There are many in the ruling New Patriotic Party who are not very pleased with the party’s presidential candidate, Nana Akuffo Addo. They are very annoyed (to say the least) that the candidate settled on a relative “outsider” as his running mate. But most of them dare not complain in public.
Government’s decision to sell off 70% of its stake in Ghana Telecom has caused a lot of static in the country recently. Government is anxious to sell off majority of its share in GT because, truth be told, we are in economic dire straits and the proceeds will help ward off an economic crisis.
Just a few days after President Kufuor got on jet for yet another expensive but inexplicable foreign trip, we were told that instructions have been issued to all government agencies to reduce their projected spending for the rest of the year by as much as 50%. It is yet another attempt by government to ensure that we don’t go into an economic meltdown. The fact is that our economy is being battered by the one thing which, they say, should give us hope for a prosperous future – oil!
The real intention behind the government’s decision to introduce the national school feeding programme remains quite unclear to me. Under the programme pupils are provided with at least one hot-cooked meal every school day. And for what? The idea, we’ve been repeatedly told, is to use food to literally entice kids to stay in school with the promise that at the end of the day they will get a bowl of ‘gari fortor’ to eat. Sounds like a good idea. The only problem is that the programme is too expensive and just a few days ago, we heard that it’s not sustainable. That’s to say that there would come a time when the nation cannot afford it any longer.
For the attention of Mr. Gordon Brown,
Prime Minister of Great Britain;
I hope this letter reaches you in good health. I am a young man writing from Accra, the capital of Ghana. I hope you know where my country is. If you don’t, I am very sure that at least you know who my president is. He’s that tall, lanky African president – the one with the bulging eyes – who came to you recently to beg for some money to provide free medical care for pregnant women in his country. His name is John Kufuor. That money you gave him is serving him (and our country) quite well. His party is campaigning with it, claiming that thanks to his beggarly skills, he managed to squeeze some money out of you. We hear you are very stingy and that for you to have given away all that money really took some begging. For your information, the free care for pregnant women has started in earnest in several towns, villages and hamlets in the country.
The ruling party’s insistence on using the programme to campaign is really spreading the word and I tell you, the response has been very good. The other day for example, I heard some men saying that now that government is providing free medical care for pregnant women, they are going to stop wearing gloves, if you know what I mean. They say that now that you and the queen are taking care of the pregnant women, there is no restraining them from sowing wild oats all around the country.
I also heard a pregnant woman say that with your benevolence she can now afford to eat "fried rice" and "kyibom" (this is Ghana’s equivalent of ‘Big Mac’) because her husband is not spending all of his meagre monthly income on the unborn child.
My people are really grateful to you, Mr. Brown. I am very sure that if you come and run for election here, you will win by a landslide. Now, I hear you are having some political problems and that you are not so keen on calling a general election anytime soon. I’m reliably informed that the pollsters’ numbers do not favour you at all and that if you dare call an election, you will most probably lose. Why not come down and contest in our elections in December?
I know you might have some doubts about your chances, especially if you go to the history books and read about how we kicked out your people some fifty years ago, telling them that "the black man is capable of managing his own affairs". We also said we were "ready to take our destinies into our own hands." But it was all a joke. That guy who said all that – I mean Kwame Nkrumah – didn’t know what he was talking about. He was a ‘wet dreamer’ who thought his nocturnal emissions can turn into milk and honey for the black race.
Fifty years on, Mr. Brown, I am very sure that you will agree with me that we have not quite managed to take our destinies into our own hands yet. Do you think that if we were capable of managing our own affairs our president would have come to you five decades after we stopped flying the Union Jack with a cup in hand to beg you for money to take care of his pregnant women compatriots?
Mr. Brown, I think independence was a big mistake. Please, tell the Queen that we are sorry and that we will like to have her back, with you as the first governor of our first post-independence colonial administration.
