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Osarfo mafo goofs on Germany Debt

Signed Agreement Without Reading It
In an unbelievable admission of incompetence, irresponsibility, and what Ghanaians refer to as ?I don?t care-ism?, the Minister of Finance, Mr. Yaw Osafo-Maafo, admitted to Joy FM radio station in an interview that he signed a German debt-relief agreement without reading it.

Joy FM had sought clarification from the Minister as to the exact amount of debt relief that the German Government had granted the country during the visit of German Chancellor Schroeder.

Mr. Osafo-Maafo?s response was typical NPP arrogance ? ?I don?t know and I don?t care? would sum up the response.

Mr. Osafo-Maafo could not tell whether it was the interim debt relief of US$16.4 million in recognition of our HIPC performance that was written off, or whether it was the total debt Ghana owes to Germany totalling about 230 million euros that was written off, explaining that he was now seeking clarification from the German Embassy in Accra.

The Minister variously explained the reason for his irresponsible behaviour on the grounds that:

(i) The Germans sprang it on us as a surprise;
(ii) The original text of the Agreement was in German;
(iii) It was a relief so the country lost nothing by signing a ?giveaway?.

In any other country but Ghana, a Minister of Finance who signs a financial agreement without knowing what he is signing and without reading it and is therefore unable to tell the citizenry how much debt relief has been granted and is proud enough to boast about it on radio would be fired the next day.

But this is Kufuor?s Ghana.

We reproduce below a verbatim account of the Joy FM interview.

Yaw Osafo-Maafo (YOM): What happened was that Germany naturally wanted to surprise us with the cancellation of the debt as something to go with the visit of His Excellency Chancellor Schroeder and therefore the document for the cancellation was prepared by the Germans and brought to us at the time we were signing the debt relief.

We had suspected that something like this would happen, and therefore we worked out the interim debt relief, which is 16.4 million dollars, but the total debt we owe to Germany is far more than that.

Joy FM (JFM): How much?

YOM: Its about 230 million euro and therefore if the cancellation applies to the total which I believe it is, then it is not the 16.4 million interim we have projected, it is the total.

JFM: So what are you saying? Is it over 200 million euro that Germany granted us, or that 16.4 million dollars was cancelled?

YOM: We have sought clarification from the German Embassy; we should get the final figures by the end of next week. It is more likely to be huge, over 230 million euro that we owe Germany over a long time and not the interim relief that is normally associated with the HIPC relief mechanism.

We have not yet reached the completion point, so what we are entitled to with our development partners is what we describe as interim relief, and we thought that was what they were cancelling, and if they were doing it for the total, which is likely, then it is much more, you see what I mean. When you owe somebody you have to pay over 25, 30 years, then it is certainly much more.

JFM: Did you read the document that you signed?

YOM: Well, I couldn?t read it thoroughly.

JFM: Why?

YOM: Because it was a surprise package they brought to us; in fact the original was in German version.

JFM: You read the German version, did you?

YOM: Yes, I understand some German.

JFM: In that document, is it 16.4 million dollars?

YOM: No, they didn?t mention those figures in that document. In fact, no specific figure was mentioned, but there was an Appendix attached to that document that showed both figures, the Appendix showed the interim relief and the Appendix also showed the total debt profile we owe to the Germans. As to which one we were signing, I wasn?t sure, but since it was a relief, we lost nothing by signing a giveaway.

JFM: So as at now you aren?t really sure whether we were granted a relief of 16.4 million dollars or over 230 million euro?

YOM: 200 million I?m not sure and we will clear the air by next week.

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