Business in Ghana

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Reverse Gear. Critical News, 17th November 2013

Posted by Business in Ghana on November 17, 2013

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

If ever there is a clear visible indicator of economic downturn in Ghana, it is on the streets of Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and Koforidua.

Accra, Saturday morning, driving from McCarthy Hill to Kaneshie, a trip that takes at least an hour, I was at the Obetsebi-Lamptey roundabout and on to the Graphic Road overpass in twenty-three minutes flat.  The usual hawkers selling neatly nestled “puna yam” propped in stiff arms, practicing balancing principles fashioned by poverty un-wants, were all sitting by the wayside, the fast-moving traffic making their morning trade temperate and disappointing.

I was heading for Osu Oxford Street, needed to get something interesting but useless for a visiting friend.  You know, the cloth bands with Ghana emblazoned, or a cheap mask, poorly finished and black polished, maybe a bangle of cheap brass, like that.

So I nearly go through Oxford Street without realizing it.  There is no traffic on the road, it is about eleven O’clock and I am elated, then suddenly my money and economic nose kicks in and I wonder why so light?  Now I am talking to all the vendors, trying to understand what it is.  Kwaku Seth, trying to sell me some cheap woven stuff for two cedis, gets fed up and abandons me after I ask more questions than make a purchase, Affum Essien (he took his last name from you know who) pumping me to buy a belt I do not need and Binka from Burkina Faso, in a wheel chair, hawking cheaply finished brass products, using his handicap for emotive selling.  Then the crown jewel of my morning popped up.

Deede Nye, a wizened forty something, I guessed, tried to sell me Pawpaw and Pineapple from a headpan.  She was so persistent and pleading I bought enough for a week.  In exchange I traded fifteen cedis for a wealth of political and economic opinion.

Her scathing analysis went on for as long as I was buying.  The economy is down by at least two-thirds, Ghanaians are not interested and even foreign investors are now too stingy with traders.  Her age is telling on her, she can’t see a future and her children who used to carry extra pans because it used to boom a while back, are all at home, waiting for a call if things look up.  Today both girls and the last boy at home unemployed and unproductive, she offered up her choice words in Ga, not printable and not enough onomatopoeic English to do the proper translation.

I will leave her political testimony unsaid today, because the NDC serial responders are on to me and I get so many poor grammar insults, it is beginning to get to me.  But it was not good for Government.

Things are slow, most commitments to build and invest were made three maybe four years back and so we see the new Shoprite Mall with its three hundred underground car park improving the landscape of the misnomer-named street of Accra.  Everyone complained to me about business activity, it seems only Government sees the signs of recovery.

Last week, all media was agog with Vicky Hammah and we rolled on with her itinerary through the weekend and days.  Dramatically, Government channels leaked a report that she will be investigated by the Financial Intelligence Center for various issues.

President Mahama also announced that henceforth he is tough on corruption.  Follow the link for his meeting with his anti-corruption agencies.  We have dawned a new day in Ghana, we have suddenly seen the canker of corruption all around us and now we are going to look at it very critically.  But after all the direction he omitted to instruct any of his institutions to take another look at the Election Petition decision despite Vicky’s leaked conversation.  Mostly, the issues to be looked into are all the recent ones on GYEEDA, ISOFOTON, SUBAH and hope from the Sole Commissioner’s report.  But in the beginning in Ghana, there was corruption and I remember others such as Agbesi Woyome’s incomplete report from EOCO, Mabey and Johnson’s case involving some interesting people at the Ghana Gas Company, and many more before these new ones.

Is this the way we will do this?  That the President will instruct and we then have a corruption investigation?  In that case we will never investigate the JOSPONG Group despite very credible rumors that the Group has either concluded or is in the middle of finalizing negotiations to purchase struggling Telecom mobile company Expresso.  And all over Accra, symbols of sudden JOSPONG wealth are visible in many forms; recently we saw how the Subah Infosystem contract stank to high heaven.  If ever there was a good case to look at financial intelligence activities without Government prompting, it should be the JOSPONG and RLG Communications companies.  And of course, LESDEP and many other divestiture contracts, and all the social protection programs under various offices of the President.

