Lining It Up

Nana Yaa Ofori Atta

Dinosaurs are extinct for a reason. They didn’t get the memo. It is a measure of how often we don’t actually read the small print, that the quietly potent announcement issued by the Millennium Development Authority was duly reported and allowed to sink, without a ripple or comment. Until the next announcement on April 19th, 2018, it delivered the coup de grace.

It is the Meralco Consortium, incorporated in the Philippines, led by the Manila Electricity Company and listed on their stock exchange, that is the preferred bidder chosen by MiDA, as the Technical Partner in a $500 million US Government funded grant.  Meralco will manage, operate and invest in the distribution of power across Ghana.

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Darwin’s Theory

According to Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection, there are four definitive stages that occur before the Big Bang.  Overproduction, Variation, Competition and then Selection.  So it is with matters involving MiDA, in a case that has mirrored natural selection.

In 2016, out of 6 companies who had originally entered the internationally competitive race administered by MiDA to bid for the right to partner the Electricity Corporation of Ghana (ECG) in a new private sector participation concession, 4 persevered, then there were 3, then there 2 and by April 19, 2018, there was one.

Meralco’s last standing rival was BXC Ghana Limited, a subsidiary of Chinese listed Xiaocheng Electronic Technology Stock Co Ltd.  Registered in Ghana since 2010, BXC has a footprint in South Africa, it also has form here.  The company says it has installed 320,000 prepaid meters and associated systems, it is replacing conductors in the Central, Western and Eastern regions and it has been previously been contracted by ECG to implement a system to reduce losses, remove overloads and audit voltage levels.

In spite of their presence on ground, the BXC star must have flickered and waned, at least in the recent power bidding process.  Per MiDA’s definitive statement, by presenting the ‘highest combined technical and financial score’ Meralco beat them to this contract.  MiDA has threatened to finalise negotiations with Meralco and present the country, at a later unspecified date, with better and further particulars.

See Also:  Zenith is Bank of the Year Ghana 2017 – The Banker

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On The Cheap

Should the MiDA agreement go to Ghana’s Parliament, the institution that also approves budgets for every Ministry, the House may find it as difficult as BXC likely does right now, to fully engage.  The House is currently demonstrating extremely low voltage in its accounting systems. 

In a move not dissimilar to that which griped the UK with its MP’s expenses scandal, a number of current and previous Members of the House who served simultaneously as former Ministers are being investigated amidst slippery allegations of double dipping on their salaries.

Ghana’s Constitution requires that the majority of Ministers are selected from Parliament.  There are obvious implications for undermining the independence of the legislature and also the practical work of the House as regime after, regime, Odekro, a non governmental organisation that tracks governance in Parliament, reports that the MPs who absent themselves serially from Parliament, are those who are also Ministers of States.  The pattern is repeated by every government.  Without fail.  There are now other repercussions to consider.  Where and how often each month, does an MP/Minister draw his/her salary from?  Then are we getting value for money?

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BrexGhan

Ahead of being cut adrift in the self inflicted uncertain world of Brexit, the Government of the UK is upgrading its old friendships, even with little Ghana.  The numbers and the policies on both sides are important.  In 2016, according to remarks attributed to the UK Minister of State for Africa, Mrs. Harriet Baldwin, bilateral trade was recorded at some Gbs 1.4 billion.

This government has a portfolio of investments in critical infrastructure projects that requires deep pockets, long term funding and short to medium term technology and skills transfers.  The UK is searching now more than ever, for opportunities to diversify its industrial output and exports away from the EU.  BrexGhan.  The best impetus for a marriage of convenience, is the cold hard reality of vested interests.

Mrs. Baldwin announced that UK Exim Bank will more than triple its export finance envelope from Gbs125 million to Gbs500 million in a bid amongst others to support new local businesses to partner and trade with UK partners.  Mrs. Baldwin is a sharp one.  Ghana is on the march including to Asia to secure a Samurai Bond.  She promptly announced a raft of other measures including technical assistance between the 2 central banks that she said will allow Ghana to float Ghc as in local currency bonds, abroad.

See Also:  Inside a banker’s hymnal

Someone didn’t get the memo this week.  It appears that some Honourable Members of Parliament (MP), the very institution that may have to deliberate on detailed loan agreements and contracts arising from the BrexGhan breakthrough, would at a pinch, have difficulty balancing their personal cheque books.  Let alone drawing, looking closely at and holding the much needed line on spend from the public purse.

No one can or will say exactly how much MPs in Ghana earn.  The details are deliberately and comfortably sketchy, across the political divide.  Somewhere from Ghc4,000 a month, with infrequent tops up for Committee duties and automatic eligibility for a $70,00 car loan, repayable at $1,000 a month.

The Ghana Police Service has invited a number of the alleged doppelgängers to write statements.  Parliament’s press office has sensibly asked the media not to inflame passions on this matter.  Even better, the Minority Leader, a former Minister, who is also accused of reportedly two timing the public purse has suggested an elegant solution.  In short, the rule going forward should be to look forward.  Never mind what may or may not have happened previously.

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Wakanda Not Trade

While leaders of the Commonwealth met in London to toast what may be their final collective hurrah with Queen Elizabeth II as their titular head, Africa’s last absolute monarch, Eton educated King Mswati III has marked his 50th birthday at home in Swaziland.  A country embedded in and surrounded by South Africa, their currency is pegged to the rand which is just as well, they import 90% of goods and services from them.  Kindly take note, that per royal decree, Swaziland has now been unilaterally renamed The Kingdom of eSwatini. Line em up.

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