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Feature Article of Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Columnist: Thompson, Kofi

If Ghana Is To Be Become Prosperous Ghanaian Politicians Must

End Their Negativity

By Kofi Thompson

If, as a people, we are to move ahead, and at the same time spread the benefits of economic growth amongst a larger proportion of Ghana's total population, the extremists amongst our political class will have to put aside the "let-us-lay-waste-to-the-nation" mentality, which, when in opposition, makes them work hard at sabotaging the nation-building efforts of the party in power.

For example, from day one, on the 7th of January 2009, when the Mills regime was sworn into office, that negative attitude has been on display by hardliners in the main opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) - who have gone to great length to discredit the current National Democratic Congress (NDC) and, if their harshest critics are to be believed, sabotage the NDC's nation-building agenda, through public-sector proxies who still remain loyal to the NPP.

The conspiracy theorists in our midst point to the disgraceful power outage episode, a few days ago, at the Baba Yara stadium in Ghana's second city, Kumasi, as a classic example of such sabotage-by-remote-control.

No doubt we will eventually see whether that is confirmed by any committee of enquiry's findings.

Readers will recall that the floodlights failed and left the pitch enveloped in darkness for over an hour, during the World Cup qualifying match between Ghana and Lesotho, a few days ago.

Some of their harshest critics point to that embarrassing episode as an example of the sabotage-by-proxy strategy, adopted by extremists in the NPP.

As is common knowledge in Ghana, hardliners in the NDC pretty much did the same thing, when their party too was in the political wilderness, from January 2001 to January 2009. Such tactics will only set the hands of the metaphorical clock of progress back in Ghana.

If such politicians (from across the spectrum) were more responsible and patriotic, instead of such negativity, would they not rather focus on making ordinary people more aware, for example, of the lunacy, at a time of austerity at home, and in most of our trading partners, of continuing to spend as much as Ghc60 millions to subsidise fuel?

As someone pointed it out to me, it is an insane policy that fuel smugglers - who illegally transport fuel from Ghana to sell across our borders - benefit the most from. How can that be of any benefit to the national economy?

At a time of global climate change, and in an age of austerity, is it not prudent for Ghanaians to become more conscious of the need to use fuel, electricity and water more sparingly and efficiently?

Surely, having to pay the true cost of such items, will make all of us concious of the need to be more careful in their usage?

Would the Ghc60 millions spent monthly by the government to subsidise petroleum products, not be better value for our nation, if it was spent instead on an initiative to provide well-designed and well-built affordable housing, for low and middle income families nationwide, I ask?

And would embarking on such a housing initiative not boost the construction sector's contribution to Ghana's GDP - and create more jobs for artisans amongst Ghana's teeming unemployed youth, I ask?

So why is there no advocacy by political parties for a national consensus on ending fuel subsidies - and focusing instead on using less fuel as a nation by, amongst other strategies, encouraging the importation and use of hybrids and more fuel efficient vehicles, as well as LPG gas-powered vehicles?

Would it also not be refreshing, dear reader, to hear our nation's politicians urging Ghanaians, for example, to embrace ideas that will make our country more competitive than our neighbours - such as abolishing personal income tax and making this the nation with the lowest corporate tax rate in Africa?

And why not resource it, and ask the Ghana Navy, for example, to operate hovercraft on the Volta Lake - so that whiles making lake transportation safer, it would, at the same time, generate funds to help the navy improve the lot of our gallant sailors?

Instead of continuing to be a source of corrupt practices that enrich crooked businesspeople and corrupt customs officials, if our ports were made free zones, would that not make them the leading ports along the West African coastline, and generate more income for our nation in the long-term, I ask?

And rather than continuing to export cocoa beans, why not earn more for Ghanaian cocoa farmers, and our nation, by attracting Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Indonesian and other Asian as well as North American and European chocolate companies, to manufacture chocolates here for their home markets, as fair-trade confectionery?

Instead of devoting their energies to endless propaganda and exchanging personal insults, it is time members of Ghana's political class (across the spectrum) focused on what will raise the living standards and improve the quality of life of ordinary Ghanaians - whether they are in power or in opposition.

If we are to become a more prosperous society, our politicians need to end their negativity - and think more positively. A word to the wise...

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