By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Folks, we are in trouble. Deep, deep, searing trouble. In the midst of plenty, we are suffering—just because we have eyes but can’t see.
President John D. Mahama said at the opening of the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland) on Wednesday that his government couldn’t implement the windfall tax introduced in the mining sector in 2012 for the government to rake in 10 percent of profits made by gold-mining companies operating in the country.
He attributed the problem to threats from the mining companies to lay off many workers should the tax be rolled out. The Ghana Chamber of Mines had also earlier warned that the windfall tax would dampen the resolve of investors in Ghana’s mining sector.
“They threatened to lay off workers if we implemented the windfall tax and because we needed the jobs and you don’t want workers laid off you are coerced to go along. So these are major issues we have”, he bewailed.
“…They will not allow us to implement a windfall tax in our country”, President Mahama said. The government, thus, has no other option but to put the tax on hold.
We are not told what will be done next!!
Eureka!! As if that’s an admission of guilt that they had been waiting for, his critics immediately jumped on President Mahama, calling him “weak”, “indecisive”, and “incompetent”. To them, he hasn’t demonstrated enough “balls” as the fount of authority to seek Ghana’s well-being. They wished that he would be firm enough to show these mining companies and their lackeys in the Establishment (the Ghana Chamber of Mines, inclusive) where naked power lay.
So far, President Mahama hasn’t done so, which his critics point to as a major flaw in his leadership skills. They even wondered why he would go to announce that weakness at the World Economic Forum.
Deeper-level issues come to the fore in this scenario.
Ghana is the world’s 10th and Africa’s second largest gold producer and the third largest producer of cocoa. Ghana has many more natural and human resources that the world needs. Yet, the country is still deep in the woods because it doesn’t have the requisite leadership to galvanize the citizens to do what others elsewhere have been able to do to move their countries forward. It’s all talk, talk, talk, and more annoying talk! And declaration of grand designs on paper!! Nothing concrete to use the country’s over-abundant natural and human resources to uplift it. Is it a curse or what?
Meanwhile, in the same breath, President Mahama said that plans were afoot to seek international cooperation to move Ghana from being a primary processor of mineral resources to adding value to its minerals.
He said so when he addressed a World Economic Forum session on Responsible Mineral Development Initiative. The initiative aims at helping countries develop their mineral resources in a socially and economically responsible manner.
According to him, this venture will create job avenues for the youth in the mining communities as well as boost the earnings from minerals.
“We export bauxite in its raw form and then we import alumina to feed our aluminium smelter and then we export the aluminium and re-import the aluminium to feed our industry; it just doesn’t make sense”.
Mr. Mahama made the comments when he opened a World Economic Forum session on Responsible Mineral Development Initiative in Davos, Switzerland. The session was attended by Liberian President, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson and Guinean President, Alpha Conde (leaders of countries that also supply natural resources to the international market but that are equally under-developed).
I have many reservations. Too much being disclosed too early in the process (if there is any process at all). I don’t know which plans have already been drawn up or where the steps have reached now to confirm that anything concrete is being done on this score. And why announce what is not even a pipe-dream to give the detractors a head-start in counteracting any measure to empower Ghana in the international commodity market?
The West won’t sit down unconcerned for anything to puncture their economic interests. They act fast and decisively to cripple us. Don’t tell them you are developing wings to fly. Instead, FLY and let them see you in flight!!!
I am fearfully reminded also of one of the major factors that caused the conspiracy against the Great Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah: his strategic move to establish the Tarkwa Gold Refinery to process Ghana’s gold so it could give Ghana the competitive advantage in the international commodity market. He was earmarked for liquidation by the West and was supported by the internal collaborators in Ghana.
He made the move to establish the Gold refinery but lost the gamble as he was overthrown. What has happened to that project ever since remains a painful reminder of the shortsightedness of those who succeeded him.
Is it today that John Mahama will be returning to that idea of establishing processing bases in Ghana to add value to Ghana’s natural resources? And bauxite too? Is he not aware of the insidious manouevres of the Kaiser Aluminum Company of the United States against Ghana in Nkrumah’s era when it moved fast to make Jamaica the hub of its alumina supplies even though Ghana produced more bauxite and had the potential to feed the Volta Aluminium Company with better quality material than Jamaica could?
And why Valco would choose to import alumina from Jamaica while Ghana’s raw bauxite was being exported for refining into alumina with little benefits for the producer?
Meantime, one of the pre-conditions for the loan granted Ghana by the Kaiser Aluminum Company for the construction of the hydro-electricity project was that it would be given a substantial leeway in using the electricity for the operations of Valco.
But for the re-negotiation of the terms by the Rawlings government, Ghana would have continued to lose out. But is Valco really viable now? The Kufuor government did some manouevres on it, turning it into something that I can’t say is worth pointing to as a productive economic venture. In effect, the returns have diminished really fast.
So, all this while, we’ve been spiraling ourselves out of control at the behest of the various governments that have been ruling the country. The mining of minerals has been intensified over the years but little is added to the national kitty to boost development of the country to ease living conditions.
The huge loans that the erstwhile Ashanti Goldfields Corporation took from the international community to expand its mines at Obuasi and its environs have only left in their sequel massive environmental degradation, health hazards, and a worsening of living standards in the area.
Turn to the other mining companies operating elsewhere (Tarkwa, etc.) and you can’t fail to see how wicked our leaders and their partners-in-business are.
Ghana has everything that it takes for a country to develop but very wayward leadership won’t allow it to do so. Everything being done is either toward personal gains or plain betrayal of national interests. Otherwise, how come that the country should still be lagging behind when it has all that others envy?
No one wants to hear any more of those admissions of failure, Mr. President. You have every opportunity to flex muscles and take this country out of the doldrums. All you need is to stand firm and lay out conditions to be respected by those who don’t know what this country has endured over the years but are quick to identify where their interests lie and to do all they can to exploit the situation.
Truth be told, if our leaders remain malleable and fail to stand firm in putting the country’s interests above narrow, parochial, and selfish interests, there will come a time when no condition will exist for anybody to want to become a leader. And the people won’t even allow it.
No one wants any state of anarchy, which is why it behooves those in authority today to tie up the loose ends to prevent any future catastrophe. It is not a matter of pearls being cast before swine. It is a matter of the swine knowing the value of the pearls and wishing that those in charge of affairs will make the pearls serve their purposes.
Take the decisive step and you will get the support you need to turn the situation around for the good of the country. Crying to the international community is not the solution. The bull’s locks and horns are facing you to grab and subdue it; don’t waste time looking for its tail to hang on to and be tossed about for nothing.
Use the electorate’s mandate to make the much-needed difference. Action now… now… and now!! No more lamentations, Mr. President.
I shall return…