Business in Ghana

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Mpassa, Intrinsic Implausibility. Critical News, 8th June 2014

Posted by Business in Ghana on June 8, 2014

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

I am sitting on the front porch and I can hear my nieces playing in the garden.  Today’s game is about mythology, Greek and any other they know, making up the stories as they go along and I am captivated by their creativity.

Distracted from the hard economics text for a radio program later in the day, they are at the part where twelve-year old Adobea is explaining how the Golden Stool of Ashanti descended from heaven and the legend surrounding the sword embedded in the rock, the heart of the Asante Kingdom.

“Mpassa”.  That is how nine-year old Mariama politely calls out a liar.  She has been warned many times and reminded with a few smacks every now and then by her older sister how rude it is to tell an older person that they are not exactly telling the truth.

In defiance, my scientist counters, “if it is true, then how did it stay in the skies for so long? And how was he able to stop the rain from bringing it down?  And what was “gravy” (she means gravity) doing all this time while the gold stool was in the cloud?  And didn’t anyone see it from an aeroplane?  If it was gold someone would have stolen it to make rings and things!”

Adobea:  In those days there were no planes, and the word is gravity not gravy.

Mariama:  Mmmm, mpassa.  Unless there were booster rockets in the stool to keep it in space and you could navigate it from a Nintendo like a dro-thingi (drone) from a remote place, even then you will need gps-local (gps location) to find it.  Did they have all that at the time?  I am going to ask uncle Sydney.

So I became an arbiter in the descent of the Golden Stool.  But it became a lesson in science and mythology, reality and hopeful superstition and the belief sets that keep us managing, one day to the next.

And I thought, my nieces are smart, they intrinsically see what is real and not, judgment from their ecosphere of comprehension tempered with a clear deficiency in history.  They definitely need the home addition to whatever they learn in school these days.

So I thought, why not.  “mpassa”.  That is about all we hear in our own lives these days, myths of electricity supply, floods and “Conti” projects, which if completed will solve all the drainage problems in Accra.

And it rained.  Boy, did it rain.  Wednesday’s rain caught us all by surprise except for the AMA boss Oko Vanderpuye, who knew it would cause havoc in the streets and not-desilted drains as promised after last year’s rain.

Every year at this time, we carry out the ritual excuses just before Homowo when the heavy rains cool the depths of the sea and the fish come closer to the surface to warm up, making a good catch for the festival.

We have had the traditional fights of banning loud music, but chop bars and beer bars are feeling the pain this time round and threatening to go to court in protest against the Ga Chiefs.  They haven’t done so yet, I doubt they will so I won’t spend my energy speculating this.

Besides Homowo is nearly here, the Ga Chiefs are relishing the go round to homes of their subjects, to feed them with fingered smudges of kpokpoi, fish and palm soup.  No need to hand wash, just transfer halitosis fingers, one to the next.

I am not doing it this way this year.  I will arrive at the family home just in time to see the back of the entourage as it leaves our compound.  My mother is Ga, my peeps in the heart of James Town.

But man, Accra was flooded.  Rivulets all over the place, from Korle Woko to Odorkor to Russia and Mallam, you couldn’t see a pedestrian dry crossing on the way home.

A thought came to me; we could refine our culture a bit, Ga State calling for a city cleaning in the build up to Homowo.  It is no mpassa that Homowo comes with the rain and the rain comes to test the extent of choked gutters and define its traditional flood zones.

So why not get all Ga residents to do a one week of cleaning and desilting just before Homowo rains as a way to enhance our city and purify the rites of the gods.  Clean city, better purified Wulomo?

I must commend the Muslim Clerics this week.  They called out Boko Haram and in no uncertain terms, clarified what constitutes Jihad, emphasized how Islam and Christianity are not combatants, but allies in the search for peace.  I think this is what we need to hear all the time and I am grateful that if anyone else sees Boko Haram destruction as an Islam terrorist arm, the text in the Daily Graphic on Saturday put it to bed.

I am the first culprit and I am advised.  So also the BBC, CNN, Reuters and all others who preface any commentary about Boko Haram with “Islamist Terrorist …”

We made a lot of noise this week about Prof. Kwesi Botchway’s speech on the State of the Economy at Central University.  After everything was said and done, the media only understood the one sentence he made, agreeing Dr. Mahamudou Bawumia’s position on where our economics at.

Unfortunately, we have arrived there.  You cannot agree with any statement or position with anyone in this country if you are seen to be on the opposite political divide.

Prof. Botchway did agree with Bawumia’s position, but he said a lot of other things else.  The state of lawlessness, this very polarization, filthy side roads, a precarious economy, etc.. And he is not the only one.  The IMF issued its report on the state of Ghana’s economy this past week and it is dismal.  There is a lot of speculation whether Ghana will request a bail out from the Fund, but as at now the Minister of Finance says not and the IMF echoes this.

But is this plausible?  This Government needs cash from wherever and a U turn on this decision will not be a surprise.

So that brings me to the Ghana Revenue Authority and the set of thirty-two ridiculous VAT chargeable items it listed last week, to start from 1st July.

If you have anything to do with the financial sector, and that is all of us, it should be intrinsically clear to you that this spells doom for banks and customers.  Just about every fee on the list is from a chargeable service.

It was issued by the GRA, whose earlier public jousting on this matter was clearly wrong, re-interpreted by the Ministry of Finance.

I think they are totally misguided because this will kill business and customers will now calculate very carefully how much it will take from their pockets before they walk into a banking hall.

Already, customers are withdrawing deposits from the banks, converting into US dollars and hedging the depreciating cedi.  You need to talk to any of the microfinance or savings and loans companies and you will understand that we have a possible run on the banking sector.

After the Economic Forum at Senchi, the Central Bank was to publish an assessment of measures to protect the cedi and indicate if they had achieved their aim of stalling the slide.

Measurably, they should also look at the mandate of the Banking Act 2004 to “promote an effective banking system” and assess whether these additional taxes imposed by the GRA will enhance the banking sector.

The myths regarding what will solve the massive black hole this NDC Government has created, are intrinsically implausible.  Just as my nieces could tell, even without putting it to the strictest test; mpassa.

If you have any expertise in financial matters you can see that this will only punish an already overburdened taxpayer.  I am disappointed that the managers of the economy think they can tax their way out of their bankruptcy.

This Government is cash bankrupt, ideas bankrupt.

The NPP party set December 6th to elect its presidential candidate, the Electoral Commission has been more or less forced to postpone the registration of new voters and we have one week to Brazil.  We have a friendly on Monday and the USA beat Nigeria 2-1.  I heard the Nigerians were only toying with them.

Let the Games commence.  Four days to go, Government will get a reprieve until the earlier of when we are out of the competition or 12th July when we are in the final.

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

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