Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Let Us Strengthen The Hands Of Those Committed To Corporate Good Governance Principles In Ghana's Private Sector

There is a real need to strengthen the hands of those in Ghana's private-sector who believe in corporate good governance principles. It would make for a more responsible corporate culture in many private sector entities in our country.

There are far too many ruthless and unprincipled business owners in  Ghana. The painful truth is that in reality  many of them are nothing more than crooks exploiting their workers and thieves cheating Mother Ghana.

Ghanaian society would benefit tremendously if private businesses were run by individuals committed to corporate good governance - for there would be far less high-level corruption in Ghana as a result: since most private companies would be unwilling to bribe politicians and upper-echelon public officials.

Perhaps there is a need to take a fresh look at all the laws covering bribery in our country,  and consolidate them in a new anti-bribery act, similar to that of the UK's. If we had such a law in place perhaps businesses like Smarttys Management and Productions Limited will think twice about ripping off the nation.

It was the investigation and subsequent prosecution  of executives of the British company Mabey and Johnson under the UK's Anti-Bribery Act (2000)  that led to the revelation that the company had bribed politicians in Ghana to win a contract to build Bailey bridges across the country.

Mabey and Johson became the first company to be convictd under the Anti-Bribery Act. The trial of the company and its conviction eventually led to the jailing of David Mabey, a major shareholder and director of that British company and two company executives.

To serve as an illustration of how an anti-bribery act would help strengthen the hands of corporate executives in Ghana who believe in ethical behaviour, today, we are publishing a culled article from the British newspaper, the Guardian, to illustrate the effectiveness of the UK's Anti-Bribery Act. It was written by David Leigh and Rob Evans

Please read on:


''British firm Mabey and Johnson convicted of bribing foreign politicians

BAE the next target as bridge-building firm becomes first major UK company to be convicted of foreign bribery

David Leigh and Rob Evans

Friday 25 September 2009 17.50 BST

A string of foreign politicians and officials were named as having received corrupt payments from a British firm today, as the company admitted it had systematically paid bribes around the world to win contracts.

The bridge-building firm, Mabey and Johnson, is the first major British company to be convicted of foreign bribery. Many of its contracts were financially supported by the British taxpayer.

The conviction by the Serious Fraud Office comes as the fraud agency turns its attention to a bigger target, BAE, Britain's biggest arms firm.

The SFO has given BAE until Wednesday to decide whether to bow to an ultimatum and agree to some version of a plea bargain over long-running corruption allegations.

Richard Alderman, the agency's director, has put his credibility on the line, and, according to Whitehall sources, is committed to asking law officers for consent to prosecute the arms giant if it fails to accept multimillion-pound penalties.

Today, at Southwark crown court, London, John Hardy QC for the SFO, revealed the names of 12 individuals in six countries alleged to have received bribes from the Reading-based Mabey and Johnson.

He said the company paid "a wide-ranging series of bribes" totalling £470,000 to politicians and officials in Ghana.

He identified five who travelled to Britain to collect sums of money from £10,000 to £55,000 from bank accounts in London and Watford.

Ministers and officials in Angola, Madagascar, Mozambique, Bangladesh, and Jamaica were also bribed, Hardy told the court.
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Hardy said that over eight years, the firm gave £100,000 "to buy the favours" of Joseph Hibbert, a key Jamaican official in awarding contracts, one of them worth £14m.

The court was told how the firm, owned by one of Britain's richest families, paid bribes totalling £1m to foreign politicians and officials to get export orders valued at £60m to £70m through covert middlemen.

The Mabey family built up a fortune of more than £200m by selling steel bridges internationally.

The company also broke UN sanctions by illegally paying £363,000 to Saddam Hussein's government from 2001 – 2002.

This first conviction has been hailed as a landmark by the British government, which has been heavily criticised for failing to prosecute any UK firm for foreign bribery. Campaigners said the failure rendered the 1997 pledge to crack down on corrupt exporters worthless.

The firm will pay out more than £6.5m, including fines and reparations to foreign governments.

It pleaded guilty to corruption in a pioneering deal with the SFO. It is the first time the agency has concluded a US-style plea bargain with a firm accused of corruption overseas.

The company said it had reformed itself, stopped making corrupt payments, and got rid of five executives. Timothy Langdale, the firm's QC, said: "This is a new company. It is not the one which made these payments."

The SFO investigation continues to look into whether individuals should be prosecuted.
Overseas politicians and officials named as recipients of bribes from Mabey and Johnson

Ghana

Ato Qarshie (former roads minister) £55,000

Saddique Bonniface (minister of works) £25,500

Amadu Seidu (former deputy roads minister) £10,000

Edward Lord-Attivor (chairman inter-city transport corp) £10,000

Dr George Sepah-Yankey (health minister) £15,000

Madagascar

Zina Andrianarivelo-Razafy (permanent representative at the UN) $5,000

Lt-Col Jean Tsaranasy (former public works minister) £33,000

Jamaica

Joseph Uriah Hibbert (former works minister) £100,0000

Angola

Antonio Gois (former general manager state bridges agency) $1.2 m

Joao Fucungo (former director state bridges agency) $13,000

Mozambique

Carlos Fragoso (former head of DNEP, directorate of roads and bridges) £286,000

Bangladesh

Khandaker Rahman (chief engineer, roads & highways dept)"

End of culled Guardian article by David Leigh and Rob Evans.








Monday, 16 January 2017

Ghanaian Media: WIN an Invitation to the Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) and travel to Dubai to cover one of the world's largest events for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Today, this blog is publishing a press release from the African Press Organisation (APO ), which has announced that it is giving away a fully paid trip for one African journalist to cover the Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) in Dubai.

One hopes that the most brilliant of the Ghanaian media world's current crop of younger generation  journalists who focus on business reporting, will apply to the APO for the opportunity to travel to Dubai, to cover the (AIM) event in Dubai.

We wish all Ghanaian journalists  from that particular category who decide to take a chance and apply to the APO the very best of luck.

Incidentally, it ought to be pointed out that the APO also sponsors African journalists to cover other major  international events that focus on Africa as their contribution to African journalism - so young Ghanaian journalists would be wise to keep an eye on the APO website: from which they can also source interesting stories about the continent.

Please read on:

DAKAR, Senegal, January 16, 2017/ -- APO (www.APO-opa.com), the press release distribution service dedicated to Africa and the Middle East, and the global leader in media relations related to Africa and Middle East, will award one African journalist with a round trip ticket and accommodation to cover the Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) (http://www.AIMcongress.com/en) – one of the world's largest events for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) –, to be held on April 2-4, 2017 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

APPLY NOW to win the invitation: http://www.APO.af/WIN

The Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) is one of the most celebrated conferences and exhibitions in the world, and links top Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) investors, experts and practitioners in the world. Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the theme of the 7th edition of AIM will be “International Investment, the Path to Competitiveness and Development”.

The 2017 edition of AIM expects to welcome more than 15,000 participants, heads of states and governments, businessmen and investors from over 140 countries across the globe. According to the World Investment Report 2016, Global FDI flows rose by 38 per cent to $1.76 trillion in 2015, the highest level since the global economic and financial crisis of 2008–2009.

Watch the video “Annual Investment Meeting 2016 Highlights”: http://APO.af/gmu83s

Each year APO offers journalists the opportunity to attend major events such as the African Development Bank Annual Meeting and AfricaCom as a part of its commitment to supporting journalism in Africa.

For instance, the three previous recipients of the AfricaCom invitation were science journalist Aimable Twahirwa from Rwanda (http://APO.af/nsQpxT), journalist John Churu from Botswana (http://APO.af/QpEYBG) and journalist Lilian Murugi Mutegi (http://APO.af/OObhll).

In September 2016, reporter Aggrey Mutambo from Kenya (http://APO.af/POgrGb) has won APO’s invitation to attend the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) 2016, the leading hotel investment conference in Africa.

APO also sponsors the APO Energy Media Award (http://APO.af/IVnNJR) and the APO Media Award (http://APO.af/erwHiu) where a journalist wins $500 a month for one year, one laptop and one intercontinental flight ticket to a destination of his or her choice as well as one year of access to over 600 airport VIP lounges.

APPLY NOW to win the invitation: http://www.APO.af/WIN

The deadline for entry is midnight GMT on 31 January 2017.

The winner will be announced on 6 February 2017.

APO will pay for one round trip ticket and accommodation in Dubai. APO will not pay for visa, food, local transport or any other expense.

Distributed by APO on behalf of APO.

View multimedia content

Contact:

Aïssatou Diallo
bdm@apo-opa.org
+41 22 534 96 97"

End of the culled  APO press release.

Ghanaian Environmental Activists Fighting Illegal Gold Mining Must Demand That Western Refineries Only Purchase Responsibly Produced Gold From Ghana

It is vital that as a people we do not allow the callousness and greed of our vampire-elites to compromise the future  of Ghana's younger generations - and that of their children and their children's  children.

At all costs we must protect Mother Nature in our homeland Ghana - for it is the natural environment that underpins the quality of life for people in all societies.

Ending illegal gold mining, illegal logging and illegal sand-winning so as to protect ecosystems countrywide should be a matter of concern to all responsible Ghanaians who value what is left of our nation's natural heritage.

That is why one welcomes news reports to the effect that the same societal concerns, which drive the ethical consumption movement in the wealthy nations of the West, are now impacting gold refineries there too: some of which are rejecting gold produced in Ghana for ethical reasons.

What that means in our context, in effect, is that  gold producers in Ghana will need certification from regulators to prove that their operations are socially and environmentally responsible.

That indeed is very good news for environmental activists fighting illegal gold mining and illegal logging across Ghana.

It is gratifying that Dr. Tony Aubyn the head of the Minerals Commission clearly understands the threat it poses to Ghana's destructive gold mining industry - which operates with complete impunity in Ghana: because of the enormous economic power it wields and the perfidy of our political class that is beholden to it.

However, the balance of power will now gradually shift  to civil society groups that fight for social justice in Ghana - because environmental activists in Ghana can liaise directly with ethical consumer groups in the West and let them become aware of the egregious crimes against humanity being perpetrated across Ghana, by the gold mining industry (legal and illegal).

