MP weeps over Chinese coffins in Ghana?

Sat, 9 Oct 2010 Source: Bonna, Okyere

According to Ghana News on October 7, 2010, “The Member of Parliament (MP) for Ahafo Ano North in the Ashanti Region, Richard Akuoko Adiyia is in tears over the high influx of caskets from China into the country.” (Daily Guide).The report went on to say that the MP was distressed, upset and worried over the fact that lately caskets of different brands have been imported into the country in high quantities to the detriment of local carpenters that manufacture them.

According to the law-maker, Chinese-made caskets are being displayed in numerous stores in Kumasi. The MP was quoted as saying, “… and the question I ask myself is, don't we have enough casket makers in the country?" I appreciate the MP’s agitation but my concern is the DO-NOTHING ATTITUDE OF PARLIAMENT. I was wondering if the MP has raised this issue in Parliament. We applaud his calling on government to do something about the situation in earnest. However merely acknowledging problem is not enough for an MP. If an MP could not use his influence to table a motion in parliament for debate/action then what worth is having this legislative body that cannot legislate?

The problem:

1. The presence of imported coffins is in abundance in Ghana and this is quickly killing the local furniture industry.

2. Imported coffins from China are potentially destroying the businesses of local manufacturers.

3. Overdependence on foreign goods is collapsing Ghana’s infant industries and wiping out Ghana’s manufacturing base which is vital to the country's development.

Rightly put the MP has identified the problem. What is required now is government solving the problem. This is what we elect government for not moaning and complaining over issues. It is great for a law maker to have blasted Ghanaians for their perception that anything foreign is better than those made in Ghana. Kudos to the Honourable MP!

Africa cannot stress this enough. "It's about time we patronized our local products to help boost the economy." But where is the government in all this, especially when this is a national crisis? Don’t we elect governments to solve problems? Protecting the economy and the wellbeing of citizens, MUST be the priority of Ghana government too; not debating on another usage of the Jubilee House. I hope we have not elected “A-DO-NOTHING GOVERNMENT.

It is worth repeating to the legislative body and policy makers of Ghana that thousands are still dying on the roads daily for sheer lack of law enforcement. Blasting the people is not enough for MPs or the Office of the President. The government MUST design policies to stop the mass killing of innocent Ghanaians on the road and the killing of local industries.

The Big Question For Government & Parliament:

1. Why should we import coffins from China? 2. Why is virtually everything from tooth picks and now caskets being imported into the country as if nothing can be manufactured in Ghana?

SOMETHING FOR PARLIAMENT AND GOVERNMENT (President) Mills) TO WORK ON: The MP has intimated that "Ghana Textiles exists only in name; there is no textile industry in Ghana." In other words, the MP acknowledges publicly that the collapse of the textile industries in Ghana is due to the DO-NOTHING ATTITUDE OF GOVERNMENT.

If I may ask: Why are the government and people of Ghana depending solely on foreign products? What is the government doing about the furniture industry which is now on the brink of extinction?

SUGGESTION: For the importation of unproductive and luxury goods such as coffins I propose a ban or higher import taxes.

My curiosity is heightened by the MPs acknowledgement that frankly this is happening mainly in Kumasi. He cited that, imported coffins are in abundance in areas such as Asafo Roundabout, Fante Newtown and portions at Ahodwo. My problem is why in Kumasi alone? What about the other regions? May be the Asantehene can do something about this too in educating the people of Kumasi to begin to put more value on the living as well as the dead. What if they had imported computers (which I believe is cheaper and more beneficial than imported coffins) in abundance for their school-going kids? Do the businessmen of Kumasi know that they would have invested their scanty resource to the maximum by importing computers for the troubling schools? My gut feeling is YES but again the government would have over-taxed them making it a bad business decision, although such a decision would have benefited the country to the maximum. We all know improving education will bring untold profits but will the government primitive policies allow for individuals to help? Think twice about this, please!

For a member of the legislative body or a parliamentarian to weep over such an issue, as importation of caskets that could have been tackled easily by parliament/government tells how pathetic our government institutions have become. Is it not pathetic that parliament can spend hours debating on changing the name of the Jubilee House or what name to give to this edifice, or how much interest-free loan MPs and government officials can take home etc but cannot spend time to tackle matters of life and death of the citizenry?

What is government/parliament doing about the thousands dying on our roads daily? If parliament could do nothing positive about these massive graves, then perhaps it was excusable for the business minded people of Kumasi to make more money from the dead by importing appealing caskets from China. Did anybody ever hear parliament debating on how to reduce the death rates from motto accidents? Or how to meaningfully improve national education standard? Finding tangible policies to tackle such issues must be the priority of government/parliament; NOT, reading and shouting eulogies at funerals? Or wasting the tax payer’s money and time on debating on the Jubilee House. Government of Ghana can do better than this

We have all these issues such as poor health and lack of medical infrastructure, lower educational standards at our universities and higher institutions that have not received any serious governmental attention. Now it is importation of coffins? Let’s see what the government will do. If the government cannot tackle this unnecessary importation of coffins, that will be serious. What happened to the Millennium Development Goals and bridging the poverty gap by 2015?

Okyere Bonna

Okyere Bonna is the author of A NEW AGENDA FOR GHANA, and STOPPING THE CARNAGE ON AFRICAN ROADS and the co-author of Traditional Institutions and Public Administration in Democratic Africa. For more information on this author visit his official website: www.okyerebonna.com

Columnist: Bonna, Okyere