Executive Director of the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), Prof H. Kwasi Prempeh, has cautioned against the possibility of creating the Ghanaian version of ‘Russian oligarchs’ during the privatisation of national assets.
The ‘Russian oligarchs’ are business oligarchs of the former Soviet republics who rapidly accumulated wealth during the era of Russian privatisation in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.
The respected legal practitioner did not point to a specific case in the brief comment on his Facebook page but states that “using public power to enable or facilitate the transfer of public wealth into a few private hands is not ‘nationalistic’ or ‘patriotic’ merely because the chosen beneficiaries are fellow nationals. Our long experience of this kind of venality should be lesson enough.”
He adds that the role of the government and public officials involved in privatisation should be fiduciary and must always be in the national interest.
Read his full Facebook post below.
Let’s not fool ourselves or be fooled–over and over again! The national interest is not served when cronyism and self-dealing are packaged and presented for popular consumption as economic nationalism. Using public power to enable or facilitate the transfer of public wealth into a few private hands is not “nationalistic” or “patriotic” merely because the chosen beneficiaries are fellow nationals. Our long experience of this kind of venality should be lesson enough.
For it to serve the national interest and also pass the smell test, “local ownership” rules reserving a stated percentage of equity in privatisation or private-public deals to nationals must proceed, at the minimum, on the basis of:
(1) a clearly written policy and legislative framework, not by means of ad hoc, selective discretion;
(2) equal opportunity for all eligible, interested, and capable nationals to acquire the offered interests;
(3) a credible, transparent, competitive process, free of conflicts of interests, for determining the terms of the deal and for selecting the winners, not some shadowy, opaque, backroom wheeling and dealing;
(4) prompt payment for the full value of the equity participation acquired; and
(5) full disclosure of the beneficial owners of the interests acquired.
The role of Government and public officials involved in such transactions is that of a fiduciary, with a non-waivable duty to act solely in the best interest of the Republic and people of Ghana, and not to further the private interest of any third party, individual, group, or corporate, involved or interested in the transaction. Ideally, citizens should have a statutory right to challenge and enforce the exercise of the government’s fiduciary duty through court action.
Surely, let us encourage local private investment, ownership and participation in strategic sectors of our economy. But we must not do so at any cost. Both the process (how we do it) and the outcomes (for whose benefit we do it) matter. Whatever is worth doing is worth doing right. We cannot afford and must not countenance the creation of a Ghanaian version of “Russian oligarchs” in this town.