Johannesburg

Prestea and JohannesburgBoadu Mensah is a thirty four (34) year old businessman who comes from Begoro in the Ashanti region of Ghana.
He tells me that he grew up in Prestea, an old mining town in the Western region.
Life then was easy and sweet. There were a lot of people working at the mines which paid well. Business activities in the community was booming.
He traveled abroad and he is now a business man.
Mensah said due to his work, he can say that he has traveled to many countries around the world.
“Some countries that I visited include Botswana, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa, France, Turkey, and United States of America (USA).
I am currently based in Accra.
I recently visited the mining town of Prestea to attend a friend?s fathers? funeral and I felt very sad.”
He said what made him felt sad was the deplorable nature of the town.
Prestea is now a shadow of its past.
The roads are bad, the buildings are old, sanitation is a problem, destroyed farm lands, dangerous open pits with stagnant water and illegal miners all over the place.
Simply put the place is dirty and not welcoming at all, he noted.
But what at all might have caused this, I asked?
He seem not to know the answer.
Is it lack of morals, discipline, attitude, poverty, boldness or greed?
These thoughts flashed through my mind were severally.
I kept asking myself, so when will Ghana as a mining country get to the stage of South Africa where mining revenue is used to develop the country including mining host communities?
Come along with me and let?s see try to get some answers from somebody who has done extensive work in the extractives sector, Dr. Steve Manteaw of ISODEC.
I caught up with Dr. Manteaw at a three-day workshop on extractives for 35 journalists drawn from both print and electronic media countrywide in Koforidua.
So I asked him:
Doc, is the percentage of mining royalties to communities enough?
Are the royalties even being paid?
And if they are being, are they being paid on time and to the right recipient?
How is the mining royalties being managed?
Why don?t we have a resemblance of Johannesburg in Ghana?
This is what he has to say:
?Over the years the manner in which we have treated our mineral revenues accounts for our sorry state in terms of our inability to have something to show for hundred years of mining.
We have lived rather dangerously spending every cent that comes out of the minerals sector in the next year?s budget.
So in year ?A? 2014, we got one billion we made sure we spent all the one billion in the next year?s budget. That is reckless.
More reckless because these expenditures are usually on recurrent items, salaries, emoluments etc.
If we continue like this we will never catch up with countries like Botswanas, South Africas of this world.
Our approach to mineral revenues is that it is income for consumption. The approach of Botswana, South Africa, Norway and other countries that the whole world looks up to is that their revenues are income for investment.
It is a transformation of assets. Taking out the gold from the ground amounts to taking your assets and translating it into monetary assets which you can invest and get benefits from it.
If you were a country that were not investing don?t to expect to progress.
And so we have gotten to where we are today is because we have not managed our mineral revenues very well.
I think there is no doubt that we appreciate this fact and which is the reason going into the oil sector we decided not to live recklessly and so we set up the Petroleum Revenue Management act to regulate the way we spend petroleum revenue. I think that is the way to go by.
But even as we address these expenditure issues in the petroleum sector, we have failed to take a step back and look at the gold sector and right the mistakes of the past.
So in the gold sector we continue to channel every revenue that comes from the gold sector in a particular year into the next year?s budget and we leave nothing for investment.
That needs to be corrected.?
We had to end here because Dr. Manteaw had to attend to something urgent.
So the first part of our conversation ended with a promise to meet again later that day to continue.
So watch out for the ensuing responses in my next publication.
Dr Steve Manteaw is a Campaign Coordinator of Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) and also the Vice Chairman of the Ghana Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (GHEITI).
The workshop, the second in a series provided a platform for journalists to discuss the work of Mining Sector Legal Framework; Perspective of the Industry and the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) to enhance understanding of the governance aspect of the sector to generate informed and broad national discourse.
It was organized by GIZ in cooperation with the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) collaborated with the Institute for Financial and Economic Journalists (IFEJ.

Story by Pascal K. Kudiabor

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