I’m very sure a very large number of my compatriots will agree with me that since we stopped flying the Union Jack, our country has been ushered into a new ‘colonialism’ that clearly shows that we shouldn’t have kicked you people out in the first place. "Our national football team has never been entrusted to a Ghanaian, our water is in the hands of the Dutch, our roads are built by the Chinese, Presidential Palace built by Indians, waste by the Belgians, and our Telecom sector is now earmarked for an Anglo-American company," one of my compatriots said recently.
The "Anglo-American" company he’s referring to is none other than Vodafone, which has very generously offered to buy our state-run telecoms firm, Ghana Telecom for a whopping 900 million dollars. We are convinced beyond every doubt that our fickle Ghanaian minds cannot run a profitable telecoms company. About ten years ago, we gave it to the Malaysians until John Kufuor came to power. I don’t know what came over him but he suddenly kicked out the Malaysians claiming that the company was given to them for a song. Then he brought in some Norwegians under what he called a "management contract." We later learnt to our shock that these Norwegians were among the most greedy Scandinavians on the surface of the earth – they were taking hefty paycheques, which they wouldn’t even have earned in their country. So we threw them out too. We have a few Ghanaians running the company now and it’s very unclear the direction they want to take the company. That’s why we are bringing it to Vodafone.
If you are as smart as I have been made to believe you are, Mr. Brown, you will realise that this is not merely a business transaction between our Ghana Telecom and your Vodafone. It is also a desperate SOS call. We are telling you that we need you, the good people of Great Britain, back in our country. Can we come to some sort of arrangement under which we will become the Queen’s subjects once again? Please?
For fifty years, we have done our best to manage our own affairs but the results have always been worst than anyone could have imagined. Our health system is in no better shape than your forefathers left it. Korle Bu, the hospital built by one of your ancestors, is still our major teaching hospital. But it is now like a transit point to the graveyard. If you go there and you don’t die, you will come back home with memories you don’t want to keep.
Our people come to your country to get the best education (and some of them even return speaking like they were born in Buckingham Palace). Every morning, hundreds of my compatriots form a long queue (what we like to call a "lorgorligi line") in front of your high commission here – just to get a visa to come to your country. In fact, the situation in the country is so bad that even our president doesn’t like staying here. Since he became president, he has made it clear that travelling is his favourite past time. Whiles travelling, he has been wise enough to beg other world leaders to help us out. He has begged for (and received) money from the Japanese, the Chinese, the Americans, the Koreans and even from the Malaysians. It’s very undignifying for a country formerly known as the Gold Coast to go around begging. That’s something we never did when we used to sing "God save the Queen."
Mr. Brown, I know you are a very busy man so I won’t bore you with the litany of misfortunes that have befallen us since we told the Queen to sod off. But I’m asking you to kindly go to her and tell her that we are sorry and that we will be more than delighted to have her as our Queen once again. We don’t have any lose cannons like Kwame Nkrumah running around anymore and I’m sure that if she came – possibly with you – we will never kick her out again. We have learnt our lessons. Independence was a bad idea.
I’m still recovering from the shock that our dear president’s latest set of ‘blings’ cost as a good 33,000 pounds each (and he bought five of them). You do the maths. Add up all what was spent on honouring so many people –more than half of whom we all consider to be completely undeserving of such high national recognition – and you’ll realise that these shambolic awards cost us a fortune.
I suppose that now the president feels very good about himself. He’s now joined the ranks of MC Hammer, P. Diddy, Snoop Doggy Dog, 50 Cent and all those icons of international pop culture who like to weigh their necks down with tonnes of ‘bling-bling’.
Ever since I heard the news about how much the president’s medals cost, I’ve been having serious nightmares. Usually, I see JAK chasing me – with his precious medals around his neck. The medals are weighing him down and I should be running faster than him. But somehow, he’s catching up with me and that scares the hell out of me. I don’t know why JAK will be chasing me. Perhaps, he’s now realised that I deserve one – for doing nothing.
