The National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party has raised concerns that the Mills-Mahama administration risks sending Ghana back into the position of a Highly lndebted Poor Country (HIPC) if it returns to the pre-2001 habit of reckless and unsustainable borrowing.
Mr Jake Otanka Obestebi-Lamptey, in an exclusive interview with The New Crusading Guide, said Ghanaians have every reason to be worried about the haste with which the National Democratic Congress is piling up the national debt because of their ‘reckless’ history.
“Also, because the NDC has so far, under President John Mills and Vice President John Mahama, not been able to convince Ghanaians of their competence, especially, when it comes to negotiating mega deals, like we saw with the notorious $10 billion STX deal.”
He stressed, “We cannot allow them to play gutter-to-gutter with our economy today and our children’s future.”
To buttress his point, the NPP Chairman reminded Ghanaians, “In 2000, when virtually the same team, including John Mahama, Kwabena Duffuor, Amissah Arthur and others were in charge of Ghana’s economy under the direct leadership of Prof John Atta Mills, Ghana’s external debt was $6.1 billion of a very small economy of$3.9 billion.
Our total external debt was more than twice the size of the economy – 158% of GDP.”
He added, “Already, President Mills is taking Ghana’s external debt to some 140% of GDP, again like in 2000, more than twice the size of Ghana’s economy. What then is the guarantee that this is simply not a reverse drive to the bad old days of borrow-and-spend-recklessly?”
He has expressed, the fear that the Mills-Mahama administration appears to be “spending more than the oil money before we even get a dollar from it,” and that the Government “must come clean and be honest and transparent with Ghanaians about the details of this sudden loan rush, every dollar, every cent,” he insisted.
Mr Obestebi-Lamptey puts the total amount of loans that the National Democratic Congress has committed Ghana to since taking office less than 21 months ago to $28 billion!
This includes the 16 worth of agreements that President Mills is reported to have signed during his official trip to China last week and the $10 billion joint venture agreement between Government and STX that Parliament hurriedly approved in the late hours of August 3, which, he said, has effectively committed Ghana to the 200,000 housing project with the Korean company at $10 billion.
GREDA’s proposal suggests Ghanaian contractors, given the opportunity, can build 300,000 homes with amenities and infrastructure for less.
Mr Jake Otanka Obestebi-Lamptey is, therefore, calling “for full disclosure of the details of every single one of the $16 billion deals that our President has committed Ghanaians to in China as soon as he returns. Ghanaians need to know now to make a value judgment on it before the Majority is ordered to railroad it through the approval process as we saw in August.”
But, the NPP Chairman had, also, some kind words for Prof John Evans Atta Mills. “We are pleased that the President is getting out there a bit more for Ghana. We are all pleasantly surprised by the announcement that came out that he has been able to attract deals in excess of billions of dollars from China.”
He saved some praises for the Chinese government, too. “The Chinese have shown by this that their commitment to Ghana, which we saw in several major infrastructural projects under President J A Kufuor, remains solid and we are grateful for that.” Yet, he insisted that should not stop Ghanaians from ensuring that our national interest is protected promoted.
He maintained that the Mills-Mahama administration “has expressed a shocking level of gross incompetence that we cannot but greet this news with a strong dose of caution.”
The NPP Chairman said, “It would seem that in less than two years Prof Mills and his government have committed Ghana to some $28 billion of debt. We can assume the commitment because as was in the case of the STX housing project, they ignored all the major legitimate concerns raised by the Minority and civil society groups and used their slender majority to pass it.”
Continuing, he said, “That it took the House one hour to study and approve a record $10 billion deal was a strong message to Ghanaians that the NDC would arrogantly have its way when it wants even if it is glaringly against the interest of Ghana.”
But, speaking at his Cantonments residence Sunday, the NPP Chairman said, the NPP does not in principle oppose borrowing responsibly for growth.
“As politicians who believe in economic growth and creating wealth for every individual Ghanaian, we are certainly not afraid of debt. No country grows and no business grows significantly without raising additional capital – either from equity or debt. But, it must be done in a way that is productive not in way that would collapse the economy or business,” he stated.
“I really do feel that we must raise our concern now and strongly about the sustainability of managing the debt that we have been told about,” he said.
“While we continue to applaud the Chinese government for being willing to take on the big ticket demand of African states, including major infrastructural projects of African states, including Ghana, we will still demand that all details – we mean all the details – and not in the manner in which it was handled in the notorious STX deal be made available to the Parliamentarians, civil society groups, the media and, indeed, all citizen.” of this country.”
He ended with a short lord of advice: “When you borrow money you must make sure that you can productively pay it back.”
Source: The New Crusading Guide
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