Opinions Thu, 28 Jan 2016

Mahama has been a waste of time and resources

Everything being equal, President John Dramani Mahama will mount the podium in Parliament House in Accra, amid pomp and peagantry in the next week or two, to deliver what has come to be known as the State of the Nation Address.

In more cases than one, the annual ritual has become a re-hash of the ruling party’s manifesto and roof-top advertisements of achievements of the party, real and imaginary. In an election year, expect the Head of State to paint a glossy picture of the economy, and even go to the extent of offering one or two largesse from the ‘compassion’ of his heart.

There is likely to be an extended lecture on the President’s initiative on education, which has resulted in the creation of 200 second-cycle schools, even though only three have so far admitted students. In any society, three out of 200 is an abysmal failure rate.

In Ghana, where the provision of infrastructure from the people’s taxes is driven more by propaganda than the needs of society, the presidential and party machineries are already in overdrive, as the count-down begins to the next vote.

The President is likely to re-hash old notes on construction of roads, of which the circus of a construction site at the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange, would lead the way, together with the likes of the road to the middle of nowhere at Damongo. In all this, please note that this administration abandoned commuters to their fate to battle with the mud and dust for more than six years on the 31.7-kilometre Teacher Mante-Suhum-Apedwa stretch of the Accra-Kumasi Highway, this nation’s busiest road network.

Expect adoration from the head of an administration that has converted the Kumasi Airport into an international terminal by extending the runway and making an international airport out of the Tamale terminal. The news, though, is that since renovation works on the two airports were completed, not a single international flight has taken off from any of the two.

I have never shied from expressing the view that building an economy on borrowing sprees would eventually lead to it bursting. I call the new economic policy of borrowing and borrowing the Mahamean Economic Theory with its Terkpernomics. I do not believe I have to be a saint to forecast that this nation’s economic fortunes would worsen in the new year, as President Mahama and his technocrats engage in new bouts of expenditures to oil his re-election campaign.

Yesterday, a number of newspapers captured the story without really analyzing its impact on the economy and the 2016 elections. “President John Dramani Mahama, on Monday, announced that government, through the Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs, was working around the clock to promote more chieftaincy divisions to paramountcy level,” The Chronicle reported.

Knowing how this administration blew GH¢8.7 billion in excess of the budgeted amount to get President John Dramani Mahama elected in 2012, I am under no illusion that the paramountcy project is well fixed in the strategy at the Adabraka head office of the party, as the count-down begins towards the 2016 polls.

While President Mahama and those who claim to believe in him have been busy justifying the resettlement of two known terrorist suspects in this society, 37 precious lives have been lost to meningitis bacterial infections in the Brong Ahafo Region. State-run Ghanaian Times reported on Saturday that 28 people had died from the disease in the region. There have been 111 reported cases in all.

The tragedy in the announcement goes beyond the stated death and infections. For me, the tragedy lies in the fact that Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Victor Bampoe had the nerves to tell Ghanaians that there was no cause for alarm, when 37 precious lives have been lost.

In any society, 37 people dying would be cause for national mourning. Unfortunately, in this country, it is business as usual. We seem to be more interested in having compassion on foreign terrorist suspects than the lives of indigenous Ghanaians.

On June 3, 2015, more than 200 Ghanaians died from floods and a fire inferno at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in the national capital. Obviously, the failure of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly to dredge the Odaw River, for all the time that the National Democratic Congress has been in power, was what caused the flood, as the rains came down and triggered the inferno.

As you read this piece, the only significant thing picked up by a committee of enquiry appointed by the government to dig into the matter is that the fire was started from a piece of abandoned lighted cigarette.

That the authorities of state had failed to dredge the Odaw River, which was ready material for floods, was conveniently lost on the committee. This is a very interesting society. When huge state resources are applied to construct a circus at circle in the name of an interchange, the President beats his chest as the chief architect. But the death of 200 Ghanaians, as a result of naked state negligence, appears to move no soul into questioning the authorities. Apparently, in this society of God-fearing Ghanaians, the calamity is the work of nature.

What saddens me is that the Mayor of Accra, Bearded Dr. Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije, has the nerves to offer himself for election to Parliament, oiled by cash he might have amassed for misleading the fortunes of the national capital.

As the President prepares for the 2016 State of the Nation Address, Ghana is indebted to internal and external creditors to the tune of GH¢100 billion. When the NDC returned to Government House on January 7, 2009, the total indebtedness of this nation was GH¢9.5 billion. And they say they are transforming Ghana and changing lives!

I am developing a new strand of headaches understanding the kind of economic policies being pursued at the state treasury. At a time that the price for crude oil is tumbling on the international market, petroleum prices in Ghana are skyrocketing.

In 2007, at the height of the hike in crude oil prices, when a barrel of crude was selling at US$147 a barrel, the government of ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor sold a gallon of refined petrol at GH¢5.3.

Kufuor was pummeled, and his government openly insulted by men and women in grey suits, who are now calling for understanding of policies that cannot stand the test of time anywhere. The Committee for Joint Action, a creation of the NDC in opposition, and whose membership included ministers in the current administration, staged street protests and cried out for fuel prices to be drastically reduced.

Veteran politician Ato Ahwoi worked out sums on blackboards mounted at vantage spots in the national capital and other regional capitals, and generally creating the impression that petroleum prices could go further down.

On the campaign trail, deceased President John Evans Atta Mills promised to reduce fuel prices drastically. When he was given the nod and inaugurated on January 7, 2009, Prof. Mills reduced prices marginally, and then went on a hiking spree.

Now a gallon of petrol sells at GHc16, and still rising. As you read this piece, the international price of crude oil is tottering around US$28. Instead of reducing prices, the government has slapped huge tax hikes on petroleum products, as well as the utilities, as if the people of Ghana do not deserve to live.

I have not had any running water in my West Accra residence for three days running. In other areas in the national capital, the water drought is entering seven days, and still counting. It is interesting to note that one of the major reasons the pro-government Public Utilities Regulatory Commission gave for slapping more than 60 percent taxes on water and electricity is that the increases would lead to more efficiency.

It looks like in this country efficiency means the looting of state resources and total reduction in the quality of service. When you hear President Mahama next February extolling the virtues in his administration, take the message, not only with a pint, but a huge bag of salt.

This administration has taken the average Ghanaian for a huge ride. If you ask me my candid opinion, I would tell you that President John Dramani Mahama and his NDC have been a huge waste of time and resources.

I shall return!
Columnist: Ebo Quansah