Feature Article of Friday, 1 June 2012
Columnist: Akoto, Akwasi A. Afrifa
Although the NPP is yet to release its manifesto, an idea of what the party has in mind can be gleaned from some speeches and campaign stop messages by Nana Addo. Since he won the flagbearership, Nana Addo has delivered about four major policy speeches-at the Liberty Lectures, the Hamburg and Houston town hall meetings and the Accra Polytechnic TESCON seminar.
In these speeches, Nana Addo specifically highlighted three sectors :education, urban development and corruption. Of course the manifesto 'd contain and cover comprehensively all sectors of the economy. But from the little that we have seen, there is no doubt the manifesto when released 'd lay the ground works for "restoring hope" among citizens. Meanwhile, below is a glimpse of the three sectors Nana has so far touched on-at least according to my knowledge.
Nana's educational policy is the "Teachers First " policy. As the name suggests, teachers 'd be the number one educational focus in Nana's administration. For Nana believes that a child's education depends heavily on sound, qualified, quality and well paid teachers.
Under this policy is the "Three Rs," recruitment, retention and retraining" which 'd implemented not only to tap the best students to enter the teaching field but also to keep them in the field. For example, there are whole districts with not a single qualified SHS teacher. National service personnel are now doing the job. Thus these are the areas and problems the Teachers First policy'd identify and rectify.
Under this same policy is the "Free SHS" - which needs no introduction. A lot have been said and discussed about the rationale behind making SHS free. In a nut shell, free SHS 'd guarantee that our all school children remain in school for three more years. They'd be better educated and more matured when they come out of school. Juvenile delinquency and streetism among others 'd be greatly reduced. In effect, this policy 'd make SHS the first point of exit instead of the current system whereby the JHS level is the first point of exit-throwing 50% of BECE graduates on the street every year.
Woyome and the judgment debts have once again thrown a spotlight on how corrupt the system has become with each passing year. Unfortunately, the ruling party has not put forward any comprehensive plan to help curb the situation. To the government, arresting Woyome and his co-conspirators seems to be good enough. But Woyome has exposed the rot in system, as such, major reforms are needed In this area, Nana proposes the "Anas Principle." Named after the award winning investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, the principle 'd establish an anti-corruption squad made up of some of the nation's best young talents, well-trained, well-paid, well-disciplined, "with the license to root out corruption from every nook and cranny of our public life." The goal is to create a "culture of fear for corrupt practice." This way, the would-be corrupt practitioner 'd always live in the state of paranoia, never sure whom he is dealing with-whether an Anas agent or simple civilian.
This principle, for the first time in our history, 'd also introduce "stiffer punishment to make the theft of state funds more expensive for the criminal than the stealing of a goat," as Nana pointed out at Houston town hall meeting.
In this sector, the "Inner-city Development fund" 'd be established exclusively to help alleviate the infrastructural deficit in the deprived areas in our cities. More important, the fund 'd help improve the standards of living in these areas which are littered across the country The critics, both genuine and the mischievous, claim this fund is too divisive, discriminatory and derogatory. But none of them said anything or has said anything about Nkrumah singling out the Northern regions for free education. Neither have they said a word about Mills' programs like ECObrigade created for our coastal regions nor SADA.
A leader, given the chance and unlimited resources, 'd want to develop the whole nation at once. But due to time and scarcity, leaders tend to identify specific areas as priorities. Everyone knows that the whole country needs development but it simple doesn't make sense to treat a suburb like East Legon and Nima the same. Also it is common knowledge that there is an increase in North-South migration over the years. As a result, the urban areas which serve as the final destinations for most migrants have come under tremendous pressure thereby putting facilities under strain.
As such Nana has done the right thing by highlighting our Zongo communities as top priority in his urban development plan.
IN THE END.....
Whenever Mills' men and other misguided independents read or hear about the above policies, the knee jerk reaction is to cry "impossible." After they come to their senses, they wail "how 'd all these programs be funded," or "where is Nana going to the get money?" Their lamentations ‘d definitely reach the heavens when the full manifesto is launched.
But let them be rest assured that where ever Mills got the money to fund his programs is the same well Nana'd tap to fund his. For example, according to Bloomberg News, Ghana's 2011 budget expenditure was GHc12.7 billion plus the supplementary budget. So where did Mills get that money? Whichever way he got the money, Mills has chosen to spend it on school under trees, school uniforms, presidential cups and judgment debts.
Given the same money, whether generated from cocoa, oil, taxes or borrowed, Nana has indicated it 'd be spent on such worthy programs like those described above. So let us put the funding question to rest once and for all. There is nothing Nana is proposing that would not fit in our budget.
And while you are at it, just compare the three policies identified above with Mills' policies in the same areas and tell me who has been joking for the past three and a half years.
Akwasi A.Afrifa Akoto.