidu to serve as the first Special Prosecutor of an Office that will target public sector corruption, an electoral promise of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), President Nana Akufo-Addo has made a bold move. 

For Ghanaians intent on demanding as well as investors interested in accountability and governance in a country projected to be one of the top 3 fastest growing economies on the continent, this nomination is a calculated risk.

Amidu was a former Deputy then substantive Attorney General.  He was also a former Vice Presidential candidate in a failed bid by former President John (III) Evans Atta Mills before the latter finally won an election in 2008 and then died in office, 6 months ahead of the December 2012 elections.

Amidu has since taken on the role of la bete noir for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the party on whose wings he once flew, now firmly shuffled into the opposition.  It was Amidu, dumped out of office by the NDC, who raised and successfully challenged the illegal payment of Ghc 51 million cedis to Alfred Agbesi Woyoeme, described as a financier of the NDC, in service of a non existent contract.  Woyoeme continues to use the courts to resist payment.

For his efforts, Amidu has earned the sobriquet ‘Citizen Vigilante’. His impending vetting in Parliament will inspire former colleagues in the NDC and the MPs in the NPP to reach deep into their reserves of hyperbole.  Both sides have reason to proceed with caution.  The NDC for the many allegations of banditry whilst they were in office, the NPP too must worry how far back and forward this renegade, who has played and paid and will almost certainly be confirmed into office, will put his considerable single minded energy.

 

Avant moi le deluge

The current tongue in cheek viral message, is that key members of the NDC who may soon be facing him across the dock are sending Facebook friend requests to Amidu. 

4 former members of the National Communications Authority, appointed by former President Mahama, are facing trial over sordid allegations involving an Israeli company contracted to procure listening devices ostensibly to fight terrorism.  It resulted allegedly, in the loss of $4 million of public funds.  There is no suggestion to date of complicity by the company, NSO Group Technology Limited.  Rather the legal thrust is a detailed examination of the actions taken by its local agent, Infraloks Development Limited and the former government functionaries.

In other news political economy, a special 5 member Committee of Parliament has began holding public meetings on allegations raised by the NDC, that the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the organizers of an awards ceremony, illegally extracted payments from expatriate business people for preferential seating.  The Speaker of Parliament invoked Article 112(3) of the 1992 Constitution and Order 38(1) of Parliament to summon an emergency session of Parliament whilst it was in recess.  The findings of the ad hoc committee comprised of MPs from both sides of the House, to investigate the claims, even after vigorous denials by the Ministry, are expected when Parliament resumes sitting.

And.  The Office of the Auditor General (AG), has following a public outcry against the payment of annual television license fees, this time with a threat of prosecution, initiated a Special audit into the application of Internally Generated Funds (IGF) by the state broadcaster between 1993 and 2017.  It speaks volumes about the interest taken in and supervision by previous AGs of the work that it outsourced to private companies that to date, 24 years on, no one in charge of the regular audits, recognised or raised the potential risks associated with unaccounted funds at GBC.  The state broadcaster is one of 115 or so publicly funded agencies, the AG has put them all on notice.

Also in Accra, CDD-Ghana, a non profit research and advocacy think tank has provided uncomfortable moments, particularly with their Afrobarometer reports, for many a government in Africa since 1998.  CDD-Ghana has initiated a 3 part public lecture series to evaluate President Akufo-Addo’s first year in office.  The Speakers are likely to flag the good and the dodgy of Year One.

Mr. Amidu and his Office will have much immediate canon fodder.  The larger issues for President Akufo-Addo and the Minister of Finance as they set out Ghana’s stall at home and abroad, is how to: Maintain the current momentum; Reform with vigour and dispatch the infrastructure of the economy ground up; Address the political cost of Constitutional Amendment Reform to actually progress governance.  Expectations are high in Ghana, again.

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