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Finance Minister Dodging Intellectual Debate On Agyapa Royalties Deal

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Mr. Benjamin Boakye, the Executive Director for the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP)  has disclosed that, despite President Akufo-Addo’s demand that the Agyapa Royalties deal be withdrawn from Parliament for broader engagement, no such thing was done.

 

 

Executive Director for the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), Benjamin Boakye

Benjamin Boakye, Bright Simons, Vice President at IMANI Ghana and Dr. Steve Manteaw, are of the view that the failure of the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to widen consultations on the offshore transaction by a company registered in the British Virgin Island of Jessey with unknown directors, is unhealthy.

The ACEP boss, stated that what the Finance Ministry has been doing instead, is to organize conferences , where attendees have little to no knowledge about the Agyapa deal and thus are unable to critically examine, and probe the deal as it should.

Desperate attempt to collateralize Ghana’s mineral resources by the Akufo-Addo government, had been shot down by many experts both in and outside the country as senseless.

Locally, the revelations that the deal has at all-times been at the behest of family members of President Akufo-Addo, including Ken Ofori-Atta himself through his private company Databank disguised as Imara Holdings of South and Gabby Asare-Otchere Darko’s Africa Legal Associates, has angered many Ghanaians, who see the transaction as a “state capture”.

The establishment and control of the Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF), has also been at the behest of the family members of the President, who got rid of the former Kumawu Member of Parliament, Yaw Baah and brought in Edward Nana Yaw Koranteng, Chief Executive Officer to push the controversial transaction through.

Interestingly, while at it, some of the companies continue to pay mouthwatering sums into state coffers as dividends.

For instance, in October last year, Newmont Akyem Mine (Golden Ridge Limited) paid GH¢111 million as dividend to the government for its 2021 operations, despite the impact of COVID-19 on the company’s production capacity within the same period.

Receiving the dummy cheque, in Accra, on Tuesday, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, commended the company for paying dividends for government’s carrier interest, despite the operational challenges within the past year.

In November last year, Gold Fields Ghana Limited, also presented dividends totaling GHc159 million to the government for the 2020 and 2021 financial years.

The first cheque for GH146 million, was the interim dividend for the 2021 financial year in relation to the government’s 10 per cent stake in Gold Fields’ Tarkwa Mine, while the second cheque of GHc13 million being the Guaranteed Advance Payment for the 2020 financial year, in respect of Abosso Goldfields Limited, Damang Mine.

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According to Benjamin Boakye, the Finance Ministry, is yet to engage intellectuals and Civil Society Organisations on the deal.

“We saw some semblance of consultation, one in the University of Ghana which was widely publicized and you had students who had no clue what this whole transaction is about, to be able to interrogate what government wants to do. So they had the same people who are sponsoring the transaction present their case and leave the room,” he said.

As a result, he said there has been no significant change to the widely rejected Agyapa deal, adding that the Ministry of Finance has been trying aggressively to evade critical questions raised about the deal.

“Beyond that, we have been tracking some actions, trying to circumvent this whole consultation process through some reengineering of protocols with institutions like GRA, GIPC, to establish bilateral investment treaties with Jersey to circumvent some of the critical concerns that civil societies have had,” he said.

He added that Ken Ofori-Atta, has since taken up a defensive posture and has failed to avail himself to be interrogated about the deal.

“And it was revealing even listening again to the Finance Minister, the questions you asked him about whether he’s willing to do the intellectual engagement on the propriety of the transaction.

“[He] has not been available for us to interrogate what he’s trying to do, except to say in a classical stream of consciousness fashion, that if you’re against the transaction then you may be against the apostle of the land, and not ready to really avail himself for us to interrogate why he wants to give away the most secured stream of revenue in the mining industry into speculative investment as he’s seeking to do,” he said.

“We thought the words of the President were supreme and people were going to abide by that to ensure that the interest of the state really is high above everybody’s interest in trying to understand what we are getting ourselves into and for us to see what better options are available for optimizing the mining industry in general and not just the royalties,” he added.

On his part, the Honorary Vice President at IMANI Ghana, Bright Simons, reiterated his reservations about the controversial deal; stating that it remains ‘unconscionable’ and ‘unpatriotic’.

