So, where is the 'Economics Genius' in Akufo-Addo’s governance style?

Akufo Addo Volta1 President Akufo-Addo

Sun, 15 Jul 2018 Source: Michael J.K. Bokor, Ph.D.

Folks, much exists to support our persistent condemnation of this clueless Akufo-Addo government as either fraudulent or a paper tiger that came into being on the wings of atrocious lies that it told the electorate about its predecessor; and the huge boasts of redeeming Ghana through innovative policies never seen or implemented before.

Now a year-and-a-half in power, nothing has issued forth from it to substantiate such boasts or to justify the voters’ electoral decision to “try” Akufo-Addo as he had begged them to do on his electioneering campaign trails.

Within the period of his own trial-and-error approach to governance, he has left behind ugly traces with which to assess his government’s performance. In sum, that performance isn’t anything to enthuse over, no matter how the government thumbs its chest on the basis of superficial accomplishments that drain the economy more than feed it to grow.

I won’t belabor the matter any further than focusing on the principal trump-card that the NPP campaign armada used to hoodwink voters:

Boasts to strengthen the Ghanaian Cedi against depreciation: We can tell from evidence that the Ghanaian Cedi is under more pressure than it used to face under Mahama. The Dollar-Cedi rate speaks volumes to undermine the integrity of the loquacious self-important Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia whose effusions against Team Mahama are now being thrown back at him. And he has gone AWOL all this while. The abolition of “nuisance taxes” and what team Akufo-Addo would do differently: We heard, even to a fault, all their boasts and saw how they acted immediately ushered into office by abolishing taxes (including the daily tolls paid by female load carriers---“kayayei” and their captive supporters calling themselves spare parts dealers at Abossey Okai in Accra or their counterparts at the Suame magazine in Kumasi) just to heighten their “Concert Party” enactments. Bitter complaints from them prove to us that nothing concrete has been implemented to lessen the burden on them. Taxes at the ports: Don’t even talk about the cosmetic measures introduced that the importers and exporters erroneously embraced as r5edemptive. The dust has now settled for them to know where it pinches. Other politically inclined measures such as the reduction in tariffs on electricity and water have incurred anger among consumers than won Team Akufo-Addo any respect. Nothing has changed to relieve the consumers of the burden. So, what is what now? Many other happenings indicate strongly that Team Akufo-Addo hasn’t introduced any innovative policy to drastically transform the Ghanaian economy. Subsistence farming is still being done by the old folks with hoes and cutlasses while the agile youth continue to shun agriculture for areas promising “get-rich-quick”.

The government’s knee-jerk introduction of the amorphous programme called “Planting for Food and Jobs” stands tall as a smokescreen for looting public funds. In its first year, it hasn’t yielded anything beneficial; instead, it has added more to the burden. We have been told that it produced poor harvests because the wrong seedlings and control measures were used. How?

Ghana’s traditional foreign exchange earners (gold, cocoa, timber, etc.) continue to be over-stretched to the point of breakdown. Exports are still in the range of “primary commodities”, not the semi-finished products that one would expect. Methods and mechanisms for producing these export commodities are still rooted in the archaic paradigm.

No new areas are being opened for foreign direct investment to uplift Ghana’s economy. The service and information technology sectors may be making some strides but they aren’t significant enough to give hopes of a brighter future as long as the main propos of the economy remain stagnant.

Go beyond this scope to wonder what exactly Team Akufo-Addo has introduced to “shake up” the Ghanaian economy. Nothing. It has tied itself to the IMF and is obediently obeying its instructions, even as it intensifies its borrowing drive to unimaginable levels.

Folks, we can continue itemizing the instances of mediocrity under team Akufo-Addo’s watch, especially now that the Minister of Finance (who stands accused in the KENBOND fraud and many others) prepares to present the mid-year economic review to Parliament (Ghanaians).

Snippets paint a somber picture because of what he is likely to announce to Ghanaians as Team Akufo-Addo’s next move. That is, to increase the Value Added Tax from 17.5% to 20.5% (Remember that this VAT was introduced by the Rawlings government that Akufo-Addo linked up with others in the Alliance for Change to damn through street demonstrations and other subversive activities but that Kufuor embraced and left for Akufo-Addo to lean on today).