Or he just wants to smack my head with medals so that I will experience how it feels to come into contact with a 33,000-pound piece of ‘bling’.
I hope the nightmare ends soon. But I pray God to bless the heart of the person who leaked that document which showed us how frivolous our government has been in buying very expensive jewellery to ‘bling’ up the president and all those award “winners”.
I’m very glad that quite a number Ghanaians are coming down very hard on the administration for indulging in such wastefulness. If we had spoken out against all those millions of dollars they spent on Ghana@50 (where in heaven’s name are the “public toilets”?) they wouldn’t have dared gone for a second bite of the cherry. But we didn’t and that gave them the confidence that they could spend our money anyhow and nobody would bat an eye.
They were wrong. I hope that the incessant criticism that has been heaped on the administration since the leaked document detailing the cost of the medals was published is the first sign that we are gradually gaining the confidence to demand that our government spends our money wisely and on things that benefit us.
Seven hundred thousand pounds might not sound like a lot of money to government officials who keep millions in their car trunks. But it’s a lot of money for millions of Ghanaians who cannot afford to feed on anything more nutritious than ‘gari’ and ‘Keta school boys’. It’s a lot of money for all those service personnel whose allowances have not been paid for months because “we don’t have money.” When our school children are studying under baobab trees and our pregnant women are sleeping on the bare floor at Korle Bu, we have every right to be angry that our president will spend so much money on a set of jewellery.
When our president tells us to tighten our belts, we expect him to be careful what he hangs around his neck. We will be surprised if he hangs a noose around his neck and we will be shocked if he spends 165,000 pounds on jewellery to adorn his neckline.
It’s also very galling that even though our government claims not to have money to pay those recruited under the national youth employment programme (an excuse which has delayed the payment of allowances for months and which has led government to go around with cup in hand for loans) they can spend all this money just on medals. 700,000 pounds could have paid the NYEP recruits for three months.
Unfortunately (and very sadly) our government officials do not get it. They do not understand why we should be crying foul after they had misspent money, of which, we are repeatedly told we don’t have a lot. But you should understand why they do not understand us.
First, they either do not know or they have forgotten what it means to be poor. Being in government has made a lot of them rich beyond their wildest dreams and they think that 700000 pounds (or 1.4 million dollars) is nothing. Since they do not go to Korle Bu for treatment (a slight headache and they are on the plane to South Africa) they do not know that this money could help a great deal in renovating and re-equipping the medical block at that hospital.
That block has been in disrepair for almost 10 years!
Secondly, I think, these guys have next to no idea about why they are in government. From where I stand the essence of government is to make life better for the governed. Achieving this entails spending scarce resources wisely on projects that benefit the people. Buying a chain for the president is definitely not one of such projects. That’s why their explanation that the medals will be worn by future presidents at all official functions strikes me as silly.
President Kufour has been president for almost eight years without an expensive chain. The absence of a gold chain didn’t make him less of a president. We already have symbols of state which are used at presidential inaugurations. There is that beautiful, handcrafted sword – made of solid gold – that was used to induct him into office. Why do we need 18-carrat medals? Why now? Without the medals will the person who occupies the highest office in the land be less of a president in our eyes? What next are they going to ask us for? A presidential chamber-pot? A presidential ‘twakoto’?
Make no mistake about it – nobody is against a national honours scheme that truly rewards excellent achievement and extra-ordinary public service. What we don’t want is for the most senior public servant of all to shamelessly confer an honour himself, when the jury is still out on his achievements and legacy. We are also against the president honouring people who don’t deserve such honours. Agya Koo deserves the recognition he got. Andy Awuni doesn’t. Being the president’s spin-doctor, doesn’t automatically entitle you to a national honour.
That military officer who stands behind the president doesn’t deserve an award either. What has he been doing? Carrying the president’s file with just two or three A-4 sheets and standing behind him doesn’t exactly pass as body-guarding, does it? And the president’s driver also got one? What the heck! Damn, I should get one – just for waking up today!
