Opinions Mon, 22 Oct 2007

Politics Of Violent Hypocrisy And Misplaced Priorities

They acquired useless Presidential Jets that no sooner than later became a white elephant and a drain on the nations coffers. Surprisingly, they justified this; they purchased luxurious cars for visiting dignitaries at the expense of the tax payer during the Ghana @ 50 celebrations, they justified this as well; all of them wanted cars, they asked for 20 thousand dollars each, they got it and as usual, justified it. They have justified the sums involved in putting up a Presidential Palace even as they continue to ask for more; now they are reaching unanimity on state funding of Political Parties; here too, if the tax payer does not revolt, they will obtain it and justify it!

Hear them, they have already begun. The arguments they are putting across are as usual, very sound and convincing. They claim that political party activities must be made open to as many people as possible.

They claim that public funding of political parties will curtail the genuine fears that political parties may become like clubs for the rich and national governance will be the preserve of those who command money.

They claim that, without public funding, political parties which are not in power will be compelled by liquidity problems to fold up or forced into extinction. The idea therefore is to give all the parties a common financial base for their constitutionally required activities.

Unfortunately, these are the same arguments that failed to convince these same politicians when they were advanced in favour of state funding of education from primary to the tertiary level from 1997. Indeed, they have consistently maintained that it is inconceivable and practically impossible. They have on several occasions, downplayed it on grounds that, they are engineered on the foundations of empty idealism and wishful thinking.

Congratulations to both the NDC and NPP governments. Their propaganda is that, “government alone cannot handle the cost (they often say burden) of education…” The success of this propaganda was the birth of Cost-sharing and its subsequent acceptance by the Haruna-led NUGS. It is not importance in this instance to visit this betrayal; all we can say is that this is what has led to the current phenomenon of Cost-shifting in higher education—the only reason for which many citizens have been attacked unjustly as their inalienable right to education in this country is truncated.

By some inexplicable means, despite their defence that education cannot be financed by the state alone, they have been able to adduce arguments that seem to suggest that it is not impossible in the case of political parties. Hear them out as suggested in the draft before parliament:

SOURCE OF FUNDING The main source is an amount equivalent to two percent of the prevailing rate of the VAT to be paid by the VAT service or any amount approved by parliament but which shall not be less than two percent of VAT.

This is not all; once it is all about their interest, they have gone further in digging out other sources. By the draft, these sources will include grants, donations, gifts, corporate and other voluntary contributions originating from within or outside the country, whether by foreigners or citizens of Ghana. According to them, this bill provides for safeguards to ensure transparency, accountability and fairness to all the parties involved. The fund will be managed by a commission.

The arguments for “free education” have become clearer than ever. Many young countries have advanced from third world economies to middle income and the rapidity by which they have achieved this is nothing but the handiwork of education. The essence of education cannot be reduced in this day when all available statistics of advanced nations indicate a wide percentage of its citizenry being educated. If our politicians are foresighted, the priority will go to education rather than political parties. But they are not; it is all about their selfish satisfactions for today.

During the NDC’s regime, Dr. Ekow Spio Garbrah, then minister of Education, is quoted to have said that, “the sole beneficiary of higher education is the individual.” Indeed, this was the position of the IMF/World Bank and it still remains unchanged as contained in its 2007 World Development Report. But these goons easily forget that they speaking to discerning minds. When that student has graduated to become a farmer, feeding the nation and beyond; a driver, enhancing communication; a doctor, saving lives; a teacher, providing knowledge; an engineer, increasing precision in architecture, road construction and the like; a police or military personnel, providing effective and responsible security to the state, in what way does any of these inure to the sole benefit of the individual?

Even as the IMF/World parade the world on this mentality, it contradicts itself in the same 2007 World Development Report, to suggest that government must still bear the responsibility of funding higher education by way of initiating policies since accessing private funds in third world countries is very difficult. We want to believe that Ghana is a third world country. Every year, many students are unjustly sent out of examination halls owing to their inability to pay their fees; is that what we want? Yet these politicians are not pricked by conscience.

Africa’s youthful population this time around remains the highest ever. Today, 1.5 billion people are between ages 12 and 24 worldwide. Of this sizeable figure, 1.3 billion are in developing countries most of which are in Africa. With a vision-centered leadership and a conscious commitment to education by our politicians, they would have been buying opportunities for at least the next generation.

It is indeed worrying that our politicians keep referring to the country’s labour as cheap in other to attract foreign investment capital into our economy from strategic investors. But it is important to understand that, with high literacy, there is no way the country’s labour force could be referred to as cheap!

The youth of this country like many African countries are dying on the deserts, while these Lebanese, Chinese and Indians take over our lands. They have been handed some of the sensitive areas like communications, disregarding the state security threat implications. Whiles they have taken over the giant shopping malls and food industry with Papaye as our only pride, citizens finds themselves as “table and chair” food vendors and even worst, dog chain sellers. We are therefore confronted with no alternative than a conscious “education for all program.” This is why Ghana must make an emphatic statement of mass disapproval of state funding of political parties. But this statement can only be effective when it is made no where than the streets.

Ernesto Yeboah
ernestoyeboah@yahoo.com Sunday, October 14, 2007

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Yeboah, Ernesto