afrol News, 23 September - A luxury presidential jet, at the estimated cost of US$ 40 million, is arriving Ghana, awaiting public outrage. The current government calls it the "Kufuor jet" after the ex-President ordering it, but has itself ordered even more jets.
The former President of Ghana, John Kufuor, in 2007 was both tired of and scared by his 35-year-old presidential jet, widely termed as "the flying coffin". The otherwise popular President therefore thought he could count on the public's understanding when ordering a new model to transport him safely.
But the large spending on presidential luxury in an otherwise poor country did not meet much understanding. The Ghanaian opposition cried foul and urged President Kufuor to cancel the "unnecessary" order. He did not.
After the same opposition came to power following popular elections and John Evans Atta Mills inaugurated his presidency in January 2009, many expected him and the new parliamentary majority of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to cancel the order. They did not.
Instead, the order was somewhat redefined. The presidential jet - a Falcon 900EX aircraft - now is to form part of the Ghana Airforce fleet. To make sure their use would be effective, the Airforce ordered two more Falcon aircrafts from the producer, Dassault.
The Ghanaian government - neither Mr Kufuour's nor the current - have not made public the cost of the presidential jet. However, the Falcon 900EX aircraft is known to cost around US$ 37 million, but extra equipment regarding security and representation standards for a presidential jet easily will increase the price to over US$ 40 million.
Air Vice-Marshall Michael Samsom-Oje, Chief of Air Staff, earlier this year revealed that many extra costs accompany the delivery from Dassault. He said the new acquisition "is coming with a package of infrastructural support including hangars, as well as ground support equipment." A special hangar has already been built for the aircraft at Kotoka International Airport.
Also, the new type or aircraft, not formerly used by the Ghanaian Airforce, required "training of the crew of the various platforms, ... including pilots, engineers, suppliers and flight attendants," Mr Samsom-Oje said. This would of course also be delivered by Dassault at a certain price.
The price for the new aircraft therefore may well reach US$ 100 million altogether.
As the Falcon aircraft was scheduled to arrive Ghana today and be inaugurated in presence of the press, the political debate therefore took a new round in Accra. The current government, terming the airplane the "Kufuor jet", still hold ex-President Kufuor responsible for the costs.
Mr Kufour's New Patriotic Party (NPP) - the current opposition in the Accra parliament - holds the current government could have stopped the acquisition, but instead had increased the order.
Other opposition parties speak out what the wider public thinks, saying both the Kufuor and Atta Mills governments acted immorally spending large funds on a luxury aircraft when "people have no water to drink." The Ghanaian press is following the case thoroughly, noting that the case about this "immoral priority" is hitting a sensitive nerve among the population.
Obviously, the arriving aircraft is increasingly getting an embarrassment for government. Today's scheduled public inauguration was suddenly cancelled by the Ministry of Defence. No reason was given. A government statement only said the ceremony "has been postponed because the jet has not arrived."
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