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The Kufuor Government ? Time To Panic?

Wed, 18 May 2005 Source: Panford, Kwamina Mbra

I have tried to keep quite about the direction this government is taking our country. A lot of Ghanaians see the performance of the government as a political chess game. Our future is seriously being endangered. The life of the ordinary Ghanaian is at stake. I concede it is hard to be politically neutral. However any well-meaning Ghanaian should abandon his or her political emotions to look for the survival of our dear country.

I shudder at the socio-economic condition of our country today. There is no reason for Ghana to be a very poor country. God gave us so many natural resources. Ghana earned $1.2 billion from cocoa exports alone in 2004. Does it make sense that 60% of our budget is ?donor money?? We have quite significant natural resources in cocoa, timber, gold and diamonds. What is our excuse? Since Rawlings ?chains? there has not been any drought or famine. The problem is that; the thrust of our government?s strategy is based on IMF, World Bank and some invisible strategic investors, we are waiting for. Our forefathers said ?if you don?t know about death, look at sleep? What happened to the Congo (DRC), the Sudan, Liberia, Rwanda and recently the Republic of Togo. Millions of Africans are dying from malaria, aids, tuberculosis and sheer poverty. I am not blaming the white man. All that I am saying is; we cannot solve our problems if we don?t find the source in ourselves. We have been the cause of our own problems. The white man came to Africa self-seeking, exploitative and greedy; our African leaders have out paced them in these categories.

Why are we poor? Ghana is poor because our leaders have successfully plundered and misled our nation. Ghanaians have been blinded by irrational loyalty to their political parties and or governments to the point that they have become unconscious of their economic and social mismanagement (I am referring to the Rawlings and Kuffour govts). When you bring up the poor performance of the present government, the retort is ?Rawlings took 20 years to mess up the country. How do you expect President Kuffor to fix the country in 4 years??

It is unreasonable to expect too much from the Kuffour?s government But can he stop the bleeding? Or simply does Ghana have to get worse? The Kuffour government doesn?t do her homework in making simple economic decisions. Or does he care? Can we say IFC, Saloon loan, United Rail, Ghana International Airlines, the Poultry and Rice industries to name only a few. In addition the government has had some unflinching faith in the white man (disguised as a strategic investor) to save us. Our spineless government is always Kotowing to the IMF and the World Bank. In the 2003, the gov?t cowardly retreated from the planned tariffs on rice and poultry designed to help local farmers compete. In 2005 the gov?t announced that all duties on rice and poultry are to be phased out by 2006. Go figure. Is this gov?t for or against us? How could we ever stand on our own feet when even the US gov?t is subsidizing her farmers while we are removing the little soil they stand on from underneath their feet? The Presidential Special Initiative on cassava exports was so pathetic that there was shortage of cassava at the local market for the ordinary people in November ? December 2004.

Far too much is being written about the failings of the Kuffour?s government to the point that I have to stop. It is time for those of us who genuinely care about the poverty in the country to come out with solutions. In all my discussions I have said the government must take the socio-economic pressure off the individual. The ordinary, affable Ghanaian we used to know has become desperate in an attempt to survive. Not surprisingly, a significant number has resorted to crime. The gov?t should be pressured to put the brakes on the run-away cost of food, education, electricity and water. It is about time it stops using the spurious argument that ?we don?t have money?. The government has to choose between continuing to squeeze the poor and easing their pain. Expenditure control has never been part of her economic plans. The Kuffour?s gov?t has to:

(A) Reduce the sheer number of the ministers and deputies.

(B) Dismiss all the Special Assistants. Either make them the ministers and get rid of the ministers or get rid of the Special Assistants. There are about 35 of them in the government and agencies who make 3 -5, 000 dollars a month.

(C) Administrative perks must be trimmed. The government heaves unbearable pressure on the people under the guise of cost recovery while the ministers and officials are feeding fat on the people. Two top executives at the Energy commission bought cars to the tune of 1.3 billion Cedis!!!

(D) Attack unrestrained corruption in government contracts which was prevalent in the Rawlings government and has not abated.

(E) Seriously promote local industries because no strategic investor wants to put his or her money in a bankrupt country (with our HIPC status).

(F) The government must realize that indiscriminately privatizing state enterprises can be economically harmful to the country. The privatization of the Nsawam Cannery and its subsequent collapse has permanently affected the price of tomatoes in the country. The preservation of excess fruits and vegetables (in season) has been wiped out.

(G) If Ghanaians did not know the ESB (End of service Benefits) were digging holes in our pocket, we know now. This started when the Rawlings government was handing over power, a brand new Mercedes Benz valued in excess of $60,000 was virtually stolen by one of his ministers for 40 million cedis ? which was barley $5,000 at that time. Originally the Mercedes Benz was valued at 20 million cedis but the press protested and the 20 million was doubled to the 40 million cedis. This was stealing anyway the gov?t puts it. The Kuffor gov?t is doing the same. This is seriously draining the country?s coffers. This practice must be stopped.

(H) The President must drastically reduce his travels outside the country. After all he has not managed to bring any strategic investor into the country. President Kuffour reminds me of the hunter who goes out every night and comes home, his clothes, all bloodied and no game or meat in his hands.

A government must be bold and imaginative with the interest of the people in full view. All this government knows how is; collecting revenue. With all the noise of oil prices sky rocking, 13,000 cedis of per gallon price of petrol in Ghana is tax. The government does not know anything about cost control. Here is a government that watched Ghana Airways collapse (not unlike a vulture looking at a dying chicken) in spite of the zillion forewarnings, and goes to buy VALCO. Are we going to invite some strategic investors to come and run VALCO? Since Ghanaians are so incapable of running our own businesses? We cannot panic but pull our collective voices and energies together and steer our rudderless country out of very very murky waters. Our haircuts, already bad, are going to be very disgusting if we do not speak now. The prognosis is scary.

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

Columnist: Panford, Kwamina Mbra