THE GOVERNING National Democratic Congress (NDC) yesterday ate the humble pie in Parliament, making a dramatic retreat, as it withdrew the original $3 billion Chinese loan agreement from the House, based on serious concerns raised by the Minority regarding some portions of the deal.
Just as journalists waited patiently at the press gallery for a showdown between the Minority NPP and Majority NDC on the credit facility, Majority Leader Cletus Avoka announced that government was withdrawing the original Master Facility Agreement to address the concerns of the Minority.
The governing NDC was contracting the loan facility from the China Development Bank (CDB) to finance infrastructural development projects in the country under the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA).
Government, Mr. Avoka indicated, wanted the loan to be approved by consensus and that he was convinced the new agreement had taken on board the concerns of the Minority and the entire House.
He pleaded with the First Deputy Speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho and the House to allow the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, to withdraw the original document and replace it with the new one.
In this direction, James Avedzi Klutse, Chairman of the Finance Committee, also withdrew the report of the Joint Committee on the agreement and the amended master agreement was laid.
It was referred to the Joint Committee by the First Deputy Speaker for consideration, after which he suspended sitting to allow the committee to present its report to the House.
Sitting resumed at about 2:30 pm only for more disagreements to ensue.
While the Majority NDC members insisted on taking the debate yesterday, the Minority group dissented, emphasising it would be unfair to commence any debate when some members were not privy to the full facts on the issue.
Minority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu argued that it was improper for members to take a debate on the report of the Joint Committee or the motion when they had not properly scrutinised the amended agreement.
He pleaded with the First Deputy Speaker to give more time for members to get copies of the new agreement and read through before any debate could be taken.
'The new report is based on the amended master agreement, members cannot debate on the report without seeing the amended agreement,' Minority Leader, also the MP for Suame in the Ashanti Region, insisted.
Adding his voice, Deputy Minority Leader, Ambrose Dery argued, 'We want to do a diligent job on the loan agreement as a House and how can we debate on it without seeing the amended master agreement?'
But Majority Leader Cletus Avoka contended the new report was virtually the same as the old one, as only a paragraph was taken out of the previous one and therefore members could comfortably carry on with the debate.
The issue generated fierce tension as members from both sides of the House shouted at the top of their voices, creating chaos.
First Deputy Speaker Doe Adjaho had a hectic time controlling flared tempers, with NPP members shouting 'STX part 2', probably suggesting the $3 billion Chinese loan might face serious challenges like the STX Korea housing agreement did.
Eventually, Mr. Adjaho deferred the debate on the agreement until today after James Avedzi Klutse, Chairman of the Finance Committee, had moved the motion on it, virtually agreeing with the sentiments expressed by the Minority.
A critical look at the new report presented by the Joint Committee indicated that only one paragraph of one of the concerns raised by the Minority was taken out of the previous one.
The issue of existence of gaps in the Agreement raised by the Minority, such as gaps marked in the Agreements as 'to be agreed' or 'to be inserted' as in the clauses 15.1.1; 18.6.2(H) and 19.17 was the only one deleted from the previous report of the committee.
Deputy Majority Leader Rashid Pelpuo had told Radio Gold the Majority members of Parliament had to get 'additional information' so that when the debate commenced on the floor, they would be able to enrich its quality and convince all why the agreement ought to be approved.
But the Minority believed the 'U-turn' by government was a vindication of their long-held position.
Its Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu told Joy FM that the 'propagandists', whom he described as 'attack dogs' that had been unleashed on the Minority, had been put to shame.
He said the Minority came under needless attacks from defenders of the facility, most of whom, he said, were ignorant about the issues inherent in the agreement.
He said they were convinced that the truth would finally come out.
By Awudu Mahama