The president cannot use such an important national institution to show personal gratitude to people like his driver and press secretary and the journalists who constantly sing his praises.
Most important of all, we don’t want our scarce resources to be wasted on buying so many expensive medals every year to be used in decorating people like the president’s driver. That’s why it’s even more prudent that very few people are honoured with such national honours. The excuse that there is a backlog which ought to be cleared doesn’t wash. Nobody has complained or gone on demonstration to demand a national medal. If the president wants to clear backlogs, he should first think about the thousands who are qualified but cannot enter the university because there are no spaces for them.
Having said all that, I’m thinking of creating a special award category for a few deserving individuals. It’s going to be called the Grand Order of Vultures and Rats of Ghana. You should have a fair idea who the first inductees should be. And trust me, they are not getting any medals.
How will history remember President Kufuor? Only time will tell. But I’m very sure that he will be remembered as the guy who, so vain and so full of himself, decided to decorate himself with a national honour. He will also be known as the guy who gave away national honours like ‘bofrote’ to his pals and ‘yes’ men (and women).
How could he?
I wasn’t exactly surprised by the long list of people the president decided to honour for reasons known best to him. Most Ghanaians were shocked by the president’s decision to give himself a medal. I wasn’t. I saw it coming and I remember saying it on my radio programme that one day we will wake up to see the president hanging one around his neck. That’s not to say I am a prophet. But when the president gives awards to people who do not deserve them, what is to stop him from taking one for himself if he feels he deserves it?
In 2006, I was shocked when Grace Ashy – a gospel musician without a single hit song to her name – was given a national honour. My favourite musician, Kojo Antwi has more than a dozen hit tracks to his name but he doesn’t have a national medal. The Daughters of Glorious Jesus and the Tagoe Sisters have inspired and encouraged millions of Ghanaians over the years with their gospel songs. Their achievements are not worthy enough of emulation, so the prize goes to Grace Ashy for singing ‘jama’ for the national football team, which played in the 2006 World Cup.
That Black Stars squad, incidentally, didn’t even make it to the quarter finals of the World Cup in 2006. But each player was given a national medal. I wondered then what would happen to the team which actually succeeds in winning the World Cup.
Early this year, President Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali just passed by to drink a lot of champagne with our president and at the end of it all he was given a national medal. I guess they engaged in a drinking contest and Mr. Toumani won. The ‘order of the Volta’ was his prize.
Immediately after he received that medal, I wrote about national honours being given out like ‘bofrote’. Just a few weeks after that, a list of national honourees was issued with the likes of Prof. Atta Mills, NDC presidential candidate, included. That generated a lot of needless verbal heat. People questioned why the president would be so naive to honour his political opponent. He was told he had made a grave mistake.
To pacify his party bigwigs who had warned him that decorating Prof. Mills with a medal will be tantamount to political suicide, President Kufuor decided to give one of those medals to his party’s presidential candidate too. Then for good measure, he also added the names of a few others from the other side of the political divide: Alban Bagbin (minority leader in parliament, who slept with his sister-in-law), Jerry Rawlings (legendary coup-maker, who the president has referred to as ‘Sasabonbonsam’ or devil) and Captain Kojo Tsikata (security kingpin, who allegedly suggested or sanctioned almost every atrocity Rawlings’ junta committed). There was also a fair sprinkling of journalists who never find anything wrong with anything President Kufuor says or does. And, as usual, there were a large number of people who do not deserve to be honoured. What shocked me, to tell the truth, was that my name was not on that list. But that’s another story for another day.
