General News of Sat, 8 Oct 201620
Sentimental masses will always win BoG gold watches debate - Baako
Veteran journalist Kweku Baako Jnr says the public backlash against Bank of Ghana (BoG) for purchasing gold watches for retiring staff is driven by emotional and not rational arguments.
Nonetheless, it is a controversy which history shows, the masses will always win.
The Central Bank has been on the defensive after news broke that it is using public funds to buy watches estimated at $504,000.
The Bank explained the reason for spending half a million dollars on 72 pieces of watches was to “award deserving members of staff who had served with the Bank for 30 years or more and are due to retire compulsorily from the service of the Bank in the years 2016 and 2017.”
But the explanation has done nothing to quel a backlash.
Speaking on Multi TV/Joy FM news analysis show Newsfile Saturday, Kweku Baako stressed that BoG gold watch saga is a populist controversy which the masses will always win.
The Managing Editor of the New Crusading Guide newspaper says the Ghanaian public will most likely deem $7,200 gold watch as excessive because it can always be argued that the masses are suffering.
He noted that this populist argument has been used several times in the past to castigate government for some expenditures meant at honouring or recognising public service of top officials.
Listing out examples, Kweku Baako referred to the ex-gratia package paid to MPs pegged at about GHC400,000 after serving four years.
Questions were raised that the money is undeserving opulence thrown at persons who vowed to serve the public.
The decision by NPP government to buy gold chains to honour president John Agyekum Kuffour's service after eight years was severely condemned.
His government's decision to abandon a colonial relic, the Christenborg castle and move the office of the president to a new presidential palace suffered similar backlash although the then president Kufuor never had the opportunity to use it.
Former President Kufuor famously quipped that Ghanaians know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.
Former President Jerry John Rawlings also procured 'revolution medals' worth $500,000 for heroes of an unconstitutional overthrow of government, the June 4 coup.
It does not end with President Rawlings because head of the SMC military regime Col. I.K Acheampong was also castigated after government took a decision to buy a presidential jet in the 70's.
"We do this all the time" Kweku Baako said. He explained that once the debate is framed in economic terms and thrown out there, the public will always find the expenditure outrageous.
A better way to look at the $7,200 gold watches is to see it in symbolic not monetary terms. Kweku Baako said a family of a former BoG staff who is now deceased has kept the watch as a family treasure. He said the man willed the watch to his daughter to keep.
This symbolism, he believes should drive the debate not an attempt to 'play on the keyboards of people's emotions".