And, best of all, for once there will be balance-sheet-consequences for all gold mining companies that behave irresponsibly in Ghana. Fantastic.

Demand for ethically produced jewelry and timber products in the West eventually led to the  boycott of blood diamonds, illegally felled lumber and timber products from parts of DR Congo, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The purchasing power of ethical consumers  in the markets of the West can do same here - and succeed where do-nothing politicians and hidebound public officials have failed Ghanaians so woefully: in halting the destruction of ecosystems resulting from the degradation of forests, the poisoning of water bodies and soils across our country by Ghana's perfidious gold mining industry.

To secure the same outcome here, as was achieved in Liberia, Sierra Leone and parts of DR Congo, Ghanaian environmental activists fighting the menace of illegal gold mining must now shift their focus from engaging with hard-of-hearing officialdom here, and rather ratchet up ongoing collaboration with their counterparts in the West.

They must  name and shame all the players in Ghana's gold mining sector  (legal and illegal) that are socially and environmentally irresponsible in their operations - and pass on all the on-site hard evidence in their possession to back their claims in the West's mainstream media and on social media platforms.

When significant quantities of gold from Ghana start being rejected by refineries in the West, it will force the authorities here to clamp down harder on the industry players responsible for the destruction of ecosystems - resulting from illegal logging and the unacceptable poisoning of river systems, ground-water tables and soils across vast tracts of the countryside in rural Ghana.

Enough is enough. The time has now come for Ghanaian environmental activists fighting illegal gold mining across the country, to seek even more effective collaboration with Western enviromental groups, to ensure that all gold produced in Ghana is properly scrutinised by both local regulators and the leading gold refineries in the West.

That will force all the gold mining companies in Ghana to run their businesses in a more ethical manner - by ensuring that all the gold they produce is mined responsibly: both socially and environmentally. And about time too.

Any certification issued by regulators here must only be on that basis. We must ensure that the process of certification for gold produced in Ghana is transparent and corruption-free at all material times.

Ghanaian environmental activists must make sure that that is always the case - by sharing information with the media, ethical  jewelry industry and consumer associations, and  leading good refineries in the West. And some of us will. Most definitely.


Sunday, 15 January 2017

If They Actually Exist It Will Be More Useful For Martin Amidu To Now Present Solid Evidence Of High-Level Corruption During The Mahama-Era To The World

It is obvious that Mr. Martin Amidu is very concerned that attempts by influential figures in the country to  stop the new government of President Akufo-Addo, from investigating cases of Mahama-era corruption, might very well succeed.

It appears that Mr. Amidu has therefore decided to alert Ghanaian society about  behind-the-scenes attempts to stop investigations of cases of corruption that occurred during the Mahama era from ever being carried out, by speaking out publicly about his fears in that regard.

However, it is pretty hard to see how a highly-intelligent president, elected by a majority of voters to deal with those who Mr. Amidu calls "looters," will allow his government to be persuaded by influential figures to  ignore cases of high-level corruption that occurred during the Mahama-era, and consequently refrain from investigating any of them - despite publicly available evidence presented to his administration.

That is why at this stage, Mother Ghana will be better served if Mr. Martin Amidu were to work with civil society organisations, such as OccupyGhana, to present evidence of cases of corruption that occurred during the tenure of President Mahama that he is either personally aware of, or has knowledge of, through trusted third parties, to the whole  world.

The new government will definitely then be compelled to act - regardless of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering by those would-be 'mediators' who seem to forget that accountability and transparency are the bedrocks of good governance in today's Africa.

For the sake of Mother Ghana, Mr. Martin Amidu ought to  move beyond merely  sticking catchy labels like "Looter-President" and "Looter-government" on those who governed our country in the past, to presenting solid evidence of  examples of their "looting" to Ghanaians through the media.

That will be more useful to Ghanaian society at this particular point in time. If they actually exist, then the time has now definitely come for Mr. Martin Amidu to present solid evidence of examples of high-level corruption that took place during the Mahama-era, to the good people of Ghana. Nothing else will do, alas.

Friday, 13 January 2017

How Hon. Cecilia Abena Dapaah Could Set Up A New National Carrier For Ghana

If Ghana is to have a new national carrier that is profitable and well-managed, it must be in partnership with an existing profitable airline that uses the low-cost business model.

Sir  Stelios Haji-Ioannou, EasyJet's founder, would have made a marvellous partner, but lacks the requisite fleet and network needed for success today.

What our country actually needs is a partner that has the aircraft, network,  experience and runs an ethical airline operation that is also world-class and profitable.

Tourism has huge potential for our country - and a national carrier is vital in tapping that potential. Thailand, it ought to be noted, hosted 32.5 million visitors last year and is projected to earn some U.S.$ 46.51 billion in 2016.

Potentially, Ghana, which has many of the attributes of Thailand that attract tens of millions to that country,  could also earn  billions of dollars annually from tourism - an industry which can provide millions of jobs for young people countrywide. A national carrier with a reasonably large footprint will help in that regard.

If the Hon. Cecilia Abena Dapaah wants to leave a lasting legacy as aviation minister, which will stand the test of time, one's humble advice to her is that  she invites the CEO of Norwegian Long Haul, Bjørn Kjos, to Ghana, as soon as practicable, to discuss the possibility of setting up a low-cost airline joint-venture partnership between Ghana and Norwegian Long Haul.

She will find that Norwegian  Long Haul is the perfect partner for Ghana to launch its national carrier with.

This blog predicts that if it materialises the joint-venture will very quickly come to dominate flights from west Africa and the rest of the continent, to and from Europe, the UK and the U.S.

Ditto dominate point-to-point flights across Africa between major cities in the continent, to and from Accra, to connect with long-haul low-cost flights to and from Accra to Europe, the UK and the U.S.

To show our country's  new leaders just how strategic and sensible a joint-venture between Ghana and Norwegian Long Haul will be, we are posting a culled interview that Norwegian's CEO Bjørn Kjos had with Skift.com's Brian Sumers.

Please read on:

''skift.com
Norwegian Air CEO Interview: Regulators and Airlines Are Afraid of Us — Brian Sumers

Editor’s Note: Following our previous CEO interview series in online travel, hospitality, and destinations, as well as our recent CMO series across verticals, we’ve launched another series, this time focused on the CEOs of leading airlines outside of the United States.

To better understand the challenges facing airlines in an age of fluctuating oil prices, rapid growth, and changing passenger expectations, our Future of Passenger Experience series will allow leaders in the industry to explain their best practices and insights.

This is the latest interview in the series.

Few competitors concern legacy U.S. airlines and their employee unions as much as Norwegian Air, a low cost carrier flying Boeing 787s across the Atlantic, connecting cities like New York and London and Los Angeles and Stockholm.

Norwegian is using a model perfected over two decades by several airlines in Europe and the United States, including Southwest, Ryanair, and EasyJet. The others, however, generally have stuck with what they know works — selling relatively cheap fares for short flights. Southwest, Ryanair, and EasyJet do not fly widebody aircraft across oceans.

Norwegian is different. Long a short-haul European operator  — it flies Boeing 737s, just like Southwest and Ryanair — it started flying to the United States in 2013, launching with flights between Scandinavia and New York. It has expanded rapidly, adding routes from several European destinations, including London, Stockholm and Paris, to many large U.S. cities. Except for the first months, Norwegian has been flying new Boeing 787s.

In part because the 787s have low operating costs, Norwegian can undercut legacy airlines on fares, and this winter, it is selling $450 roundtrips between the West Coast and Europe. Like many discounters, Norwegian charges many travelers for advanced seat assignments, meals, and checked bags.

Norwegian has an unusual model, and its approach concerns some U.S. interests, who have tried to block it from expanding in the United States. The airline travelers call Norwegian is actually four different carriers — two based in Norway, one in the UK, and one in Ireland.

Norwegian’s CEO Bjørn Kjos said the airline needs multiple operating certificates for one key reason — access to international routes. Norway is not a member of the European Union, and airlines based in the country don’t have access to as many international routes as carriers headquartered elsewhere. The Norway-based airline can fly as much as it wants from anywhere in Europe to anywhere in the United States, but it is limited on some routes to Asia and Africa.

For now, the U.S. only permits one of Norwegian’s airlines to fly to the United States — the company’s long-haul Boeing 787 operation based in Norway. But the company also wants all its airlines based in Ireland and the UK to have the same U.S. flight rights. Kjos said this will allow the airline to operate more efficiently. It would allow, for example, Norwegian to use the same aircraft on New York-London as it might on London-Johannesburg, a route it does not now fly.

U.S. legacy airlines have been relatively quiet recently in their opposition, but many airline employee unions have been more publicly critical. The Air Line Pilot Association, which represents pilots at United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, argues Norwegian only wants its UK and Irish subsidiaries to fly to the United States so it can “… evade Norwegian tax and labor laws.” Kjos disputes this assertion.

Skift spoke with Kjos in early September in London at the Global Aviation Festival, and we asked him about politics, competition, Boeing 787s and the future of low cost, long haul airlines.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Skift: After first adding flights to London, Paris, Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen from the United States, you announced you’ll soon fly to Barcelona from Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Newark Liberty and Oakland. Why Spain?

Kjos: Spain is the largest operation we have outside of Scandinavia, and we also fly domestically in Spain, so it was natural for us to start flying long-haul out of Spain. And especially since Barcelona is not being served [nonstop from another airline] from the West Coast, that made it quite natural. It’s a huge catchment area, and of course [Barcelona] has the cruise harbor. Barcelona in my mind has always been one of the top five destinations for tourists in Europe.

Skift: Most European legacy carriers have U.S. partners. The partners help feed passengers, so flights between Los Angeles and Europe can have many travelers who start or end their journey in Fresno, or Portland or Phoenix. But you don’t have partners. You focus only on the biggest U.S. cities. Does that work?

Kjos: Yes. In the U.S, we fly to big cities. Los Angeles is an end destination, so is Oakland. And with New York, the catchment area is so big that it’s enough to be an end destination. In Europe, you need a feeder system. The cities in Europe are much smaller than in the U.S. The catchment areas are much smaller. You have London, and then the next biggest city is [the] Madrid [metro area] with six million people. That’s even less than the Boston area. So all the cities in the U.S. are different than in Europe. In Europe, you need the feeder network.

