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Feature Article of Saturday, 13 October 2012

Columnist: Thompson, Kofi

We Cannot Elect Politicians To Do The Impossible

Without Ending Up Being Disappointed!

By Kofi Thompson

The nether reaches of the illiterate mind is a dark, mysterious and complex place - full of negativity. We must rid our nation of illiteracy - in order to tap the talents of the many geniuses whose lives it blights.

A few days ago, an early evening incident that took place where I live, forcefully drove home to me the urgent need to provide free education from kindergarten to tertiary level, to all Ghanaians with the aptitude to study, as soon as practicable.

Determined that I would not tolerate being threatened and intimidated in my own home under any circumstances - by someone I was being a good samaritan to, by providing free accommodation for - I called out the police.

I had literally had enough of lip from an eavesdropping nosey-parker and freeloader, who wanted to get away with doing as little as possible around the house.

A desire to help an acquaintance who is an illiterate, has turned out to be one of the worst decisions I ever made.

Invited into my home to occupy the boys' quarters, in the end, it was as if it was me who had been invited to live with that person, instead of the other way round.

Alas, as usual my gentle and caring nature had been taken for a sign of weakness - and I was having to deal with a two-captain's-in-one-boat situation: being forced unto me by a wolf in sheep's clothing.

It is such a pity that arrogance and pride can ruin things for some of those who desperately need a helping hand in order to lift themselves out of poverty and progress into Ghana's burgeoning middle class.

A perfectionist and a genius with the hands, that illiterate could so easily have become an engineer or designer, had the opportunity to acquire an education come the way of that insolent individual.

It is a sad story that illustrates perfectly why the number of illiterate Ghanaians must be lessened, and why the provision of free education from kindergarten to tertiary level is a must in our country - and vital if we are to advance as a nation.

As a people we must do all we can to take the bold and hard decisions necessary to make it possible for our nation to provide free education from kindergarten to tertiary level on a sustainable basis.

The politicians (from across the spectrum) now cynically exploiting the provision of free secondary education for the masses of our people, for political gain, must be more responsible in this matter.

They must end the Kweku-Ananse-economics employed as evidence of their ability to provide fully-funded free secondary education in Ghana.

It is intolerable that the media is allowing them to get away with what actually amounts to dissembling. We must be told exactly how this additional burden will be paid for.

Rather than resorting to smoke-and-mirrors economics, politicians must be bold enough to tell the good people of Ghana about the hard decisions needed to be taken in order to make it possible to fund free education at all levels in Ghana.

As things stand, in the real world, even at the secondary level, there is simply no money available to fund such an undertaking, without destroying secondary education in Ghana and dislocating our national economy.

Whatever we do, we must find the money for it by first cutting unnecessary public-sector spending. And where to cut such spending, is the question, dear reader.

For example, to conserve taxpayers' money, should we not let market forces decide the fate of our national currency and the prices of petroleum products in Ghana - instead of the financial equivalent of pouring water into a sieve that current interventions represent?

Surely, if we were more sensible and decided that propping up the new Ghana cedi with precious taxpayers' cash is a mug's game, and that our central bank and those managing the national economy must be forced to stop playing it, could we not make some savings in so doing? Over the years has it not cost us trillions of cedis?

Ditto admitting that allowing criminal syndicates to grow super-rich smuggling subsidised petroleum products into the nations that border Ghana is daft and untenable, and must be brought to an end and replaced with a regime in which prices of petroleum products are determined by market forces?

Only heaven knows the amount of taxpayers' money poured into this financial equivalent of a blackhole over the years.

So having found some real-world savings in both instances outlined above, in a nation with limited finances, could we not find other real-world savings too, in our national economy - and then proceed to find a revenue-generating funding source which could then be ring-fenced, as a sustainable funding-source for implementing the free secondary education policy proposal?

For that reason alone, has the time not come to consider allowing market forces to decide the fate of our national currency, the prices of petroleum products, and perhaps abandon the policy of subsidising other goods and services altogether, to save money to fund free education in Ghana?

No pain, no gain. We can't eat our cake and have it.

There is a sense of déjà vu in the December presidential and parliamentary election campaign narratives one hears.

When he was campaigning to be elected president, perhaps if Ghanaians had demanded that Professor Mills outline precisely how he was going to make the promised drastic reduction in fuel prices, he would never have been elected to attempt to do the impossible, in a cash-strapped nation whose people refuse to allow politicians to abandon subsidising petroleum products.

To ensure that we are not disappointed yet again, ordinary Ghanaians must simply be told how free secondary education can be funded on a sustainable real-world basis, before the December polls.

We must not expect to elect politicians to power to do the impossible without ending up being disappointed by unfulfilled promises. Period. A word to the wise...

Tel: 027 745 3109.

Email: peakofi.thompson@gmail.com

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