Teeth are already being bared. Any increase in this VAT will have dire repercussions (as ex-President Mahama has hinted at but which Prof. Peter Quartey, Head of the Department of Economics at the University of Ghana, is reported to have welcomed---provided the proceeds would be used to improve the economy generally instead of being used to pay salaries of workers). (See https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Mid-year-budget-review-Marginal-tax-increase-is-no-big-deal-Prof-Quartey-668529 ).

At this point, it doesn’t matter any more whether the government intends to raise the VAT rate or not. What matters most is that it has demonstrated its cluelessness on how to grow Ghana’s economy and open it up for revenue generation and the disciplined use of that revenue for national development.

Any complaint against prospective tax payers not willing to pay tax is silly and misplaced. What has Team Akufo-Addo done to clean up the country’s tax regime and ensure that tax payers are given their money’s worth?

Why is it difficult for Team Akufo-Addo (boasting during the electioneering campaign period of having “the men” to do the job of redeeming Ghana from its economic woes) to strengthen the institutions of state that can be used for revenue mobilization in other productive ways than taxes?

Here comes the main substance of my opinion piece. In other countries, a lot exists to punish offenders through measures for revenue mobilization. Let me just cite the United States as a good example of how offenders cough out money to feed the coffers.

(a) Violations regarding vehicle registration, licensing, and emission control: Regardless of whatever, owners of vehicles must renew their vehicle registration and the emission test every year. It’s not for free. Much revenue accrues. Defaulters are quickly noticed by the ubiquitous police personnel and violation tickets served on them for additional revenue to the state.

(b) Daily street-cleaning regulations are enforced such that any vehicle left in the lane to be cleaned at specific times is ticketed. The police do their work here and the Department of Motor Vehicles is on its toes to ensure compliance.

Additional fees are imposed after the allowable period for payment of the original parking ticket charge. More money to the state. Defaulters risk their vehicles being impounded and sold 9even though they still have to pay the fees) or their driving licences being suspended (meaning that more money will have to be coughed out for renewal).

(c) Garbage disposal and strict regulations: Recyclable items cannot be mixed with just any type of garbage for collection by designated trucks. The Department of Sanitation strictly enforces regulations and fines defaulters. Garbage collection schedules are published and any defaulting household pays the penalty. More money for the state here.

(d) Designated parking spaces on the streets and the use of parking metres: No driver can just park his/her vehicle anywhere and leave it there without facing punishment, especially if the space is regarded as “public” for which money must be made by the state in its use. It is simple. Either pay for the parking space on the street and use it within the period covered by the payment or be ticketed to pay more if a violation occurs. The police are all over the place to enforce the regulations for the good of society. It calls for a high degree of discipline and patriotism so the state can generate funds to improve living conditions.

(e) Many other avenues exist that are used. One interesting avenue is about vegetation, especially any unwarranted felling of trees. No one can just fell any tree (especially in urban areas) without being penalized. Designated entities exist to cut tree branches or fell trees. Even then, the branches/trees are turned into compost for good use. It’s all about raising revenue.

(f) Again, instead of perpetually crying over the adverse impact of the brain-drain on Ghana, why isn’t the government imitating what Egypt and others have done to profit from the “export” of their technocrats to other countries? Constructing a “labour pool” and sending to needy countries with proper mechanisms for revenue generation could be a gateway to funds, Who is thinking outside the box in Ghana?

Folks, in Ghana, we have a lot of untapped areas that a right-thinking government can explore in formulating policies to help raise funds. It shouldn’t all be about taxes, taxes, and taxes all over the years. Aren’t the tax-payers tired, especially when at the end of the year, they have no opportunity to file tax returns and be rewarded (for those deserving it) or for those regarded as falling short to pay more to the state as happens in the United States, for instance?

Folks, I am not an economist, but I know what it takes for a government to do things in innovative ways to move away from the over-exploited traditional sources of revenue so it can make hay while its sun shines. For team Akufo-Addo, especially, much is expected from it (on the basis of its own boasts). From what it has done thus far, little exists that it has anything new up its sleeves to move Ghana away from the burdening strategies for economic development to better ones that other countries have resorted to. Why is it so?

I shall return…

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

(E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com )

Columnist: Michael J.K. Bokor, Ph.D.