The Mission's attention has been drawn to an item by a faceless so-called Ghana Homepage correspondent in London, on the Millennium Challenge Account, which appeared on the Ghana Web of Tuesday, 18th April, 2006.
That correspondent appears to be an apprentice in yellow journalism.
Unfortunately, for this apprentice, in choosing to use the Millennium Challenge Account, as a subject for his purposes, he failed miserably. What is pure, true and noble, cannot be distorted or scandalized.
His selection of the MCA, one of the monumental successes of the Kufuor Administration, only reminds the informed of the following Shakespearean quotation “Oh judgment, reason has gone to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason.”
As an Embassy deeply involved with the planning and coordination of His Excellency the President's recent visit to Washington, we are in a position to take this opportunity offered by the said faceless Ghana Homepage correspondent's Goebbles' lies to set the records straight, by informing the public and offering some insights and perspectives on the visit for the benefit of all who might be taken in by the article under reference.
First of all, with all the good and positive news surrounding Ghana's Compact process, President Kufuor and his government cannot be in a “panic mode.”
If anything their sentiments are those of hope, optimism, exuberance and pride. Right from the selection process involving over sixty countries, Ghana has on three successive occasions been selected as eligible for the MCA.
In conveying Ghana's selection for the third time, the current Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the organization which manages the Account, stated the following, “......in re-selecting Ghana as eligible for the MCA, MCC recognized Ghana's continued commitment to strengthen good governance, to promote the improved health and education of her people and to adopt sound economic policies that encouraged entrepreneurship and stimulate economic growth.”
Ghana, therefore and indeed all well meaning Ghanaians should be proud of the current political and economic dispensation ushered in by the Kufuor administration which has enabled the Kufuor administration to stand out as one that rules justly, invests in its people and empowers its private sector with a consequential impact on poverty alleviation and reduction.
Furthermore, the selection of Ghana as eligible for the MCA satisfied a number of criteria among which are the following: The Rule of Law; Fighting corruption; Voice and Accountability; and Promoting economic freedom. Ghana formally presented its Compact on November 14th 2005, a Compact which MCC officials themselves have described as ambitious and complex.
It is a matter of pride and satisfaction that despite the complex nature of Ghana's proposal, with all its multiple moving components, the MCA Ghana team has been able to defend and convince the MCC officials that our proposal is well integrated and transformational. It has the potential of lifting an estimated 3 million people out of poverty.
It targets three regions, namely, the Southern Region, the Afram Plains and the Northern Region, where, apart from the poverty level or rate which ranges between 70 - 90 percent, have certain assets that fit into the concept of Ghana's proposal.
Ghana's proposal whose focus is Private sector led Agri-business, seeks to open-up the Afram plains which has always had the potential to be the bread basket of Ghana with infrastructural developments such as farm lands for staple food; construction of roads and feeder roads; irrigation schemes, social amenities such as schools, clinics etc.
In the Southern and Northern regions, the infrastructure to be put in place in addition to the foregoing, targets the cultivation and expansion of high value crops such as Sorghum, Organic mangoes, Avocado, Melon, Lime and Exotic vegetables. Again there will be the construction of refrigerated pack houses and units in strategic places to limit post harvest losses and increase the shelf life of processed food items and horticultural products for export. The beauty of this ambitious and complex program are the linkages that will be put in place from the farms to the ports. This is exemplified by the proposed construction of a six lane interchange between Tetteh Quarshie and Mallam which has hitherto proved to be a bottleneck for the expeditious transportation of products to the ports.
Having said that, it must be noted that there are various stages in a Compact development and Implementation process. These include:
(i) Proposal Development and Assessment;
(ii) Due Diligence;
(iii) Compact Negotiation
(iv) MCC Board Approval and
(v) Compact Signing and Implementation.
It is a process involving not only the justification of the program logic but also the economic implications and expected measurable outcomes. The Embassy in this connection is very pleased to state that the Ghana MCA team ably led by Hon. Paa Kwesi Nduom, Minister for Private Sector Reform, has been able to put together most of the required information, baseline data and feasibility studies even though some more work remains to be done especially in the road and social infrastructure components.
The MCA Ghana team and the MCC team have been holding continuous meetings on a daily basis with monthly review meetings alternating between Accra and Washington. Through the partnership between the MCA team and the MCC team, a road-map has been drawn-up with detailed milestones to be reached in accordance with specific timelines. This has been depicted in a chart, a copy of which hangs in the office of the Secretary to the President, clearly indicating that if all goes to plan, as was confirmed during the President's visit to Washington, Ghana's Compact will be signed on the 28th of July, 2006.
President Kufour, therefore, by no stretch of imagination or speculation, could have had the impression that he was going to sign the Compact during his recent visit. Indeed, the discussions with the MCC officials culminating in the unprecedented hour long meeting between President Bush and President Kufuor, only reassured the President and the good people of Ghana that our country's efforts are on course towards signing a Compact with the MCC.
It must be added that, the total envelope for Ghana's Compact will be the largest so far. The largest of the Compacts signed has been Benin's, totaling $307 million. The total outlay for Ghana is expected to be in the region of half a billion dollars.
At no point in President Kufuor's discussion with his U.S. counterpart was his handling of Ghana's political economy questioned. The Ghanaian President was not “advised” on some measures to be taken in order for the funds to be released nor was there an indication that the Kufuor administration had failed a so called “litmus test” in bringing honesty to government and creating a stable economic platform, as the Ghana Homepage correspondent would have the world believe.
If anything, the author and the other readers who might be gullible need to refresh their memories with the following statement made by the U.S. President after the conclusion of the discussions: “...We just had a wonderful discussion about our bilateral relations and great discussions about the world. I really enjoy talking to a man of vision and strength and character. President Kufuor has done a fantastic job for Ghana.
He's told the people of his country he'd bring honesty to government, and he has. He told the people of his country that he would create a stable economic platform and he has done that as well. And he is a man of peace. He cares deeply about peace in the region. As a result of his leadership and our confidence in his government, we're very happy to work with his country to promote what we've called the Millennium Challenge Account.
It's a statement of our respect and it's a statement of our appreciation for somebody who is willing to invest in his people, is willing to fight corruption, who is willing to help a market economy grow ”.
Finally, the President's visit to Washington, even though not a State Visit, was a Working Visit, both of which are official, as opposed to a private visit. But we hasten to clarify that this was an Official Visit with a difference, for the following reasons:
(i) The invitation came from the U.S. President.
(ii) The duration of the discussions between the two Presidents, lasted one hour. It is not common for the most powerful President on the planet to have this length of time for discussions with a President on a Working Visit.
(iii) The meeting was followed by a Social Lunch hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Bush, in their living quarters of the White House, again a rarity.
(iv) The President and his immediate entourage were accommodated in the official Guest House of the U.S. President namely, the Blair House.
All this makes an eloquent and profound statement about the working chemistry and intimacy between the President of U.S. and the President of Ghana, as well as the special relations currently existing between the U.S. and Ghana.