General News Sat, 9 May 2009

Spio Lauds Mills


Friends of Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah would like to extend their appreciation to H.E. President Atta Mills on the stellar appointments of Dr. Kwabena Adjei as Chairman of the GETFund Board and Mr. Sam Garba as its Administrator. It would be recalled that in the year 2000 Ekwow Spio-Garbrah then Minister of Education pushed through the parliament the GETFUND Act, which today mobilizes over $75million annually to aid the Ghanaian educational sector. In 2000 Dr Adjei provided critical cabinet support in helping Dr Spio-Garbrah push the GetFund through parliament.

On the sidelines of a recent official visit to Australia and Fiji, in his capacity as the CEO of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, Dr Spio-Garbrah had the opportunity to chat with various Ghanaians living in Australia, NDC members and members of the Friends of Spio-Garbrah movement about recent developments in Ghana. He lauded President Atta Mills on his 100 day anniversary. In response to a comment from some Ghanaians that President Mills could have done more in his first 100 days, Spio-Garbrah stated that a close examination of the records will reveal that a lot had been done, although Ghanaians—as human beings often do-- may be expecting more. He mentioned, for instance, the appointment of the Cabinet within two months, the confirmation of all ministers and their deputies by Parliament, as well as the constitution of the Boards and governing Councils of such important bodies as the Council of State, the Armed Forces, Disability Board and Police Council, the Bank of Ghana, Ghana Commercial Bank, the National Security Council and regional security councils. In addition, the first 100 days had also seen the emergence of the first women as Speaker of Parliament and a female Acting Inspector General of Police, and with the appointment of many women as ministers, deputy ministers, and members of some critical boards, President Mills’ government may possibly go down as one of the most ‘female friendly’ in Ghana’s history. The President had also delivered a State of the Nation address to Parliament as required by the Constitution, got the 2009 budget passed, increased the minimum wage, doubled the capitation grant to schools, and was taking steps to improve and expand the School Feeding Programme and the National Health Insurance Scheme etc.

The former Communications Minister, and former Ambassador to the US, also said President Mills had made more than 300 public appointments so far without apparently appointing more than one close member of his family to any prominent paid government position, although he, like President Kufuor, also has many highly qualified family members. This principled approach of President Mills, Spio noted, was very much unlike President Kufuor, whose appointments included at any one time more than ten close relatives in such positions as Senior Minister, Secretary to the President, Minister for Defence, Minister of State at the Finance Ministry, Director-General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Internal Revenue Commissioner, Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), Managing Director of the State Insurance Corporation, Ambassador to the Czech Republic etc. This particular behaviour of President Kufuor, despite some of the obvious individual merits of particular appointments had set a very bad precedent in Ghana, as neither former Heads of States Rawlings, Limann, Kutu Acheampong, or even Busia and Kwame Nkrumah had done that in the past. The former Communications minister and acclaimed international PR guru also commented that President Mills had demonstrated his capacity to listen to the ordinary people, which was evident in his withdrawal of some of his controversial District Chief Executives appointments. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah remarked that nowhere in the world does any President satisfy all the people all the time, and that even President Obama, as popular as he was, only obtains a national approval rating of some 60%, meaning that any time about one-third of Americans are not happy with him. He explained that as President Mills won the national elections with only 40,000 votes, it was not unreasonable to expect that a significant percentage of Ghanaians who did not vote for him would continue to complain no matter what he did. While many of those who complain about the President are often partisan sympathisers of the NPP, Dr. Spio-Garbrah urged the President to make a special effort to listen to those complaints which emanate from within the NDC, including from the Founder of the Party, the Party’s headquarters, regional and constituency offices, as well as from NDC grassroots activists and other well meaning Ghanaians. He said more importantly, it was necessary for the new government to promote a greater sense of inclusiveness, so that all so-called factions within the NDC would appreciate that the election victories of December 2008 and January 2009 were won by all and not just a few in the Party.

It was in this context that Dr. Spio-Garbrah made special mention of Dr. Kwabena Adjei as Chairman of the GETFund. In August 2000 Dr Spio-Garbrah as Minister of Education in the previous NDC administration had the privilege of pushing the GETFund Law through Parliament with the able support of Dr Kwabena Adjei, the then majority leader. The former Education Minister and Ambassador to the US noted that Dr. Adjei, who had been a minister of Lands and Forestry in the last NDC government and Majority Leader in Parliament was one of those ministers who provided strong support for the GETFund proposal which Dr Spio-Garbrah presented to the NDC Cabinet to increase the VAT tax from 10% to 12.5% capitalize the GETFund annually. Dr. Spio-Garbrah disclosed that this suggestion was initially met with some scepticism and actually the parliament at the time had rejected the proposal on two occasions fearing the extra tax burden. However, at a crucial Cabinet meeting in 2000 chaired by President Mills, (then as Vice President) Dr. Adjei, as majority leader provided strong support in getting the government to pass the measure.. This incident, Dr. Spio-Garbrah disclosed, was key to how the GETFund was eventually established. So, according to Spio-Garbrah, if many Ghanaian teachers and students see him as the “father of the GETFund,” then it was necessary for Ghanaians to become aware that Dr. Adjei was the critically important “midwife” Of the now very popular law. It was, therefore, more than poetic justice that President Mills should recognise Dr. Adjei in this way, Dr. Spio-Garbrah added. Mr. Sam Garba, who had been appointed as Administrator of the GETFund, is also a well-known leader of the cadres within the NDC who had worked very hard behind the scenes in each NDC election since 1992 and a strong education advocate. The former Education Minister urged the new GETFund Board to also pay attention to the GETFund law which required the Fund to mobilise additional resources beyond the 2.5% of VAT receipts that it gets automatically. Past attempts by Dr Spio-Garbrah to help raise additional international funds was blocked by the previous NPP appointed Board on partisan grounds. So Spio-Garbrah therefore urged that the new Adjei-led board be non-partisan in its administration of the Fund and seek help from all Ghanaians no matter their political orientation to mobilize more resources for the fund to help Ghanaian education. In concluding his inter actions with fellow Ghanaians in Australia Spio wished members of the Friends of Spio-Garbrah well, and asked them to continue to have faith in Ghana, in its current leadership and to continue to invite foreign companies to consider investing in Ghana, and to plan themselves to return to Ghana when possible to support the challenging task of nation-building – which Dr Kwame Nkrumah and his peers had bequeathed to us.

Kweku Atta-Britwum, Coordinator, Friends of Spio-Garbrah, Australia & Far East

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