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Opinions Thu, 4 Jul 2019

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New chamber for truant MPs? – A case for proper prioritization

‘Y3 y3 nea ehia ansana y’ay3 nea 3fata’ -Akan proverb. To wit, we do what is needed before we do what is deserving/befitting.

This proverb sets the tone for what I intend to articulate in this article.

I hope that in the very least my feeble, zygotic, yet-to-obtain-a-degree thinking will avert the minds of our honorable MPs to how dishonorable the decision for a new chamber is.

Whereas I do not want to make reference to the plethora of issues which epitomize our blazing will to be wasteful, it seems to me, at least based on recent government decisions, that the logic in my introductory proverb is becoming (or has become) a taboo in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana.

Indeed, having carefully followed the matter, it’s quite lucid that the leadership of our honorable parliament is fortunate to have lost the ability to see what Ghana looks like outside the current chamber they occupy.

Perhaps, because the glasses of their V8’s are tinted, and because their illegal sirens afford them the undue privilege of gliding off in top speed to their supposed parliamentary sittings, they don’t get to see what Ghana really looks like. And thus, can’t see what Ghana really needs at this time.

I’m particularly impressed by this divine inability of our parliamentarians to see what the country they were voted to serve, really needs.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the Hon. Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu makes a lot of sense when he argues that peradventure, the speaker may choose to hit him if he’s angered while moderating proceedings because of how close their seats are.

He succinctly refers to it as a ‘spitting distance’. For him, the spaces in the aisles are too small to allow for comfortable movements in the chamber. Classic self-seeking! Amour propre! Simply, leader insensitivity to followers’ plights. After all, is that not what our politicians do these days?

Lest I forget, the honourable majority leader has been quick to add that the decision has got nothing to do with the Executive, in that, it’s strictly an initiative from parliament.

Meanwhile, this same Parliament has not taken a decision on the issue. As a matter of fact, the proposal has not even gotten to the plenary for debate. So technically, we can say that Parliament has not requested any new chamber, because it hasn’t even decided if it wants the chamber yet.

Meanwhile, there has been a contract bidding process initiated, architects shortlisted and contracted, artist impression of the edifice unveiled, and what’s worse, the Rt. Hon. Speaker has said that there’s budgetary allocation for the building already by government. So for something that has not been decided on, there’s already some money sitting and just waiting to be dished out. How proactive can a government get?

This is great news, isn’t it? We really do have money like that. Maybe I should now point your attention to the opportunity cost of constructing this new chamber.

Number 1

There are less than 100 ambulances working for the about 30m Ghanaians. The average cost of an ultramodern ambulance is $100,000 so with the $200m, we could get 2,000 brand new state of the art ambulances to patch up our healthcare system.

Number 2

An average of 400,000 cedis can get us a 6-unit classroom block. $200m is approximately 1 billion Ghana cedis. This means that the proposed amount can get us 2,500 6-unit classroom blocks. We could scrap double-track and wipe off school under trees with that money.

Number 3 In March this year, an 800-bed facility costing 40m Pounds was inaugurated for the Tamale Teaching Hospital. Given the existing exchange rates, $200m could get us 4 of those 800-bed facilities. That is 3,200 beds added to the existing health facilities we have. We may be getting ready to say bye-bye to ‘No-Bed Syndrome’.

Number 4 For well over 2 decades, the Accra Psychiatric Hospital has been complaining about congestion in the facility, lack of funds to run the place and is being swallowed by debts. Do you know how many properly functioning psychiatric hospitals $200m could get us?? I’m sure you do, but the Parliamentarians don’t seem to appreciate the same.

Number 5 There are places in Ghana where people still drink from rivers and lakes. A proper borehole with a pump costs an average of 30,000 cedis. With $200m, we could get 33,333 boreholes across the country. This is still nowhere on the priority list. It’s either a chamber or nothing else.

Permit me to wrap up on the argument that some pillars prevent the speaker from seeing the honorable members during debates.

That argument is laughable at best. How many times do these MP’s even go for sittings?

Is it not the Speaker who has been shouting about the consistent absenteeism of members of the house??

It’s not like they even come and don’t have a place to sit. They simply don’t come!

A new chamber for truant MPs? Hell No!

As shameful as it is, these ‘honorables’ find a way to sign-in even when they don’t go for sittings. This has persisted to the extent that, the speaker has called for electronic log-in systems to check attendance.

In the British Parliament, some members walk forward when they want to contribute to the debates on the floor.

Here, some MP’s go 4 years without a word on the floor.

But we want to give them more space to feel comfortable to take naps in their seats while the debates are ongoing.

What’s worse, the UK parliamentary chamber is even more compacted than the Ghanaian chamber which was renovated a few years ago. But still, we want a new chamber.

So in the thinking of the leadership of parliament, we should build a 450-seater ultramodern edifice for parliamentarians who will not even come for parliamentary sittings over the possibility of getting 2000 ambulances, 2500 6-unit classroom blocks, 3200-bed hospital facilities 33,333 boreholes, and every other thing we can think of.

I think it’s very laudable and we should all support it.

Let’s get a new chamber to be able to accommodate more members and some visitors and, forestall possible heckling and prevent someone from pouring acid on our speaker.

I hope the Rt. Hon. Speaker Prof. Aaron Mike Ocquaye and the people’s representatives have not lost their ability to hear the sentiments of the people who ’employed’ them in Parliament.

#DropThatChamber!

Columnist: Manuel Koranteng

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