Opinions of Sat, 3 Jan 20048

A look back at 2003

As the year progressed, President Kuffour continued with his unprecedented junketing and crisscrossing of the globe at the expense of the poor Ghanaian taxpayer, all in the name of securing international aid. At the end of 2003, President Kuffour had very little to show for his around the clock junketing. Mr. President, I entreat you to be a stay at home President in 2004.

The Kuffour administration finally accorded ex-President Rawlings the ignominy of public humiliation with its decision to strip the former president of the travel courtesies accorded to political notabilities. In the course of the year, the hue and cry that accompanied Mr. Rawlings’ poor choice of words at the Kafo Didi demonstration in Kumasi also subsided. However, Mr. Rawlings continued to be a bane of the Kuffour government. Mr. Rawlings, the megalomaniacal coxcomb whose rule in Ghana could be equated with prelapsarian Taliban rule in Afghanistan, needs to understand that Ghana is better off without him. Mr. Rawlings, I urge you to take a crash course in Statesman 101. Your public pronouncements should be punctuated with decorum befitting an ex-President. As an ex-President, thou shall not speak ill will of a sitting President.

Whoever says that corruption is an anachronism in 21st century Ghana may be living on another planet. When you have former government leaders flamboyantly flaunting their ill-gotten wealth in the public domain, when you have members of the current administration doling out government contracts to political cronies without bid, the future of Ghana will forever remain bleak. Neither the NDC nor the NPP has any basis for claiming the bragging rights to accountability, transparency and probity in governance. Embezzlement of government funds attained new heights in 2003. Even the Ghana Police was not spared. Money mysteriously vanished from Police headquarters. I hope it was not part of the monies collected from Ghanaians in the Diaspora to equip the Police Service.

In 2003, Ghana retained its accreditation as a beggar nation. The proliferation of NGOs, private eleemosynary organizations and institutions has fostered this beggar-nation stereotype. Their incessant media solicitations for aid poorly portray the nation as donor dependent and eleemosynary poor. Who can blame the average Ghanaian for losing hope in any government that rules the land? Is the motherland consigned to a future of irreversible penury in perpetuity?

In 2003, the NDC was on a war path. NDC pundits often spoke with disdain for all things NPP and in their sesquipedalian put-downs, never missed a chance to condemn anything the NPP government did. They bombarded the airwaves and the print media with their acrimonious, rancorous and raucous diatribes laden with tribal epithets and euphemisms. It is ironic that the NDC that was in power for more than 20 years wants the current administration to achieve in 3 years what they (NDC) could not do in 20 years. When it comes to the recent history of Ghana, the NDC has selective amnesia.

2003 will also live in infamy as the year Parliament could not convene for lack of quorum and yet the Speaker got his Mercedes and his $15,000 vacation allowance. To make matters worst, the MP’s had their car loans written off. Who are they kidding? To all intent and purposes there was never a loan. It was a gratuitous award from the start. How on earth could these MPs be expected to repay these loans on their $300 monthly salary? Have we recouped all previous loans to MPs who are no longer in parliament? God Help Ghana.

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In 2003, VALCO was in the news again. The biggest news, an event that really was momentous, was of a sort that seemed barely discernable as an event- the announcement that the government was in negotiation to buy VALCO from Kaiser Aluminum. How many times do we have to say this? Government has no business owning business. Do we ever learn from our mistakes? The Ghanaian landscape is littered with a multiplicity of failed businesses previously owned by the government. Does divestiture mean anything at all? Once acquired by the government, VALCO will be become another state institution- corruption, inefficiency and cronyism will be the order of the day. Whatever happened to the Golden Age of Business? Has the NPP become a phony believer in free enterprise? Dr. Busia will be squirming in his grave. Whoever advised the NPP to buy VALCO did Ghana a disservice. Tell me the name of one successful and efficient state-owned enterprise and I will give you one hundred reasons why the government should not buy VALCO.

In his address to the Chartered Institute of Bankers’ Dinner on November 29, the Governor of Bank of Ghana Dr. Acquah, noted that “private inward remittances – transfers received from NGOs, religious groups, individuals etc. – channelled through the banks and finance companies amounted to $1.6 billion for January–September 2003, a 60.0 percent increase over the same period in 2002…………it is especially worthy of note that these macroeconomic developments have resulted in a steady increase in Gross International Reserves which now amount to over US$1.1 billion” The irony of his message is that the NPP and it’s predecessor, the NDC have all shown crass ineptitude in managing this cash cow. These monies should not all be used to support the Ghanaian insatiable appetite for foreign goods but rather should be invested. One thing the Governor did not disclose is that the private remittances have provided a conduit to launder stolen monies out of the country. In its simplistic form, this is how the laundering takes place. Let’s say a public official steals 1 billion cedis. He goes to a Bank Manager with access to these foreign accounts. The Bank Manger is promised a cut if he/she authorizes the transfer of this stolen money. The deal is consummated when the Bank Manager gets his share of the boot and writes a check to the public official to be cashed in the bank’s corresponding bank in say, Singapore, New York or London or Geneva. Mr. Governor, in 2004 please start a process of investing the monies those of us in the Diaspora remit to our relatives back in the motherland. The whole forex and remittance business is rotten to the core. Mr. Governor, you can right a wrong by appointing a committee to look into how best to utilize these remittances. Regarding the composition of this committee, please include people with experience in managing funds in the capital markets. Please do Ghana a favor by excluding people who have no investment portfolios of their own and can not differentiate a statement of account from explanation of benefit statement.

In 2003, tribalism gained ascendancy. So was the proliferation of chieftaincy titles- osabarima, odeneho, osagyefo, otumfou, okumkum, osahene- to name a few. What next is left for our chiefs to confer upon themselves? May be Okumgyata? Ah, may be not. I wonder why no chief ever used the title of “Osagyefo” during Kwame Nkrumah’s rule. In 2003, there were claims of tribal superiority. There were claims and counter claims of conquests in wars of bygone years. The most stupid claim of 2003, the mother of all claims was that of one tribe accusing another for buying up all their lands. The last time I checked it still took two to tango. There always has to be a seller and a buyer. Don’t only blame the buyer. Please also blame the seller. Unless this tribe can prove in a court of law that these land sales were tainted or vitiated with fraud or can prove that the new owners acquired the lands by force of arms, it should put up or shut up.

Certainly, 2003 was not ‘Annus Horribilis’ for Ghana. Then again it was not Annus Mirabilis either. I pray that 2004 will bring good tidings to Ghana.

Happy New Year .

Baffour Ennin
Washington DC

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.
Columnist: Ennin, Baffour

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