In spite of my shock, I couldn’t help but laugh myself to stitches after the president delivered the real punch-line. He was going to give himself an award too and it was in this same category that Jerry Rawlings was to be rewarded. This award, according to the president, was only to be given to people who get elected as presidents. In the mind of our president, just the mere act of becoming president is an end in itself and therefore anyone who succeeds in achieving this end should be given a national medal. He made it. And so did Rawlings. And for that matter, they both deserve national honours. I am ashamed, to say the least, that my president thinks this way. It is very baffling that my president, after calling his predecessor “Sasabonsam” on several occasions, will turn around and decide to decorate this ‘devil’ – just because this ‘devil’ managed to get himself elected president. And don’t forget, my president is one of those who firmly believes that this ‘devil’ stole an election (remember “The Stolen Verdict’?). I’m sure that Mr. Kufuor believes that what Jesus said about the devil holds very true for Mr. Rawlings… “The devil comes not but to steal (the people’s mandate), to kill (the judges) and destroy (the economy)”. So why will Mr. Kufuor even think of giving Mr. Rawlings an award?
Well, it was the only way for him to legitimise the vanity of his decision to decorate himself with a national medal. Thankfully, Mr. Rawlings realised that he was being used and he refused to accept the award (and this, I am sure, is one of the wisest things Mr. Rawlings will be forever remembered for).
But the president was not deterred. He didn’t even stop for a moment to think that on this particular occasion Mr. Rawlings was acting more wisely than him. And he, very sadly, went ahead to give himself a medal. For acting so presumptuously, I think, the president has stolen from us. He has stolen our verdict. We, the people of Ghana, were the ones who were supposed to judge his record and decide on whether or not his days in office were not wasted. This, we would have done after he had left office. But in his diffidence (and surely, he’s achieved very little), our president thinks that we might have judged him wrongly and he wouldn’t have gotten the reward he deserves. So he decided to judge and reward himself. For this singular act of shameless vanity, the Kufuor who stole our right to judge his record is no different from the Rawlings who stole power (through a coup d’etat and, some may add, a rigged election). Shame on both of ‘em.
What is the president up to? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself over the past few days. After announcing his so-called mitigation package, the president has done a few other things that have shocked and surprised many. First, he sacked his interior minister and made some ministerial changes. Then he decided to pardon a convicted politician and for the icing on the cake, an announcement was made that the leader of the main opposition party, Prof. John Atta Mills was to be given the nation’s highest honour.
Of all the things the president has done within the past few days, Prof. Mills’ honour is the one stirring the most controversy. The man also known as ‘Asomdwehene’ is a very fine gentleman. He’s one of the best academics in this country and having devoted several years of his life to public service, he certainly deserves the award. He deserves it more than Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali who was given one medal for doing next to nothing.
But the question on everyone’s lip is: why now? For years, President Kufuor and other members of his New Patriotic Party have been throwing dirt at Atta Mills describing him variously as incompetent and effeminate. Very recently, there has been a lot of talk about how Atta Mills as chair of the national economic management team failed to rein in the economy, allowing inflation to fly as high as an uncontrollable hot-air balloon whiles the value of the cedi plummeted. Many have even questioned Atta Mills’ political credentials. At a press conference in Accra, NPP chairman, Peter Mac Manu, said had it not been for the ‘Swedru declaration’, Prof. Mills would still be a bookworm, calculating tax returns at the IRS – not running for president.
President Kufuor himself has said some pretty uncomplimentary stuff about the former vice president. So we are all left wondering what the president has seen to make him make such a sudden about-turn to bestow the nation’s highest honour on the man who wrestled him for political power on two occasions. Perhaps, it’s because Prof. Mills is such a (good) loser. He lost crucial elections which made it possible for him to be president for two terms. And Prof. Mills has also shown that he is not a sore loser. When he lost the first election, he graciously conceded defeated. He was not so happy with the second defeat but he didn’t whip up a storm which could have resulted in civil strife.
