The IEA Presidential Debate: My Observation

Sun, 9 Nov 2008 Source: Debrah, Julius

I had my biggest disappointment in recent years on the night of the recent IEA debate, and even before the debate started. I really wanted to watch it on a giant TV screen so a few phone calls here and there saw me and a couple of other friends at the home of a US returnee friend of mine, where to my dismay, the giant TV screen he had promised turned out to be a rather tiny Plasma TV hanging on the wall! As if to add insults to injury, my friend struggled to tune in to Metro because the tiny thing was hooked to a kind of cable or satellite TV – and only his wife could change those channels to the local TV stations. Good heavens!!! My friend had turned out to be the first ignoramus of the night, because his understanding of a “giant TV screen was any 14” plasma - my first disappointment!!

On a more serious note, two days after the debate, it became necessary for me to obtain a copy of the recorded version because of a few comments I heard on radio. A careful study of the transcript from the tape has revealed that indeed some of the candidates exhibited so much ignorance and empty rhetoric as against the reality. I am therefore, appealing to all well-meaning Ghanaians to get copies from the organizers in order to make the much anticipated “informed decisions”,

A few of my observations are as ff:

a) Prof. Atta-Mills’ use of the figurative statement of “zero growth” in place of “negative growth”

I have heard many NPP propagandists say on the airwaves that when a question was asked about the contribution of the manufacturing and industrial sector to the GDP of Ghana, Prof. Mills answered that their contribution was zero or negative – most of them including Nana Addo himself had problems with the expression “zero” If the Law Professor, with an in-depth knowledge in Taxation used “zero” idiomatically or figuratively, he obviously did not mean “absolute zero!” Therefore Nana Addo’s quick rebuttal that a contribution to GDP of 10% and 25% by manufacturing & industry respectively do not amount to “zero” is neither here nor there.

The question is, what specifically was Nana Addo referring to as Industry in this context? Is it Fishing, the Tobacco industry...or he was once again referring to the manufacturing industry? After all, did we not learn from our Secondary School mathematics that any plotting on a Linear Scale will tell you that all values between 0% & 50% on the scale of 0-1 can relatively be referred to as “0” and not “1”,so far as the figure does not value up to 50 or 50%? This concept, if applied to his argument of 10% and 25% contributions, figuratively brings us to zero, the values or figures notwithstanding! Nana Addo, therefore became the second person to earn my ignoramus title for the night.

b) The question on “Job Creation”

In the run up to the 2000 Elections, Prof. Mills was chastised for merely suggesting that most of the fresh graduates could consider job opportunities on the teaching field to curb unemployment. I hope we have all not forgotten how the NPP in their usual propagandists best, came up with a TV advert to insult the integrity of Prof. Atta-Mills! Is it not surprising therefore, that today, in their “moving forward” bid, the NPP and Nana Addo are now pledging to make as many as 100,000 Ghanaians, Sanitary Inspectors (what was known in our local parlance as “TANKAS”)?! Indeed Nana Addo promised that he will create 20,000 job openings for the TANKAS Industry every year for the next 5 years, Waow!!! 100,000 “Tankas” Jobs for the youth of Ghana! Ghanaian Graduates, be ready for the new job opening for another NPP term will be “Certified Tankas”. This goes to confirm that to the NPP, the noble teaching profession is more demeaning than Tankas. “Naa Nana, Naa Tankas!

Trust Nana Addo, he also tried to be very smart because he knew that creating Tankas jobs could be a very easy task and so was very specific by saying that he can create 100,000 over 5 years, however, when he promised that he will increase the Police force from 25,000 to 50,000, he never specified whether that also will be over a period of 5 years or the dreamy 30 year-term they talk of. Same applies to the promised expansion of jobs under the NYEP from 108,000 to 500,000 – once again he failed to specify over which time period. Promise – promise and promise galore!!

In the year 2000, when FREE MEDICARE was promised to replace the “Cash and Carry” system, everybody was excited only to be told after assumption of power that the NPP actually meant Health Insurance for which premiums will be collected – so what is free here? The premiums which are payable by the individual? I think Ghanaians must be careful not to be enticed by the promises coming from Nana Addo and the NPP. And there is more – the creation of 625,000 public sector jobs over a zilch period.

