Gold-for-oil programme: Sam George accuses govt of nepotism

Member of Parliament for Ningo Prampram Samuel Nartey George has accused the government of nepotism in the Gold-for-Oil programme. 

He stated that the company which is serving as the intermediary for the supply of oil to Ghana under the programme, Litasco, has a family member of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as their agent in Ghana.

In his view, this is concentrating wealth into the hands of the family of the President.

“You are taking wealth from the Bulk Oil Distributors (BDCs) and giving to a company Litasco, where a family member of the president has an interest in. They are not just incompetent, they are not just inefficient they are ripping us off,” he said on the Big Issie on TV3 Monday, February 6.

He added, “If you need cheap oil you don’t trade gold, take off the taxes.”

He further questioned whether or not the Bank of Ghana has enough gold to trade under the programme.

But Member of Parliament for Mpraseo David Ansah Opokureacted to him on the same show that the NDC are just playing politics with the initiative.

He said, “The intended purpose is to reduce the pressures on the forex, the programme has just started, and people are playing politics with it, we know them they will try and pooh-pooh this initiative, when Kufuor found crude oil they said it was palm oil.”

First Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG) Dr Maxwell Opoku Afari explained that the Gold-for-oil initiative has two legs.

These are the gold purchase programme and then oil legs.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) on Friday, February 3, he said “what I know is that the gold-for-oil has two legs, it has the gold purchase programme leg and then the oil leg.

“The Bank of Ghana is fully involved in the gold purchase side which then translates into oil.  But what we know is that we have fully paid and bought gold that is enough to support the oil transactions.”

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Earlier, the Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG) Dr Ernest Addison also said that there is enough gold to ensure the success of the initiative.

Addressing the 110th Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) press conference in Accra on Monday, January 30, he explained that “we started this whole programme to build reserves with the purchases of gold. Since the beginning we have purchased 181, 435.25 ounces of gold valued 248 million Dollars, this is for reserves.”

Regarding the gold-for-crude initiative, he said “593,000 just about a 96.8m US Dollars. “There is enough gold. I am aware Precious Minerals Marketing Company (PMMC) says there is enough gold that they can buy to support the deal.”

Earlier, the Director of Financial Market at the central bank Stephen Opata assured that the central bank could buy enough gold to ensure the programme was sustained.

He said this on Monday, January 16, when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

“As for the quantities, based on the production numbers we saw last year, gold has picked up. We believe that we can buy enough gold to sustain the program.

“I must say that the numbers we are currently looking at is about 160,000 ounces per month and that will represent about 50 to 60 per cent of the consumption of the country. According to what PMMC indicates, I think we have volumes to support the program,” Mr Opata said.

The Vice President, Dr Mahamdu Bawumia has said that the initiative is working effectively after Ghana received the first delivery on Sunday, August 15.

The 40,000 metric tons of oil arrived at the Tema port on Sunday, January 15, 2023.

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This was announced by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.

The Energy Ministry, the Bulk Oil Storage, and Transportation, and Oil Marketing Companies are to formulate plans for its distribution and sale.

Speaking at the 74th annual new year school of the University of Ghana on Tuesday, January 17, Dr Bawumia justified the programme.

He said” How are we going to change this whole way of doing business as far as our natural resources were concerned? Take the case of gold in Ghana, we have mined gold for over 200 years, and when I looked at the data I realized that our total reserves of gold in Ghana was just  8.7 tonnes at the end of 2021.

“One of the largest gold mining countries, we are in the top 10 in the world but we have not accumulated gold to build our reserves.

“We looked at the other side of the balance sheet, we export gold and we import oil. The cost of oil import is about 3 billion dollars a year. So we ask the simple question, why don’t we, since we have always got pressure in finding US Dollars to buy oil,  rather reach an agreement to change our gold for oil and then, sell the oil in Cedis and then, use the Cedis to buy more gold, use that gold to pay for oil, sell the oil in Cedis and then you don’t need to look for the scarce foreign exchange to buy oil, which always leads to depreciation on the currency.

“With this idea, we said, let us do something that the textbooks don’t teach you, let us do something that is out of the box and this is why we said gold-for-oil. We quickly looked at this and we negotiated with the suppliers of oil who were very excited and happy to receive gold in payment. Thankfully, yesterday, Monday, Ghana took its first delivery of oil under the gold-for-oil programme.

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“This is the cargo to test the framework to see if everything that has been put in place will work and by the grace of God, it is clear that the framework will work and if that should happen we are going to save a lot of foreign exchange and reduce the pressure on our currency.”

Dr Bawumia earlier programme will give Ghana the space to accumulate more international reserves as the country will save the $3 billion it spends on oil imports.

He further stated that the use of gold was specifically for oil imports in the face of declining foreign exchange reserves.

Unfortunately, some people have misinterpreted this as Ghana being against the use of the US dollar in international transactions,” he stated.

“Far from it. We want to accumulate more US dollar reserves in the future.”

Vice President Bawumia noted that a major source of Cedi depreciation has been the demand for forex to finance imports of oil products and to address this challenge, the government is negotiating a new policy regime where sustainably mined gold will be used to buy oil products.

“We implement the gold-for-oil policy as it is envisioned, it will fundamentally change our balance of payments and significantly reduce the persistent depreciation of our currency with its associated increases in fuel, electricity, water, transport and food prices.”

This, he noted, is because the exchange rate will no longer directly enter the formula for the determination of fuel or utility prices since all the domestic sellers of fuel will no longer need foreign exchange to import oil products.

By Laud Nartey||Ghana


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