Skift: You essentially have four airlines, all called Norwegian. Two are based in Norway, another in Ireland and another in the UK. Since the U.S. Department of Transportation is not yet permitting your Irish and UK-registered airlines to fly to the United States, you’ll operate the new Spain flights on the Norway certificate, right?

Kjos: Yes, if we do not have DOT approval, then it will be served by the Norwegian [certificate]. Whether it is one or the other, it will served by the Barcelona crew base, or New York or Fort Lauderdale or London. Most of the time [it will be] Barcelona crews.

Skift: Why do you need Irish and UK-based airlines, along with the Norwegian one?

Kjos: It depends on where we are flying. For example, [with the certificate from Norway] we can get access from Spain to the U.S. But we cannot get access from Spain to a lot of places outside the U.S. [The Norway certificate] limits our abilities to fly to other places than the U.S.

We have a base in Barcelona, and it’s not only to serve Europe and the U.S. We have a larger continent just south and that’s Africa. We can’t go into Africa with the Norwegian [operating certificate.]

Skift: Are there any examples of place you can’t fly with the Norway certificate but can fly from the UK or Ireland?

Kjos: We need the UK traffic rights in order to fly into India and South Africa. But we cannot start flying into these areas, without having the possibility to fly the same aircraft that we do to the other destinations. It limits our possibilities.

Skift: Irish and UK regulators have approved your subsidiaries. Usually, once that happens, U.S. regulators quickly follow. But that has not happened. Why not?

Kjos: I think they are afraid of competition. That’s the only answer to it.

Skift: The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents pilots for United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, says you only want your UK and Irish airlines to fly to the U.S. so you can “evade Norwegian tax and labor laws.” Is that not true?

Kjos: We have to pay the crews, otherwise they wouldn’t work for Norwegian. We have to pay the pilots the same going rate. I think we are the only European airline with American crew bases.

Skift: Your Norway-based airline can’t fly to South Africa or India, but it has unlimited rights to fly between the EU and U.S. Does that mean we should expect more U.S. routes from Norwegian?

Kjos: From Norway, that’s the only place we can expand, so that’s why we continue to fly more and more to the U.S.

[On the Norway certificate] we can’t even serve Canada [from the EU]. That is the crazy thing about this. It has nothing to do with labor. They are trying to limit our abilities to compete in the U.S., but exactly the opposite thing is happening. Now we can only compete into the U.S.

Skift: You now only fly Boeing 787s to the United States, but you’ll soon take delivery of your first Boeing 737 Max. It should have range to fly from the U.S East Coast to Western Europe. How do you plan to use the aircraft?

Kjos: There are so many opportunities that it’s incredible. The Max has the range to go cross the Atlantic. But you shouldn’t go trans-Atlantic with a Max into JFK in New York. You should do it from secondary airports in Europe to secondary airports in the U.S. At these smaller airpots, there are much less taxes to pay. If you fly it for six and a half hours – [the Max] actually has a lower seat cost than the Dreamliner. It is incredibly fuel efficient, and if you fly it all night, you can have a high utilization on it.

Skift: If it’s cheap for you to fly, does that mean ticket prices will be cheap, too?

Kjos: You should easily find tickets below $100 for a one-way ticket, everything included.

Skift: Are you surprised so many politicians in the United States have taken stances to try to keep Norwegian from expanding?

Kjos: Competition is good. Politicians should understand that what’s good for the consumer is good for the country. It might not be good for airlines, but then again if you cannot tolerate competition, then you are in the wrong business.

Skift: Many low cost airlines fly short-haul routes, but relatively few cross oceans. For a long time, other airlines seemed to think that what works on shorter routes — charging low fares, while also assessing fees for food, seats and checked bags — wouldn’t work for long-haul. Why did you see an opportunity?

Kjos: They do it on the short haul. It works on the short haul. That’s what people want for the short haul. Why shouldn’t it work on the long haul?

Skift: Yet for so long, the conventional wisdom said it couldn’t be done.

Kjos: That’s because you have all these experts. They [said the same thing] when we started out in 2002. They said we would never survive, and they said EasyJet and Ryanair were just a flop. That was the saying over there at that time. And now the largest carrier in Europe is Ryanair so experts aren’t always right.

Skift: Could your long-haul model work without the Boeing 787?

Kjos: No. [Before] we set it up, we did the calculation with the [Boeing] 767 and the [Airbus] A340, because those were the ones that were available. The [Airbus] A330s were good, but they didn’t have the range that we needed. We couldn’t get the figures to add up. In order to have low costs, you have to have high utilization. You have to [fly] close to 18 hours [a day] on [each] long-haul aircraft. Needless to say, dividing your costs by 18, you get a lower figure than when divided by 14. We were aiming for 18 hours utilization in order to get low enough costs. Most aircraft couldn’t do it.

Skift: Is the Boeing 787 reliable enough to fly it 18 hours per day? At first, airlines reported that that the aircraft had some reliability issues.

Kjos: Today, it’s incredibly good. Actually, it’s at the same level as the 737.

Skift: And in the beginning?

Kjos: Oh, it was a nightmare. It was a real nightmare. There were the batteries on fire. It was everything. Then again, the Dreamliner is like a flying iPad. It’s so sophisticated compared to other aircraft. It’s not one or two or three years. It’s 10 years ahead. And the benefit of the composite makeup is that doesn’t weigh anything so the fuel efficiency when you get it to work is tremendous. But it was a nightmare. We had stranded passengers all over.

Skift: Do you expect you’ll have more low cost competitors flying trans-Atlantic soon?

Kjos: I hope so. Today ,there are way too high prices to fly over the Atlantic. More competition is exactly what happened in the early 2000s when Ryanair and EasyJet took over the [European] market. They lowered the prices and ramped up the volume. Now it’s cheap to fly and no one is making more money than Ryanair.

Skift: Europe’s strongest low cost carriers do not fly to the United States. Does this help Norwegian?

Kjos: It’s much easier to compete with the legacy carriers than to compete with EasyJet and Ryanair. We have to find the areas where we don’t meet them — where we can only meet the legacy carriers. [We need] to create a system over the Atlantic, like Easyjet and Rynaair created in Europe. It is is doable. We are talking about volume and low fares.

Skift: Don’t you expect legacy airlines eventually will implement strategies to try to compete with you?

Kjos: You have a lot of smart airlines. You have British Airways as an example. They took over Vueling. Vueling is a good Spanish [low cost] carrier. So yes, it’s doable. And why shouldn’t they do it?

Skift: Do you think consumers only choose airlines based on price?

Kjos: First, on top is fares — that we know. Second, you have to be a safe airline. Then it’s about, are you flying new or old airplanes? If [consumers] can fly new, safe airplanes with low fares, that would be their first choice.

Skift: You charge for food, advanced seat assignments and checked luggage. But you allow passengers to bring carry-ons, even larger ones, for free. Why not charge?

Kjos: You have to make the journey as hassle free as you can. I think asking, ‘have you paid for everything you are putting in the overhead bins’ might be a hassle to some passengers. That’s why we looked at it and decided not to do it — at least not for the timing being.

Skift: What do your economy class customers expect from Norwegian when they buy a $450 roundtrip ticket from L.A. to London?

Kjos: They want enough legroom, and they want a hassle free journey. That’s why it works so well for us to have our [food and drink] menu in the seat screen. You have your snack bar at the seat. You can order food and drink whenever you alike. That fits the passengers very well because they don’t have to wait for trolleys or anything. They get good service.

Skift: You talk about legroom, but Norwegian’s seat pitch isn’t exactly industry-leading.

Kjos: Well, if you have a new aircraft with new chairs, you can put in 31-inch pitch, and that’s much better than 33-inch pitch with old chairs. And if you have a 31 inch pitch with new chairs, you have a better economy class than most of the other legacy carriers.

Skift: You are still putting in-seat screens in coach. That’s a costly investment, since the embedded systems weigh more, which means planes burn more fuel. Why do you have them?

Kjos: We have debated a lot about it. I think in the future, we will not have them. Today, we have won four prizes as Europe’s best low cost airline. And we’ve won the second prize in a row for the world’s best long haul low cost airline. So we know the concept is working. We wonder, should we change it now? Or should we change it at a later time? I think it’s too early to change it. But believe me, we have calculated the cost of the weight of it.

Skift: What’s the cost?

Kjos: I could tell you to the second digit (laughs). The cost is actually the weight. The more weight you carry, the more fuel you are burning.

Skift: On the 787s, you don’t have business class, but you have premium economy with recliner seats. Why was this the right decision for Norwegian?

Kjos: To me, it’s about, ‘What do you think the passengers would like to have?’ Most of the New York flights are very short flights. You need a good rest, if you’re a business passenger. You don’t need a flatbed. We have 46-inch pitch. If you have a flatbed, you have to go to at least 60. That means you lose so many chairs. To me, it’s just a calculation. ‘Where do I earn the most money?’ I know that whether I provide a flatbed or premium economy, it’s a very good service. But you have to weigh what is most attractive for the passenger and what is most attractive to the airline. [It’s a] simple calculation."

End of culled Skift.com  interview between Brian Sumers and Norwegian’s CEO Bjørn Kjos.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

We Are Not Savages Governed By The Law Of The Jungle - Which Is Why The Lawlessness Of NPP Foot Soldiers Must Be Halted

In case it escapes them, the leadership of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), ought to understand clearly that there will be consequences for their ruling party some day - if they do not show some leadership: and put an immediate halt to the lawlessness going on around the country.

The Republic of Ghana is not conquered territory to be laid waste by their party's  so-called foot soldiers - who apparently think they are entitled to share the spoils of a war from which they have just emerged victorious.

Neither is our homeland Ghana the private property of the NPP. That is not the mandate Ghanaians gave them - to allow their party members and supporters to act as if they owned the Ghanaian nation-state: and to go on the rampage throughout the nation. No.

And Ghanaians did not go to war on the 7th of December, 2016, either - on the contrary, like the civilised people they are, they stood in orderly queues and cast their votes peacefully, to change their leaders that day. The NPP won an election. It did not win a war. No one in this country must forget that. Ever.

