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01.06.2016 Editorial

Komenda Factory, A White Elephant In The Offing?

By Ghanaian Chronicle
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First the good news! The re-construction of the Komenda Sugar Factory must rank very high on the achievements of this society since the second coming of the National Democratic Congress administration.

We are told that the revived factory will offer 7,300 jobs to hapless Ghanaians on the scrap-heap of unemployment. It must be music in the ears of local sugarcane farmers, who must have had their markets restricted by the collapse of the original factory set up during those heady days when Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was President for Life of the Republic of Ghana.

What is equally refreshing about the revival of the factory is the revelation by President John Dramani Mahama that with the factory in full session, this country stands to gain by a whopping US$200 million a year saving, which would have gone into sugar importation. There is more… With the wheels of the machines at the factory churning sugar cane into refined sugar, and thus providing a ready market, many youth would be tempted to till the land and earn reasonable incomes, instead of migrating to Accra and Tema to look for white collar jobs that are non-existent.

All being equal, the factory would become the fulcrum point to re-generate the almost stagnant life in the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem Municipality. Theoretically, therefore, the revival of the factory is one of the best news to hit this society for a very long time now. One positive outcome of the inauguration of the project is the idea of a South-South Co-operation to develop our emerging societies, instead of always relying on the Western powers for finance.

The project, we are told, is funded with a bilateral credit agreement between the India and Ghana governments. The India government, we are told, provided a US$24 million grant to support the government's effort at revamping the project. We also learn that the revamp industry is 25 percent bigger than the old one, and that the new project has the capacity to crush 1,200 tonnes of sugarcane daily.

Like everything in this society, there is an unsavoury part to the story, which is represented by the age-old problem of this society- the temptation to play politics with every venture. The bad news is that the ruling National Democratic Congress is milking the revival of the factory on the political floor with one eye on the vote.

Yesterday, the ceremony at Komenda had hardly finished, when the party in power hit town with the images of the event going viral on both the electronic and print media. This country has suffered over the years with very expensive projects turning into white elephants, because those who conceived the idea of those projects operated from beclouded ideological spectacles of the political party in power, instead of properly thinking through the projects to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Let it be said that The Chronicle is overly enthused with the revival of the project for the various reasons outlined above. We are particularly happy that the project will provide as many as 7,300 jobs in a very deprived area of this country. All the same, we shudder to think about the future of this enterprise, as a result of the rush to get it going when all the jigsaws are not in place. We learn, for instance, that sugarcane  had to be imported to get the factory opened.

President Mahama gave a hint of the nation's propensity to put the cart before the horse at the opening ceremony. The Head of State announced that the Government of India has approved a credit facility of US$24.5 million for the cultivation of a sugarcane plantation with irrigation facilities for more than 2,000 acres of land to support out-growers. The inference here is that sugar cane farms are not yet in full bloom.

We would like to believe that in normal industrial operations, the tendency is for the source of raw materials to be identified and ready to feed the factory for a considerable length of time, before commissioning.

As it is, we have a factory without the regular supply of the raw material. The Chronicle is not a doomsday soothsayer. But as it is, we are tempted to forecast a very difficult period ahead of the new enterprise; a period when it would be very difficult to get the factory producing at full capacity. When there is no raw material, we dare state, production would almost be impossible.

We are tempted to infer that the originators of the project were minded more about the political mileage to gain in this election year than the need to wait on raw materials. It is not the very best of arrangements, we dare state.

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