Tuesday, 27 March 2012

INSTEAD OF PATRONISING LOCAL COMMUNITIES INVESTORS OUGHT TO FORM MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL PARTNERSHIPS WITH THEM

One felt so sad reading a Daily Graphic news report culled and posted on www.ghanaweb.com's general news web-page edition of 27th March, 2012.

Entitled "BOST Builds Largest Petroleum Depot", I am reproducing it here, by way of illustration: to show how when opportunities crop up that can help reduce the glaring disparities in wealth in our country, and narrow the gap between the rich and the poor, our hidebound and unimaginative ruling elites invariably miss them.

For example, one doubts very much whether if he had been around today, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah would have tolerated the situation in which, whiles the management and board members of state-owned entities receive compensation packages in the Arabian oil sheiks' bracket (even when they are loss-making entities), the workers, whose hard graft keeps those entities going, receive derisory compensation levels.

If as a nation most of us agree that some things, such as energy, the provision of potable water, railways and roads, for example, are better organised and provided for by the state - instead of leaving it to the private sector (to which the state hypothecates road tolls, utility rates, and sundry taxes, in exchange for their provision and maintenance), then the question we must ask is: Why have our leaders not thought of restructuring all state-owned commercial undertakings - so that management and workers will own 25 percent of the shareholding (through a trust); with another 25 percent being sold on the Ghana Stock Exchange to the general public; and the state retaining a 50 percent stake in them?

If that were the case, would the management and staff of those state-owned entities not work harder, and do everything possible to make them productive and profitable undertakings, I ask?

And to keep our healthcare professionals happy and motivated, why do we not simply earmark 25 percent of whatever surplus is left over, after all costs have been deducted from the revenues earned by each healthcare institution in Ghana, to those who actually work in them?

Would all government-employed medical doctors, nurses and the supporting staff who help them serve the public, not all be keen to deliver the best healthcare possible, to local communities nationwide?

Then there is the case of state-owned commercial undertakings, such as the Metro Mass Transit Company Limited (MMTCL), for example. Would their drivers and conductors not be more productive, if they owned 25 percent of that company, dear reader?

And to contribute to creating an enterprise culture amongst the younger generation of Ghanaians, would it not make sense (to the management and staff, including drivers and conductors, as well as the MMTCL itself), to put a margin on top of the purchase-price of company's buses, and sell same to their drivers and conductors, on a work-and-pay basis?

That will make their business model one in which the company makes its money from selling buses at a profit to its workers on a hire purchase basis, and, additionally, makes money selling spare parts and servicing those buses in its own workshops nationwide.

Usually compensation is paid for crops on communal land that the state takes over for projects of a national character. If we also regarded all such land as equity in those projects, would that not enable the Chiefs and people who own such communal land to benefit financially from those projects, on a long-term basis?

And if that were the case, would people in mining towns like Obuasi and Tarkwa, not be a great deal better off than they currently are? I rest my case for now, dear reader - www.ghanaweb.com's culled Daily Graphic news report mentioned above, follows below. Please read on:

"BOST Builds Largest Petroleum Depot

The Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Ltd (BOST) is in the final laps of preparations to construct the largest petroleum terminal and strategic depot in the country that will create 500 new permanent jobs.

The US$200-million BOST Petroleum Terminal to be sited at the coast of Atwereboanda in the Pumpuni Traditional Area of the Ahanta West District, Western Region, will be linked with rail wagons, offshore pipelines and other transmission devices to receive and transmit processed natural gas from the Jubilee Field.

The Managing Director of BOST, Dr Yao Akoto, said the Pumpuni Terminal would be the biggest strategic petroleum depot in the country and was intended to be the petroleum hub for West African.

Dr Akoto disclosed this on March 15 when he led a delegation to pay a courtesy call on the Ahanta West District Coordinating Council as well as the chiefs and people of Pumpuni, the people who have willingly given their land for the project.

BOST said it would work closely with the community to design programmes to develop the skills of the people of the area for some of the high-end jobs such as oil terminal management and logistics, adding that the company would also support schools in the area to improve on the quality of education of that area.

“We want to be the hub and provider of oil and gas services in West Africa and we will want to partner the Western Region and the Ahanta West District in our quest to provide these services. Site preparations will start in the third quarter of this year and the project should take two years to complete,” Dr Akoto explained.

BOST has already received an Executive Instrument from the government to acquire a 300-acre plot located on the Pumpuni reef for the state-of-the-art petroleum terminal which will include a dispatch centre to link to a transmission network for the distribution of processed natural gas from the Jubilee field and other newly discovered fields.

BOST has already completed the payment of compensation for economic crops on the land three years ago.

“The company is committed to ensuring that it offers fair compensation for the land that it has acquired and we will also continue with our corporate social responsibilities which we have done in other communities where we have depots,” the BOST managing director assured the chiefs and people.

The District Chief Executive for Ahanta West, Mr Joseph Dofoyena, said the district coordinating Council was aware of the project and had already started sensitising the people of the area to be respectful, law abiding and not ferment trouble.

He said in view of the rush for land in the area, the district had gone ahead to map the area and generated designs which it wanted developers to fit in.

Mr Dofoyena said his team would work with that of BOST to make the project fit into the design for the District and would also support the entire process to ensure that the project came into fruition.

Elders of the community took turns to thank BOST for selecting the area to site the project, dding that they would support it wholeheartedly.

They, however, appealed to the government, particularly to BOST to keep its pledge to develop the skills of the people so that they could easily be integrated in upcoming turn-key projects of the kind BOST was embarking upon.

Some youth in the community indicated to the GRAPHIC BUSINESS in an interview that they were readying themselves in anticipation of getting jobs in the oil and gas sector which was fast opening up the Western Region to investors.

One young man, Mohammed Yankey, already had skills in sand blasting, sand writing and spraying and had gone ahead to register a formal company to start business.

Another young man, Solomon Cudjoe, was an apprentice driver who was learning to drive and operate trucks and earthmoving machines.

BOST presented some food items to the community as a token to cement their already cordial relationship."


End of www.ghanaweb.com's culled piece from the Daily Graphic.


Well, there we are, dear reader. When what is said will be the largest bulk gas storage facility in Ghana is completed, will the Chiefs and people of Atwereboanda and Pumpuni traditional areas, of the Ahanta West District in the Western Region, not be much much better off, financially, if their land had secured them a 10 percent stake in the business situated on their communal land?

The colonial days are long gone. Surely, we must end such exploitative developmental models - which deny ordinary grassroots people a place at the high table, so to speak?

Finally, as a people, let us always take advantage of such business opportunities to expand the numbers of the comfortably well-off in Ghana, nationwide.

If that is done, instead of such nauseating news items, in which our ruling elites unwittingly patronise ordinary people in that condescending manner the BOST executives unconsciously did, in that www.ghanaweb.com culled Daily Graphic news report above, we would rather have the happy situation in which our country follows a developmental model, which is full of win-win outcomes that will put us on a path towards the creation of an African equivalent of an egalitarian Scandinavian society.

For a better Ghana, we ought to encourage all investors in our economy, both local and foreign, to form mutually beneficial win-win relationships, particularly with grassroots people, in both rural, as well as the poorer parts of urban Ghana. A word to the wise...

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