Our nation's new leaders  need to remember that they were voted into power to serve the good people of Ghana and to keep their nation stable and peaceful - not to allow indisciplined NPP  myrmidon-thugs to create chaos across the nation: beating up the supporters of the National Democratic Congress and seizing state assets.

This is not a banana republic. The time has now come for the more responsible sections of the Ghanaian media to  do their patriotic duty to Mother Ghana - by making it absolutely clear to the new government that it must make ending this outrage a top-priority security issue: and order the security agencies to halt it.

And it must be halted now. Not tomorrow. This is a nation of laws in which the rule of law ought to prevail. Who will invest in  an African nation in which such aberrations can occur whiles its smug and complacent leaders look on helplessly - in what is supposed to be a constitutional democracy?

Law and order in any democratic society is vital. Under no circumstances must  violent  imbeciles be allowed to put off potential investors in a nation in which millions of young people  desperately need jobs - simply because those elected to run the nation fail to recognise the gravity of the situation confronting us:  and order the security agencies to maintain law and order in vigorous fashion. That was not the deal voters made with the NPP. No. Definitely not.

That is why the continued silence of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in this matter is untenable and intolerable. He must let the world know that he strongly disapproves of what is going on - and that he will take steps to stop it. Immediately. Period.

With respect, it  is he who as Ghana's elected leader, ought to address the nation about what is an obvious security failing of his new regime - and tell those lawless morons damaging the image of his administration to put an immediate halt to their monstrous and abominable actions. It is called responsible leadership.

There can be no excuse for  allowing such a  situation to occur in the first place in what is said to be Africa's model democracy. For goodness sake we are a civilised and free people - not the slaves of power-crazed all-die-be-die-savages who live and die in a jurisdiction in which the law of the jungle prevails. Haaba.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Rest In Peace Abiriw Abakomahene Nana Konadu Yiadom-Boakye

''You never know what peace is until you walk on the shores or in the fields or along the winding red roads of Prince Edward Island in a summer twilight ... You find your soul then. You realize that youth is not a vanished thing but something that dwells forever in the heart."
        - Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942)

This blog is taking a short break for a few days. My dear mother, Nana Konadu Boakye-Yiadom, passed away at the SSNIT Hospital in Osu, earlier today.

She was 90 - and would have turned 91 on 17th January, 2017, had she lived a little longer.

Though old in age, she was young at heart and enjoyed the company of young people - especially her nieces and nephews: all of whom she cared about very much and who joined her to celebrate her 90th  birthday, at a  party held for her last year.

She also loved her sisters all of whom she was close to - as she was to my dear younger sister Naa Lamiley and my elder brother Charles, who shed tears when he heard she had passed away: having been with her only yesterday.

 She was the Abakomahene of Abiriw,  Akwapim, her hometown.

I am glad for her sake that she lived long enough to see the New Patriotic Party (NPP), and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, winning power again.

Her happiness knew no bounds when both her candidates in the presidential and parliamentary elections emerged victorious after the votes were counted - as I predicted to her they would: having seen the writing on the wall for the ruling National Democratic Congress regime of President Mahama, long before the 7th December, 2016, elections.

The icing on the cake for my jubilant mother after the 7th December, 2016, polls, was news a couple of days afterwards that there had been a phone call from President Mahama to Nana Akufo-Addo,  conceding defeat and congratulating him on his victory.

Politics was a source of friction between us, unfortunately. She knew I liked Nana Addo on a purely human level - but also knew that I loathed the NPP she was such a passionate supporter of. That drove us apart in a sense. Such is life.

(Incidentally, President Akufo-Addo's parents were dear friends of hers - and she was very fond of Nana Addo. She was happy for him and proud that he also became a President of the Republic of Ghana like his late father once was.)

Despite being frail, she  was resolute that she would go and cast her votes for the NPP's presidential and parliamentary candidates at the McCarthy Hill Weija constituency polling station that she was registered to vote at,  on 7th December, 2016, and did.

Like most old Achimotans of her generation (she was in Kingsley House and was an entertainment prefect), nothing could stop her, once her mind was made up. Before her secondary education at Achimota, she was a pupil at  Achimota Primary School.

As a result of her deep faith in God, she was a woman of great fortitude and imense courage. She confronted adversity head on, and always strove to overcome the difficulties that came her way  - doing so with the great dignity and poise she was noted for.

In a sense, her life's story, is also the history of  nursing in Ghana. She was amongst  the first wave of Ghanaian nurses to be trained in the UK during the colonial era.

She was a true professional and very innovative in her work. She served as Matron of the Kumasi Central Hospital, as it then was, and took Britain's Queen Elizabeth 11 round the hospital, when she paid an official visit to Ghana, during the Nkrumah era.

She was asked to serve as the first Senior Matron when the Korle BuTeaching Hospital's new modern-era specialist  departmental blocks were commissioned for its transformation into a new teaching hospital.

She was also the first Registrar of the Nurses and Midwives Council and served  as president of the Retired Midwives Association.

And because she loved adventure,  she was one of the first women who learnt to drive cars in Ghana.

Incredibly, for someone so gentle, for some extraordinary reason she loved sports cars and  drove at great speed, driving her Tahiti blue black-rubber-bumpered MGB GT and Mercedes Benz 250 SLC (with its top off at times) at a blistering pace.

She will be missed by many - as she was an empathetic soul who went out of her way to help others.

A  real beauty with a sharp mind, she made many friends of different nationalities on whom she apparently had a great impact as a result of her thoughtfulness and kindness, as she travelled the world attending workshops and international conferences.

She was also very forgiving and never bore anyone a grudge. I think it is the main reason for her longevity - and this blog would recommend that young people in Ghana cultivate that forgiving attitude too: as it makes for harmonious living and a stress-free life.

Alas, she was generous to a fault - something I couldn't cope with at times: because so many took advantage of that. But it made her happy - and that is what really counts in life, after all.

She has had a long innings, bless her. Pity her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the UK and Japan couldn't be with her when she passed away. Such is life in today's world of far-flung families who live in different continents.

Because she adored her grandchildren and great-grandchildren so much, she would definitely have loved to have had them surrounding her, as she breathed her last and departed  this earth. But it was not to be. Be that as it may, at least  they saw her last year, thank goodness.

Because she worked incredibly hard throughout her nursing  career, she had a very good life right up to the end. Having had her long innings, she  has now finally bowed out and departed from the crease. Bravo, to her.

I never knew I would miss her so much as a result of my being more or less estranged from her, but I do already - as my dear childhood friend and brother, the very wise Alfred Aning, once told me  I would. May her soul rest in peace.

Mama, nantew yie! Awurade emfa wukra ensie yie. Nana Konadu Yiadom-Boakye, Demerefa due!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

President Akufo-Addo's Administration Must Remain Focused On Making Ghana More Business-Friendly For Both Local And Foreign Investors

When Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's Kingdom Holdings announced that it was selling its stake in Accra's luxury Mövenpick  Ambassador Hotel, many Ghanaians must have wondered who would buy it.

Well, it so happens that Kingdom Holdings Company has eventually sold its interest in Accra's Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel for U.S.$100M. Clearly, those who purchased it, Quantum Global Investments Africa Management Ltd.of Mauritius, are confident of Ghana's future prospects.

Let us, as a people, have hope in our nation's future. This is a marvellous place - despite its many challenges. Ghana can be transformed- and it eventually will.

Now that a new government has taken over from the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) regime of President Mahama, it is important that  when Parliament finally approves the ministers nominated by President Akufo-Addo, and they start working, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration focuses on the important business of creating an enabling environment for the private-sector to thrive.

The new administration must not allow itself to be distracted from that task by storm-in-tea-cup-issues that ordinary people don't really think will either make a difference to the task of improving their country's economy or impact their living standards in any shape or form.

As regards the arguments about the president's inaugural day speech, the new government  must simply learn from what is a self-inflicted wound and move on - by  putting that unfortunate and needless case of plagiarism in part of the president's speech (delivered after his swearing in, on 7th January, 2017), behind it.

The President also needs to quickly resolve the issue of the state providing former President Mahama with the retirement home he wants. Whatever the law says, surely, President Akufo-Addo can ask him to continue staying in the house he lived in during his tenure as president, as a state guest, till the end of his natural life - whereupon it will be taken back by the state again? That resolves the problem neatly, does it not?

Our homeland Ghana is a fantastic country and is indeed open for business - as President Akufo-Addo said in his inaugural speech.

Getting more information out to investors (both Ghanaian and foreign) about the many business opportunities here, and creating an environment that will give them confidence that they will get decent returns on their investments in our country, and that all their businesses here will be safe, is what should occupy the minds of our nation's  politicians - not pointless arguments about plagiarism.

Yes, plagiarism is terrible and must be avoided at all costs by the President's speechwriters because it is in effect theft of intellectual property and totally unacceptable - but we must stop crying over spilt milk and move on.

The harm has already been done, in any case. Clearly, the president needs more diligent speechwriters - very good ones who won't embarrass him in future. Are our university English faculties not full of good potential speech-writing candidates who will never dream of producing lifted and unattributed content for the President of the Republic of Ghana? Haaba. Hmm, Ghana - eyeasem o.

And since we want the world to know that this is a nation of laws,  the new NPP government must ask the Ghana Police Service to arrest and prosecute all those morons seizing state properties across the country, and prosecute them in the law courts.

Above all, the President must address the nation on this matter and make it absolutely clear to those extremist NPP members and supporters seizing government properties (because  their party has come to power again after years in the political wilderness),  that he disapproves of such lawlessness strongly - and will not tolerate party members  taking the law into their hands in that manner: because this is a nation in which the rule of law prevails.

The responsible sections of the Ghanaian media  must play their part in the nation-building effort by giving hope to young people  that  Ghana indeed does have a bright future ahead of it - because it really is an attractive investment destination.

The culled APO press release posted below announcing the purchase of Prince Alwaleed's Kingdom Holdings' interest in Movenpick Ambassador Hotel proves that point in our humble view. The transaction which closed on 28 December 2016 is said to be sub-Saharan Africa's biggest open-market hotel transaction thus far. Splendid.

