Kpone (GTA/R), Aug. 24, GNA - Mr Joseph Nii Laryea Afotey-Agbo, Member of Parliament (MP) for Kpone-Katamanso, has made a passionate appeal to the government to release the rest of the loan on the CALF Cocoa Processing Project at Kpone, to enable the project to take off. Making the appeal at a Press Conference at the project site on Tuesday, Mr Afotey-Agbo pointed out that the early disbursement of the money would help prevent further deterioration of the plant and equipment. The MP, who could not give the amount involved, was of the view that the more government delayed to release the money, the more it would make the Golden Age of Business and the private sector as the engine of growth mere empty slogans.
He said the youth in his constituency and the surrounding areas were anxious of the job opportunities that the project would offer. Mr Afotey-Agbo said so far, the government has released an amount of 8.5 million dollars on the project, but the disbursement of the last instalment had been long overdue.
He accused the Ministry of Finance of frustrating the further disbursement of the loan, and pointed out that in the event of any further delay, the nation would be the end loser. The MP recounted the history behind the project, and said it was the brain child of a visit by former president Rawlings and his wife to China in 1993.
He said during that time, a group of Chinese businessmen showed interest in investing in Ghana, and as a result, CARIDEM Development Company Limited prepared a feasibility report on processing cocoa into various cocoa products.
Mr Afotey-Agbo explained that the study became necessary because in the 1990s, cocoa, the nation's leading international commodity was losing its market share on the world market.
He noted that the directors of CARIDEM, therefore, believed that, if they could break into the Chinese market, cocoa would be able to gain value again, considering the large size of the Chinese market. The MP said the report was therefore, submitted to the Chinese Exim Bank, which studied it and finally approved the finance of the cocoa project together with five other different projects that they had received from other Ghanaian businessmen.
He said the directors of China International Co-operation for Agriculture Livestock and Fishery entered into a joint ventureship with CARIDEM, resulting in the registration in Accra of a local company called CALF Company Limited.
Mr Afotey-Agbo, who was flanked by the former first lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, Mrs Cecilia Johnson, General Secretary of the 31st December Women's Movement, Mr Doe Adjaho, Deputy Minority Leader, and the MPs for Dadekotopon, Ashaiman and Domeabra-Obom indicated that, having satisfied the conditions in respect of accessing the loan, CALF started constructing the factory in 1996, which was envisaged to commence production in 2001.
During an open forum, Mrs Johnson, in answer to a question, said even though frantic efforts had been made to enter into discussions with officials of the Ministry of Finance concerning the release of the final instalment of the loan, all had come to nought, since the Ministry had been dragging its feet to disburse the money.
She wondered why so much investment could be made in such a laudable project, and its take-off was being unduly delayed.
The former first lady commended the initiators of the project for their vision and foresight, and hoped government would consider the giant market the project would be expected to enter, and disburse the rest of the money without any further delay, so that it could take off. Asked about how she felt about the project, Nana Konadu remarked "I am disillusioned, because it is a shame that people in high positions cannot see beyond their noses, because of politics."
All the MPs present expressed similar sentiments about the project, and promised to use Parliament to deal with the issue, if their colleague's appeal to government fell on deaf ears.