The Case of a Confused President

Fri, 28 Feb 2014 Source: Asare, Kwaku S.

A Promise of Paradise or a Paradise of Promises: The Case of a Confused President

The country is headed for paradise by 2015/16! That is, if you take President Mahama seriously. In his two years or so in office, the President has perfected the bad habit of making empty promises, which has alienated most reasonable people and created an insurmountable Presidential Honesty Deficit (PHD), which is probably worse than the combination of the country’s trade, budget and foreign exchange reserve deficits.

Here are a few palpably empty promises that the President has made in the last two years. I have not bothered to list most of the promises, including a promise to fulfill his promises.

1. Senior High School education will be free in 2015/16 (http://www.citifmonline.com/?p=2229).

2. The economy is on track. By 2015, the economy will be scaling and by 2016 it should be flying up in the air (http://m.peacefmonline.com/pages/politics/politics/201311/180754.php).

3. There will be universal access to electricity and energy for Ghanaians by the end of 2016. (http://ghanaweb.com/mobile/wap.small/news.article.php?ID=253617).

4. The kotokuraba market and the Cape Coast Stadium will be completed to honor Professor Mills by the end of 2016. (http://elections.peacefmonline.com/pages/politics/201208/129916.php).

5. All schools under trees will be eliminated by 2016! (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=293050).

6. The country’s sanitation infrastructure will meet UN Millennium Development Goals by the end of 2015. (http://www.urbangateway.org/content/news/ghana-mahama-promises-aggressive-sanitation-campaign).

7. A $10B Hope City will be built in Kasoa to employ 50,000 by the end of 2016. (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=266650)

8. A national theater will be built in Kumasi by the end of 2016. (http://tv3network.com/Entertainment/president-mahama-promises-theatre-for-kumasi.html).

9. By the close of the year 2015, residents in the Northern parts of Accra including, Adenta Haatso, East Legon, Madina, Agbogba, Abokobi, will have water flowing through their taps. (http://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2014/February-25th/madina-haatso-et-al-to-get-water-as-mahama-promises-to-eradicate-kufuor-gallons.php).

10. Wa's water problems will be solved by 2016! (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=292905).

11. The multi-purpose storey Aboabo Market in Tamale will be completed before 2016.(http://vibeghana.com/2014/01/17/president-mahama-promises-completion-of-aboabo-market/).

12. The Eastern Corridor Roads will be completed by 2016. (http://www.gbcghana.com/1.1097366).

13. Galamsey will be stopped by the end of 2016. (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=298596).

14. The government will embark on massive infrastructural development in 2014, including railway line network, airport, ports, schools, health centres, housing and roads. (http://www.spyghana.com/mahama-promises-huge-infrastructural-development-2014/)

15. Houses will be built for teachers. (http://www.ghanaforum.com/showthread.php/18850-Mahama-promises-to-build-houses-for-teachers).

Whom is the President fooling with this paradise of promises? We are told that over 70% of the resource envelope of the country is consumed by recurring salary payments to public service workers, a discovery that so shocked the President that he ordered a 10% pay cut for himself and his ministers just before embarking on a luxury taxpayer funded Christmas vacation to Dubai, a project whose costs probably exceeded the announced pay cuts. Given that fiscal reality, how does the President intend to finance these projects and promises that he announces on a daily basis?

The President should understand that the country is not populated by just a few “foolsoldiers,” who lack the ability to distinguish between fact and hype. On the contrary, he occupies the highest office of the land and is expected to treat that office and the people that he serves with dignity, including utmost honesty in all his dealings.

The President must also understand that the high office of the Presidency cannot be converted to a mere propaganda wing of a political party. The President must understand that his oath of office requires him to transition from electioneering propaganda to policy making and governance. In equal measure, the President must understand that his words and actions affect investor confidence and further that a President whose words cannot be trusted is one who cannot be trusted to close a deal.

It is not by accident that the President is also considered the father of the nation. Good fathers are honest and do not make empty promises. They understand the value of trust in a household and constantly strive to share information, good or bad, with those in the household.

The PHD is also bad because of its contagion effect. A President who does not mean his words surrounds himself with a cabinet whose members learn not to mean their words. Is it surprising then that ministers have argued that their job definition requires telling us that sheep are horses? Is it surprising that the information minister routinely and persistently engages in disinformation? Is it surprising that government road officials laud the University of Ghana for its tolling policy while the government security officials attack the University at night?

When the cabinet does not mean its words, the directors at the ministry follow suit, etc. and we end up a system wide honesty deficit with its consequential effect on trading, grading, and the parading of other economic deficits.

But we must all accept some responsibility for the PHD. If the President wins an election based on sheer propaganda (e dey be k3k3), is he not being rational by continuing to engage in propaganda? Why should we expect him to entangle with policy when he knows and understands that the voters reward propaganda, not policy? Only the voters can change presidential behavior by punishing propagandists and rewarding those who offer serious policy proposals.

Will 2016 usher in a promise of paradise or will it be a paradise of promises? Only time will tell!

Columnist: Asare, Kwaku S.