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Curing Poverty – With $15 Per Household?

Curing Poverty – With $15 Per Household?

Fri, 17 Oct 2008 Source: Danso, Kwaku A.

Fellow Ghanaians,

Fifty years after independence, there is a very sick feeling one gets when one reads certain news about our dear Ghana and our people in office. Read this one reported on Ghanaweb “Very Poor Households receive emergency funds” (Oct.15, 2008).

The report reads: “The programme dubbed Emergency Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) is expected to benefit about 21,000 households in twenty districts in seven regions of the country. Each household would receive GH¢15 per month for a period of seven months.”

Does anybody out there really think they can cure poverty with this? Come oooon!!!

Does any educated man really think even if they wanted to help, this is the right approach?

For God’s sake, when are the boys and girls at the UN, World Bank and the International financial institutions going to consider us Africans as of equal intelligence and hence come out with solid feasible plans if they are sincere to help our people!? When are they going to accept facts of African poor leadership, and stop colluding with our corrupt leaders when they provide financing for humanitarian or other project loans!

There are one of two scenarios that comes to mind every time I read such reports that don’t make sense to many of us, and I am sure irritates many who can do some critical thinking and add and subtract numbers: (1) Either the UN and World Bank bodies who give these grants have no concept of what it takes to lift people out of poverty; or (2) They are in collusion with our Governmental bodies to defraud the people of Ghana through these public relations gimmicks! Author John Perkins gives examples of how this has been done over the years to pile up loans on third world nations that they can never pay back!

Whiles none of these may seem plausible, if anybody takes a calculator and add and subtract, 21,000 x $15 x 7 months comes to $2.205 Million. Does any of these well-educated people at the UN or World Bank really think they can help people in a country with $2 million? Folks, let’s cut this nonsense and hypocrisy out!

After all these external AID assistance over the years, is there any long term plan to help these poor people? Is there a plan of action to reduce poverty for the WB /IMF /UN to publish for us to see? By plan, I don’t mean mere words as they are good at using. Such words like LEAP - Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty – simply makes some of us feel our educated folks are trying to deceive ordinary people with empty big words! It’s a sham!

Folks, the facts are that a typical household in the rural areas may have about ten average people. Show me the PLAN that suggests that $15 for ten people for 7 months will reduce poverty! Also, why wait till election time to do this?

Tweaaaa!! These politicians, the NPP folk, think Ghanaians are so stupid!

Honestly, if anybody cares to make inquiries, you will find that the people we call poor are smart, but they just don't have many choices to lift themselves out of poverty. It will take many farmers expanding their farms from the one and two acre sustenance farming to larger tracts. That may need some mechanized farming, financing, and cooperative sharing of expenses in the farm communities, and then decent transportation systems to the markets. This writer used to spend some time in the village with his grandfather in the summer months in the 1950s to early 1960s. In the village of Asegya (Kwahu) we used to have one trip of a mammy wagon truck (we used to cal “bone-shaker”) once per week. It would otherwise take five hours walk to the nearest market of Hwee-Hwee, which is another 10 or so miles from Abetifi, the nearest rural town where civilization may be assumed. This is one of the most fertile land areas in Ghana! And yet today, civilization has not emerged, in 50 years! Who the heck is the government, then?

How then do we expect such farmers to get out of poverty if the government does not effectively utilize the billions of dollars in external loans to help provide decent transportation and communication systems, and a financing system to help these farmers? Simple calculations performed by this writer as part of a book in progress shows that a farmer may need about $10,000 loan to produce enough to sell and earn a profit enough to take care of their families and pay back the loan. With the same 21,000 poor households, this amount will add up to a grand sum of $210 Million loan (I suggest not a grant or gift). At say 10% interest each farmer will pay back $212 per month average for 5 years fully amortized. This amount of payments will come to $4.462 million per month collected. This money can then be used to pay back the loan from the UN or World Bank. Notice that the extra interest collected will be about $57.7 million in the 5 years, which can be used to pay the lender interest and finance the administrative management of the funds.

With all due respect to our learned folks and the good people at the international finance institutions who try to help the poor, this is what the people of Ghana can call a PLAN, and not the joke of AID money that we see pour in and every year to our governments, who cannot account for the funds! As we write, a World Bank grant of $103 million since Jan. 2005 and a loan of $500 million since Jan.2006 meant for rural and urban water, has not been fully accounted for. Over 90% of Ghanaians do not have potable water! And even in the cities, households spend an average $5,000 for water reservoirs and drink from poly-tanks! Mosquitoes still kill 55,000 per year and the solutions are so simple! Create underground sewage in cities and town, and create healthy environments!

The whole missing element in these poor societies is effective and caring LEADERSHIP! There are far better, smarter and more honest and dedicated men and women in Ghana to run Ghana than what we have had in the last few decades. However the cost of politics and democracy is very high! As President of the Diaspora GNP, I receive many letters from people who want to be sponsored to stand as MP in their constituency. However these people, even when checked out to be honest and capable, simply lack the funds to succeed in even local partisan campaigns. Democracy, it seems, has been lost on the altar of fake and corrupt capitalism! People have to give money in envelopes and bottles of Schnapps to Chiefs in villages, and spend moneys to buy drinks at rallies, in addition to normal transportation costs. Many good people simply cannot afford to be representative of their people! The good people just don't have the funds to campaign! One has to bribe delegates to the political parties conventions to the tune of sometimes over $50,000 to win enough delegates for simple local elections! The popular belief in Ghana is that the incumbent MPSs and DCEs in Government have already dipped their hands in public coffers, and can come out with millions of dollars whose source nobody explains! Nobody requires them to disclose either!

Folks, once corruption starts with the election of our leaders, the corruption becomes endemic in our political system. Funds meant for helping the poor, be they grants or loans, for providing water, for providing roads, for setting up financing schemes for the farmers, are soon diverted, and there is no leadership to demand accountability!

All some of us can say is: God bless Ghana! Some of us have written enough over the years and that seem not enough until we can also find the millions to stand and challenge incumbents who have become mostly thieves!

It becomes more sad as some of us get older, and watch our educated men in Ghana dance around using big words they don't even understand, pretend to be what they are not, and simply take from public funds whiles not applying their education to their full potential to help the people! It is ridiculous to think of curing poverty by giving about ten people in a household $15 for 7 months and be writing to report on this!

Shame on our Western education and personal integrity as educated people!

Kwaku A. Danso, PhD Livermore, California.

Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.