Please read on:

''PORT LOUIS, Mauritius, January 10, 2017/ --

    QG Africa Hotel LP acquires 100% of exceptional Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel in Central Business District of Accra, Ghana

    Largest open-market hotel transaction in sub-Saharan Africa to date

QG Africa Hotel LP, a Mauritius based investment fund managed by Quantum Global Investments Africa Management Ltd., today announced the acquisition of the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra from Kingdom Holding Company (KHC). The transaction which closed on 28 December 2016 marks the most sizable open-market hotel transaction in Sub-Saharan Africa to date.

Complementing Quantum Global’s (www.QuantumGlobalGroup.com) already significant African investment portfolio the value proposition of this transaction is underpinned by its status as one of the largest hotel and mixed use properties in West Africa occupying an exceptional position in both business and touristic segments of the African hospitality market.

Quantum Global’s Group CEO, Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, commented: “The acquisition of the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra, one of sub-Saharan Africa's most successful hotels, is a great testament to the strength of our Hotel Fund and its growing portfolio. The hospitality industry across Africa is an indicator of the vitality and attractiveness of key locations across the continent and we look to further take advantage of those opportunities and generate value added returns for our investors.”

Sitting on a spectacular 16 acres (6.5 hectares) site of landscaped gardens in Accra’s Central Business District, Movenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra comprises extensive food and beverage as well as conference facilities making it the largest 5-star conference hotel in Ghana. The property is also complemented by retail as well as office facilities that form part of a unique environment, valued by tenants as well as hotel guests.

Adrian Leuenberger, Managing Director, Group Head of Asset Management, Quantum Global, commented: “Movenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra has demonstrated outstanding growth through the highly-rated and reliable delivery of world class hospitality facilities to its international and local customers. We are delighted with this major acquisition and are looking forward to a very promising future.”

Distributed by APO on behalf of Quantum Global Group.

QG Africa Hotel LP is a USD 500 million investment vehicle which aims to capitalize on the emerging opportunities in the hospitality sector. The fund is a long-term direct equity investor in hotel projects across sub-Saharan Africa, including greenfield and brownfield operations. The investment activities include construction, conversions, acquisition and renovation of hotel projects across sub-Saharan Africa.

Media Contact:
Linda Martin
Quantum Global
Phone: + 41 41 560 2900
Email: media@QuantumGlobalGroup.com

About Quantum Global:
Quantum Global (www.QuantumGlobalGroup.com) is an international group of companies active in the areas of private equity investments, investment management as well as macroeconomic research and econometric modelling. Quantum Global’s private equity arm manages a family of funds targeting direct investments in Africa in the sectors of Agriculture, Healthcare, Hotels, Infrastructure, Mining and Timber – as well as a sector agnostic Structured Equity Fund. Our team combines a solid track record and proven expertise to identify and execute unique investment opportunities with focus on Africa. Quantum Global works in close partnership with key stakeholders to maximize investment value and returns through active management and value creation. For more information, visit www.QuantumGlobalGroup.com.

SOURCE
Quantum Global Group"

End of culled APO press release.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Government Must Refute And Dispel All False Media Stories About Former President Mahama To Do With The State Machinery

''Whipping and abuse are like laudanum; you have to double the dose as the sensibilities decline."
             - Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)

One hopes that we are not seeing what appears to be the beginnings of a conspiracy that might eventually evolve into a media campaign of misinformation designed to denigrate and vilify former President Mahama.

That would be most unfortunate. Now that the election campaign is over and a new president sworn into office, the serious business of governing Ghana ought to be the focus of the media, not the fabrication of stories about members of the previous regime.

One's humble advice to our new leaders is that if their communications team  has absolutely nothing to do with it, then they must ensure that their administration is distanced immediately from any such strategy - if indeed such a strategy of misinformation has been put together by sections of the Ghanaian media that support the New Patriotic Party (NPP), that is.

For its own good, perhaps it ought to be pointed out to the government's communications team that if indeed such a strategy has been adopted by sections of the pro-government media, it could eventually rebound on the new administration itself - and distract it from focusing on the very important work that lies ahead of President Akufo-Addo's regime.

Former President Mahama must be accorded the full respect he deserves as a former president of our country, at all material times. If for nothing at all, he kept our country relatively peaceful and maintained its stability, throughout his tenure as president. That counts for something in any democracy.

With respect, President Akufo-Addo must quickly step into this matter personally - and tell all those in his inner circle seeking to eject former President Mahama from his home, to be more respectful to Ghana's former leader. That is the decent thing for the current President to do under the circumstances.

In the long run, the government will find that such a policy of fairness towards former President Mahama will redound to its own benefit, in terms of its image and reputation globally.

Fair treatment of former President Mahama, and according him full respect as a former leader of our country, further enhances Ghana's global reputation as a model  African democracy - and above all burnishes President Akufo Addo's own image and reputation as a Ghanaian statesman yet further.

On no account should former President Mahama be inconvenienced and disrespected in such a shabby manner. What is going on is totally unacceptable. It is mean-spirited, unspeakable and abominable.

It is particularly disgraceful for anyone associated with the new government to suggest that Vice President Bawumia is unable to find official accommodation when that is patently false - and worse still, somehow link that to former President Mahama's continued stay in the government property that has been his home for the last six or so years: and which he requested should be allocated to him to serve as his retirement home, as he is entitled to by convention, if not by law.

For as long as no evidence of his personal involvement in any acts of corruption emerge, it would be wise  for the new administration to have a policy of distancing itself from all inacurate and false stories in the pro- governnent media about former President Mahama  that have to do with the state machinery - by immediately refuting and dispelling them: once the allegations are investigated and the truth absolving former President Mahama from any wrong-doing is established beyond doubt. That is what must be done if ethical behaviour means anything to those who now govern our homeland Ghana. Period.

(POST SCRIPT: Finally, as some people in the new regime start throwing their weight about, let them all remember that no condition really is permanent. In case they forget, their immediate predecessors learnt the wisdom in that saying the hard way, when they eventually lost power on 7th December, 2016, much to their surprise. So out of touch with the real mood of the country, had they become, alas. The disrespect being shown to former President Mahama now, is exactly how some of his own party's extremists too started out in the beginning - and finally ended up as the corrupt  arrowhead-cabal of a  hard-of-hearing regime alienated from most ordinary Ghanaians. Food for thought for some of our new leaders, perchance? Hmm, Ghana - eyeasem o.)

Thailand Earns Tens Of Billions Of Dollars Annually From Tourism - So Could Ghana

Most Ghanaians will be astonished to learn that as many as 32.5 million visitors travelled to Thailand in 2016 - a figure that apparently was an increase of some 8.8% on the 2015 figure. It is also forecast to earn a staggering U.S.$46.51 billion in 2016 from tourism - an increase of 15.2% from what it earned in 2015. Amazing.

If put on a proper footing  by people who know what they are about, the tourism industry in our country, also has the potential to provide Ghana with tens of billions of dollars annually, and provide jobs for millions of young Ghanaians. Literally.

This nation has so many positive attributes that could make it a fantastic holiday destination for extreme adventure lovers seeking authentic African experiences from around the world. And there are millions of such well-off young millennials around the world as it happens.

It is vital that we all work together - both the authorities and the citizenry - to stop illegal gold miners, illegal loggers and illegal sand-winners from destroying what is left of our natural heritage: which could underpin most of Ghana's tourism industry.

The question is: Why allow a few selfish and  already wealthy individuals to destroy Ghana's remaining forests and our beautiful countryside by engaging in illegal gold mining, illegal logging and illegal sand-winning - if the countryside and our beaches could attract millions of tourists? 

To give readers and our nation's new leaders an idea of what tourism earns for nations such as Thailand, this blog is reproducing an article about the impact a new wave of well-off, young independent Chinese travellers is forecast to have on Thailand's tourism industry.

It is culled from the online version of the Nikkei Asian Review. It was written by Marwan Macan-Markar, the paper's Asian regional correspondent.

Surely, we have the nous and gumption as a dynamic people  to  make Ghana as interesting and convenient a tourist destination as Thailand is, if we put our minds to it - through lateral thinking?

Could we not, for example - through a public private partnership (PPP) business model - get private-sector companies to clean up our entire coastline by removing and replacing all the sand, and maintain it in pristine condition thereafter, and share revenues from their use with coastal communities for 50 years as a turnkey deal?

Ditto use the  PPP model to improve access to all our national parks and other tourist sites by getting private-sector entities to construct and maintain new tolled plastic roads to all of them - and keep the revenues generated in return for 35 years: with free access to those tolled roads for local communities along them, who could also share in the toll revenues?

(Incidentally, plastic roads are made from the simple technology of mixing melted plastic waste with bitumen. They last  thrice as long as conventional roads; bear heavier loads; remain pothole-free during their entire lifespan; and are never be washed away by flash floods because plastic is impermeable to water. Why do we not build all our roads like that, I ask? Hmm, Ghana - eyeasem o.)

Many of those who visit our country often describe their stay here as life-changing and life-enhancing - and always recommend travelling here to their families and friends. Let us leverage that goodwill  to boost the tourism sector in Ghana - as it is an industry that can create millions of jobs for young people throughout our country.  Literally.

Please read on:

''Thailand cracks down on 'zero-dollar' tour groups

Industry eyes independent, high-spending Chinese tourists

MARWAAN MACAN-MARKAR, Asia regional correspondent

BANGKOK -- Four Chinese tourists in their 20s tuck into an early lunch of "pad Thai," a stir-fried noodle dish cooked with egg and shrimp, at a restaurant on Khaosan Road, a popular backpackers' hub in the Thai capital. Two of the women, sporting wide-brimmed sun hats, search for travel information on their mobile phones. They are planning a trip to Pattaya, a seaside resort south of Bangkok.

"This is our third day in Thailand; so far it is good," one of their male companions, using a Chinese-English translation app on his smartphone to speak to the Nikkei Asian Review, said of their six-day stay. He did not want to be named, but said they were all from Beijing on their first trip to Thailand. The trip was planned through online searches, mobile phone bookings and visits to Ctrip.com,  a popular Chinese online travel service provider.

