Ghanaians killing Ghanaians

Wed, 7 Aug 2013 Source: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

: Keep them in the hell they create!

I have always held a stern belief that one of the surest ways of making sure that these so called leaders understand the pain and suffering of the people is to make them live in the systems that they create and lord over. To the contrary, so long as these leaders live above and outside the harsh unsustainable systems that they invent for the people/followers, they will never care enough to either enhance or reinvent systems that serve the needs of the people. Unfortunately, we, Ghanaians, have proven to be extremely wicked towards one another more than any outsiders ever did to us! Yes we have and continue to!! What will it take to unhinge this vice grip on our suffering masses? How can we hold them responsible? Below, I illustrate my conviction with clear examples.

Let us start with Customs! Have you noticed the corruption at the Harbor? One of the key reasons for the rot at the Harbor is the high, scalding and wicked custom duties imposed by our rapacious government. Indeed the fees are so high and confusing that some Ghanaians have started using neighboring countries as their port of call. Our leaders know the fees are high and that is why they avoid them by shipping cars in the name of the government and then quietly converting the car into their personal ones. That is why they like riding SUVs but never pay the kind of duty you and I will pay on an SUV. This is also why the criminals at the castle auction cars below cost when unsuspecting importer are hit with skyrocketing fees at the harbor. Take Ghana@50! What happened to all those luxury cars? Do you think Kufour’s gang bought those cars at cost plus the high-handed duties at the harbor? Of course not! The morale of the story here is that so long as leaders find ways around the wicked systems that they create, nothing else will be done about the plight of the masses.

The constitution of Ghana exempts the president from paying taxes. Do you think the president cares low taxes? Do you think he worries about the impact of taxes on the poor? Here is a country with a very narrow tax base and very little manufacturing. Majority of the people who work in the informal sector pay no taxes. The current tax burden therefore falls inordinately on very few people who work in the formal sector. Indeed, the mechanism for channeling taxes to the government is bereft with blazing corruption. Why then would the president increase taxes on the very poor? Taxes on condoms? Even as prices spiral upwards, the government mercilessly increases taxes that will heavily and adversely impact the poor. The bottom-line is that because the president and his underlings live outside the tax maze, they will not hesitate to punish the poor with wicked taxes even as they lap in luxury. Besides, they loot enough to offset any effect of the taxes they gleefully impose. The sure way that we can get these politicians to understand the bite of taxes is to make them pay it on all fronts. Yes the president and all his men must pay higher taxes! Taxes must be progressive not regressive!

Recently, it was reported in the media that the salaries of ministers of state have not been paid. Did you see how swift the response of the ministers was? Yet, these same ministers lord over ministries that have not paid nurses and teachers for years. How can anyone work for years without being paid? Lord have mercy on us! Why do you think the ministers all of a sudden can relate to the teachers and nurses who have been begging for years to be paid? Imagine if there was a single edict from the president or parliament which reads thus: All Ministers of state, MPs, Judges and the president, will not be paid, until all public workers are fully paid. Put the so called leaders in the same situations as the masses and watch how quickly everyone gets paid on time. Not paying people in an economy like Ghana’s is lucid invitation to corruption and thievery. When human being work, they must be paid!

Now on to healthcare! Imagine that Ghana had a simple requirement that states thus: No official of government shall receive healthcare at the expense of the state, outside the country. Do you think this simple requirement will push our leaders to develop a viable healthcare system for the people? You bet your bottom dollar they will. Yet so long as political leaders and their cronies run out of the country for healthcare at the expense of the taxpayers, and can steal enough to fund the health needs of their loved ones overseas, no significant improvement will be realized in the health care sector of the country. Have you noticed how the politicians and chiefs send their wives outside the country to give birth? Keep them in the death trap of a health care system that they have going and watch the system change real quick!

Now on to parastatals!! Imagine that Ghana had a requirement that forced workers to invest in all the government organizations that they work in. Every month, a part of the worker’s salary will be invested in the organization. If and when the worker leaves the organization, he or she can sell shares to a willing buyer. With this arrangement, workers will have a skin in the game. On top of that, workers, from the watchman to the messenger, will be part of corporate governance. Any worker who questions the poor administration of the organization will be immune to adverse action by management. Management, by the way, shall include a strong presence of workers from all levels of the organization. Do you think by having this much skin in the game, workers in parastatal organization like GBC and VRA will make sure that the organization are not run into the ground?

Last example and a funny one to boot! Ken Kuranchie was recently wrongly jailed in my opinion. However, by having a brush with the prison system, have you noticed how Ken is waxing poetic about the need to change the prison system? Indeed, he has vouched that crusading to revamp of the prison system is a noble cause that he is willing to undertake. Here again, you see how when immerse in a system, you quickly feel the bite of the system? Who feel it, knows it, right?

The lesson in all these examples shows that, until the leaders that boss over these decrepit and dastardly wicked systems are forced to live in the real Ghana that they’ve created and nurse, they will never understand the pain of the people. President Mahama does not understand the pain of traffic jams because he is “sirened” through traffic all day and all year. He will never smell the stench in Accra because he lives above and away from the stench. He will not understand the wrath and devastating effect of “dumsor” because he has electricity 24/7. He will never experience the lack of health care because he gets his check up overseas. He will never understand the pinch of high handed taxes on the masses because he does not have to pay taxes and has enough loot to counteract any price increases. He has no skin in the game and therefore does not care!

My fellow Ghanaians, we must make sure that these so called leaders live under the weight of the systems they create and nurse. We must hold their feet to the fire (hell) they create. We must not pay the way of these so called leaders out of the very wicked system they create and nurse. So long as we keep them in the system and close to the heat and stench, they will understand the pain that the people endure and will work rapidly hard enough to alleviate the situation. However, if we free them from the system, and also allow them to live in luxury, while we moan and die, Ghana will not change fast enough for the wellbeing of the people. Let’s do all we can to keep them in the system. Let them share mightily in the hell that they create!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Affectionately dubbed the double edge sword and recently mobbed as Santrofi Anomaa)

I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell---Harry Truman

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka