Saturday, 20 June 2015

They Can Ignore All One's Ideas - But President Mahama's Regime Must Ensure That All Cocoa Area Roads Are Climate-Change-Proofed

For any patriot and nationalist, who cares about the enterprise Ghana, nothing can be more frustrating than offering sound advice freely to those in power - who ignore it: simply because those whose job it is to bring such ideas to the attention of the government of the day, are incompetent and clueless square-pegs-in-round-holes.

(Where in the world but Ghana, can geniuses like the Stan Dogbes, control access to the nation's President, I ask? And, who knows, were he to become president, perhaps Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo too will also bring his own geniuses in tow - in the shape of the garrullous Sammy Awukus and the narcissistic Asare Otchere-Darkos, who think they are God's gift to our nation. Hmm, Ghana - eyeasem o. But I digress.)

Whenever such free nation-building advice is ignored, an opportunity to move Ghana forward, is then lost. Unfortunately, it appears that if the personal interests of the powerful aren't served by an idea, no matter how innovative that idea might be, it will simply not get any traction in Ghana.

Perhaps that is why so many daft ideas that are not beneficial to our nation in the long-term - described by an old acquintance of mine as "Alice-in-wonderland fantasies" - are championed by some of those in power.

Examples include the US$40 billion project to build a bullet train railway line from Accra to Kumasi, and the proposed project to build a light rail line to the Accra international airport.  Critics say they are nothing more than sleight-of-hand schemes by a well-connected and greedy few to grab valuable land in Accra and Kumasi for development.

Sadly, what happens, whiles we waste precious time and valuable resources on such pipe dreams, is that other more serious nations in the West African sub-region, in the meantime busy themselves with implementing vital infrastructural projects. Yet we boast of being the gateway to West Africa.

And we are saddling future generations with debt needlessly - whiles allowing ruthless destination inspection companies with good political connections, for example, to siphon off billions of dollars in precious taxes: doing work that can and should be done by the Customs, Excise and Preventative Service of the Ghana Revenue Authority. Mad.

As we speak, for instance, the French logistics company, Bollore, is financing a railway line from Parakou (which already has a rail line to Cotonou that will be rehabilitated) to Niamey, for €1.07 billion, mostly from its own resources.

The railway line will be extended from Niamey  to Ouagadougou. Bollore will own 40 percent of the rail operator, BENI Rail, whiles Benin and Niger own 10 percent each. The rest of the 40 percent shares will be sold to private investors.

Our ruling elites must stop sole-sourcing important projects. Why do they not ask for proposals from around the world, for a modern drainage system for Accra, for example - instead of giving it out to Conti of the US on a silver platter so to speak?

If they invite proposals from around the world for large infrastructure projects, they will get deals as good as Bollore's BENI Rail project.

After all, there are many good and reputable infrastructure companies capable of executing the Accra drainage project for far less than the US$600 million it will apparently cost. Spain is a leader in the field of delivering large infrastructural projects, incidentally.

Alas, a few ideas of mine too, have been ignored over the years. They include an idea, which if adopted, will ensure that never again will our country be held to ransom  by so-called "bulk oil distribution companies" (BDC).

Some of them are dodgy entities which import substandard petrol and diesel from the Trafiguras of this world - which defend themselves by saying they produce petrol and diesel that meet the quality standards set for the Ghanaian  market for sale here.

Many BDC's use creative accounting to enable them rip-off our nation - in the mother of all create-loot-and-share scams labelled "under-recovery" and "forex losses". Hmm, Ghana - asem ebeba debi ankasa.

On Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, I wrote and posted an article entitled: "Why Not Merge TOR, GNPC & GOIL?", on this blog.

In that article, I outlined how, by merging the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and Ghana Oil Company Limited (GOIL), and transferring the assets of that state-owned  financial basket-case, known as the Bulk Oil Storage and Distribution Company (BOST), to the newly-merged entity, we could create an energy industry behemoth in West Africa.

The new entity could earn our country substantial sums of hard currency annually in the process - selling millions of dollars worth of finished petroleum products in GOIL petrol filling stations across West Africa. That will help improve our balance of trade -  and strengthen our currency, will it not?

I am glad that finally, someone far more important than little old me, the Hon. Cletus Avoka, has now come round to the same view - and thinks that upstream and downstream state-owned entities ought to be merged. (Incidentally, I do hope the Hon. Avoka accepts my condolences on the tragic death of his son Maxwell. May his soul rest in peace.)

Hopefully, wearing his hat as chairperson of Parliament's Select Committee on Mines and Energy, the Hon. Avoka will point out the advantages of such a merger of state-owned upstream and downstream petroleum sector entities to President Mahama's administration.

However, his suggestion that the merged entity should also be allowed to regulate the oil and gas industry, is asking for trouble.

If such a regulator will never replicate the technical services agreement covering Iraq's Rumaila oilfield in Ghana - and get international oil companies to foot the bill for exploration and production activities off Ghana's shores, and be paid not with loaned money, but with barrels of oil at a discount - what hope is there that it will regulate the oil and gas industry in the national interest, ever?

Knowing how greedy so many members of our ruling elites are, as a regulator, will the merged entity not probably end up colluding with companies with cultures that permit them to put making money at the expense of their fellow humans, and therefore don't care if they rip-off Ghana through transfer pricing, to siphon off oil and gas revenues due Ghana?

If, as regulator, the merged entity opted for technical services agreements such as that governing Iraq's Rumaila oilfield,  with international oil companies, there would be absolutely no need, ever, for the GNPC to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars "for exploration"- not if those who run it were guided solely by national interest considerations.

Finally, speaking as someone whose family grows cocoa in Ghana's Eastern Region (and has done since 1921 from the days of the British occupation of our country), my prayer is that the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board will talk to the Indian conglomerate, Tata, and ask it to train all the road contractors selected for the cocoa roads programme, to use the simple technology of melting plastic waste and mixing it with bitumen to construct plastic roads.

Plastic roads bear much heavier loads than normal roads, last much much longer than ordinary roads, remain pothole-free throughout their lifespan, and, because plastic is impermeable to water, plastic roads aren't washed away by flash floods.

In short, Ghana will be climate-change-proofing the new cocoa roads, at virtually no extra cost - and they will last for yonks into the bargain too. Well, they can ignore all one's ideas, but this is the one idea that one hopes that President Mahama's administration will adopt this year: climate-change-proof all the new cocoa roads by using the simple technology of mixing melted plastic waste with bitumen to construct plastic roads.

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