Community Developments


ILLUSTRIOUS “FIRST OIL”

– by Festus Tumi

December 15th 2010……a great day for Ghana.  It was my younger sister’s -nth birthday (her being of a certain age, it would be wrong of me to state which particular birthday).  Oh, and it was also the day that (and I quote from the Agricultural Development Bank’s advert in 20th December 2010 edition of the Daily Graphic) “Ghana joined the illustrious band of oil exporting nations….” [my emphasis] Full page, colour advert too!

Illustrious? Does this illustrious band include Nigeria, Venezuela, Sudan, Angola, Gabon, Libya? Nations that… well, in my opinion, although having far greater reserves and having been exporters for far longer are not what I would call illustrious nations in terms of national and personal development.

When one applies for a position, recruiters usually use one’s previous performance as a basis to determine whether one will be able to perform in the future.  Based on this premise, I for one will not be celebrating Ghana’s entry into the so-called illustrious band.  Why such pessimism?

Although to claim that the offshore oil is “within” Ghana’s western region stretches the imagination a bit (after all 60km out to sea is long way out) the Western Region certainly produces the following:

100% of Ghana’s rubber;

almost the same percentage of Manganese and Bauxite;

55% of Cocoa;

50-55% of Gold;

45% of Timber;

30% of Oil Palm;

30% of Coconut;

10-15% of fish.

Apart from these resources, I think 7 of the 15 historic forts and castles are in this region.  Some of the world’s finest beaches are also in the Western Region.

Lets now add 97% of Ghana’s petroleum.   What is my point, spouting off all these statistics and numbers?

My point is simple really.  Despite all the gold, cocoa etc, etc, the Western Region remains relative to resources GHANA’S most deprived region.  Despite having all of the above how has this wealth translated to the well being of the people? Tarkwa, Bibiani, Prestea, all gold mining areas, are some of the most deprived townsites.  Agona, centre of the rubber plantations just the same.  Enchi, Asankagra, cocoa producing areas, same.  In fact the only sustained development in this region was during the governorship of Guggisberg, and even that was purely to ensure that the resources were accessible for export.

Oil will be just the same.  President Mills basically said so himself.  He is going to do what is necessary BEFORE he will do what is RIGHT! [my emphasis].  What is necessary is to expand the Takoradi Port (ongoing I assume, same with the airport for “oil related operations” and er, that’s it.  No improvement in local non oil related infrastructure)

In terms of income, oil will bring in $1bn per annum.  As additional income that is welcome, but still some way behind gold, cocoa, international remittances and tourism.  Apart from gold most of the supply chain is locally produced and managed. Oil? Nope.  Local content bill? – we wait and see.

Festus Tumi publishes the magazine, “Destination Ghana” and the “Ghana Hotel Directory”. He is also a professional photographer.

 

 

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It is a new year and time for a rant!!! Just before Christmas, I went to Takoradi to buy a few items that were needed to replace faulty components in my hotel.

Call me naive. Call me foolish. But I think that we should all contribute to “Helping Build a Better Ghana”. God knows that I have done my share of collecting and paying taxes for the Government of Ghana since I built the hotel and made the country my permanent home in 2001.

“What happened to bring this on?” you may ask. Well, the week before that trip I asked a friend who has a shop that sells various building supplies if she could supply our hotel a water heater to replace one which is faulty. She offered to have one brought on her next load of supplies from Accra. She called her supplier for the price and I gave her the money in advance. I stopped to pick up the water heater on the appointed date and requested a receipt from my friend, the shop keeper.

My friend and I have had discussions about the VAT before so she knows how I feel about it, but she proceeded to tell me that she could get me a receipt but not a VAT receipt and she would have to  get it directly from her supplier. She explained that the supplier would not provide her with a VAT receipt for that item or any of the other items which she had brought from Accra. She went further to tell me that none of the wholesalers in Accra collect or pay VAT. Bottom line – no VAT receipt for my purchase, and no credit to offset the VAT which my hotel collects from all of our guests and submits to the Government of Ghana.

Not good enough for me – I have been down this road too many times. This is an area that you don’t see many folks here talking about and I am going to offer my guess of the reason why. Folks fit into several categories:

1. they live off the land and do not use cash in their day to day living

OR

2. they don’t give any consideration or care about what happens to the country

OR

3. they know that their family and/or friends are dodging the VAT tax and they don’t want to be seen as traitors

OR

4. They are in business and are themselves actively avoiding the collection and payment of the VAT tax

This is not a complete list. The bottom line is this: the VAT tax is not working and a lot of businesses are falling through the cracks in the system.  The VAT Service and ultimately the citizens of Ghana lose out in this situation, and so will my friend – I will not be buying from her shop until she starts to conform to the laws of the land.

