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Sale of Ghana Telecom Disappoints Journalists

Some Ghanaian journalists are expressing their strong displeasure after President John Kufuor's government re-echoed its intention of selling telecommunications giant Ghana Telecom. This comes after the government held a news conference Tuesday to tell Ghanaians about selling the company at a cost of $900 million to Vodafone a British based Telecommunication Company. The government said the sale was necessary in order to recapitalize Ghana Telecom to make it more viable and locally competitive.

It adds that it needs money to inject into the economy after it experienced shock over increasing oil and food prices. But the journalist sharply differed with the government and described the sale as "selling out Ghana's most treasured and strategic asset for peanuts". Aggrey Ntim is Ghana's communication minister. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Accra that the sale is the best thing for Ghanaians.

"First, we need to re-capitalize Ghana Telecom and make it possible for the company to revamp its operations so that they can compete with the other companies in this country. The second thing is that for a long time this company has been losing resources because it has been put in a position where indeed it could not bring technology. It could not innovate. And because of that, it has gone down, and there was need to raise its level of operation. Thirdly, because all the other operators have international partners, they need less to invest in their operations because whatever they do is done at the global level as compared to Ghana Telecom, where everything they do is localized, and therefore their cost becomes prohibitive," Aggrey Ntim noted.

He said the government looked into various choices before deciding on the sale of Ghana Telecom.

"We have looked at several options and indeed this exercise did not start yesterday. It was two years ago that government took a policy decision to privatize public companies in which it has interest I am now referring to Westel and Ghana Telecom, and since that time we have been looking at different options. Indeed there was a time when Ghana Telecom actually undertook some bonds for funding to try and see whether it would help. Well, that did not help. From the lessons that we have learned from both at the time of the Malaysians as well as Telenol, we are now moving into this new agreement, which takes care of all deficiencies of all the problems in order to come up with a solution," he said.

Aggrey Ntim said government's decision to sell Ghana Telecom is the best decision ever to be made by President Kufuor's administration.

"I am convinced and that is why we are offloading the shares of Ghana Telecom. And don't forget, when this government came in, they actually announced a policy to privatize and make the private sector a partner in the engine of growth. It is also in that direction that participation between public and private for the running of the country's economy is the best solution in this era for Ghana," Aggrey Ntim pointed out.

Ghana's parliament has yet to ratify the sale agreement officially, as opposing political parties are warning government to refrain from selling Ghana Telecom.