Opinions Mon, 18 Oct 2004

Ghana?s Finance Minister ? Path To Glory, Or Passport To Jail?

(Part 2 of 2) There should be a shame when a grown man does what he knows to be wrong. Some of the shame can easily be avoided if our leaders thought of the people and society who pay the money. Let us examine our past and see why we do some of these things.

A man exercises the right to piss in public when nature calls and there are no places of convenience. Scene at Accra, Ghana, in a queue for hours at Vehicle Licensing Office. Estimated collection of C500 Million ($55,000) daily from this office. (Picture by K. Danso)

Our Socialist Past: A Finance Minister may put him or herself on a pedestal in Africa of monarch of all he/she surveys. Nothing moves without money in the modern world, and we as a nation have put all our moneys together, in one basket ? a major mistake of our Socialist past. Even if the Finance Minister is him/herself not a thief or a crook, this evil tendency may be actually to use public funds to serve the interest of a few, a group of inside power-brokers and the President if he so desires. It is an abuse of power that may be ?sweet? for any man whose heart may not be in the right place and who is coerced into the inner club. Nobody dared correct or touch these people.

  • Why should a Presidential entourage have 20 of the most expensive 4x4s, the Toyota Landcruisers, and no new dormitories are built at our Universities for decades? One Landcruiser may cost $75,000. Two may build a new dormitory.

  • Why should travel entourages spend say $50,000 on overseas trips when our premier research institution, CSIR, is crying of receiving only a few hundred dollars (did I read $100?) per year to operate on critical research? Some of these research, well packaged and with patent Law know-how, could perhaps give Ghana a leading edge on some Bio-technology, pharmaceutical chemistry, or even electronic or software technology ?
Readers must remember this lack of fair revenue distribution is done irrespective of which area the money is coming from. The fact that money is being collected at Tema harbor or Airport cargo area does not mean, and has not meant in the past, that money is sent there to provide places of convenience for the people paying the money! If yams or tomatoes are produced in Mamprusi or Hwee-Hwee, it has not meant the roads to those farm areas will get any funding, or communication lines or electricity. This writer took several digital pictures of people urinating outside in public places where literally hundred of millions of cedis are collected daily. It is a shame!

However, it is this centralized power that has allowed the MPs and Ministers to be able to take money from the national coffers without consideration for the rest, and with total disregard for the society at large. The Minister of Finance has been able to approve a per diem allowance increase reported to be to $500 and $1,000 (per day) for Ministers and for the President respectively. It has allowed these men and women to travel around the globe for any meeting they can think of. Current Finance Minister Osafo Marfo seems to have done well in his job and not been replaced so far in the Ministerial shuffles. In the minds of many, despite ground floor inflation on products, he has not been ordering the printing of money, the main source of previous inflation trends, and thus held the cedi to dollar inflation-rate under control for the last year or more. However, in the minds of many his job security may be because he has been a ?good old boy? to serve the interest of the President and a few. It has become quite obvious that fairness and equitable distribution of revenue has not been his concern. Else

  • Why would a man approve and sign a check for the Speaker of Parliament to buy a $90,000 Mercedes, pay him $8,000 to go on vacation?

  • Why would he approve money for any MP to be taken to England for Medical care, when no new dormitories are being built for our students at the Universities?

  • Why are many brilliant children being left behind or sleep 12 or more in a room meant for 2?
If the Finance Committee Members like J.H. Mensah are of the old school, or care not about the children, or are self centered psychological egoists, so far, it is only the Finance Minister who may be sent to jail. A word to the wise.

Designed to Fail?

Good intentions do not always end up with good results. One wonders if this centralization of power was the way it was designed by our founding fathers or the Colonialists. Even if so, didn?t many people criticize Nkrumah and his Socialist path after he was overthrown? This writer has not hesitated to praise Nkrumah openly under many circumstances, but has not forgiven him for his Socialist path. However, was Nkrumah the only leader who so far had the goodwill of the nation at heart? Where are the rest? If Kwame?s path or one design or policy was wrong, why has the system not been changed? Why has the system not been changed to allow decentralization, and allow 100% local and district elections, control of revenues, and hence responsibility for the repair and maintenance of public assets? Why should somebody pay his taxes in Abetifi, Bonwire or Zualerigu, and have the moneys sent to Accra, so at the end of the month a portion of it will be sent back to pay the local government teachers and workers? Does it make sense? If Nkrumah made a mistake, or there were things he could not complete fixing, why can?t Kufuor, J.H. Mensah, Ala Adjetey and other so-called reputed Abenfo (book-smarts) who opposed Nkrumah do better? Or were their criticisms of Nkrumah mere empty charade?

Please, don?t get me wrong. I was the first person to write on Ghanaweb after Kufuor?s 100 days for us to give him some time because he did not promise us a rose garden. This article is not an NPP bashing. This is not meant as a partisan criticism. It is a moral challenge we have to give ourselves as Ghanaians, as Africans, and as black people. Why are billions of dollars of the tax payer?s money being dished out to contractors to build roads, and we know there is nobody or no independent agency to monitor and do quality checks, leading to an estimated 43 deaths per week. This Engineer can attribute most of these deaths to poor road design and construction, and has many digital pictures to show as evidence of poor design and not mere poor driving.

In September 2004 this writer took the time to write a 6-page summary of my findings in Ghana, with some pictures, and faxed it to the Finance Minister Osafo Marfo (per his Secretary) if he would be concerned, and gave him a chance to answer some questions for us. To date no response has been heard from the Minister?s Office. Even though the letter was not published, I did make it clear, and I state it here for the record, that the future of Ghana will not be as forgiving of Ministers and public servants who ignore and neglect their responsibilities to the taxpayers of Ghana. If the NPP is able to control the drugs in our barracks and prevent any more coups, Ghana will be grateful and reward the President with another term in December 2004. That?s my prediction. Those who want to pay C500 Million to become NPP nominees are welcome to pay for whatever rewards they think hey will get by joining the insider?s club. However, despite IMF and eternal praises, let the warning be clear that the main award will be given by the people of Ghana even if the NPP sells most of our public assets and rights to foreigners in exchange for accolades.

Long live Ghana.

Kwaku A. Danso (From Fremont, California, USA).
Fremont, CA.,USA: 510-440-8383
East Legon, Accra, Ghana. 233-21-517-206 /517-238

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.
Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.