This happens over and over, every day, in this country. The original VAT is a tax which does not work in this country. It is too complicated for many businesses, whose book keeping is not able to deal with a Value Added Tax. Apparently the VAT Service recognize this problem and that is why they have implemented the VAT “Flat Tax” of 3%. Unfortunately they did not have to courage or the insight to scrap the “value added” idea altogether and change the regime to a straight flat sales tax for everyone, with a lower rate. This would be something that would be much easier for retailers to understand, for consumers to accept, and for the Service to administer. It would also be much fairer to all businesses – at the present time, the hospitality industry is required to collect and submit 15% tax with very few VAT inputs to offset the output, while retailers are allowed to collect and submit only 3% tax. Where is the fairness in that?

2011 is a new year and I for one think that it is time for the Government of Ghana to revisit the VAT system and make it fair for all by changing it to a flat tax and by ensuring that it is enforced uniformly.

Yes, Ghanaian citizenship – that is my resolution for 2011!!  After two and a half years, I believe that it is time for the country to decide – will it offer citizenship to me or not?

In the past, I have not taken the practise of New Year’s resolutions seriously. On the rare times that I have set my resolutions, I have done so in private, without disclosing them to anyone. That made it much easier to handle when my resolve faltered because then I was the only one who knew of my failure!

This year, I have decided to go public. I have set my resolve to make this the year that my application for Ghanaian naturalization (citizenship) moves forward to a successful conclusion. I started the process in May of 2007 and completed the various requirements that were requested. From time to time, I have inquired about the status of my application, and always with the same disappointing result. Most recently the people in Immigration say that they have done their work and that the matter now lies with the Minister of Interior. The office of the Minister of Interior says that they have not received the report from Immigration. In other words, a stand off.

Some friends have suggested that a brown envelope containing sufficient financial incentive might be required to get the process moving. Others strongly disagree, pointing out that I have met the requirements and that the Minister of Interior and the Ghana Immigration Service should do the right thing. Still other Ghanaian friends are surprised to learn that I am not already a Ghanaian citizen since my history with the country began almost 40 years ago.

39 years and 4 months – almost two thirds of my lifetime. That is how long it has been since I first stepped foot on Ghanaian soil to take a two year contract teaching in a remote village in the Western Region. During the period of that contract, the country experienced a military coup d’etat and I was here for it.

"Spontaneous" Celebration in Half Assini of Acheampong Coup

It was also at that time that Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah died and his body brought back and placed in a crypt in his hometown of Nkroful – I was present and took photos on that occasion also. The majority of Ghanaians today had not even been born yet!!!

Military funeral for Kwame Nkrumah at Nkroful

I was in Ghana for those historic occasions and I am still around. In the nine years since I made Ghana my permanent home, I have been here for more historic occasions, including two peaceful democratic elections; the celebration of 50 years of Ghana’s Independence; the first Africa Cup of Nations; the discovery of offshore oil and the recent First Oil event.

Each country has its history and each of us have our own personal history within that context. It is my hope that 2011 will be a historic year for me – the year that I officially become a citizen of Ghana!!




Yes, more hotels for Busua!! Guess someone knows something about the future of tourism that I haven’t learned yet. If more people are investing money in the sector they must have heard that we are soon going to be deluged by tourists, something that we have not seen so far.  So that can only mean good things for all of us, right?

Well, aside from the question of economic viability, there are a few concerns that these new hotels raise. If you look at the photos above and below, you will see three hotels under construction. In the foreground is the latest entre into the search for tourism dollars, a partnership of two Italians and a Ghanaian that, according to the contractor, will offer between 13 and 15 rooms.

The roof in the background is for another two storey hotel which faces onto the ocean. Work on it was stopped several years ago by Town and Planning for a lack of building permit. The owner, a Ghanaian living abroad, has returned to Ghana recently and is currently in a tussle with the chief and with Town and Planning as she tries get access from her property to the roadside. Notice that her access, which was already blocked by the electrical pole now will be further limited to a narrow walkway by the new building that is underway.

The third hotel is to the right of the others. Work on it was also stopped several years ago for lack of a building permit. Access to that hotel was also being restricted by other buildings.

Access – something that common sense should instruct developers that is their responsibility to ensure long before a project is undertaken. Access – something that common sense should instruct Town and Planning officers that should be a requirement before any building permit is every issued.

