By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Thursday, April 4, 2013
My good friends, once again, reality is with us. Two major happenings confirm fears that those in charge of our national affairs are toying with the citizens’ destiny.
1. Government has released money to be paid to all 230 MPs who served in the fifth Parliament of the fourth Republic as ex-gratia. Each is to receive $100,000 out of the total payment of about Gh¢39 million.
MPs who did not return to the House after the 2012 December 7 and 8 elections, took home Gh¢211,000 each, while those who retained their seats got between Gh¢270,000 and Gh¢275,000 each, depending on their status in the House.
2. Government has declined to fully pay the one-year market premium arrears owed to members of UTAG although the lecturers are currently on strike. A meeting between UTAG and the government on today was inconclusive, leading to a reinforcement of the strike.
Clearly, by releasing money to be paid to the former MPs while refusing to satisfy the public sector workers demanding payment of arrears and improvement of working conditions, the government has set itself up for condemnation and physical confrontations with public sector workers. I cringe at what will happen soon.
Apart from the bad timing of this payment, there is everything nauseating about the payment itself at a time when teachers and doctors are agitating for the payment of salaries and allowances that they have worked for but are not being listened to.
What is the justification for paying the former MPs and sidelining the public sector workers whose services sustain the national economy and support life?
Agitations and industrial actions by public sector workers (doctors, teachers at all levels, civil servants, etc.) are rampant, not because of any political machination but because of the worsening of living conditions in the country.
Given the current tense industrial atmosphere, it is inconceivable for the government to pay the former MPs their “ex-gratia” while denying public sector workers their fair share of the national cake.
I have always wondered what specifically these MPs contribute to our national development, which is why I don’t see the need to pay them anything like this “ex-gratia” award. Were they not taking their monthly salaries at the time they were in office?
Now, for the government to pay them this “ex-gratia” (additional money) while denying public sector workers the little top-up that they need every month while in service is the height of wickedness. And the government will pay dearly for it.
While at it, the situation is worsened by senseless comments from beneficiary MPs, some of whom are not even worth anybody’s bother at all. Indeed, they are a public nuisance, to put it mildly.
Misguided comments from them are inflaming passions and setting the stage for what we expect to be a massive agitation at the labour front that will jolt the government. Those comments clearly depict the heartlessness of these beneficiary MPs and anybody in government supporting this ex-gratia nonsense.
Take Maxwell Kofi Jumah, the former NPP MP for Asokwa, for instance, who has asked medical doctors and teachers not to compare themselves with MPs “because MPs are on a higher pedestal compared to the two professions.”
“If you are doctor is the MP your co-equal, if you are teacher is the MP your co-equal,” he asked.
Jumah comes across as petulant and really disgusting for asking Ghanaians to learn to respect MPs and Parliament because it is the same doctors, teachers, and other professionals who become MPs.
As for Kojo Adu-Asare, former Member of Parliament for Adentan Constituency, who has expressed grave displeasure about media reports on the ex-gratia payment to suggest that the MPs don’t fix their own ex-gratia award, he can be dismissed as a shameless opportunist.
But we won’t pardon him for insulting the media as "hypocritical and mischievous" and for accusing them of inciting the public against MPs because they have been paid their end of service benefit. Article 71 of the Constitution, which spells out this ex-gratia entitlement, is itself a problem to be solved.
I am more than convinced that Ghanaian politics is nothing but a goldmine for all manner of people calling themselves politicians, which is why everybody is drifting toward it, doing whatever they can to settle in the groove.
I am saddened by this new development and will not be surprised if the government faces serious confrontations from the labour front. There is every reason to believe that this payment of ex-gratia to these MPs will set off the storm that will shake officialdom.
Having abolished ex-gratia payment to public sector workers, what is the moral justification to retain it for MPs who have contributed NOTHING concrete toward national development? And to imagine that this payment is happening at a time that the labour front is already being rocked by strike actions? There is something basically wrong with this government’s strategy for handling affairs.
As is to be expected, the usual rivalry and effusive bad-mouthing that characterizes the relationship between the MPs in both the NDC and the NPP has suddenly evaporated and the beneficiary MPs from both divides have quickly come together because their interests intersect at this level of ex-gratia payment. These are nothing but greedy, unconscionable, and insensitive leeches.
Elsewhere, something encouraging is happening to mark the huge difference that exists between those who know why they are in office and those who don’t and use their offices to fleece the system. Here is the example:
President Barack Obama will pay back 5 percent of his annual government salary to the U.S. Treasury. It's a move meant to signal solidarity with federal workers facing furloughs because of automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, the White House said Wednesday. The New York Times first reported Obama’s decision (http://world.myjoyonline.com/pages/news/201304/103909.php).
Obama makes $400,000 in presidential pay (though, thanks in part to book royalties, his 2011 tax filings show that his adjusted gross income that year was $789,674). Between now and Oct. 1, the end of the 2013 fiscal year, he will cut monthly checks that will total $20,000, an aide told Yahoo News.
The announcement came one day after the Pentagon revealed that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel would return 14 days’ pay, or roughly $10,750, based on his annual salary of $199,700.
The symbolic move came amid widespread news reports that sequestration —deep, indiscriminate government spending cuts—were hitting Americans’ bottom line and leaving gaps in key services.
Friends, do you see why we in Ghana are suffering because we have put the wrong people in charge of our lives?
I shall return…
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