The Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry is right

Tue, 5 May 2015 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Saturday, May 3, 2015

Folks, when I read the news report attributing utterances to President Mahama on the occasion of May Day, I cringed. I wondered what made him go the way he did. The aspects of the utterances that “touched” me were:

i. the crippling power crisis which has seen electricity consumers enjoy power for 12 hours and endure power cuts for the next 24 hours, is a temporary challenge.

ii. smart businesses recognize this fact and are therefore “not laying off workers,” but "are rather investing more resources to expand their production in Ghana."

I considered such utterances are overly brusque and needless, especially given the temper of the workers and the inscriptions on placards that they paraded. I wondered why the President would choose to be so audacious at the time, given the fact that the energy crisis has so far harmed national life and that he needed to say something to placate nerves and not burn them all the more. Yet, he said what he said.

Now, the consequences are emerging; and the first to bare its teeth is the Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), whose President (Seth Adjei Baah) has condemned the President for making such claims. He is right, given the enormity of the problem and the President’s seemingly lackadaisical manner of presenting issues. (See https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=356720)

The Chamber’s President might have gone too far in dismissing President Mahama as “insensitive”; but the import of his criticism of the President’s utterance is undoubtedly appropriate. To any critical mind, the energy crisis facing the country is dire and is not being solved with the seriousness and commitment that it deserves. It is one major problem that has annoyed Ghanaians all this while; and anger of this sort certainly has a huge political capital. To stoke it with such utterances is, thus, politically unwise!!

For the President to describe it as “temporary” (or “temporal”, which the news report called) is disappointing. It is not temporary at all because it is a perennial problem, dating back to no-one-knows-when!!

A perennial problem of this sort that has virtually incapacitated national life at several levels cannot be brushed away as “temporary” or explained away with vain assurances of being solved when, indeed, nothing concrete exists to prove that the solution is in sight. The much-talked-about agreement with a Turkish company to provide electricity barges has virtually turned into a battle of nerves and deception.

Assurances upon assurances have rather ended up turning this problem into a dicey political issue to be used against the government, as the NPP has already begun doing, picking up the pieces from the Chamber’s vitriolic reaction. And the government will be the loser in this game. That is why President Mahama and his appointees must be very careful how they approach issues so as not to inflame passions all the more.

Those of us not living in Ghana cannot claim to know or feel the pinch as do Ghanaians resident at home whose businesses and lives are adversely affected by the electricity crisis; but we empathize with them because of the gravity of the situation. Businesses knocked down by the crisis have laid off workers and others are contemplating doing so, which will worsen the unemployment problem and invariably catalyze anti-social activities—not to talk about the cashing in by the opposition to do dirty politics.

For as long as the problem remains unsolved, it is better for the President to either shut his mouth and stop making promises of solving it or to continue falling out of step in his utterances and suffer the negative backlash. In the kind of situation that the energy crisis has created for Ghana, it is politically unwise to rub salt into the wounds of the people. Who are the President’s advisers at all? Why is the President himself not using his much-touted communication skills to advantage? I wonder why; I truly wonder!!

It seems there is much going on that makes it difficult for the government to solve the electricity problem despite tons of assurances. The creation of a whole Ministry for “Power” (Energy or Electricity) and the vain vows by the sector Minister (Dr. Kwabena Donkor) to resign if the crisis isn’t resolved is a huge joke to be treated with contempt. Such useless vows irritate more than reassure the people that the problem is being solved.

And the more the people’s lives are disrupted, the more they lose hope in the government. As Bob Marley puts it, “He who feels it knows it”. It is the people wearing the shoe who knows where it pinches; and the government must act quickly to solve this particular problem. It is now a political game from which it won’t gain anything for Election 2016 unless it plays its part properly.

In the meantime, I wish that power supply to the seat of government and the bungalows of all public officials, especially functionaries of the government, will be cut off for them to feel the pinch. Electricity generators supplied to such establishments can as well be switched off simultaneously as the blackout occurs in people’s homes and businesses. It is only then that those in government will see the seriousness of the matter to act more responsibly.

To redeem himself and regain lost grounds, the President must either explain issues properly or retract his utterance. Although such a reactive approach may not be supported by his advisers, I consider it as appropriate for him to take if he wants to come across in a better light than he has done so far. In politics, there is nothing wrong with eating the humble pie!!

For now, we can only say that the government’s inability to solve this electricity problem to date has already created for it a bad name, which the opposition will add to the tons of allegations and accusations in its arsenal for the electioneering campaigns toward Election 2016. Not that such a political game is anything to bother about in and of itself but that it creates the impression that President Mahama and his team are incompetent and don’t deserve a renewed mandate. In the long run, it is the country that matters.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.