Thai tourism officials are welcoming such Chinese travelers with an eye on the future. They are increasingly seen as the next wave to boost tourism from China, now the largest source of overseas holidaymakers in this Southeast Asian nation. ''Unlike the first wave, made up of large groups, these young holidaymakers are classified as "Chinese FITs," which means "free, independent travelers," a classification shaped by the relatively small size of a travelling party and the manner in which they plan their trips, eschewing the large package tours.

According to Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Thailand's tourism and sports minister, Chinese FITs accounted for nearly 60% of holidaymakers from the roughly 8.9 million Chinese tourists who visited Thailand in 2016. It marks a new trend that touches a wide sector of the tourism industry because these travelers stay and spend more money, "across a larger area, including many SMEs [small and medium enterprises]," she said.

It is a wave that will help push total international arrivals to a record 32.5 million in 2016, up by 8.8% from the previous year, according to official data. Thailand's tourism revenue is forecast to hit 1.67 trillion baht ($46.51 billion) for 2016, a 15.2% increase from 2015, ensuring this sector continues to account for 10% of gross domestic product. And it affirms Thai tourism's resilience, as the country weathered a wave of deadly bombings in August in popular tourist resorts, which killed four Thais and injured many foreigners, including tourists."

End of culled  Nikkei Asian Review article by Marwan Macan-Markar.




Sunday, 8 January 2017

This Blog Will Always Speak Truth To Power In The Name Of Ordinary Ghanaians

The President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo,  wants to see a new paradigm in which all Ghanaians are  responsible citizens - who participate actively in the development of their country instead of being mere  lookers-on.

Obviously, encouraging ordinary people to take ownership of the development process and drive it with their enthusiasm,  is one of the most effective  ways of ensuring the transformation of Ghanaian society into a prosperous one. Brilliant strategy.

And as Lady Luck would have it, it appears that virtually the whole country is willing President Akufo-Addo on to succeed in fulfilling his promises to the Ghanaian people. He has a tremendous amount of goodwill backing his regime. Thank goodness.

That goodwill is political capital his administration must not dissipate. That was the downfall of their immediate predecessors - who, alas, by polling day had lost the goodwill of far too many voters, to enable them hang on to power. The new adminstration's leaders  must never forget that political capital having once been spent can seldom be built up again.

President Akufo-Addo is starting off with a great deal of nationwide backing: Never have so many ordinary people converged on the Independence Square, and its environs, from all over the country under their own steam, to witness what many of them clearly did believe to be a crucial moment in their nation's history - the swearing into office as President of the Republic of Ghana,  of someone they see as an honest, disciplined and physically brave politician they believe will transform Ghana successfully into a prosperous and fair society.

Alas, President Akufo-Addo has his work cut out, in that regard: For centuries, one of the biggest failings of our traditional culture -  regardless of the part of Ghana one references - has been our propensity as a people to encourage obsequiousness and sycophancy in our relationships with those in positions of power in various spheres of society.

That collective praise-singing-failing represents the biggest threat to all the marvellous  plans of President Akufo-Addo and members of his New Patriotic Party (NPP) regime. That is why they must be wary of some of their allies in the Ghanaian media world. Their mercenary natures and conscienceless partisanship could eventually bring the new NPP regime to ruin, over time, by alienating the public from the government.

On our part our stand is pretty clear: We love Mother Ghana passionately and will always try and prevent her gang-rape by greedy and callous brutes. That is, and has been, the basis for our criticisms of all our nation's leaders, past and present - and will continue to be, as we go forward into the future: over the next four years.

In that regard, this blog's humble contribution to the nation-building effort will be to speak truth to power, at all material times - as we are convinced that that is the best way to ensure our leaders remain on the right track: as they work towards fulfilling their many promises to the good people of Nkrumah's Ghana.

We did same to the hard-of-hearing National Democratic Congress (NDC) regime of President Mahama, and incured the lasting enemity of that regime's greedy hardliners - whose shortsightedness blinded them to the fact that we were patriots who loved Mother Ghana: who were merely trying to prevent her brutal gang-rape by a callous and barbaric few.

So though we know that we shall incur their enemity too, this blog will always speak truth to power regardless. It also ought to be pointed out that because we have always believed that some of their party's leading lights pose a real threat to the cohesion of our nation (because they place tribal loyalty above patriotic duty to protect the best interests of the Ghanaian nation-state) we are also definitely no friends of the NPP.

So we shall criticise our new leaders constructively too whenever there is a need for that: for the good of our beloved country and its warm, welcoming and aspirational people. (For all our sake, therefore, may God Almighty bless, protect and guide our nation's new leaders always. Amen.)

Finally, this blog  gives its solemn word to its many readers: We are  committed to speaking truth to power. So, therefore, with our nation's new leaders having now been duly served notice - by the declaration of our intent to them - we hereby rest our case.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Let Us Quickly Bring Ghana's National Security Apparatus Into The High-Tech Age

A rather unfortunate incident occured on Thursday, 5th January, 2017, which has forced one to comment on the protection of our new leaders - instead of writing about President Akufo-Addo's inspiring and uplifting speech on his assumption of power:  after being sworn into office as Ghana's new leader at the Independence Square, today.

Amazingly, on his last day as Ghana's leader, former President Mahama's security cordon was breached, in the most egregious of fashions. It is still mystifying and hard to comprehend why it occurred.

Incredibly,  a woman who was clearly in an  emotional state, was able to hold on to the back of the attire President Mahama (as he then was) was wearing -  momentarily preventing him from entering his official vehicle as he prepared to leave the grounds of Parliament, after delivering his last state of the nation address.

No leader of our country must ever be made to suffer such an indignity in an age of terrorism - and those in charge of President Akufo-Addo's personal security must make sure that the security cordon around him is never breached during his tenure.

The question is: What would have happened if it had turned out that that woman who succeeded in holding on momentarily to the back of the attire President  Mahama was wearing,  had been a suicide bomber wearing a bomb-laden  belt around her? It just doesn't bear thinking.

One hopes that that particular incident will serve as an important lesson to all those who will be in charge of the security of our nation's new leaders - and  those tasked  specifically to ensure the safety of ordinary Ghanaians and their Republic over  the next four years.

The Hon. Kan-Dapaah, who apparently will be the minister in charge of national security in the new Akufo-Addo administration, must undertake a trip to Airbus Defence and Space's European headquarters at Toulouse, in France, as soon as practicable, to take a look at the company's pseudo-satellite, the Zephyr.

If Ghana places an order for, and purchases 4 Zephyrs, it will immediately improve the surveillance capabilities of our security agencies - giving them  access to real-time high resolution video and still photographs of all areas of interest to them, security wise, on the Ghanaian landmass.

That will give our country the ability to better police its land borders; track down highway robbers and other criminals; as well as monitor its entire road network in real time, for example. Ditto monitor its coastline and remaining forests.

An added bonus is that it will provide secure broadband for our security agencies too. That will make it possible for all the personnel of our security agencies to wear bodycams, have dashboard cameras in all their vehicles and enable rhem to tap into state agency databases, whiles on the move and  when temporarily stationary away from their various unit HQs.

It will also stop bribe-taking and  bad behaviour in our security agencies - closing a potential avenue for terrorist groups to use in infiltrating our country to create sleeper cells: corrupting security personnel with cash.

Let us quickly bring our country's national security apparatus into the high-tech age. Now. Not tomorrow.  It is said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance - and in an age of global terrorism, Ghanaians surely still want to remain a free people, regardless, do we not?






Thursday, 5 January 2017

How Safe Are The Giant Advertising Hoardings Erected Across Urban Ghana?

A massive steel frame for a giant advertising hoarding is being fabricated near where we live at McCarthy Hill, near Jayee University College.

Since I saw the giant steel frame being fabricated, I have pondered why the fabricators don't use aluminium substitutes instead, for the steel currently used in their work.

Obviously an aluminium structure that size will be lighter and presumably much safer perhaps.

I have also wondered whether or not any engineers from the Ga South District Assembly have ever been to inspect the work being done by the fabricators. Incidentally, it so happens that the fabrication work is actually being carried out near the local Assemblyman's house.

The cemented area the work is being carried out on, is in front of a shipping container that once served as a business services and communications centre that was closed years ago. It is in fact adjacent to the Assemblyman's house.

Since the giant steel frames are engineered structures that are quite heavy, one wonders whether the Advertisers Association of Ghana (AAG) collaborates with both the Ghana Institution of Engineers and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), to set standards for those who fabricate and erect them.

The question is: Should the general public be worried about  super-sized advertising hoardings  that are erected near homes and businesses? What will happen to those who live  and work near such metal structures if an earthquake occurs? Are they all insured - and if not should the law not require that they are?

The public definitely needs to be informed about the dangers posed by  these giant structures.

No one should begrudge those who earn substantial sums regularly from such advertising hoardings - but the advertising companies and the District Assemblies that make money from them  must ensure that they are inherently safe in terms of their design as engineered structures.

The onsite fabrication process of the giant steel frame taking place near us is clearly an arduous and complicated task. It is neither for the fainthearted nor the financially-challenged.

It involves the mobilisation of mobile construction equipment such as a compressor, a generator, a welding machine, and skilled manpower.

And a mobile crane will obviously be needed to lift and erect the huge steel frame at the site acquired by the advertising company that has awarded the contract to the fabricators.

The question is: Since super-sized  advertising hoardings are potentially dangerous to both humans and vehicles, why does the permitting process not involve the consultation of  those who live and work near where they are erected - if that is not the case presently?

It is obvious that the said giant advertising hoarding frame,  once erected, could easily kill pedestrians and the occupants of any vehicles it falls onto, instantly, during a storm accompanied by strong winds.

Do those responsible for approving the erection of giant steel frames for super-sized  advertising hoardings, ensure that they are put up by the farbricators and the advertising companies that outsource their fabrication, bearing all safety precautions in mind - given their deadly and destructive potential should they ever be toppled by strong winds?

It doesn't bear thinking what would happen if one of these mounted steel hulks is blown down during a particularly windy day with gale-force winds in a crowded part of urban Ghana.

As it happens, our part of McCarthy Hill, which abuts Mendskrom has become a university suburb hosting  young university students from Regent's University College of Science and Technology and Jayee University College. Their precious and innocent lives must not be endangered needlessly by mammoth-sized street furniture such as super-sized steel-framed advertising hoardings.

