Nothing wrong with exchanging resources to spur development

During presentation of the mid-year budget review to Parliament last week Thursday, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta stated that government plans to trade the country’s stock of bauxite to China in return for roads, hospitals and other projects constructed in the country.

Sinohydro Group Limited is expected to “provide US$2billion of infrastructure including roads, bridges, interchanges, hospitals, housing, rural electrification in exchange for Ghana’s refined bauxite”.

To that effect, a bauxite refinery will be established within the next three years in collaboration with selected private partners and with 30 percent local participation, he added.

Ghana’s bauxite reserve is estimated at US$460billion and the Finance Minister told Parliament that, currently, Ghana has an infrastructure deficit of about US$30billion – blaming it on “inadequate financial resources”.

He is however hopeful that the US$2billion to be gained from swapping the bauxite will go a long way in further reducing the infrastructure deficit.

However, environmentalists and pressure group Concerned Citizens of Atewa Landscape have asked government not to permit anyone to mine bauxite in the Atiwa Forest Reserve. We understand that destruction of the forest reserve cannot be replaced with money, however enticing – but in this instance we have to weigh the options and realise that there is a serious infrastructure deficit that the country is suffering from which needs to be bridged, and exchanging a natural resource for roads, bridges, interchanges, hospital and others to the tune of US$2billion sounds like a good deal.

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Under the circumstances, do we have an alternative? This Paper believes this is a prudent deal that will benefit the country immensely if the infrastructure deficit is bridged. Think of generations to come and how an expansion of infrastructure will make life more bearable for them. After all, resources are embedded in the soil to provide resources to develop the country to the levels we desire.

Forests can always be regenerated and the Forestry Commission is engaged in reforestation and we will always have to forest cover in the nation in spite of the illegal logging activities. In saying so, however, there must be a balance because sustainable development is the catchphrase today.

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