And what about water and sewage? Busua is not serviced by piped water yet and thus relies on shallow wells. Busua village already experiences water shortages during the rainy season in the past and with an increasing population in the village and with added pressure from new hotels, the situation will most certainly become more critical. Water quality will also become a problem, not only from salinization which follows as the water table is depleted but more alarmingly from sewage contamination when septic tanks and their soak-aways are placed in closer and closer proximity to wells.

Does anyone see what I see? Who is taking responsibility for this situation that continues? Would it be so difficult for Town and Planning officers to tell developers that they are not allowed to build their dreams? Are they so strapped for development projects that they are willing to approve anything that comes across their desk? I don’t thing so. Do we feel sorry for developers who blind themselves to the most obvious requirements for such a project? I don’t think so.

There are many of us in the hospitality sector in this Region who have gone through the proper channels when constructing our businesses. We were guided by common sense and by building codes and we worked with authorities to ensure that our structures met requirements, and we should expect that newcomers be subjected to the same guidelines. We count on Town and Planning officers to carry out their duties with proper diligence to ensure that tourism in our communities continues to be a positive force for healthy economic development. We are watching.

My hotel is located on the coast of Ghana and there was a time not so long ago that visitors came to our dining room because they knew that they could enjoy fresh fish from the ocean. That is no longer the case. The reason? because WE OFTEN CANNOT BUY FRESH FISH!!!! This is not for a lack of trying. The local fishermen go out every day in the hopes that they will bring back something to feed their families plus some fish to sell for cash. Often they return empty handed.

And yet what do we see along the coast? Here at Busua? At Akwadae? At Cape Three Points? At Axim? At Beyin? At Half Assini?

Foreign fishing trawlers, working close to shore, in an area in which they have been forbidden…. I have seen these foreign trawlers frequently, and I have never seen a vessel from the Ghanaian navy challenge them. When will it end? When ALL of the fish are gone?

 

 

 

 

Survey stake on the road near Cape Three Points

 

Yesterday I returned from Cape Three Points. While I was there, I visited the palace. After greeting the chief, I asked him about the survey markers that I had seen on the road leading to the village. The information that he had been given is that a coastal road, first conceived by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and stretching from Dixcove all the way to Jewi Wharf, will be constructed by a Chinese contractor. I snapped one of the surveyors on my return – see the next photo. I was subsequently told that a Korean contractor has been given the job. I wonder what the real situation is? Stay tuned – I hope to meet with the Ahanta West District Chief Executive to see if he can shed some light on the situation.

Several questions run through my mind. Considering the multitude of lagoons that mark this stretch of coastline, what is the projected costs, both financial and environmental, of such a proposed road? Anyone who is familiar with this part of the country will ask the same question. Who is funding this project? What is the real purpose of such a road? What is the time frame? How does this relate to the 2012 election?

 

This surveyor was spotted working on the road between Akwadae and Cape Three Points yesterday.

 

This past Saturday, I sat in the backed up traffic somewhere between Mallam Junction and Keneshie Market in Accra, edging my way one car length at a time along with everyone else who was intent on leaving the capital. Somewhere behind us, I could hear the wail of a siren and along with my fellow travellers, we all tried our best to move to the side to make way for the emergency vehicle that we thought was desperately trying to make its way through. There was very little room to maneuverer in the cramped conditions and even after our best efforts there were only a few feet between my car and the taxi beside me.

Suddenly a police motorcycle was beside us, weaving his way between the crush, followed abruptly by a second one. The rider of the second one reached out and with obvious intent smashed the mirror off the taxi, waving his fist and directing some deleterious comment  towards the hapless taxi driver who sat defenceless as he watched his mirror soaring through the air before crashing to the pavement and smashing into pieces.

My passengers and I had not even had time to vent our outrage at the unnecessary actions of this policeman when a cavalcade of  six shiny black Toyota LandCruisers sped by, each emblazoned with the logo of CARE International, the passengers comfortably hidden behind air conditioned smoked glass and oblivious of the threat to everyone’s safety that they were causing and quite obviously un-CAREing about the plight of the taxi driver whose car had just been damaged.

After they had passed, the driver retrieved the remains of his mirror, and we all continued to shuffle our way towards the edge of the city. The officials of CARE International presumable were off somewhere to “defend dignity” and to “fight poverty” while the rest of us were left to live our real lives to the best of our ability, without the benefit of a police escort to take us through the chocked traffic that is so much a part of the daily grind of Ghanaians who reside in Accra.

The actions by this organization are not surprising to most citizens in this country and the 69 others in which it operates, but it should give cause for concern to those people overseas who make donations to CARE. In 2009, the total contributions totaled in excess of US$700,000,000. Somewhere in the zeros, this organization has lost respect for the people that they say they are out to assist. Apparently with all those zeros, their time is much more valuable than that of the rest of us.

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