One hopes that the next head of the relevant sector ministry in charge of District Assemblies, the ministry for local government and rural development, whenever she or he is confirmed by Parliament after nomination by the next President, will as soon as practicable set up a task force to undertake a nationwide audit of all super-sized advertising hoardings, to ensure that they will not pose a threat to human life and property should they be toppled  in extreme weather conditions.

As we all know extreme weather conditions have now unfortunately become the new normal weather in an age of global climate change.

We need to take the safety of the general public in built-up areas of our cities and towns a tad more seriously in this country. Street furniture, including giant advertising hoardings, erected on roadside pavements or near them, need to be designed to be safe structurally so that they never pose a danger to the public.

(And whiles we are on the subject of public safety, it ought to be pointed out that there is a need to take an  interest in, and be concerned about, the safety of sundry imported products sold to consumers in Ghana. Ghanaians must use public interest legal NGOs, such as the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL),  to enforce their rights in the law courts when harmed by purchased imported products that turn out to be substandard or counterfeits. Some importers are literally getting away with murder in this country. But I digress.)

For now, the question is : How safe are the giant steel-framed super-sized advertising hoardings erected by advertising companies that one sees dotted across the landscape of urban areas as one drives on Ghana's urban roads? Food for thought.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Nothing Mysterious About The Defeat Of The NDC Regime Of President Mahama

To say that losing power came as a great shock to the leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), is to make an understatement.

Many of them neither knew what hit them, nor saw the electoral juggernaught coming at them. It is amazing just how easy it is for those in power to become detached from reality - and to become delusional.

Perhaps in the fullness of time, the leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), will come to understand the major role that the steady erosion of the moral authority of President Mahama's administration (to the point that made it lose the trust of so many Ghanaians) played in the party losing power in the 7th December, 2016, presidential and parliamentary elections.

Whiles many of the leading lights of the party were confident that the host of completed infrastructure projects distributed  in districts across the country,  had earned President Mahama's government the right to be returned to power again, most voters, on the other hand, were of the view that a regime they saw as corruption-riddled - which they felt was dominated by  greedy, arrogant, amoral and incompetent individuals - had to be booted out of office to bring the days of impunity in Ghana to an end.

In other words the 7th December, 2016, presidential and parliamentary elections were regarded by the vast majority of voters as a referendum on the suitability of an NDC administration continuing to govern the Republic of Ghana after the ruling party's 8 long years in power - from a good governance perspective.

Alas, in the view of a majority of voters, the ruling NDC regime of President Mahama had failed good governance litmus tests in too many instances and on far too many fronts, for comfort.

To such fed-up voters, there was a long list  of corruption scandals which illustrated the impunity of the rich and powerful during the Mahama era: the Smarttys Management and Productions Limited's bus branding saga; and the super-scoundrel Woyome's barefaced Jack-where-art-thou-cheek in unlawfully  hanging on to judgment-debt  (to the tune of some GHc51.2 millions) when he knew perfectly well that he had obtained taxpayers'cash by inveigling people who had a fiduciary duty to protect the public purse -  and therefore ought to have know better than fall for his wiles - but unfortunately failed to do so.

They are just two examples of the outrageous goings-on in the Mahama era that incensed many voters.

Yet another example, was the confirmation of the public's suspicion  that the government  would fail to carry out the recommendations contained in the  report of the Justice Dzamefeh Commission that enquired into events surrounding the  participation of the senior national male soccer team, the Black Stars, in the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil.

It was felt by many that though unearthing yet more evidence to ordinary people that the rich and powerful could always act unethically and unlawfully with impunity, under the Mahama administration, nothing would eventually come of it, in terms of change for the better in football administration and in the game's organisation throughout the country.

Not surprisingly,  the idea that people in responsible positions who should have been punished would yet again escape censure, after the report of the Dzamefeh Commission, led to an immediate outcry amongst football fans for justice, when its entire contents became known  - in what is a football-mad nation. When no heads subsequently rolled after the government's white paper on the Dzamefeh Commission's report became public, it caused outrage throughout the country amongst lovers of the beautiful game of soccer.

Some football fans also therefore saw the 7th December, 2016, presidential and parliamentary elections as an opportunity to help rid the nation of the NDC regime and end the days of impunity of the rich and powerful.

Then there was the utter humiliation felt by so many middle-class Ghanaians, as a result of the Independence Day anniversary celebrations brochuregate scandal: In which no heads rolled for a simple brochure full of unpardonable, unspeakable and abominable  errors - including the description of  the special guest of honour, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, as Ghana's president - and for which a fall-guy apparently foolish enough to agree to be a patsy and take the blame for those ultimately responsible for planning the celebrations, was quickly found, to enable some of the regime's arrogant "untouchables" (the perfidious Stan Dogbe & Co) to continue remaining in their positions at the presidency, despite being so egregiously negligent in their duties. Pity.

In sum total, in a harsh economic climate, when voting day finally arrived, a majority of voters (5,715,026 millions of them and representing 53.85% of total valid votes cast in the presidential election) felt that an opportune time had come for the Mahama administration to be turfed out of power - in order to bring some relief to ordinary people in Ghana.

Nothing mysterious in that really - but perhaps rather beffudling to those in the NDC who were well aware of the many completed infrastructure projects dotted around the country, but sadly were unable to decipher the real mood of the country at large, because they had lost touch with ordinary people to the extent that they no longer really understood the Ghanaian populace: who now insist on their nation  being administered only by transparent regimes underpinned by good governance principles.

Yet, it could all have turned out so differently, if the Mahama regime had not evolved into such a hard-of-hearing government, by the end of its tenure. Pity.








Monday, 2 January 2017

The Role Of The Media In Ghanaian Society

Unquestionably, Ghana is one of Africa's foremost democracies - with voters regularly voting out ruling parties after every eight years. And on each change of government after elections, power has been handed over peacefully to the victorious opposition party.

Ghana has a thriving and pluralistic media that is amongst the freest in the world.

Because of the important role the media plays in democracies, this blog takes a keen interest in the work of young Ghanaian journalists - because they represent the profession's future.

It is for that reason that not too long ago I had a conversation with a group of young journalists about the Ghanaian media landscape that I found quite interesting.

It turned out that the 7th December, 2016, presidential and parliamentary elections were the first they would cover as media professionals - and it was a pretty exciting event they were all looking forward to.

In the main, they were earnest and highly-intelligent young people, and I was particularly struck by their sense of idealism and the high moral purpose they exhibited.

This  blog's hope is that they will embrace the media's watchdog role in society, and have the courage to expose wrongdoing by powerful people in our homeland Ghana at all material times, throughout their careers in the Ghanaian media world.

One of them proudly stated that to her journalism  was a calling - the means through which she hoped she could help make Ghana a better place for all its people. Marvellous.

Hopefully, they will not mature in the profession ending up selling their consciences like so many of today's so-called "senior journalists" have done over the years.

There are many societal issues the Ghanaian  media seldom focuses on in sustainable fashion. Could some of today's young media professionals not take an interest in reporting on them and provoking debate about them  in society, one wonders?

How do we deal, for example, with the issue of the billions of dollars of sub-standard goods imported into Ghana routinely, by dishonest and unethical importers - from places such as China?

Anyone who has taken a walk recently along the shoreline of the Weija water reservior, for example, will wonder why vehicle repair workshops and the makers of concrete products are being allowed by the authorities  to squat and gradually turn it into a shanty town.

What does that mean for water users in Accra who source their drinking water supply from the Weija production unit of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) - in terms of how safe their water is: if  huge quantities of chemicals such as alum salts are required to treat the pollution now being added to that from the Densu River's upstream course by those squatters along the shoreline of the Weija reservoir?

Then there are the issues of pollution and environmental degradation caused by illegal gold miners poisoning  streams, rivers, ground watertables and other water bodies, as well as soils, across vast swathes of the Ghanaian countryside. Ditto the denuding of forests by illegal loggers.

And when will the media make the connexion between the attempt to foist GMOs on our country through Parliament, and the compromising of Ghanaian politicians by lobbyists operating on behalf of the vested interests backing multinationals such as Monsanto, in our country?

And what are those high net worth individuals and businesses who fund the two major political parties in Ghana, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), getting in return for their money? That is a shadowy part of our national life that definitely needs the media's spotlight thrown on it - for the funding of political parties is the mother and father of high-level corruption  in Ghana.

Today, for the benefit of young Ghanaian media professionals throughout our country,  this blog is posting the speaking notes that a 90s NATO spokesperson, Dr. J. P. Shea, prepared for a press briefing he gave during a NATO seminar at Sarajevo, the largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which took place between 2-3 July, 1998. It is culled from the archives of the NATO website.

Since the words of wisdom they contain about the role of the media in democracies are applicable to our situation here, too,  one hopes that they will help guide today's young generation of Ghanaian media professionals as they go about their daily work across our peaceful, stable, and modern democratic African nation-state.

Incidentally, it ought to be pointed out that although at the time he wrote the 1998 Sarajevo seminar speaking notes for his press briefing, he was a NATO spokesman, today, Dr. Jamie Shea  happens to be NATO's Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges.

Please read on:

"Role of the Media in a Democratic Society"

Speaking notes by Dr. J.P. Shea, NATO Spokesman

The media as the 'fourth estate': basic functions of the media in a democratic society.

•    inform the public on what is going on: inform democratic choices through the clarification of complex issues, particularly in an age when information is the driving force of economic advancement and international events impact on people's daily lives as never before;

•    provoke public debates leading to greater public participation in important decisions;

 •   uncover abuses, pressure for their rectification;

 •   alert and mobilize public opinion to humanitarian causes/injustices;

 •   allow political pluralism to express itself by advertising different views/ ideological approaches to certain issues;

 •   keep politicians attuned to public opinion while offering politicians a medium to explain policies/decisions to public opinion and build the necessary support.

The responsibility of the media towards society: with great power comes great responsibility.
A totally impartial media is neither possible nor desirable. Most newspapers have political or ideological preferences but, it is:

•    essential to maintain distinction between facts and opinion, reporting and analysis;

•    use only trained, professional reporters with knowledge of subject and who check sources before reporting;

•    set the political agenda: explain issues without trivializing or sensationalizing;

 •   publish corrections;

 •   preserve state secrets / not use information likely to be harmful to national security or to endanger individuals.

