Opinions Sat, 17 Jul 2010

Kofi Wayo’s “Parliament Is Useless” Remarks

– Suggestions by Nana Kofi

Recently the airwaves and newsprint have been filled with various versions, explanations, extrapolations, what’s not over Kofi Wayo’s statement on some FM stations that the Ghanaian parliament is useless when it comes to improving the welfare of the masses - the singular goal for which it exists. The good people of Ghana elected members of parliament for the sole purpose of improving our welfare. Therefore before we condemn either Parliament or Mr. Kofi Wayo, let us critique and grade our parliaments’ activities or accomplishments vis-vis their mandate. The following is a brief list of socio-economic problems that have come across our parliaments.

FOREIGN MINING COMPANIES: Before Rawlings’ coups, our minerals and precious metals were controlled by our government for the people of Ghana. Subsequent Parliaments approved the give-away of our gold, diamonds, etc. to foreign companies for a 3% revenue share, (recently increased to 5%) coupled with All the tax breaks, limitless repatriation of profits, and lopsided wages in favour of expatriates. Internationally accepted revenue share exceeds 35%, (no tax breaks, etc.); our communities are being polluted beyond recovery; our farmers are losing their livelihood for a pittance in compensation; our infrastructure built with our scanty resources are being gutted with heavy truck movements; YET OUR PARLIAMENT SITS ON THE FENCE NONCHALANTLY. So have our parliaments acted in the best interest of the masses with regard to our mineral extraction by foreign companies?

POVERTY IN MINING COMMUNITIES: In most countries communities endowed with mineral, oil, or gas deposits enjoy the associated wealth. That is why Ghanaians are flocking to Lybia, Dhubai, Qatar, etc. Not so in Africa in general, Ghana in particular. Parliament can INSIST in a law on: (a) community share (5%-10%) and representation, (b) district share (10%-15%) and representation, (c) government share (15%-30%) and representation, for a total retention of 50%-55%. It has not done that. Are the foreign mining companies entitled to year after year haul of $1.0 billion or more profits after a capital investment of only $500,000? So have our parliaments acted in the best interest of the masses with regard to our mineral extraction by mining companies?

SALE OF NATIONAL ASSETS: Our first President and his parliament thoughtfully laid out the 7-year development plan, and started implementing it to the annoyance of the western world. Ghana’s GIHOC started manufacturing a number of items. Again after Rawlings coups, parliaments approved the sale of these our national assets at giveaway prices to foreign companies and cronies. Now Ghana only trades in imported items. So have our parliaments acted in the best interest of the masses with regard to our State Owned Enterprises

STX PROJECT: In spite of the existence of our PWD, SHC, AESC, etc. who in the past undertook most of the public construction works we see today, the “Northern Clepts” are forcing a $1.5 billion Korean deal down our throats. In spite of the numerous red flags and objections raised by industry, economists, and think-tanks, Parliament is rushing to approve this give-away to the Korean STX company, ostensibly to house our security personnel. In the mean time in every district capital stand shells of uncompleted apartments complexes meant for the police, which can be completed into occupancy by our own Real estate companies, and at a fraction of this $1.5 billion. So is our parliament acting in the best interest of the masses with regard to this STX housing project, or only in the interest of the few such as the Northern Caucus?

VOTING RIGHTS FOR EXPATRIATE GHANAIANS Almost ALL democracies recognize the financial, socio-economic and political contributions from their expatriate citizens, and therefore accord them the right and logistics to vote in their elections. Not so in Ghana.

So is our parliament acting in the best interest of the masses by not implementing the expatriate Ghanaian voting bill that was passed over 10 years ago?

THE WORLD BANK IN OUR LIVES Only the naïve will believe in give-aways by any company, especially a bank. The World Bank, IMF, IFC, QQQ, XXX, you-name-it are ALL out to make money. And they make money much in the same way as our Makola women. They know the minimum price to charge for a reasonable profit. However if a sucker comes along, they are not ashamed to doubling or tripling their profits. In our case, our governments and parliaments give away on silver platters our gold, diamond and bauxite to the Newmonts and Anglogolds (funded by IMF etc.); and then year after year go to the same World Bank, and IMF, with a begging bowl in hand for budget subsidies, which once again come with unfavourable conditionalities such as (a) hiring freeze, (b) no subsidies for utilities, schools, health, etc. (c) very high interest rates (over 30% compared with under 10% for western world. So have our parliaments acted in the best interest of the masses when they have GIVEN away to foreigners our mineral wealth, only to turn around and BORROW the same?

JOB CREATION All advanced economies of the world view infrastructural development as the engine of growth. Not only does the construction of GOOD roads employ the dog-chain sellers, it also links producers, markets, towns, regions, countries for a vibrant commerce, and hence an improved GDP. That is why on assuming office amid the economic melt-down, (incidentally at the same time as President Mills) President Obama and his congress enacted economic stimulus bills aimed at creating infrastructural jobs. Unfortunately at the same time our President Mills and our Parliament were freezing all hiring to compound the huge unemployment crises facing our SSS and university graduates. Our infrastructure is still non-existent in most places; and unemployment still high. So have our parliaments acted in the best interest of the masses with regard to job creation to our teeming unemployed?

NON PAYMENT OF NATIONAL SERVICE SALARIES National service youths, discharging their national duties (sometimes in very rural areas), have to wait for months before their meager salaries are paid. This has gone on for years with the knowledge of parliament. So is our parliament acting in the best interest of the masses by not enacting laws for prompt payment of salaries to National Service Personnel?

The above is but a sample of concerns and issues that our honourable members of parliament are charged to deliberate, and enact laws to improve the well being of the masses. With all the background information at their disposal, Parliament can critique the above and similar issues, and grade themselves as to whether they have genuinely acted in the best interest of the masses or only for the interest of a few. We the public do not have access to this background information. This brings me to:

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL This bill has been languishing in parliament year after year, while ALL our local and international agreements continue to be shrouded in secrecy and to our disadvantage. So have our parliaments acted in the best interest of the masses by denying us access to information or dealings they are supposed to be executing for us?
Columnist: Kofi, Nana