By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Folks, I find it difficult to understand why some government officials cannot come to terms with the reality in front of them to do decent politics and win the goodwill of the people.
Just last Thursday, we all saw and heard how Ghanaian workers (organized labour) took to the streets, joined by many segments of the population (private businessmen and women, commercial drivers, and just any group of identifiable elements) to complain bitterly about the worsening economic situation in the country because of the government's inability to solve problems while at the same time raising taxes and implementing policies leading to the high rate of utility services, petroleum products, foodstuffs, and many other vitals.
We all sympathized with the plight of the demonstrators, even if we didn't see street demonstrations as the panacea to the very problems that they were complaining about and doing acts to lower productivity instead.
Vice President Kwesi B. Amissah-Arthur is the Chairman of the government's Economic Management Team and cannot claim not to know that Ghanaians are extremely angry at the dire circumstances in which the government's inability to solve problems has placed them. Even as I write, some sections of organized labour are on strike (UTAG/POTAG, nurses, etc.) and others (Ghana Exporters and Importers Association) are threatening to go on demonstration next week to add their voices to what has already inundated public discourse to the government's disadvantage.
Yet, here he comes to say what we least expected to hear: the government has reduced poverty. Where? When? How? And why are the people so angry?
Here is what has come from the Vice President: “Many reforms and investments made by the government have helped beat down poverty, Ghana’s Vice President has said, adding that innovative policies and programmes could help reduce inequalities in the country. According to him, Ghana’s middle-income status ‘vindicates the accumulation of growth strategies that have been adopted in this country since independence.’
“Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, however, said ‘a lot still remains to be done.’ He was addressing senior public service officers at a three-day conference, which is focusing on renewing the face of the public service for high performance, in the Ashanti regional capital, Kumasi.” (See: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=318617)
To say that I am highly disappointed in this utterance from the Vice President is an under-statement. He should have known better not to rub salt into our wounds at this time. Even if the government has implemented policies to reduce poverty, the reality on the ground doesn't warrant this bold or rather flippant statement at this time.
I don't want to believe that the Vice President is relying on mere statistics gathered by politically interested elements seeking to please officialdom about how much they can gather from sources only known to them. Without meaning to be saucy, I have just one big question for the Vice President. Can he tell us just one of those “innovative policies and programmes” implemented by the government that has reduced poverty in the country?
Folks, I am all for honesty in governance and don't think that the Vice President has been honest to himself, the government, and the good people of Ghana. To hell with this kind of foolhardiness in critical times as we are in. Let him come again!!
Even before he comes again, let me add here that I have known the Vice President since the days of Rawlings, even before he became the Deputy Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning, where he saw how governance can be jeopardized by economic policies. The NDC lost Election 2000, apparently because Ghanaians were dissatisfied with how the Rawlings government was managing affairs, especially the economy. It's on record that Rawlings had complained that 500 million Dollars that his government desperately needed to turn the situation around at the time had been denied it by the donor community, which was a big blow to his administration.
The Vice President moved out of the limelight thereafter only to resurface by a positive quirk of circumstance in the current dispensation. To be fair to him, let me say that he knows his field as an economist or whatever has earned him high public office; but his kind of political posturing as is reflected by his claim that the government has reduced poverty cannot be tolerated.
Again, it needs saying here that if the government had, indeed, reduced poverty, public disaffection against it won't have arisen and risen so high as to warrant what we are seeing day-by-day, especially since the political opponents took the first step to demonstrate against its manner of handling affairs.
Now, all hell has broken loose for all manner of people and groups to latch to that campaign of calumny to undercut it. The truth is that the government is facing serious problems that should be admitted and public sympathy courted so as to lessen the pressure being mounted on it.
Hiding behind stale statistics and anecdotes (as the Vice President has just done) to create the impression that all is well is not only impolitic but is a betrayal of the voters' trust. Nothing is working well, even if we take President Mahama's own lamentation into consideration. He has said that donors aren't forthcoming as expected. International rating of Ghana's economy has us all worrying; and government officials are quick to admit that the challenges exist. Is it in the midst of this complication that the government has managed to reduce poverty?
Let's be bold to tell Vice President Amissah-Arthur and others posturing like him that they are making it difficult for the government to be accepted on its own terms. They don't seem to know how to court public sympathy and will have to be touched to learn how to do so. Let the government functionaries tell the people the truth so they can be set free even as they attempt freeing the citizens from the clutches of poverty. Too much political posturing really damages government’s interests; and Ghana loses out!
I shall return…
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