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Opinions Mon, 18 Sep 2006

Rural Life: Can The Poor Pay Taxes

For a Good Lifestyle?

Folks,

We all know that poverty has become pervasive in Ghana. Ghana is importing every single item, from safety pins to tractors, and hence not creating jobs enough to hire the people we are educating. Our doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists and technical students only try to find ways to leave the country. 78.5% of our people live under $2 per day or $50 per month. That is not going to change soon till we learn to produce high-priced products the world also needs. A friend operating a computer business in Ghana told me how well-dressed men would bring their computers for repair, and not have money to pay after he has completed the repair. Only 1.8 million of the estimated 20 million are reported as paying taxes. And yet ideas to help the government are not heeded whiles the old system continues. Ghana is still building open gutters and allow the stinky environment to produce mosquitoes that cause malaria, killing 5 people per hour or 200,000 per year and a loss of over $900 million in wasted expenses. What went wrong? Our leaders, from P/NDC to NPP, have all failed the people.

In all these do we have hope? Can the rural people help pay for the services they need? On September 14, 2006 a member of our Ghana Leadership Union (GLU) Forum asked:

Please solve this one for me. How much tax will you collect from the people who build mud houses, which will probably cost less than 1 million cedis on completion? If we continue to allow people to park a load of mud on a piece of land their uncle left the family, so we end up with six huts in very close proximity, taking up the equivalent space of your living room, we will not be able to collect enough tax to do the sort of things your party says we need to do. (Atadwe, GLUforum@yahoogroups.com, Thursday, September 14, 2006 12:52 AM)

I share my response and hope others have suggestions also to help our nation: Kojo, Why do you act so confused sometimes? I know you are doing this intentionally to wear me out. I have 1,804 mails in my in basket that I have not read or cannot delete yet and getting 100 per day. So let’s not play games unless you are serious and want my answers and they have value to you. Kojo, do you know the cost of building mud houses now? A mud house will cost more than C1 mil., but let’s assume that number, and also assume that my last name is not Gates to have such a large living room. Which part of Ghana do they build these tiny mud houses? Are you becoming a Professor also or you want to help us build Ghana?

It does not matter how Ghana’s problems are, human beings can find solutions to problems. Some of us have been trained in America and elsewhere to solve problems as engineers and managers; we know for every problem there should be a solution if we apply ourselves. Let’s ask:

Do the guys living in C1 mil mud house-cities need a motorway like you need in Accra? How many wives do they have? Do they wear Kente cloth, drink imported Whiskey, and spend C50 million performing so-called “fitting” burials for their dearly departed?

Come oooon!! Show me a population and demographics of a town with 10,000 mud houses [as you see when you fly over Northern Ghana and sole parts of Nigeria] and I will get you solutions to meet the needs of the people so far as they are willing to live decently. Tell me what they want, and we can create a town-hood like other “civilized” people. Note I put the word in quotes because one man’s cheese may be another’s kofi-wa delicacy. Democracy allows them to define what they call civilized, remember. They may want to send their kids to school, but ask why? You will find most rural area residents want a better opportunity for their kids. Ask what that opportunity is and you will see that it includes perhaps (1) Light to see in the dark called - electricity if they can, (2) Opportunity to communicate, called telephones, and (3) Opportunity to carry their produce to the market without having to carry only a head-load and take all day, which implies what we call transportation systems.

PROBLEM is that nobody in Africa is asking the people what they want and then as a government, designing SOLUTIONS. Are we concerned about the needs of the people?

Nooooo!!!

So far Nkrumah seems to have been concerned, but the rest,,,, well, your guess is as good as mine. Ofori Ampofo and I had a nice 3-way conference telephone chat with a guy in Europe who is joining our Ghana National Party as executive, who is senior brother to some Minister you all know in the news [won’t say], and the things he said will shock you. These Ministers have brand new cars sitting in the garages and some with ten or more. Look, our old people, their parties, have disappointed us and disgraced all of us.

