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The President is misinformed and misdirected

Sat, 15 Feb 2014 Source: Pacas, Idris

Former President Rawlings claimed to have taken over the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana in 1981 because the then President Hilla Limann was only the president at the Castle and knew practically nothing about how the nation was governed. Now, a military takeover is no longer part of our life. Every day, I do imagine how long Ghanaians will continue to tolerate this insensitive govt—the remaining three years simply represent a long period.

The metamorphosis of PNDC to NDC and its subsequent large-scale embracement were chiefly due to its socialist principles. The real values of these principles clearly manifested when NPP took over the leadership of Ghana in 2000. Between January 2000 and 2008, Ghanaians witnessed a near privatization of the whole country due to excessive capitalist or property owning ego of NPP leadership. Thus, NDC’s victory in 2008 was simply based on repackaging the same message—social democracy in which the state controls major economic activities and thus protecting the citizenry from being exploited. My simple question to the youth: what’s happening in Ghana today?

We now a Ghana in which everybody does whatever pleases him/her. And the root cause is that the President has insulated himself with a cluster of inward-looking politicians who are persistently misinforming, misdirecting and misleading him such that he is no longer aware of anything in Ghana. If fully informed about the economic realities in Ghana, a tried and tested gentleman such as President JM will surely act. Somebody must do us (the youth) this favour.

The evidence of the President’s unawareness of Ghana is the chaotic economy that was institutionalized when fuel subsidies were withdrawn. It is not the subsidy withdrawal that is bad, but the manner in which the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) is allowed to single-handedly adjust fuel prices according to world market prices. The NPA does not even consult GPRTU. Recklessly, it often announces the increment on weekend and the immediate effect is a chaotic Monday morning on which taxi and trotro drivers quarrel rowdily with poorly paid workers over new transport fares. But are the drivers right or wrong?

The chaotic scene then continues all through the week during which concerned citizens who act as radiohoppers (persons moving or calling from one radio station to another) try to bring sanity back into the economy. All this while, the govt says absolutely nothing. In one instance, the leadership of GPRTU was ‘forced’ not to increase fares because the increase in fuel prices was small. If the increment was small, why didn’t the govt absorb it? In the other instance that justified fare increases, drivers were forced to be charging the old prices until GPRTU announced new transport fares. With sympathy for the overtaxed public, GPRTU painstakingly adjusted the lorry fares. Consequently, the once-touted social democratic NDC govt has now shifted its social responsibilities to non-governmental departments such as GPRTU.

This wholesale transfer of economic responsibility is where the current leadership is behaving uncharacteristically of NDC. Common sense would have suggested two approaches to the President and his economic team. First, the govt would have constituted a committee comprising NPA, GPRTU and officials from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to be adjusting the fuel prices. The President’s biggest failure is the inability of his economists to appreciate the multiplier effect of fuel price increase on all other economic activities. By default, the President and his team have handed over the economy to individuals to run. For example, by automatically adjusting fuel prices over the weekend, any other company invokes its own right to automatically adjust the prices of its products—this is what led us this far. I remember walking to three shops all on a single lane in Lapaz on the day of the most recent fuel price increment where a tin of Ideal Milk sold at 1.8, 2.3 and 2.5 Ghana cedis.

The second approach to dealing with the fuel price was for the govt to ‘boldly’ announce a fixed percentage increment for at least two years. Such a percentage is not any thing difficult to come by because the nation has renowned economists even within the NDC whose joint brains can give an accurate prediction of fuel prices for any forecast period. Based on this percentage increment, which in itself would have necessitated an increase in the cost of other things, the govt would have then given workers a deserving salary increment. Attempting to marry how this current govt expects workers, who were only given 10 % salary increment sometimes back, to manage with the ever-increasing cost of living is very worrisome. A true a NDC govt would never do this.

The way forward is for the President to change the entire economic team and to trim his top-heavy executive. The extreme incompetence of the economists is seen in how they attempt to explain why public debt is increasing. For example, in the run-up to the 2012 Election, the single-spine salary structure (SSSS) was NDC’s strongest campaign weapon. Suddenly, this salary scheme is now being blamed for destabilizing the economy to an extent that men of God have either been contracted or taken it upon themselves to pray for economic stability. Didn’t the President and his economists consider the long-term effects of the salary structure before implementing it? Anyway, how much in real monetary terms is giving to workers on the single-pine? The Finance Minister Mr Seth Tekper continuously embarrasses himself by mentioning single-pay in this regard.

What were the bases of the President’s decision to increase MPs’ rent allowance by 100 %? In addition to misinforming the President about Ghana’s true economic story, the top-heavy executive is the real source of the huge expenditure of the state. The state’s expenditure on its countless executives is so colossal that it can hardly get more revenue to pay the other departments for their daily running. For the first time in history, workers in the Controller and Account’s General Dept went home in 2013 without their annual bonus. To continue getting money to be doling out to its needless executives, the govt has introduced numerous taxes to systematically take back all the money it claimed to have given to ordinary workers in the SSSS.

Without any change of the President’s economic team, we can expect nothing other than extreme hardship. You can infer the persistence of this stubborn hardship from the President’s own speech. Some where last year, he said that he was in first gear and that he still had three additional gears. But there’s real danger! In first gear and then moving slowly, the vehicle cannot be controlled by the driver, what happens when the said vehicle is in third or fourth gear? Hmm! Mr President, how long can we be test-driving?

Idris Pacas: 0209 1013 33 & iddrisuabdulai12@yahoo.com

Columnist: Pacas, Idris