Whatever the reasons may be for the decision to honour Atta Mills, many in the president’s own party do not think it’s a wise decision to be conferring an honour on an opposition leader at this crucial time when the nation is preparing to go to the polls. The national youth organiser of the NPP, John Buadu believes that Atta Mills doesn’t deserve a national honour. I disagree with him. If Aliu Mahama is getting one (and he has been quite a vice president), I think Atta Mills deserves two. Mr. Buadu knows it. But I believe he doesn’t like the idea of President Kufuor decorating Prof Mills because he knows the propaganda value of such a spectacle for the opposition party. I can imagine an NDC campaign ad on TV with Prof. Mills getting his medal from President Kufuor. The tagline will be: “Even his opponents know he’s good.” That surely will be a coup for the NDC. I’m very sure they are looking forward to it. That is why the kingpins in the NPP will continue to question the wisdom in honouring Prof. Mills at this time. John Buadu is not the only one who has dared to speak publicly against it. MP for Dome Kwabenya, Prof. Mike Ocquaye, is also thinks the president’s decision doesn’t make sense.
“It is not our wish that Mills will be honoured with the highest award of the land,” Prof. Ocquaye is reported to have said. “In advance countries people who occupied high positions are not awarded simply because they occupied that position.”
With words like these you can be sure the president is going to be under a lot of pressure to change his mind. Shortly after it became public that Prof. Mills was going to be honoured, information minister Steven Asamoah Boateng indicated in a radio interview that the honours list is not “complete” yet. That, I suppose, means that more names will be added – and none will be taken out. However, I won’t be surprised if the presidency issues another press statement that Atta Mills’ name got on the honours list by mistake and so he’s not going to be given a medal after all. They could even say that the Atta Mills the first statement referred to is not the one we all know.
All of this brings us to a point I raised a few weeks ago when I wrote about honours being given out like cheap ‘bofrote’. This was after the President of Mali, Amadou Toumani Toure was given one of our medals for God knows what.
I don’t care whether Prof. Mills gets the medal or not. These things have been so cheapened since Mr. Kufuor came to power that I think I deserve one myself. Secondly, it has almost become a norm that opponents of the ruling party hardly ever get any. That is why some people are shocked and surprised that Atta Mills might be getting one soon.
I think the time has come for us to redeem the value of our national medals and ensure that only deserving people get to decorate their necks with it. How do we do this? Simple. The president should not be the only one deciding who gets a medal and who doesn’t. We should set up a National Honours Commission. This non-partisan commission will receive recommendations from the general public and they will investigate the backgrounds and achievements of those being recommended and later decide whether the nominees deserve a medal or not.
I believe our achievers need to be recognised and honoured. But the president and his inner-circle are not the only ones who can recognise achievement. Looking at the honours lists of the past few years, I can safely say that they seem quite confused. At this rate, if we don’t take care, the president will wake up one day and whimsically decide to give a medal to all of his ex-girlfriends, his concubines, his (illegitimate) children (if any), his ‘ebusuapanyin’ and his barber. Then he will turn around and hang one around his own neck for good measure.
There is no escaping the hard times brought on by the sudden hikes in food and fuel prices. Even if you don’t have a car and you don’t spend money to move around from one end of town to another (say you are unemployed and you have little choice than to stay home all the time), you will realise that you now pay 30p for a ball of kenkey which is quite smaller than the one you used to buy for 10p.
Sometimes, you get the kenkey and you realise that it’s been recycled for about five days. Gone are the days when kenkey sellers discarded products more than two days old. Auntie Akweley knows that she owes you no explanation and you dare not ask her what’s going on. She might be as pissed off and frustrated as you are because she’s also very shocked that all her profits are being eroded by the hikes in the cost of her raw materials. The money she used to buy three sacks of corn with can now get her just two bags. So don’t dare ask her why her kenkey keeps shrinking in size and why she sells ‘expired balls’.
For answers, just turn to the newspapers. Even ‘P&P’ is reporting on the difficulties many around the world are facing as a result of a global food shortage and the recent dramatic and record-breaking hikes in crude oil prices.
It’s crazy and it’s annoying and it’s frustrating. And for those in power, it’s very worrisome. In these hard times and with an election looming, if the ruling class wants to remain in power they do not want to be seen to be unconcerned as people fight over lorry fares and the size of kenkey.
