Opinions Thu, 23 Mar 2017

Seth Terkper makes me sick!

By: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

He was widely regarded as one of the weakest links in the Mahama cabinet. And so it came as little surprise to me that Mr. Seth Terkper, the former Finance Minister, would decry the all-too-salutary decision by President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to scrap taxes imposed on female head porters, popularly known as “Kayayei” (See “Government Lacks ‘Wherewithal’ to Scrap ‘Kaya’ Toll – Terkper” Classfmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 3/3/17). According to Mr. Terkper, a career chartered accountant, the government lacks the means for it to presume to offer tax relief to this lowest category of self-employed Ghanaians.

And yet, ironically, Mr. Terkper would have the same government devise “various schemes to improve the well-being” of these practically most wretched of the Ghanaian urban poor. Precisely what schemes it is that the former Finance Minister has in mind, he does not specify. And so it is quite obvious that Mr. Terkper does not have any meaningful contribution to make in this sphere of our national life, economy and culture. Instead, it well appears that Mr. Terkper registered his criticism purely either out of spite for these female head porters or the strategic fact of such tax relief policy redounding to the great benefit of the Akufo-Addo-led government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) come Election 2020. Indeed, were he genuinely concerned about the plight of the Kayayei, the critic would have, for example, suggested the need for the government to make readily available motorized trucks at affordable prices or heavily subsidized rates to these physically stressed workers.

A subsidized payment plan could, for example, be set up for these exploited working poor to ensure their complete ownership of these trucks within a reasonable space of time, after which period local governments could then be provided with guidelines for imposing taxes in the form of nominal fees on these head porters. I suppose such an arrangement would fall under the economic concept of value-added taxes. In view of the current deplorable economic situation of these head porters, rather than vacuously criticize the Akufo-Addo Administration, critics like Mr. Terkper should rather be commending the government for initiating such a constructive poverty-alleviation policy. It is also quite obvious that the erstwhile Mahama-led government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) had woefully failed in this policy direction because the key NDC operatives had been cynically fixated on a reckless regime of profligate spending, thus their imposition of nuisance taxes on the most vulnerable wage earners of our society.

Mr. Terkper’s cynicism also eerily recalls the caustic criticism of then-Candidate Akufo-Addo by President Mahama, in the lead-up to Election 2012, when Nana Akufo-Addo promised the construction of clean and affordable hostels for the Kayayei, as a means of drastically reducing the exposure of these practically homeless and overworked head porters to marauding male sexual predators. Back then, the Gonja-born Mr. Mahama took umbrage because he invidiously presumed his northern ethnicity to be synonymous with his especial and exclusive right to any public discussion of the perennially neglected plight of the Kayayei, the bulk of whom are known to be of northern descent. Four years later, one would have thought that Mr.Mahama would have been able to drastically reduce the percentage of northerners engaged in this most exacting or energy-sapping of menial jobs. Instead his government would worsen the plight of the Kayayei with soul-stifling taxation.

By: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D. English Department, SUNY-Nassau Garden City, New York E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net *Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com Ghanaffairs

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame