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Do the New Military Jets Fit Into Our National Priorities?

Sat, 23 Jul 2011 Source: Berko, George

My attention has been drawn to the controversy of our Parliament’s approval for the Government to procure new Military Aircrafts. In his contribution to that debate, Dr. Kwesi Annin, a security Analyst with the Kofi Annan Peace Keeping Center, alluded to hypocrisy by some of our Parliamentarians for protesting the acquisition of the Aircrafts now, while he blames the whole Parliament for having failed us. I have a similar conclusion that the Parliament has failed us but with a different take on why.

My contention has to do with setting our priorities right. Hypocrisy or not, I firmly believe the funds could have been better spent elsewhere in the Economy than on Military Hardware at this time.

Even with the discovery of Oil, we are not under any perceivable, new, or increased, threat from our 'Enemies' to warrant such a big expenditure to boost our Military Capability, given any instinctive desire to protect the Resource.

Our neighbors, even with all their repeated and long-running internal chaos and violence, never showed any indication to get us embroiled in any Wars. So, what in the World are we prioritizing buying these Aircrafts for?

If we are trying to protect our Oil resources, a couple of Helicopter Gunships or Jets to patrol our Coasts would have been sufficient. And that wouldn't have drawn the mega $250,000,000 price tag.

Besides, with the USA and NATO intentions to draw down from Afghanistan and Iraq, it would not have been too difficult to procure a couple decent, used Jets from the USA, for example, to deter potential pirates of our Ships conveying our Oil to the Markets overseas.

Surely, every Country has to update its Military, so as not to be caught off-guard in unexpected raids from Enemies. But this is a period where the potential sources of our external provocation have been almost non-existent, at worst. This is the time we need to reap the ‘Peace Dividends’ that the absence of the Cold War and better policing and control of the Terrorist and Drug menaces have brought us.

However, instead of using the few funds on hand to begin real Nation Building by constructing new, modern and renovated infrastructure to boost our Economy and improve the lives of the masses, here we have the Government spending so lavishly to acquire these Planes. Could the Government justify the priority of such an acquisition? Why do we need these Military Aircrafts, now?

Need we remind our MPs that our Children still attend schools under trees at the mercy of the Weather. Need we remind the Parliament that our Hospitals still do not have enough and up-to-date Medical Equipment and Medicines? Need we remind our Parliament and Council of State that our Teachers and Doctors and Nurses and Sanitary Workers are still underpaid, and not sufficiently motivated to perform at their very best? Need we remind the Government that our Forests are still under siege for irreversible destruction, and the Forestry personnel need better Equipment and logistics to combat the elements of destruction of that invaluable Natural Estate?

With such illogical prioritization in allocating our resources, we expose the whole Nation to widespread and external ridicule! It is almost impossible to sympathize with the Government, when it stretches out its hands to request for alms in Loans but does not use the funds to ameliorate our growth potential, and instead applies them to prop up our Military in the absence of any clear and present danger to our Security.

It is gainsaying that our Treasury is still strained, and while some programs can safely wait, or be delayed, others simply cannot, because of their high opportunity costs. Treading that path of thought, it is not inappropriate to point out that our Military would not atrophy into complete extinction if it waited for a few more years to be revamped with well managed new Revenues from an expanded Economy. However, our Children would soon be too old to imbibe the vital fundamental lessons to prepare them for better and more effective workforce-performance that ensures rising productivity in our System. Similarly, our Forests might not be able to wait any longer to be salvaged from extinction. Again, sicknesses that we contract from unsanitary conditions plus the pollution of our Drinking Water Sources and the Rivers won't wait but continue to kill us in greater numbers. Hence, the need to prioritize our spending to strengthen our Infrastructure base first.

I have always been skeptic about complaints that our Politicians could be coldly insensitive to the real needs of the people, and divert our resources for only things that would bring some direct personal benefits to them, instead of using them for what would improve the Nation as a whole. But such unwise expenditure makes me want to believe these complaints. Allegations of the NDC taking Bribes for the supply of the Aircrafts have already surfaced. Doesn’t that suggest that our Politicians would rather endorse financing such Projects first, because these Projects are the ones that can be easily manipulated to fill their personal pockets, directly or indirectly? Even if charges of Bribery and Inflated prices are false, the expenditure is ill-timed, at best.

Ever since the Kosmos-EO-Group saga that some NDC activists cited as reflecting a well-orchestrated plan by the NPP to access enormous revenue to fund their Party far into the Future, the NDC, in some people's opinion, seems to have been clamoring to do similarly with the questionable STX deal with some Koreans, that nearly fell apart recently, and, now, this Aircraft acquisition.

Many have suggested that these huge and ill-conceived Projects have viable potential to shoot off funds into the coffers of the NDC to help them fund their 2012 Electioneering campaign. Others have suggested more sinister reasons for why the MPs have given such Projects elevated attention and immediate approval, including the idea that they could all personally gain financially from it, before the Government probably changed hands.

I hope the worst of our fears regarding these Projects never come to be. But even if we really, really need these Aircrafts, the Public deserves detail explanation from the Government as to why. Maybe, our Treasury suddenly got filled enough to simultaneously accommodate such expenditure and any undertaking to provide our vital infrastructure. I seriously doubt that.

Right now, most people I have heard and read from have expressed negative sentiments about the Purchase of the Aircrafts. So, I am not alone in disapproving of this huge State expenditure at this time. These Aircrafts have no value-added benefit to our Economy. Period!! They do not help expand our Economy. They cannot be said to even promise us a more secure Nation within this time-frame. It would have been better to spend that money for expanding our Railway Lines to other parts of the Country, especially the Northern Regions, even assuming the Government cared for some enviable legacy it could leave behind.

While such expenditure on the acquisition of the Aircrafts by our Government goes to boost the employment situation in the countries where these Aircrafts are produced, and hence, their Economies, we do not seem to be getting any parallel benefit from buying the Planes. Could we have, say, requested for the opening up of the Markets in those Countries for more of our exports? And if we already have such a privilege with those Countries, could we have asked for its enhancement, or something else, that would help us improve ourselves and develop our Nation? How about, say, easier access to their Technologies involved in the manufacture or maintenance of the Aircrafts? Could we have a Company built here, locally, to manufacture the parts that might be needed to service the Planes, for example? Excess production of such parts could be exported to other Nations that use similar Planes, including the Countries we bought them from.

In the instance of getting an immediate expanded benefit from the Nations we are purchasing these Aircrafts from, we do not always have to settle for, say, some liquid grants from these foreign Nations to, say, boost only our Agricultural production, while they do not buy our Agricultural produce, but instead intend using that grant as a bait for us to import their Aircrafts, the spare parts of which we would continue to import from them, for as long as we use the Planes. Those spare parts are not cheap, we should remember. Let's do the Maths., Folks!!

Any such bait grant might only be useful if there is a third country involved in a triangulated deal that offers us the chance to sell off our excess Agricultural produce to it for the much needed foreign exchange. Rather unfortunately, we often readily accept Loan offers from the same countries that are selling us the item, and end up losing the profit edge to them as we get stuck with depending on them alone for parts to service the item for its lifetime.

I wish more and more folks would find some time to think this through well, and let our Politicians, especially the MPs and the Government, know what we think. Our ideas may not be innovative to the MPs or the Government. But they could well be reinforcing what they might have been tossing around in their minds. And where they think we are too dull to see through their deliberate machinations to pinch off a bit from our National Cake, letting them know we know what we know could deter them from taking us for granted. Speak up, Ghana! Ask for the details to evaluate.

Long Live Ghana!!!

Columnist: Berko, George