Parliament approve $2 billion master project support agreement

Mr Ken Ofori Atta, Minister of Finance... (1)

Mr Ken Ofori Atta, Minister of Finance… (1)

Before adjourning sine die, Parliament on Saturday, approved the Master Project Support Agreement for a US$2 billion facility in “exchange for Ghana’s refined bauxite.”

The money, to be accessed from Chinese firm, SynoHydro Group Limited, would be used for priority infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, interchanges, hospitals, housing and rural electrification among others.

Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, presenting the Mid-Year Review of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government for the 2018 fiscal year in Parliament two weeks ago announced the barter deal which the government believes would help bridge the country’s infrastructural deficit.

Moving the motion for the adoption of and approval of the Finance Committee’s report covering the deal, chairman, Dr Mark Osei-Assibey said the deal was in the best interest of the country.

In his view, the funds would help bridge the infrastructural deficit that the country has been grappling with.

But the Minority Caucus had opposed the deal since it was announced and insisted that it was a loan and that it could further push the country to a debt distress status, though the Majority maintained it was a barter agreement.

“Let nobody attempt, through deception, that this is not a loan. We need to be sober. If the government wants to borrow for infrastructure, say we are borrowing, we (the Minority members) will support you”, Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu said.

The Tamale South lawmaker said the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) while in opposition, made a monster of borrowing, hence its inability to classify the deal as a loan.

Mr Iddrisu said the government needed US$500 million for the start of the infrastructure projects under the deal, and therefore, called for a justification of the extra US$1.5 billion extra the government was requesting.

In his view, per the Constitution, once aluminium was a natural resource, Parliament needed to ratify the decision to grant the Chinese firm Synohydro the authority to use the resource and that there was no ratified decision by Parliament granting right to Synohydro.

Agreeing that the country had huge infrastructure deficit in roads and other areas, Mr Iddrisu questioned why no projects under the deal were earmarked for the Upper East and Upper West Regions.

But the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said aluminium was not a natural resource, and that his opposite colleague’s argument that the arrangement for the aluminium should be similar to the other mineral resources was misplaced.

The Suame MP admitted that the Upper East and Upper West Regions were not captured, indicating that they would be considered in the second phase of the project.

He maintained that the deal was a commercial agreement but not a loan facility.

“The difficulty is whether it is a loan or not. It is a batter”, he stated adding that once there was a consensus that the country needed roads, houses and health facilities, it was crucial the government took steps to provide same.

“Semantics should not drive us”, he said.


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