Like many ordinary Ghanaians, I am extremely worried, about our country's future. Today, many greedy and dishonest African politicians, who yesterday, when out of power, and in the political wilderness, did not have the nous, to call for the cancellation, of the largely-tainted foreign debt, piled up across the continent, by crooked and repressive regimes (many of which grew rich stealing foreign aid and local taxpayers' money!), are now busy finding, ever more sophisticated methods, to rip their nations off.
A classic example, was Ghana's irresponsible foray, into the piranha-infested capital markets, of the West (the outrageous US$750 million sovereign bond issue - now looking even more daft: for, with US interest rates tumbling to record lows, its an even heavier debt burden, for taxpayers to carry!).
And cheeky public officials, asked, when that madness was first mooted, what plan they specifically had in place, to meet the regular interest payments (to the overseas investors, who were prescient enough, to pile into that naive African bonanza), simply stonewalled!
And as we speak, even parliament, apparently, does not know, what exactly we borrowed the money for; how we propose to meet interest payments; and precisely how much Ghana paid, in underwriting fees, to the extremely well-connected, financial wizards - who manoeuvred our country, into this madness, for private gain (in the golden age, of endless self-seeking, under the most hypocritical regime, ever seen in Ghana, thus far!).
By now, our greedy and hypocritical high net worth oligarchs, have, of course, got the art of "chopping-Ghana-small," down to a fine art. And well-rewarded mercenary hacks, with cotton wool between their ears, and clueless about the financial services industry, were dispatched to pollute the airwaves, with their ignorance - to make ordinary Ghanaians feel, that their nation had somehow, suddenly become the financial equal, of solvent nations!
It was precisely the same well-funded media blitzkrieg, which decent people were swamped with, when our country was also manoeuvred, into giving away the "golden share", in a company, which owned the richest single gold mine, in the world (alas, also for private gain - at mother Ghana's expense!).
And now, apparently, in spite of the fact that we are said to have a thriving stock market, which has seen the over subscription, time and time again, of one IPO after the next, Ghana Telecom, has chosen the fixed income securities route, and has issued bonds in London, to enable it refinance existing debt - at what rates of interest, and for what level of existing debt, we are not told.
And if you live in a nation, in which secrecy in corporate boardrooms, makes the shenanigans concerning shipments, and movements, of small arms, by our secret services, look like a model of good governance transparency, its extremely worrying, to see media headlines, celebrate the rather murky and risky business, of debt refinancing, announcing proudly: "GT lands 200 million bonds."
Yet, we are actually talking about a company that is possibly putting its continued existence at risk - not one that has been blessed with a bountiful windfall! And this, dear reader, is the profession,which proudly calls iself, the 4th branch of government - and claims that it exists to protect the national interest! Hmmm, Ghana. Erye asem, O!
What hope is there, when possible trouble ahead, is celebrated, by the very professionals supposed to pose the right questions, who apparently don't even know, what to ask? Who, in the media, is asking, for instance, whether Iroko's torturous genealogy, is designed to hide its loss-making past, perhaps?
And who is wondering aloud, if the choice of an offshore location, (Mauritius) as the domicile of the company, hides anything? Who are the individual shareholders of the company - and is there a Ghanaian or Nigerian connection, to the company? And who are their Ghanaian associates, if any?
Has any one questioned how a company making losses not too long ago, found its way into the GT boardroom - and talked its way into being appointed the issuing house for the bonds? Was it not actually a loss-making entity, hived off by its parent, because it was hemorrhaging badly?
And above all, how much did they charge as underwriting fees - and how does that compare, with the industry standard? We must also not forget that the famous"light touch" of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the UK's financial services' regulatory authorities, has led to a lack of transparency in certain sectors of the industry.
Consequently, we must never think that companies based in London, are angels, in terms of ethics and full disclosure, in the industry: which has spawned all manner of "smoke-and-mirrors-type" of financial products and instruments. Clever Africans, may base their operations in London, precisely to get the benefits, of the cathet, in Africa, of being based there: to lure the unwary, and innocents abroad!
The reported remarks of GT's board chairperson about making improvements, in the mobile and fixed line services, were extremely vague. Precisely what is the debt for? Is it to pay back or restructure old debt, for which the company possibly cannot maintain payments - and if so, just what is the quantum, of existing debt?
Clearly, any company that is over-geared, is not at a good place - for, it will find it difficult to create a cash surplus: which means it will require new earnings.Question is, in a telecoms climate of such fierce competition, will GT make enough money from its wireless broadband internet service; mobile; and fixed line services, to secure those new earnings?
And since this is a nation in which even the seat of government, apparently serves as a clearing-house for kickbacks (according to a former chairperson of the ruling party!), how do we know that secret payments to big-wigs, is not what was the driving factor, which led the company and the issuing house, to opt for the same idiotic financial equivalent, of a millstone around GT's neck, which our penchant, for opting for long-term fixed-income securities, with high interest rates, represents - an outcome, which could eventually turn out, to be disastrous, for GT: and undermine its long-term stability?
It will be interesting to know how GT's new debt compares to the telecoms industry in Ghana. And perhaps some of the overpaid analysts in the financial services industry, will give us, after the necessary fundamental analysis, comparisons, between companies in the telecoms industry, in Ghana. But above all, GT must allay the fears of those of us, who feel that not opting for the stock market, was an error of judgement, of the most egregious kind. At the very least, it must tell Ghanaians how it plans to repay the bonds!