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Ghana - Are we a country of beggars?

Ghana - Are we a country of beggars?

Wed, 3 Sep 2014 Source: Hagan, Nana Kojo

Taking a walk through the streets of Accra, what you will see is mostly very hard working citizens grafting hard to make ends meet. From the street vendors vocally advertising their wares and running to and fro to complete a sale, to the taxis, tro-tro drivers and their mates conveying passengers around the city, everyone’s working hard in order to make their daily bread.

Mingling amongst the public is also another class of citizen, the beggar. Through no fault of theirs, these are the disabled and disadvantaged in society, who due to the non-existence of solid and reliable assistance from the state, have to resort to begging on the streets. At times they have able-bodied assistants who help them in their resolve to collect alms, which begs the question (no pun intended here), ‘don’t these able-bodied assistants have anything else worthwhile to do?’ I answered my own question with a further ponder, ‘Partnering to help these disabled people may be the best prospect that they may have, in the high unemployment climate of the country. It could be that they are a relative and there were no other means of putting food on the table.’ Rather than just sweeping it under the carpet as is becoming the norm in Ghana, can something be done about this? How long shall this concept exist without any action being taken to permanently support people in such unfortunate circumstances? I suppose this is not an immediate concern of the Government but it’s gone on for so long and I think that by now something should have been done.

Those who are also gainfully employed still persist in the same sort of habits. Any government institution that you may visit has an issue of this sort, with workers unashamedly asking customers for tips and bribes. Increasingly, you will find people asking you to give them some money for a service they have provided, which is the job they are being paid to do in the first place! Whether they’re being paid or not is a matter to be resolved through the right channels. People need to know their rights and where they stand with employment issues. Here’s a hint to the lawyers out there. Offer your services where such help is needed, please. At Kotoka International Airport, there is no longer the problem of self-appointed baggage handlers. These guys used to heckle travellers at the airport arrivals, begging to help them carry their baggage for a tip, sometimes fighting each other to gain the upper hand. They are no longer at the country’s only International Airport but some staff who work here also make suggestive comments to passengers to give them tips. I was recently the last passenger to board a flight to London and was told quite casually by the check-in assistant of the airline (name with-held), ‘oh sir, what about the late fee?’ Hinting that she had helped me attain my boarding pass despite me being late (which I hardly was) and so deserved a reward. It didn’t end there. At the immigration window, the officer checking my passport was trying to engage in conversation, suggesting that he was the one who had stamped my passport upon my arrival into the country 16 days earlier. This was just a ploy to get me to show some gratitude by handing him some money but I merely thanked him with a smile and moved on to the security check. Once again the man here asked for change, to which I responded that I had none left on me. As you see, this is just at the airport where the workers interface with many foreign visitors to the country. This should not be allowed to carry on. It’s irrelevant whether this occurs when they’re arriving or departing. Could this be the first impression visitors are getting about Ghanaians? That we are a country of beggars?

The same applies to other institutions on various levels. I will not list any others here as I’m sure readers are aware and may have had such experiences, or at least know someone who has. Even the police would either beg or extort depending on their mood and the nature of the alleged offence. At night some set up check-points and use these as their personal money collection-points. Although some may argue that setting up check-points deters armed robbers, what I am saying is this, where money-making is the objective, how long will it take before the two opposite parties join forces and turn on the innocent unsuspecting citizen? These things do harm to our reputation as a country and neither is it showing that the rule of law exists, if the enforcers are willing to stoop so low and go unchallenged. Government officers also get in on the begging action when they seek aid and investment from other richer countries when there are other methods available to raise money as a country. Loans and investment funding are some of the quickest ways to enrich themselves and the ordinary Ghanaian is suffering as a result of the government officers being side-tracked by such monstrous greed. Whatever happened to the proceeds from the oil reserves off Ghana’s Western coast? Why is the Ghanaian economy in such a sad state presently? There are many questions that need to be answered but I doubt a truthful answer will be forth-coming anytime soon. I certainly will not be holding my breath for that.

Let us stop being a country of beggars. Let’s exhibit some pride and self-respect in our jobs. I also challenge the government officers in charge to get their priorities straight and to be more resourceful in jobs creation and professional development of their staff. This should initiate better standards in customer care and service which will go a long way to help us all as a country. God has blessed our homeland Ghana. It’s our attitude that’s making us less great and weak. Remember, the whole world is watching. The Black Star in the Ghanaian flag is a shining beacon to others so let us set a better example to Africa and the world, fulfilling our destiny. God Bless Ghana.

By; Nana Kojo Hagan

Columnist: Hagan, Nana Kojo