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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Minority replies Bagbin; Says STX is unreasonably expensive

Deputy Minority Leader of Parliament, Mr Ambrose Dery
Deputy Minority Leader of Parliament, Mr Ambrose Dery
The Deputy Minority Leader of Parliament, Mr Ambrose Dery, has reaffirmed the New Patriotic Party minority group's commitment to supporting the controversial STX housing deal, saying the opposition to the deal in its current form was not politically motivated.

He said the issue had nothing to do with NPP or the ruling National Democratic Congress, but that the deal is simply unnecessarily expensive and will not benefit the ordinary Ghanaian.

“Fellow Ghanaians, the STX housing project is not about NPP and NDC, it is about Ghanaians – thousands of security personnel, teachers, nurses, petty traders, rural dwellers and many other Ghanaians - who sleep in slums, very difficult conditions and are yearning for decent housing and truly affordable accommodation to rent for homes. [However, the] STX housing project as it stands does not and would not guarantee decent and affordable accommodation for the numerous Ghanaians who yearn for accommodation,” he observed.

Mr Dery who was addressing a press conference in response to one early on by the Water Resources, Works and Housing Minister, Alban Bagbin, described as regrettable the failure of the Minister to address the concerns raised by the Minority over the deal at a press conference he held to “lay the facts bare.”

He said Mr Alban Bagbin, instead, used the press conference to rain insults and invectives on the NPP, trying in the process to court and cause public disaffection for the opposition party and its Members of Parliament.

“We shall not be drawn into politics of insults at all,” he emphasized.

The Lawra/Nandom MP also regretted that the government and the governing party were gleaning for every opportunity to portray the NPP as a bickering lot who opposed a project that will alleviate the accommodation challenges of the security services in the country.

“The attempt by the NDC and the NDC government to play our security forces against the NPP is misplaced and unnecessary. The display of still pictures on front pages of pro-NDC newspapers, [and the showing of] video clips of dilapidated barracks [on television] do not address the key issues of this housing project which need to be cleared for us to move forward.

“We of the Minority in Parliament have stated times without number that we support in principle [efforts to provide] housing for security personnel and Ghanaians in general. Indeed and in fact on the same July 27, 2010, [when Mr Bagbin held his press conference to lambast the Minority], Parliament approved unanimously, a [$50 million] agreement to improve barracks accommodation for soldiers in Ghana. The Minority gave 100 per cent support to the government on that agreement,” Mr Dery noted.

“In the case of the STX deal,” the Deputy Minority Leader believes, “the Minority and many Ghanaians are not convinced that Ghana is getting value for money.”

Restating the concerns of the Minority, Mr Dery said, “Under the agreement currently before Parliament, STX is to borrow an initial $1.5 billion to build an initial 30,000 units out of 200,000 [houses]. The government of Ghana will provide a sovereign guarantee to cover STX Korea in the acquisition of that loan. What it means is that, when STX defaults, we, the people of Ghana will have to pay the loan back.

“Further, government is to provide free land from government land banks, at no cost to STX…unconditional imports and income tax exemptions, VAT and all that, full profit repatriation for both the staff and company …also government will have to provide infrastructure – roads, electricity, water, shops, whatever. Added to that, there are no designs of the houses that are to be built for us to make an assessment...”

Mr Ambrose Dery said while the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, an agency of the World Bank pegged insurance for political risk on loans at 0.45 – 1.75 per cent, the government of Ghana was paying a whopping 17.34 per cent ($250 Million) as insurance for political risk on the loan STX is to take.

That, for him, cannot be justified and instead of the minister addressing and explaining the rationale for this astronomical insurance the people of Ghana are to pay on STX’s loan, Dery said he rather sought to lampoon and denigrate the Minority in Parliament.

Touching on the absence of building designs on the agreement, Mr Dery asked the Works and Housing Minister, who is a former Majority Leader, whether he (Mr Bagbin) will sign a cheque for a contractor, buying a house whose design he had not seen simply because he has seen some buildings said to have been built by the contractor.

The Lawra/Nandom MP said if the Nadowli MP is willing to engage in such transactions, the Minority NPP will not stand by and let the scarce resources of Ghana be plundered.

Story by Malik Abass Daabu/Myjoyonline.com/Ghana

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