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Opinions Wed, 12 Nov 2014

Is Parliament sabotaging Mahama’s Made-In-Ghana vision?

KWAKU NTI’s Library:

Chinese goods in Ghana’s parliament: Is Parliament sabotaging Mahama’s Made-In-Ghana vision?

“I choose the limit of my writing not interpretation” – Kwaku Nti There is no denying the fact that every country has the desire for foreign and new goods. And Ghana is not exception as the colonial master left us with nothing but the desire to consume more of the goods they brought from the new world via their country’s ships.

Indeed, that singular decision to enslave the Blackman, force him to work on vegetations in South America, produce raw materials which will then be shipped to Europe to be transformed into finished goods and brought back to Africa was a brilliant idea. I must congratulate the Whiteman for that swift decision for at least that singular decision arrived at an ancient boardroom where power drunk bearded intoxicated men gathered have had a great deal on the Blackman and his taste. Not only did the Brits succeeded in branding our local gin, ‘Akpeteshie’ as a brand which is not good enough for consumption, but have also sold their good old rum and beer to us making us dislike the real taste from the African palm tree. Yes, ‘Akpeteshie’ only became legal in the later part of colonial domination of this country. The illegality of its sale forced many who liked the gin to always smuggle it in gallons across boundaries to sell. Now, the local gin can be classified as the commodity which is enjoying a higher level of freedom, even more than the people who sell it. Just look at its present names and you will appreciate it – DC 10, ‘Keka bi kyere wo asi’, Davi, Blue Kiosk, Gentle Killer and many more.

Brewers of the local gin would tell you that but for the conversion of the gin into modern forms, the educated would forever have shunned patronising the beautiful brand. They would have preferred rum which is nothing but a Russian version of ‘akpeteshie’. But thanks to God, we now sing, dance and celebrate the powerful age-old brand of ‘Akpeteshie’. Dear reader, try remembering the numerous adverts on radio and television on Alomo Bitters, Pashew Bitters, Agya Appiah, Pusher, and even on local herbal medicines and you would appreciate how the brand has been transformed. But for the determination of lovers to preserve it, we would all be consuming beers made in the West due to our foreign tastes. Anyway, the young men are appealing to be in-laws to accept local gins in place of ‘broni nsa’ when they come to perform marriage rites. Another plea is that mother-in-laws also accept local prints instead of Dumas and Holland prints. Not only do they cost less hence affordable but also time has shown that they can be transformed into beautiful African wears. The same taste for foreign goods, led the Acheampong regime into borrowing money from the renowned boxer, David Kotei also known as D.K Poison to purchase sardines to feed Ghanaians. “I single-handedly lent to Ghana $45,000 of the proceedings from D.K. Poison vrs Fuku Yama bout purse as requested via telex by then Head of State, General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong to buy Mackerel (tinned fish) to help alleviate the terrible hunger that the country was facing in 1976. “They needed foreign currency in order to buy the fish for Ghana which they did not have. So the president sent me a telex to release the said money for the good people of Ghana. Over thirty years down the line, this money has not been paid by any government no matter how many petitions I wrote,” the ex-World champion told Blakk Rasta on the “Taxi Driver” show in June 2012. With the cedi-dollar ratio now at $ 1 = GHC3.20, it means Ghana now owes its first ever world boxing champion GHC 144,113. The amount so calculated excludes the interest it might have accrued if he had invested the same money then or have lent it to Ghana at a specific interest rate per annum. An amount which is enough to build several six classroom blocks or perhaps help in completing the Suhum-Nsawam stretch of the Accra- Kumasi highway which has become a white elephant. This is just a tip of the iceberg of how much our addictiveness to foreign taste is costing us as a people. Anyway, I want to add my voice to several calls on Ghana government to go see the oldman who sacrificed in his hay days to place Ghana on the world map. Through the years, one of the major causes of the cedi’s depreciation against the dollar and other foreign currencies is the continual importation of finished goods into the country. President Mahama disclosed in his State of the Nation address to Parliament on 25th February, 2014 that the country expended 1.5 billion dollars in foreign currency on the importation of consumables such as rice, sugar, cooking oil, tomato and fish in 2013. The money could have gone into the pockets of Ghanaian entrepreneurs. “If this money had been retained and spent in Ghana it would have gone into the pockets of Ghanaian entrepreneurs which would subsequently remain here to boost the economy,” he said. And hence, like his predecessors, the President started waving the red flag on the importation of finished goods. He indicated his readiness for the charge by wearing locally made Horseman shoes for the ceremony. He further launched a campaign for Made-In-Ghana goods to help promote Ghanaian products. To give meaning to the launch, he requested the board and management of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to encourage the local manufacture of electrical products such as cable, transformers and meters by purchasing from local producers who meet their quality standard. “Mr. Speaker, we will this year launch a broad campaign to encourage Ghanaians to buy made in Ghana goods. Any imported items we buy as Ghanaians constitute an export of jobs in this country especially in respect of the items for which we have comparative advantage to produce,” President Mahama noted. If the last statement of the President is anything to go by, then it is worthwhile that the President is alerted to the fact that, the Parliament of Ghana is the first culprit as it has spent millions of Ghana cedis of tax-payers on buying ‘Chinese’ goods to furnish the very location you stood to announce your vision to promote Made-in-Ghana goods. The cost of the refurbishment of the chamber is said to be GHC 21,950,855.00. Mr. President, Minority Leader, Osei Kyei Mesah Bonsu when quizzed on the propriety of Parliament sourcing the entire quantity from China tells us Ghanaian carpenters cannot there were no Ghanaian carpenters to deliver on the stipulated deadline. “In Ghana today…it is going to be almost impossible to get one contractor, have the same quality of wood to serve 275 Members of Parliament. It is almost impossible!” he said in an interview on Joy fm on 6th November, 2014. But one of the leading producers of furniture in the country, Kpogas, also replies him in a separate interview on Adom fm same day that they have the capacity to produce the same number of chairs and quality but the duration giving them was too short. Hence, they insist they need adequate time to do that. A point which I think is valid since Parliament did not decide in few days to change over. It is clear from a welcome address by the Speaker to the House that lots of consultations went into the planning and that entailed travelling abroad where necessary. So why did parliament not in the process notify the local contractors for them to prepare in advance? In fact, I think informing the local contractors was just a mere formality just to give the green light for the house to go ahead and procure the goods from China. If they indeed wanted a local contractor to do it, they would have had notified them long before sourcing the loan to refurbish the house. Like the president asked, can we quantify the number of employment we would have generated in Ghana if the local contractors have been given the contract? We would no doubt have contributed to the development of the local manufacturing industry. Enough of the foreign taste and Ghana can develop. What I expect from the President I expect the President who has championed the cause for the purchase of Made-in-Ghana goods to openly come out and condemn parliament for working to sabotage his vision. He should demand that it immediately put a hold on the importation of other items from the same location or anywhere overseas. For how long, can we develop the expertise of other countries? Let’s work to protect what we have. I believe the President appreciates the fact that failure to do this would have a serious dent on the Presidency as it has had on parliament. It would just go into the annals of failed promises of this administration. I await the verdict of your Excellency please.

Columnist: Nti, Kwame