Oh! How I wish I had time and space to comment about all Nana Addo said during the debate. Even the head-porters (Kayaye) had their share of Nana’s night of “goodwill”. Asked what he would do to get them off the streets of Accra, “Bammmm!” He went like this “I will organize DISTANCE LEARNING and evening classes for them” Hahahahaha! “Chineke God” Evening Classes for a Kayayo who has spent the whole day carrying tones of load on her head under the scorching sun of Accra! Could somebody do me a favour by telling me whether the solution to the “Kayaye” problem in the short/medium term is evening classes and distance learning?

As indicated earlier, I do not want to bore my readers and so I must be rounding up – but before I do that, I want to tell you why I think Nana Addo does not believe in Ghana as he professes in his “Believe in Ghana” slogan. Has anybody wondered why the slogan that used to read; “I believe in Ghana!” a few months ago suddenly changed to “BELIEVE IN GHANA?” Please don’t ask me why, but just ask any of your friends in the NPP whether they have any idea. Well, this is what I think - All the other three (3) candidates would rather rely on Domestic Direct Investment (DDI) when a question on Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) came up at the debate. For Nana, it is only total reliance on FDIs that can propel Ghana from its present developing status to a Middle Income one; and this was coming from the flagbearer of the same people who reminded Ghanaians of all the resources Ghana has to make her successful but for mismanagement……! He even dared to promise a middle income status – did anybody get that, from developing to middle income status?! Was he not the same person who promised to fly us straight to the DEVELOPED status? And so, for the first time, I personally heard Nana Addo retracting from this infamous economic theory of “moving Ghana from a developing to a developed status” without attempting first to attain any middle income status. Well, whoever advised him to scale down on that ambition deserves a “Tankas Medal!!

But the essential point here is how one can believe in Ghana and, at the same time believe, that the only way forward is to rely on FDIs! Assuming the FDIs do not flow as a result of the Global Credit crunch, capital flight or unstable micro economic situations in Ghana or in the origins of these FDIs? Would that mean a standstill for Ghana? What if they do not flow at all – would he be able to establish his much trumpeted 0ne Billion Dollar / Cedi Industrial Fund? Is it Cedi or Dollar Fund - I ask because Nana has used both the dollar and the cedi at various occasions?

I will urge the IEA and all interested Ghanaians who can sponsor an 8-minute airtime on any of the media houses (TV or Radio) for a play-back of the Presidential Debate, with a special emphasis on the various answers as regards the Foreign Direct Investments and, you will agree with me that amongst all the 4 candidates, Nana Addo was the only one whose answer suggested he does not believe in Ghana, after all.

On a lighter note, I enjoyed conferring the second title of the night, “Mr. Rhetoric” on Papa Kwesi Nduom – check the phrases I enjoyed most:

“Centre piece” “Real Money” “Ghanaian money” “Money in Ghanaian pockets” “Now listen to me carefully” “Give it a body, fix some tyres, put some fuel in it and put a competent driver in it, etc., etc.”

As far as campaign rhetoric is concerned, he was my man of the night – but I am reserving my comments for now. This is because deep down my heart, I would have loved to see a CPP/NDC coalition even before December 7 because he seems to be campaigning on the same Social Democratic ideology as the NDC.

Dr. Edward Mahama, I am told, admitted on CITI FM that he had a severe cold on the night of the debate, so I have decided to spare him any comment.

Let me conclude by saying that the essence of writing this piece is to encourage all Ghanaians to obtain a copy of the tape, and in the comfort of our rooms, listen or watch the clip again for a well-informed decision. I believe after doing that most Ghanaians will be able to tell who was talking about realities, whether the campaign rhetoric can be translated into action, and, last but not the least, who actually deserves the crown of “Mr. Ignoramus 2008” as far as the IEA debate is concerned.

By Julius Debrah, E/R NDC Chairman

Columnist: Debrah, Julius