Kojo, I know we have met but you really don’t know me much. Let me share a little of what engineers do in the US in my field, and you may realize why I say any problems can be solved. As an engineer, and for a period spanning over 2 decades [1976-2001], I have participated in the seemingly crazy concept of melting ordinary sand, alias Silicon, and refining them, making tubes called ingots out of them [looks like smooth tuber of yam], slicing them, polishing them to remove dislocations and imperfections, creating a chemical layer on them, defining some blueprint on them using a glue-like chemical called Photoresist and ultra-violet light. We used dangerously toxic chemicals to remove some of the silicon under a microscope, and used high energy beams of Phosphorus or Boron to implant electrons and negative or positive ions into parts of the silicon [remember still microscopic with human eye unable to see]. After more than 100 steps, we tested them, and sliced these wafers into small chips, sending them to Taiwan or Singapore to be assembled using gold bonds to conduct electricity. We would then test them, and put them in small packages, re-test, and send the good ones to another plant to put in your Computers, Cell phones, etc, etc, and sell them to you [the elite, smile] so you can have this conversation among yourselves on the Internet!!

Kojo and all, do you have confidence in life or not? When I tell some of you that there must be a God, I mean it. There are mysteries hidden beyond what you can see, and for over 2 decades I was involved in creating what seems impossible!! It was our destiny to learn and then manage others in various stages of this highly complicated process that has created over 1,000 multi-billion dollar companies in our area and over 250,000 millionaires in Silicon Valley. This technology has created and transformed towns and villages into cities before my own eyes!!

So tell me, Kojo, if the Moslems in Northern Nigeria or Upper West are not interested in huge government-created highways, and they don’t want cars but are happy with their donkeys, why should government go and tax them so the people in Lagos or Accra will have freeways and Computers? Huh! Come ooon! Don’t worry about the problems we have.

Just let us focus now on getting the mandate of the people and that implies all of us! If we do, I can guarantee you we can solve the human problems. Make your little financial contributions to Ghana National Party and I can guarantee you we will be helping to create history. Ghana will never be the same again and be trodden over in the world when we achieve the mandate to help.

TAXING THE POOR: Do you still want me to tell you how much tax to levy on mud-house city residents? Let’s use elementary school math? You need demographics to answer such questions. Let us assume 50,000 mud-house residents producing yam to export to Accra or London, etc. What do they need in their lives as productive human beings? They need money to buy certain things, perhaps clothing, shoes, sandals, send their kids to school, a hospital, new cemetery, Public Park, etc. Start from there and the answers are simple. If you want me to continue I will do it for you. In general principles:

1. Define the statistical demographics of an organization [population, age groups, income distribution, etc]

2. Define their needs to reach organizational goals [e.g. roads to transport yam to market in 2 hours or less, hospital to take care of their sick, common water facilities, security and police, a library, a cemetery, etc]

3. Find cost estimates of such needs [not too hard, is it? Plenty of local workers]

4. Design a budget [you may need the expertise of men like me, but there are plenty of us around – smile!?]. If the amount needed is say $50,000,000, divide that into 50,000 mud houses and you get $1,000 each. Spread it over a 5 year period and you have $16.67 or C150,000 per month. Would a poor person pay that to get a road to carry his goods, water in pipes, a hospital in his town, a school for his kids, library, Public Park? I bet they would!! I bet they will pay with a smile!

5. Hire Managers to run the system and organization called mud-house city.

Any questions?

There are lots of things $50 million can do if we manage it well! Example, a report I read proposed only half a million to replace a pump needed to supply water to the 300,000 people in the whole city of Tamale. Has it been done? Even that price can be negotiated. That is why you need good Leadership. If old parties have failed, we need a new party. We all need to work together to salvage our nation. We need the support of all of us!

Kwaku A. Danso, M.Eng., PhD
Executive Co-Founder, Ghana National Party


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

Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.