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Opinions Mon, 11 Aug 2014

Fellow Ghanaians - consider these

I was in Ghana November 2013 and returned to the USA early February 2014. When I was coming back, Ghanaians were beginning to feel the effects of a deteriorating government and economy. Petrol (gasoline) and other fuel prices were beginning to move up anytime one turned his head. The “dumsor” (on and off electrical power) phenomenon was picking up steam.

Since February 2014, there has not been any positive news coming out of Ghana. In February 2014, the dollar was exchanged for 2.5 cedis, now it is 3.5 cedis to a dollar. The cedis have lost about 30% of its value in about 6 months! Every decent Ghanaian seems to be concerned about our reeling economy and the hardship it is wrecking on the ordinary citizen. If we are going to reverse our fortunes, we have to find out what has happened and why? Those who don’t remember the past mistakes are bound to repeat them (Santayana). Ghana’s decline started during the Rawlings government with the sale of state enterprises, the promising Nsawam Cannery was cannibalized by the top officials of the Rawlings government for free. I used to write about why we should not sell our state enterprises. The response was “government enterprises are not productive” and now we realize we are naked. We don’t manufacture anything. We import everything including toothpicks. Why are we shocked at the runaway decline of our beloved cedis?

Beyond our lack of local production over the years, our successive governments (NPP and NDC) have been filled with corrupt and incompetent personnel. Need I list some? Maybe and Johnson, Gyeeda, Saoda, Richard Anane, Woyome, 50th Anniversary Jubilee rot, Jake Obetsebi Lamptey and his conflict of interest sale of the government bungalow.

The incompetence in the government is becoming more damaging. Do we all remember the 2010 census, when the senior High school students had to stay home for 2 weeks in September to allow the census takers to be trained in the buildings while the schools were empty for the whole long vacation? Look at the current mess at the senior high schools level – they were three years then four, then 3 years!! I can bet that the “dumsor, dumsor” problem stemmed from incompetence that stinks all the way to the top. Do you know that Ghana did not put in a clause for oil to be discounted to our refinery in the Jubilee oil field contract? We are one of the few countries that never did this as a host- oil producing country? God have mercy on us. Only a week ago the parliament scrutinized 6 petroleum agreements (PA) and approved them in two days (Finder-7/23/14). These are the seeds of our problems.

I want to ask the Hon President Mahama a question. How do you feel when you read that a senior high school student committed suicide for her mother’s inability to pay her school fees of GHC190(Daily Guide 7/25/14)? The chicken has come home to roost. Ghana is seeing the end product of bad governments and corruption.

The Senchi Conference was unnecessary. There is no secret to the fact that when you constantly increase the price of fuel (primary petrol) your whole price structure escalates. When you close down your factories like Saltpond Ceramic Factory, you have to spend your meager foreign exchange to import tiles, water closets, plates, cups, etc. We have buried our head in the sand. We have not leant our lesson. The government is talking about asking a foreign company to run Electricity Corporation of Ghana (ECG). There are so many competent men with integrity who can run ECG. It is the responsibility of the government to find them. They do not have to be NDC members only. We have 83 ministers!!!

If the President Mahama is sincere about reversing Ghana’s fortunes as a gesture, he must ban the importation of toothpicks. The rice and the poultry farmers have been crying since President Kuffour’s government for help. In 2009 the operational manager for the Aveyime Rice farm said “Ghana could be self-sufficient in rice in two years.” The govt. has closed her eyes. Rice and poultry importation cost Ghana between 700 – 800 million dollars. Can we say foreign exchange?

The lie about Petrol - Since 1992 all our various governments have claimed to be subsidizing fuel. I am yet to be able in my small mind to reconcile this claim and the fact that there are 12 different tariffs on the fuel? How do you subsidize what you are taxing? Also the government of Ghana and its agencies use 40% of the fuel in the country without paying for it. The average consumer (60%) pays for the full (100%) cost of the fuel import. I remember when the late President Atta Mills came to power in 2009; he gave a directive that all government and its agencies to cut fuel consumption by 30%. What happened to this directive? Mr. President that would help solve part of our problem.

Our economy can be salvaged but we need leadership that stays true to its words. How does Dr. Sikpa Yankey who had been judged by the British court of taking bribe from Maybe & Johnson become the CEO of Ghana National Gas Co.? President Mahama rightly replaced the Minister of Sports and his Deputy even before the World Cup games ended. Why were they not fired? It is the recycling of corrupt and incompetent officials that is killing our country. Mr. President since corruption is hard to control; you can start by reducing the opportunities for them. For example; take the school feeding and uniform programmes .Kill the idea of buying shoes for the kids. Take all the budgets involved and cancel or reduce school fees. Then the parents can use the school fees they save and buy food and uniforms for their children. Then, we don’t have to worry about the stench in School Feeding and Uniform programmes.

Mr. President forget about Occupy Flagstaff House, forget about July 24th 2014 demonstrations all over Ghana regional capitals. JUST DON’T FORGET IVY OWUSU WHO HUNG HERSELF OVER GHC 190.00 SCHOOL FEES.

Kwamina Mbra Panford

(Is a Ghanaian who wants the Govt. to succeed so that we can all be relieved)

tpanford@msn.com
Columnist: Panford, Kwamina Mbra