Business in Ghana

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Abandoned Stuff. Critical News, 6th October 2013

Posted by Business in Ghana on October 6, 2013

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

Yaw.  Recently WASSCE graduate, now turned Space to Space Entrepreneur, selling airtime top-up to scrape a living, easing the burden on his aging mother, with two other siblings in tow, she trusting that she can find the strength to see all of them through school for a secure late age, with no pension plan and no social security contributions from anywhere she knows.  She sells tomatoes in the market, a risky perishable commodity in these times.  Yaw has no hesitation in telling me his views on where he is in life.

He carries a wiry frame around his five foot eight inches of leanness, acquired only from a deprived upbringing, the early signs of stress showing at the sides of his mouth, but he smiles broadly as we talk.  Not for the first time, mention of God will provide and reference to an all-generous agape God, who he confesses he has every confidence will come through in the end.

He voted NPP, sure that the promise of a free-education Ghana would guarantee that his brother and sister would get a chance he did not have.  He scraped a living in between studies and now at twenty-six when he should be close to starting a management grade job, he dreams not of a future in the queue of unemployed graduate friends, also space to spacing, no work on the horizon for any of them.  It has been like that for three years since they left Legon.

What are we doing wrong?  I heard Finance Minister Seth Tekper publicly acknowledging that we have the proverbial “challenges” in payroll and a tight cash position, lack of donor grant releases and other important matters that are only difficulties for now.

But when the PPP went on demonstration to highlight the economic difficulties, many joined in to also express their views on the strain on wallets and family.  Junior nurses are on strike, no salary for about two years?  Statutory funds are delayed by six months and we have a promise to pay only half of what is due? Is that not illegal?  The National Development Planning Commission flat broke and no cash to operate?  Every Government Department and Agency is screaming for cash and yet we continue to deny we have a crisis.  Even Parliament is crying for some liquidity.  How can we continue to say we are managing when all we are doing is borrowing money to survive?  Andrew Awuni of the Center for Freedom and Accuracy took a direct swipe at the Finance Ministry that their numbers might be misleading and the Danquah Institute’s Gabby Asare Otchere Darko labeled our current economic policy “Mahamanomics”.  It means borrowing more to pay debt only to borrow more and more.  His definition.

The Donor Community announced they have a major review of Government 2012 expenditure coming up soon.  If they do not white-coat the issues like the IMF does, it should make for interesting comment.

I resent anyone saying we are managing “some challenges”, I really do.  This is a mess and it is being tidied away with bureaucratic shenanigans.

We live in Ghana and we know how tough things are.  You can spin this position as much as you want, we are very aware of what we face.  Is the NDC government saying they are so short of ideas they cannot find an answer to this mess they engineered?  Are they going to keep ignoring all the comments in the media and all the talk and discussion and refuse to accept alternate positions because they are committed to an economic solution that clearly is not yielding results?

I have heard some very good and realistic solutions from many Ghanaians, offering advice for free, not holding partisan ground.  So where are we going wrong?

We have abandoned so many good solutions that I hesitate to think that there could be a new one anywhere on the shelves of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.  Why do we still not have the right to tailor a Private Member Bill in Parliament?  Why is the Attorney General still not an independent unit?  Why is Decentralization still a problem?  Why have we not started implementing the Constitutional Review Commission recommendations?  Why do we still not vote for our DCEs and MCEs?  Why can CHRAJ still not prosecute its findings but can only refer to the AG?  Why do we still not have a Freedom of Information Act?  Why do we still have social protection programs we cannot afford?  Why are the streets of Accra still potholed and without paving?  Why are interest rates still so high?  And why are we still transacting with so much cash?

I could go on and on, but really, WHY?

These solutions are not cash intense solutions.  They need a Parliament that is active and focused.  Where is this inertia coming from except protecting civil servant’s pockets and fattening politicians in every way possible?

There has to be an answer and Dr. Tony Aidoo couldn’t have made it clearer when he complained about the lack of funding for his no-gain unit.  I don’t know what Tony Aidoo does.  His statement that if the late President Mills created the unit in order to reward him, is probably most accurate, and he therefore begs to jump ship, is a welcome one.  If President Mahama shuts the unit down, he will save upwards of $2million for staff who create no benefit for the people of Ghana.  There are most certainly other units like Dr. Aidoo’s within the Presidency.

That M&E unit itself is nefarious.  Why should we have an independent monitoring and evaluation unit when all the Ministries have such an attached department and the President’s office is so powerful it can ask for any information in any format and it will be provided pronto pronto.  It is no joke, but he needs to go get a proper job and save Ghana the unnecessary.

And he feels abandoned?  Well so should Justice Apau on the independent Corruption Commission.  Left alone to drag reluctant civil servants to the table, the Commissioner might just be the one to bring some change to the system.  Some insightful comments from his team raised some hope in me till I read the terms of his commission.  He can say what he likes and interrogate whomever he chooses, it ain’t going nowhere.

Doctors feel abandoned, nurses feel the same, pharmacists, fishermen, pensioners, teachers and now even the ECG is saying they have been abandoned because the tariff increases are not adequate to keep them profitable.

And there are solutions.  Get out of trying to manage everything and allow space for the private sector to step to the plate and let the market economy flourish.  How long before this message catches hold?

And a possible solution to a looming crisis?  Government met with the TUC to agree on some mitigation measures to cushion the recent utility tariff hikes.  Means we will have to pay the increases, but spread over a yet to be defined period.  We already abandoned the Automatic Adjustment Formula we had in place, played election games with it and now we are ready to put it back till the next election.  But you can go to court, says the Government.  Maybe we will call the bluff, and this time it need not go to the Supreme Court.

Then the NPP had to go and announce that sitting MPs should not be challenged at Congress in order to preserve their seats.  And this is the party that believes in democracy?  If this is the best example of home grown democracy we have, we have abandoned sense in elective preference and exchanged it for internal dictatorship.  This is a major retrogression and so NDC-like, it places both parties at an ideological par and I am not sure we can have choice in future politics if this be the case.

But the sad event of John Kwadwo Ofori aka Wofa Paye, an independent candidate who won his seat from the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) after he was dispelled from the party, yet sits with the Majority in Parliament, leaves too many conspiracy theories in the open.  Why?  He was stabbed several times and abandoned to die by the robbers after they took some cash and other electrical items.  Really?

So we play the Pharaohs of Egypt on the 15th October.  The tempo is building up and Ghana gets another chance to establish some football dominance.  Might we make it to the World Cup again?  Oh boy, we need this win.

Ghana, Aha a ye de papa.  Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!

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