One of the instructions that freaked me out is where any sole sourced project must first be brought to the (seat of corruption) President’s office, before being sent to the Procurement Authority.  That move itself is a clear violation of Procurement Law Act 663 and I wait to see Parliament sit up and call JDM to order.  President Mahama should not gloss over the fact that his office overran its budget by over ghc600million and we have no explanation of how that happened in the run up to election 2012.  We still have no clue where all the cash went, that created a budget deficit of ghc8.65 billion, because it had very little to do with single spine.

Vicky Hammah’s harmless desire to make $1million so she can be a power broker is a desire any of us might say to a colleague in the back seat of a car.  I am sure I have expressed many such desires in private conversation in my youth.

Her slack comments regarding the Election Petition, I think are the bigger reason why Government has created this diversion to keep her off kilter.

You see, the Financial Intelligence Center (FIC) does not initiate any investigation, since it is not an investigative arm of state.  Here is a verbatim lift of their functions from their website.

To achieve its objectives, the Financial Intelligence Centre shall receive, process, analyse, interpret and disseminate information disclosed to or obtained by it in terms of Act 749.  The Centre is mandated to retain intelligence information in the manner and for the period required under the Act. By this function, the Centre becomes a repository of information concerning financial transactions.

In view of its peculiar privileged access to information, it is the function of the Centre to inform, advise and co-operate with investigating authorities, supervisory bodies, the revenue agencies, the intelligence agencies and foreign counterparts for an efficient and effective corporate efforts at combating the scourge of money laundering and financing of terrorism.

The Centre also monitors and gives guidance to accountable institutions, supervisory bodies and other persons on the discharge of their duties and in compliance with the Anti Money Laundering Act”.

Any action requesting information on any person or body in this country is made by an investigation arm of Government.  FIC’s job is to obtain the information to aid EOCO, GRA, NSA etc.  The authority for FIC is part of the Anti Money Laundering law, Act 749 (4).

And it is this type of attempt by Government, creating the impression that Institutions are being left alone to work, lying about purpose and bending the truth that makes us corrupt.  Knowing very well that Vicky …….. ah, wait a minute.  Does Government know something we don’t?  In which case, Vicky better start looking for a lawyer.  And I advise her to start preparing her chorus.  If it comes to that Vicky; sing my girl, sing.  Your political carrier is virtually over, but you can stake a claim in history and go down in a blaze.  Such is the stuff that defines a persona.  I hear you are Buddhist and not Christian?  Then why the search for cash?  My apologies for mis-labeling you last week.

So we passed a VAT increase of 2.5% to burden the people more, make lives more miserable; reverse democratic gains and “aluta” the legislation through Parliament.  As predicted after the election, the dangers of a powerful President with a majority in Parliament and Parliamentarians with no spine for anti-partisan vote in important issues such as making Ghana more expensive.  The Minority parliament did all possible and walked out for small political gain, but disingenuous arguments from the House majority about procedure did nothing for increased cost of ghc745million at the expense of pauper citizens.

We have now gone past the point of developing socialist rhetoric; we are reversing the decency and civil bedrock that make country-folk proud to belong.  I am not sure if Joe and Abena Ghana understood what went down in Parliament last Friday, but it did not bode well for democracy.  A bitter route to hardship caused by this Government with wanton desire to shore the deficit in its “cash to foot soldier pocket” victory in 2012.

The budget will be out on the 19th.  In the days when I was a non-beer-drinking lad, the focus was always on whether Government would tax beer and tobacco again this year.  So we will beat the Pharaohs again on Tuesday, no matter what is in the budget, we will be in Brasil 2014. Oh! Someone jailed Yvonne Nelson.  In her new movie, “The Refugee”.  It should be a good see.

Ghana, Aha a ye de papa.  Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!

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