By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo
Last week, the entire Creative industry gathered for the first ever ‘Creative Arts Forum’ under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture. The outcome, as anticipated, presented an admixture of emotions; feelings of disappointment, agitation and ambivalence.
To be brusque, the only persons who were excited or passed glowing tribute of the forum were the organizers and staunch sympathizers of the Ministry. Almost every stakeholder or industry player was somehow gutted after the meeting, expressing a sense of hopelessness for what holds for the industry.
Today, I am not going to expend time and space over sentiments being shared over the presentations made at the forum but on one critical subject that was missed by everybody during and after the Summit; the status of the $40-50 million fund from the World Bank to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture.
Status of World Bank Fund
In January 2018, the Ministry, under the authority of Madam Catherine Afeku, had its first ‘Meet-The-Press’ session. In her speech, the Minister made the proclamation that the World Bank has approved a $50 million grant for the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to implement various projects and programmes under its tourism, arts and culture sector improvement project.
The grant, according to the Minister, was also to help the Ministry implement various reforms in the country’s tourism strategy and sector development to boost the tourism and creative arts industry.
She also asserted that, it would also be used to strengthen the Ministry and its agencies to increase their capacity to create jobs, empower women and the youth engaged in the tourism value chain, as well as empower the ministry to undertake a massive clean-up of the country’s beaches.
Later in the same year, the Minister was guest on Peace FM’s entertainment talk show programme, ‘Entertainment Review’ to provide clarity to questions posed during her tenure. The issue about the World Bank funding came up, and the Minister had an interesting explanation.
She stated that, instead of the $50 million, the fund earmarked for the Ministry was now $40 million and the remaining $10 was utilized for processing of the funds at the Ministry of Finance.
During his ‘State of the Nation’ address in February 2019, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo stated that the World Bank has approved a US$40 million grant to support the country’s tourism and creative arts sector.
He told Parliament that the grant was to help improve Ghana’s tourism to make it attractive to patrons across the globe. The grant, according to him, is to be used, among other things, to upgrade tourist facilities in the country.
No Statement, No Question
At the forum, the Minister and her lieutenants made statements, declarations and promises that hinged on various issues of the Creative Arts Bill, Film Village, Copyright Office, Insurance, Creative Arts Fund and Data Collation among others. There was no mention of the funds from the World Bank.
Then came the time for questions from industry players and the media personnel present. Like the organizers, no commentary or question was placed on the $40million funds to the Ministry. Everybody missed it! How? It is quite inexplicable.
One may forgive the media and the industry players for missing it, after all, a limited time was apportioned for questions and clearly, not every question was asked within that time, however, the Executives of the Ministry and its Units cannot be forgiven for failing to touch on the subject.
As crucial as funding is to the industry, and with commitment made by the Word Bank, plus the incessant announcement to the general public by the then Minister and the President over the subject, there is no way the current Minister or her superintendents should have missed it.
Reliance and Inconsistencies of Exim Bank Loan
Instead, critical mention was made to some Exim Bank Loan that is supposed to be made available to the Creative Arts sector. The intriguing and confounding aspect of this Exim Bank loan is the level of consistencies that have shrouded its provision and the many times it has been mentioned for the past year or more.
In March 2018, the Chief Executive Officer of Exim Bank, Mr. Lawrence Agyinsam, stated publicly that $10 million loan has been allocated for the Creative Industry to advance the operations of the sector. On the 24th of December of the same year, Madam Catherine Afeku, in a gathering of industry players, declared $20million Exim Bank Loan for Creative Arts Sector with an interest rate of 5% to advance the operations of the sector.
Since those pronouncements, no money has ever been accessed by any industry person or firm – absolutely nothing. But wait, there’s more!
At the forum, the same old Exim Bank narrative reared its head again, this time, with an interesting twist. The Minister stated that, a loan of 10million Cedis, not Dollars, have been made available to the Sector by Exim Bank.
The announcement was met with claps and cheers from industry players who were gathered at the Forum.
Where Is The Money?
The most relevant question now is; where is the money from the World Bank? If it came through as projected by the President and the Minister, what was the money used for? How much was disbursed to the various sectors of Tourism, Arts and Culture?
How much of the $40 million was earmarked for the Creative Sector? What was it used for? What is it going to be used for? Who is in custody of the money?
How much was used to strengthen the Ministry and its agencies to increase their capacity to create jobs, empower women and the youth engaged in the tourism value chain, as well as empower the ministry to undertake a massive clean-up of the country’s beaches?
Where is the money?