He made these comments, while contributing to discussions on NewsFile on Saturday, he insisted that the deal would not inure to the benefit of Ghanaians, and therefore the need for it to be completely discarded.

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According to him, the structuring of the deal alone, gives reason for worry; given that it threatens the minimum royalties Ghana derives from its gold and mineral reserves.

“The most important is that, no government should be given the power to deny future governments of revenue in the fashion that is being proposed at the rate that is being proposed.

We’ve seen instances where consistently, the current government takes future streams of income that other governments will use, front loads it, keep that money for today, and forgets about future generations.

Think of all the money from ESLA or the energy levies. Think of the monies from the GETFUND. And consistently, we create these structures, front load the money, spend it, forgetting how we are going to pay for our other debts in a few years forward. We think that is not really acceptable”, he lamented.

He also added that, “there should be a sense in which even if the government wanted to securitise the gold, through a much more cleaner, efficient process than has been proposed, they should not be looking at all the discretionary income that we earn from royalties apart from those that are bound by statute to other purposes.

That money that they want to put in, they should have put it in a smaller fraction of the gold at a much higher valuation”.

The comments by Bright Simons, were in reaction to a recent call by the Finance Minister, for a re-look at the controversial Agyapa Royalties Agreement, instead of abandoning it.

Mr Ofori-Atta, said the deal must be taken through the appropriate process in order to make it work, because it could reduce the country’s debt exposure.

Speaking at a press briefing to announce details of the African Development Bank’s 2022 Annual General Meeting on Thursday, the Finance Minister, explained that the Agyapa deal “is not about whether the monetisation of mineral royalties or listing of the company is bad or good, it is good because that is how you raise resources”.

But Bright Simmons thinks otherwise. In expressing his reservations on NewsFile, he accused the Finance Minister of failing to engage the relevant stakeholders on the deal, after its implementation was stalled.

Making reference to the initial circumstances of the Agyapa deal, Bright Simmons, praised the efforts of the former Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu, for his rigour and vigilance in exposing the gaps in the deal.

“So our argument is, this is a way to take something that belongs to the people of Ghana, and give it to investors and others that are perhaps favoured by this administration. But not necessarily people that if Ghanaians had a say in the matter, they will want to take over those assets”, he added.

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Policy Analyst, Dr Steve Manteaw, speaking on the same programme, believes the government is using the Agyapa deal to avoid scrutiny of its management of the country’s mineral revenues.

According to him, the NPP in 2016, promised to roll out a comprehensive framework for  managing mineral revenues when they gain power.

Dr Manteaw said, however, that, the government has failed to deliver on that promise, adding “what did we get? A myth (Agyapa deal), which actually has built into it a mechanism to short change this country.”

“Now if indeed, the government has nothing to hide, they would have voluntarily engaged the CSOs, following the President’s directive and they would have also disclosed the outcome of the consultation and the revised documents. They are unable to do it because they know nothing substantial has changed,” Dr Manteaw alleged.

This comes after Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta advocated for a re-look at the controversial Agyapa Royalties Agreement, instead of abandoning it.

Mr. Ofori-Atta said the deal must be taken through the appropriate process in order to make it work because it could reduce the country’s debt exposure.

Speaking during a press briefing to announce details of the African Development Bank 2022 Annual General Meeting on Thursday, the Finance Minister explained that the Agyapa deal “is not about whether the monetisation of mineral royalties or listing of the company is bad or good, it is good because that is how you raise resources.”

But Dr. Manteaw believes citizens alongside Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) must raise concerns about the deal and “be part of the resistance of this scheme to shortchange Ghana.”

He also called on the government to publish details of the revised Agyapa deal. He said this will enable stakeholders to confirm whether earlier concerns raised about the agreement, when it was first introduced in 2020, have been amended.

The Civil Society Activist noted that it is essential for the government to allow for the revised financial agreement to be critiqued to ensure the country benefits from the deal.

Meanwhile, Kofi Bentil, who is a Vice President of Imani Africa, in a Facebook post, had described the transaction as a “grand robbery”.

He wrote, “The grand robbery called Agyapa is still being cooked. Every Bandit will be resisted!! You wreck our nation and now want to steal our God given resources. What kind of people are you?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: The Herald gNewspaper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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