That’s why president Kufuor decided to personally announce his mitigation plan, which he hopes will help us weather these economic storms and possibly, if we are convinced that he cares enough, return his party to power. “I am appealing to you all to rally behind government to ensure that our society goes through these difficult times with minimal stress,” he said in a pre-recorded but very badly edited television address to the nation.
In that address, the president announced measures including the removal of import duties on some staples such as rice, wheat and yellow corn. Government also intends to remove some taxes and levies on petroleum products such as diesel, premixed fuel and kerosene.
It all sounds like a good plan.
But I’m not sure if these measures will mitigate my suffering in anyway. What I know for sure is that in this country prices don’t go down. They only go up. Therefore the president’s order to “dealers (in rice, vegetable oil etc.) and transporters to reduce prices and fares to benefit consumers and passengers” will fall on deaf ears. Drivers have said it before and I won’t be surprised if they say it again that they do not fix their fares solely on the basis of increasing fuel prices. They buy spare parts too.
I believe there should be some very good economic reason why the president chose to remove taxes and levies on kerosene and gas oil but decided to retain the taxes on premium petrol. Unfortunately, transport fares are fixed for all ‘trotros’ and buses without any regard for whether they are fuelled by diesel or petrol. So bringing the price of diesel down and maintaining that of petrol will yield very little or nothing. If the diesel car drivers bring down their rates, those who use petrol vehicles will not do the same. And where does that leave us? Square one.
The decision to remove import levies on rice, yellow corn and vegetable oil also makes sense. But only on the surface. And the president knows it. That’s why he warned that it would be a criminal offence to attempt to re-export any of the products whose import duties have been removed. Our customs agents will have a lot of work to do because a lot of people are going to try to do exactly what the president does not want them to do. I have no doubt that most of them will get away with it – with the help of those who are supposed to stop them.
I won’t be surprised if sometime in the next few months, the president comes back to tell us that he has changed his mind because his mitigation measure is only helping some individuals to line their pockets instead of helping the poor deal with a very difficult economic situation.
Another area of concern to me is that some traders are going to keep their prices at current levels and insist that they cannot sell old stock at reduced prices. And there is nothing government can do about it. Remember, prices in Ghana hardly ever go down. Forward ever, backward never – upward ever downward never.
All told, what is a government to do in the current circumstances? Well, I think the government should have done nothing. These price hikes started in 2007. If it had gotten as bad as it is now in 2006 or in a year in which we were not going to vote, the government would have done nothing. They would have told us that it is economic reality and we need to “bite the bullet” and “tighten our belts”.
The president has used these expressions several times before – when the going got so tough and he knew we had very little choice. But this is a different year. He’s going out of power but he would like to see his party retain power. And so he comes up with this raft of measures which are only useful because they are politically expedient for the ruling class. “We are a caring government,” I’ve heard several ministers say in praise of the measure the president announced last week. If only they could be as caring when they are not asking for our votes. I am very sure that immediately after the elections we will be slapped again with the levies and taxes.
So here is a thought: how about giving us some cash? Yes, if they are so caring they should give us money to spend. Each Ghanaian should be given about GHC300 – whether or not petroleum levies and import duties are removed. George Bush did a similar thing recently and Mr. Kufuor can do the same. Can you imagine how many balls of kenkey and bags of rice GHC300 can buy?
If they also care so much, they should start making long term plans instead of adopting knee jerk measures. If they had any long term plans, we wouldn’t now be thinking of stockpiling food with help from “development partners.” We would have had silos all around the country and stockpiling food would have been a national habit. Even the rats and ants stockpile food and we don’t? What is wrong with us? Considering that we don’t have any silos in the country right now, I wonder where the new food stockpiles will be kept. Hotel ‘Waawaa’ or where? Now, doesn’t that make you want to be a rat?