Business in Ghana

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Reset. Dog-Ctrl, Fitch-Alt, ECG-Delete. Critical News, 20th October 2013

Posted by Business in Ghana on October 20, 2013

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

I am not the only person complaining.  All week I have been talking to friends, asking what we can do to move some action in Governance.

“Massa asem a to yen”, and this from the taxi driver who bullied me into listening to him all the ride from McCarthy Hill to Kanda Estates.  He had a beef and soon as he recognized me from a TV talk show, he was sure I could influence Government to do something about his struggling efforts to eke out a living from “dropping” fares.

Kwame Karikari now owns his taxi.  It has taken him seven years.  When I did the math with him, he had agreed to a repayment plan, which cost him three times more than what he could have borrowed.  What I gathered, and together with his comments, much regrets.  We the “panyin fuo” should have the answers so them “nkodaa” can tow our lines.

Not anywhere near the collective responsibility being seamed to us by Government, forcing a guilt trap because something went horribly wrong between July and December 2012.  Some uncontrolled hand skewed our prior-to-then economic success trumpeted in Parliament and to the world.

It is important to remind this NDC Government that on Wednesday 18th July 2012, they went to Parliament to report that the economy was so robust they requested supplementary spending for the rest of the year.

Let me quote then Finance Minister Dr. Kwabena Duffuor from paragraph 36 of his presentation on the Supplementary Budget to Parliament.  Bear in mind this is July 2012, a week before President Mills died.

“Madam Speaker, fiscal developments in the first five months of 2012 point to an optimistic outlook for the remaining period of the year. All tax collection targets are likely to be exceeded. Nonetheless, there is the need to closely monitor revenue performance to ensure that the trends observed in the first five months are improved.”  And again in Paragraph 69,

“Madam Speaker, the economic outlook is very positive. We are committed to sustaining the achievements made so far in order to ensure that the country remains in the group of the world’s high performers.”

With Single Spine 99% completed (per the same report) and six months later, the economy tanked with election fever and we are in the worst mess ever in the history of our modern democratic period.

The dearth of economy fixes from the NDC is pushing us to meek requests from Veep Amissah Arthur to even the Czech Republic.  That President Mahama cannot see that we have a problem and simply parses false confidence messages from home to a more savvy and far experienced donor and investment community with a classic begging bowl mentality for grants and loans, is a clear reflection of how infantile we are thought of as a people and how irresponsible we have turned in recent times.

When you are broke, there is nothing wrong with borrowing money to tidy over for a while.  Nothing wrong with getting a gift or two to manage a crisis.  But when you clearly do not show how you use monies and how you are able to leverage aid prudently to boot-start your cash-conomy and improve your lot, there is nothing you can do to restore confidence and fiscal balance.

When the gap between your revenues and expenses are far apart, and there is nothing on the horizon that says you are going to thin the gap in the short time, save fiddling with the numbers and presenting massaged indicators, you might win the sprint report.  But medium to long term, it catches up with you and numbers tell no lie.  Ask Greece.

Since the Ghana Statistical Service is not the most independent agency we have, and so we rely on outsiders to tell us the true state of affairs and how we are surviving, the recent Fitch rating created an economic media blitz this past week.  The rating agency was generous considering the genuine state of our economy.

Many qualified persons have commented openly and challenged Government to accept that we are in dire straights.  The ridiculous sugar coating we hear is nothing short of lying to Ghanaians.  We will end the year with a huge fiscal deficit unless, if someone tampers with the statistics.  I have made this reference before, but those who would like to read it again, go to MOFEP’s website and read what the finance ministry has itself reported.  The cash deficit is ghc4.9billion.  If you include discrepancies, the gap widens to ghc5.5billion.  You cannot turn this situation around in five months when you have no new sources of revenue and no pragmatic programs to reduce costs.  “We have put in place measures to restore the economic situation” does not provide any clear insights into what is being done.  No wonder then that an agency like Fitch will downgrade us to a B from B+.  It will affect the cost of international borrowing, but let that be.  We borrow money in Ghana at 35%.  Is anyone worried?  Because you cannot grow a free market economy at those rates.

But something interesting is happening.  Taxi drivers have sued the Mayor of Accra and the Met Assembly over restrictions to trade.  This is really encouraging coming on the back of strikes and wage negotiations, which for one reason or the other are colored as treacherous acts, when they are truly safeguards to rights of citizens.  Drivers are fighting for clarity of rights and interpretation of the by laws and I say let this roll on.  We need to test the ambit of the laws and re-draw some of them, modify the arcane and archaic practices that restrict us from association and market opportunities.

Rawlings on the other hand is clearly not feeling the pinch, his Rotweillers or whatever breed of dog, terrorizing the people of Vume and Tefle even though hard criticized by the Daily Guide.  The Daily Guide wrote a scathing editorial about his effusions and historical recant, a clear remembering gone askew as he tried to exemplify the AFRC and NDC as the best governments ever.

I am not JJ fanatical, he is particularly short on truth most times.  I also say until we stop pandering to the “Big Man” position in this country we will always be corrupt.  If what we read in the papers is true, JJ has no place criticizing anyone as above the law, because letting his dogs loose to terrorize and maim people is irresponsible at best and felonious in another place in history.  So far he has not responded to the Daily Guide’s stories, so we wait for the imminent denial.

Yet to his credit, he clearly won the body-language award of the night, presenting the 1st placed award at the Ghana Club 100, past Friday.  When RLG Communications took pole position, both hands in his pocket before the announcement and with no glee or smile showing, he walked off briskly after the presentation, reflecting guest opinion as the up till then excited and participatory crowd, mix-clap-booed the award and left the dinner event without much fanfare.  Even the encouraging live band presence to dance the rest of the night out failed to lift the derision for the company mired in political controversy and possible corruption through the GYEEDA programs.

But it is like we suffer an addiction to political lies at a Politicians Anonymous meeting.  The first step to the cure is always to admit you have a problem, in our case, a catastrophe.  Government’s lame admission that we have challenges is consistent with the claimed successes in infrastructure and other programs not of their making and a first step denial to tackling the mess.  There is a solution to this malaise.  It starts with opting out of trying to control everything from the center.  It follows with a serious clamp down on all things corrupt and finally grows with innovative ideas to nurture revenue and reduce costs.  Decentralization, independent anti-corruption institutions and audacious creative thought.

As I write this morning, power is out and the incompetents at ECG are clearly not coping even with the recent increases in tariffs, which we hoped would bring some obligatory quality to the service.  Why can’t we ask some people to just leave a post and move on?  Why do we continue to encourage such mediocre performance at the expense of the patient Ghanaian?  Is it just politics or sheer inertia mutated from incompetence?

Well, we trounced the Pharaohs of Egypt 6-1 and they still think they have a chance to get to Brazil 2014.  Fat chance, and I say well done to our homegrown coach.  Kwesi Appiah and Steven Keshie in Nigeria are living the debate on foreign versus indigenous coaches.  I am proud to be a Black Stars supporter.

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

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