The responsibility of society to the media

 •   create the conditions for a pluralist media to thrive / survive. This can be done by means of:

 •       anti-monopoly/trust legislation; avoid excessive taxation on small media;

 •       making large spectrum of airwaves, frequencies available;

  •      encouraging a strong private sector in addition to state controlled media;

 •       legislating minimum TV/Radio access to all opposition political parties, particularly during election campaigns;

  •      freedom of information laws or at least avoiding catch-all official secrets laws that discourage free flow of non-national security related information; release of information after certain dates;

   •     legislating appropriate privacy or libel laws that prevent media intrusion into people's private lives or sensationalization of human suffering. However, these privacy laws must not block legitimate investigative journalism of the Woodward/Bernstein variety.

   •     having a press council or regulatory commission that upholds standards, clamps down or abusive or inflammatory language calculated to provoke social divisions and unrest, adjudicates complaints and allows individuals/organisations redress for unfair treatment - through libel actions for instance. Rather than the state closing newspapers, it is better for individuals or organizations to drive abusive media out of business through financial penalties.

The relationship between politicians and the media

 •   basically it is a love/hate relationship. Both need each other; the one to provide the information, the other to communicate it. The role of the media in a democracy is the result of the permanent "creative tension" between the two sides. It is a messy system but the alternative is a media that is excessively docile or excessively critical of the fact that politics is only "the art of the possible".

 •   governments want to control the release of information and present a united front; the media like to look for the cracks and the contradictions. One likes good or predictable news - "dog eats man"; the other likes bad news or the unusual - "man eats dog".

•    politicians like to present their successes and their opinions, to use the media to gain public recognition and enlarge their authority; the media's role is to question these critically, to analyze, to judge and to relativize - the role of the media is never to blindly or unquestioningly support a given political party or cause. That not only undermines the credibility and value of the media (which becomes simply a propaganda machine); it also undermines the political party or cause as no institution can thrive and adapt to change without regular, constructive criticism.

•    if the media are to do their job seriously, politicians must treat the media seriously. Regular flow of information, briefings, an honest objective approach, never lie. If the media do not get information from you, they will usually get it from someone else - less accurately. So it is counter-productive to ignore the media;

 •   avoid cover-ups - if a mistake is exposed by the media, acknowledge it and show that you are taking steps to redress it - that restores confidence;

•    politicians and journalists should treat each other with respect but not friendship - politicians who believe they control journalists are invariably disappointed; journalists who get too close to politicians lose their objectivity. The relationship should be close but not too close.

•    in deciding on any policy, it is essential to devise a media strategy as an integral part of the process. The perception of the policy is as important as the policy itself particularly in an age when the media present news in real-time and political leaders announce their decisions to each other via CNN rather than through diplomatic cables. It is inevitable in modern democracies that politicians should use spokespersons and PR consultants to keep their personalities and messages prominent in the media but there is no substitute for political leaders explaining themselves directly to their voters via the media: that is the essence of the democratic process."

End of Dr. J. P. Shea's July 1998 Sarajevo seminar speaking notes culled from the NATO website's archives.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Bravo To The Ghana Bar Association!

It was gratifying to read the new year message issued by the Ghana Bar Association (GBA),  on 30th December, 2016 - and signed by its national president, Benson Nutsukpui, Esq., and the national secretary, Justin Amenuvor, Esq.

The GBA's new year message included a condemnation of the unacceptable trashing of what is left  of our nation's natural heritage.

That emphasis on environmental degradation in Ghana, and its call for action by the next administration to tackle it head on, show clearly that  the GBA actually cares about the future of  our nation and its people.

The GBA was right to single out illegal gold mining in urging  the incoming Akufo-Addo administration to take active steps to deal with polluters and those destroying the natural environment.

It would make a huge difference in the fight against  environmental degradation throughout the country, if Ghana's next president  is flown over Akyem Abuakwa, for example, in a Ghana Air Force  helicopter, to see the extent of the destruction being wrought by illegal gold miners in that part of our nation.

It ought to be noted that eventually illegal gold mining could actually wipe out Akyem Abuakwa's cocoa-farming sector, if it is not halted now. The problem is that serious, if truth be told. Akyem Juaso is a case in point.

Like many of the cocoa farmers in the area whose farmlands are now mined-out open pits, it so happens that my family's organic cocoa plantation at Akyem Juaso was destroyed by illegal gold miners not too long ago.

We are still battling lethargic officialdom to sanction Hagnella Mining Company Limited and its self-proclaimed master-bribe-giving assigns - and force them to properly reclaim the area they have destroyed, thus far.

The impunity with  which illegal gold miners operate in what is supposed to be a nation in which the rule of law prevails is simply beyond belief. But I digress.

The Ghana Armed Forces could also arrange similar trips for their new commander-in-chief across the country for him to see the extent of the problem from the air - and the need for environmental degradation to be tackled immediately and in ruthless fashion.

The Ghana Bar Association deserves to be commended for recognising what is an existential threat to our nation and its people. In that regard, it is a real pity that the Ghanaian media has not been as proactive and plain-speaking in demanding action from officialdom to prevent what will be an apocalyptic future for Ghanaians if the situation is allowed to persist.

The GBA is being socially responsible in pointing out the fact that there is a real possibility that Ghana could face a future as a water-distressed society - if nothing is done today about illegal gold miners polluting streams, rivers, ground water table and other water bodies across vast swathes of the Ghanaian countryside: on top of the wanton destruction of the eco-systems of many of the areas that contain their watersheds.

Because of the importance of the issue of the  continuing trashing of our country's natural heritage to Ghanaian society that it highlights, today, we are posting the GBA's new year message here, so that this blog's readers who thus far have not been able to access it, can peruse it too.

Incidentally, amongst other issues mentioned in the GBA's new year message, is the plight of the Gambia and the need to ensure that the wishes of the majority of ordinary Gambians who voted to elect a new president, President-elect Adama Barrow, for their country, are respected.

In that regard, it calls on the  sub-regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to make sure that President Jammeh steps down at the end of his tenure, on 19th January, 2017, as stipulated in that country's Constitution.

Bravo to the GBA for its pro-people new year message!

Please read on:

"A NEW YEAR MESSAGE FROM THE GHANA BAR ASSOCIATION.

The GBA notes that while 2016 has been a challenging year in many respects, it ended on a positive note with Ghanaians, once again, demonstrating to Africa and the world, their democratic credentials, love for peace and their resolve to be governed by the rule of law.

As we take stock of the events in our nation and our continent Africa, we cannot but remind ourselves of the leadership role that lawyers are expected to play in the defence of Democracy, the Rule of Law, and in attaining the promise of liberty for all persons regardless of wealth and social status. We should also not lose sight of the hardships occasioned by the several conflicts and wars on our continent.

The GBA deplores the indiscriminate and rampant pollution of our water bodies and our environment in general by "Galamsay” operators and reiterates the need for institutions mandated to protect our water bodies to fulfill their mandate in order to curb the danger of a severe water crisis in the near future. The GBA also notes with serious concern the pathetic response of state institutions to deal with illegal foreigners and their Ghanaian accomplices in the small scale (Galamsay) mining activities and urges the relevant institutions to take the needed steps to protect the environment.

The GBA calls upon the incoming administration to take a very serious look at the environmental pollution issues facing the nation.

The Ghana Bar Association has noted with concern the strike action of the Association of State Attorneys which has had a crippling effect on the administration of justice in the country, particularly the rights of remand prisoners and other accused persons currently on trial.

As a new government is taking office, the GBA will plead with the Association of State Attorneys to return to work to afford the incoming government the opportunity to acquaint itself with their grievances and concerns.

The GBA is mindful that the issues leading to the strike have been long outstanding and will appeal to the incoming government, which coincidentally is headed by a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, will deal with these matters expeditiously to bring finality and closure to all matters affecting the terms and conditions of the employment of State Attorneys.

The Ghana Bar Association notes with serious concern the situation in The Gambia where President, Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh who initially conceded defeat and agreed to leave office at the end of his tenure has changed his mind, and has purported to unilaterally annul the election results and has refused to hand over power to the winner of the election, Adama Barrow, at the expiration of his constitutional term.

The GBA unequivocally condemns the actions of President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia and in solidarity with The Gambia Bar Association, we urge our sub-region and the international community to take all necessary action to stop this brazen constitutional coup d’état in The Gambia.

The GBA reminds member states of ECOWAS, of the “ constitutional convergence principles” embodied in Section 1 of the ECOWAS PROTOCOL A/SP1/12/01 on Democracy and Good Governance Supplementary to the Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security, which affirmed that “Every accession to power must be made through free, fair and transparent elections.

The Protocol also affirms the principle that “The party and or candidate who loses the elections shall concede defeat to the political party and or candidate finally declared the winner, following the guidelines and within the deadline stipulated by the law”.

The GBA therefore urges ECOWAS to ensure that the principles enshrined in the Supplementary Protocol are enforced in The Gambia.

The GBA calls on all Judges and lawyers in The Gambia not to be part of any charade or judicial chicanery aimed at perpetuating the stay in power of a defeated candidate against the freely expressed wishes of the people of The Gambia.

The GBA urges countries on our continent to resolve and commit to working towards entrenching democracy, support for the Rule of Law and opening up the governance processes in African countries in the spirit of transparency and accountability.

The GBA finally urges all lawyers and judges to individually sign and commit to the principles of professional integrity and ethical conduct enshrined in the anti-corruption compact agreement, an initiative by the International Bar Association which is aimed at fighting corruption and protecting judicial integrity.

As we enter the New Year, the GBA is encouraged to note that we, as a people have remained committed to the democratic path. However, there is the need for us to continue to take inspiration from the ideals and aspirations in the 1992 Constitution as we seek to assure a better life for the citizens and residents of Ghana.

It is the hope of the GBA that the ideals of the 1992 Constitution can inspire us all in our shared journey to build a better future for ourselves, our children and generations yet unborn.
The Ghana Bar Association wishes every Ghanaian a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

DATED IN ACCRA, THIS 30TH DAY OF DECEMBER 2016".

End of the GBA's new year message.