Accra, Dec. 14, GNA - The National Democratic Congress (NDC) minority in Parliament walked out as the House approved a 30 million-dollar loan from the Export-Import Bank of India for the construction a presidential complex at the Flagstaff House. The issue of whether to approve the loan took centre stage during a marathon debate in Parliament.
The four-hour long debate on the loan started when Mrs Grace Coleman, Chairman of the Committee on Finance, moved a motion that the House adopted a report on the credit agreement between Ghana and the Export-Import Bank of India for an amount of 60 million dollars for the financing of rural electrification and construction of the office for the President at the Flag Staff House.
Under the 60-milllion dollar loan agreement, 30 million dollars is to be used for the electrification project while 30 million dollars go to the financing of the construction of the office and residential accommodation for the President. The Minority argued that using 30 million dollars for the purposes of providing the President with an office and residential accommodation was a display of insensitivity and a misplacement of priorities because the country was at the moment grappling with poverty. The Minority said they were in agreement with the need to extend electricity to the rural areas and, therefore, there was nothing wrong with the 30 million for rural electrification. They, however, rejected the other 30 million dollars for the Presidential complex.
The Finance Committee's report on the 60-million loan facility states that there was consensus that 30 million dollars be used for the electrification project but there was disagreement over the use of the other 30 million dollars for the complex and said this should be used instead for the provision of social services. Mr Moses Asaga, Member for Nabdam, said, the Government needed to go back and to re-negotiate for the 30 million dollars to be used for the establishment of a communication information and technology company in the country or use it for the modernisation of agriculture.
Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, NDC-Lawra-Nandom, in his contributions said it was ironical that the House had just approved a national budget that focused on poverty alleviation and yet the Government was now talking about sinking about 30 million dollars into a project that was not going to bring about poverty reduction. He questioned the moral integrity of Members of the House should they go ahead to approve the loan saying "the conscience of this House is going to be at stake if we approve this loan facility".
Mr Edward Doe-Adjaho, questioned various documents presented to the House, which did not clearly state the purpose of the 30 million dollars, saying one document said the loan was for only the provision of an office for the President while another stated that residential accommodation was to be part of the office accommodation. Mr Alban Bagbin, the Minority Leader, who summed up the Minority's position said: "This is not a loan that we should approve of....I vehemently oppose this motion."
According to him, Ghana's GDP for a whole year was eight billion dollars in 2004. He said the country was also grappling with other weak indices, poverty and other endemic conditions such as guinea worm, it was, therefore, inconceivable that about 270 billion cedis should be sank into an office and accommodation facility for the Presidency. He asked for a "value for money" audit on the 30 million-dollar loan facility to enable the House to determine how that amount was arrived at for the construction of the accommodation.
The Minority Leader said it was wrong for the Committee's report on the loan facility to be equated to the provision of the accommodation for the Presidency to the promotion of good governance. Prof Michael Ocquaye, Minister of Energy, in his contributions said the loan was a "most gracious loan" and went to support the fact that it was good for a country to show appreciation for the provision of a decent accommodation for its President.
Mr Maxwell Kofi, NPP-Asokwa, said it was wrong for people to trivialise the provision of a monument for the Presidency. Mr Kwadwo Mpiani, Minister of Presidential Affairs, said other countries such as Britain had monuments such as Buckingham Palace to boast of and although poverty was common in the country there was nothing wrong in sinking some resources into providing the President with accommodation. The 60-million loan agreement has an interest rate of 1.75 per cent per annum, and a repayment period of 20 years.