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Opinions of Friday, 23 January 2009

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.

Don't Implement this Retirement Package!!

By Michael J.K. Bokor, Ph.D.

The retirement package for ex-President Kufuor that has just been announced is outrageous and must not be implemented. Not only is it outrageous but it doesn’t reflect the status of a country that he declared HIPC in 2001, and which still remains indebted!! In its entirety, this package is nauseating. It is the worst white-collar stealing act to have ever been perpetrated on Ghanaians and must be rejected outright. I will not have the strength to list the items constituting that package. I might end up collapsing in the process. I agree, however, that some retirement benefits should be worked out for the Executive; but this one for Kufuor is stinking, viewed against the background of the current state of our economy.

My heart bleeds for Ghana. Within the context of the hydra-headed problems that continue to make Ghanaians unhappy in life, I am angry at what that so-called Chinery Hesse Commission has fraudulently sought to impose on the country. This Commission and Kufuor are heartless, to say the least. And I will justify why I am saying so.
Here is why the package is misplaced and must be treated with contempt. Our children still go to school under trees in many parts of the country. Our hospitals lack adequate infrastructure and equipment to function efficiently; our people cannot get decent meals to eat nor can they afford decent housing; transportation problems abound and workers cannot support their families with their earnings. In truth, many Ghanaians have left the country because the conditions have become unattractive for them to live in and work. They work under very dehumanizing conditions in other countries but manage to remit their families to keep them afloat. It is not a pleasant experience.
Because of the high unemployment rate, our university graduates and others with skills are jobless. The opportunities for jobs are absent and many have become destitute in life. Kufuor promised creating over 100,000 jobs in his first term of office but failed to do so even though the NYEP and others were created. Our industries collapsed because of the Kufuor government’s bad policies. Corruption heightened. The NPP government destroyed the Ghana Airways, among others. Today, there is hardly any indication that the institutions that collapsed under Kufuor’s rule will get back onto their feet soon to contribute their quota to revenue generation or create employment avenues for the youth. Ghana isn’t what we all wish it would be.
In effect, under Kufuor, almost every sector of national life lost its bearing. Infrastructural development was done at the expense of other sectors. At the end of his term, the World Bank even painted a very bleak picture of the Ghanaian economy despite the NPP administration’s constant boasts of turning the economy positively around to address the problems that they didn’t stop accusing the Rawlings’ administration of leaving behind. Is this the sort of achievement for which Kufuor is to be bounteously rewarded?
I strongly suggest that the Mills government should review the package and forward a more modest one to the new Parliament to thoroughly discuss before endorsing it for implementation. Otherwise, it will send a strong and wrong signal to Ghanaians that it is also in power to exploit the system. Ghanaians should be given hope that politics is not a wealth-making avenue but a call to serve one’s country and leave behind lasting footprints of progress, not the kind that Kufuor and his NPP have exhibited.
I have always maintained that Kufuor and his gang of self-acquisitive and empty braggarts entered office just to plunder the country’s economy. Consider his senseless foreign trips (about 200?) on which Ghana expended much money in terms of the cost of his personal travel fares, per diem allowances, board and lodging and that of all the members of his entourage. What are the direct benefits of those trips?
Even now out of office, Kufuor wants Ghana to support his extravagant lifestyle. It is unimaginable that such a person who couldn’t even maintain his personal car before becoming the President of Ghana should now be treated as an “expensive” person.
There is a strong suspicion that I cannot do away with. Who appointed that Chinery Hesse Commission? Was it not Kufuor himself? Was the Commission chair not the same Chinery Hesse that worked as an advisor to Kufuor at the Castle, who was also entrusted with responsibility for the Office of Accountability that Kufuor established at the Presidency but did nothing to justify the creation of that office? Who knows anything about the work of that commission? Why were we not informed about the work of this commission so that input from us could be factored into its considerations?
There is much cause for concern, which should make us question the propriety or otherwise involved in this transaction. Kwadwo Mpiani was reported (by the Ghanaian Chronicle newspaper) to have “sneaked” the document to the NPP-dominated Parliament for it to be passed on the last day of sitting of the fourth Parliament, implying that the document did not go through the appropriate means to be passed.
To cover up their treachery, they have been quick to add that the package was not for Kufuor alone but was also for Rawlings and future Presidents, possibly President Mills inclusive. This inclusion is a mockery. I challenge Rawlings to reject it if indeed he wants to remain the sort of person that I know him to be. If he fails to dissociate himself from this deal, he will forever go down in history as an inordinate opportunist and trickster.
I urge him to discredit this package and reject it outright. Even the package that the Greenstreet Commission recommended for him was either curtailed or not implemented by Kufuor’s administration because of political considerations. Are they now trying to bribe him and “clean” his mouth with this fraudulent package? And will he sit down to be smeared? I dare Rawlings and Mills to prove me wrong. Then, we can get the general public to agitate against it. This package is a stab on the back of Ghanaians and must be condemned in its entirety. I am all the more angry to realize that these were the very people who had claimed that they were not in politics to make profit or to enrich themselves because they had already made their wealth before being voted into office. The former Vice President (Aliu Mahama) made this ugly noise at Koforidua and one would least expect them to want this kind of retirement package.
How much will the Vice President (Aliu Mahama) himself be given? No one is telling us anything about his benefits. Then, will President Mills also benefit from the new package, having already served as Ghana’s Vice President? How will it reflect on him now that he is the substantive President? Or will he also see it as an opportunity to make in life what his many years as a lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon, couldn’t generate for him? In other words, is politics the Almighty Saviour?
It is annoying to imagine that the package even includes the provision that inflates the benefits to cover a two-term tenure, meaning that the beneficiary is being rewarded beyond measure. If he had done the right thing, would Ghanaians have rejected his NPP at the end of his two terms in office?
We want to know how the package was discussed in Parliament and endorsed. Alban Bagbin says he was not a party to that arrangement and that it appeared the NDC minority in Parliament was not actively involved in the steps toward endorsing that package. Yet, John Akologo Tiah, an NDC MP, was reported to have supported the package and considered it as appropriate. Confusion here already!
Ms. Hannah Tetteh-Kpoda, Spokesperson of the Transition Team, however, says that because the package was approved by the Legislature, the NDC government will have no other option but to implement it. I say, don’t implement that deal because it is not in the interest of Ghana. If the country is broke, as the Transition Team itself has revealed, where is the money going to come from to support that lavish lifestyle of a non-achiever like Kufuor?
This is the time to begin serious investigation of the NPP administration. If President Mills wants to impress Ghanaians, he should ensure that serious efforts are immediately made to dig into the NPP’s handling of issues and the results widely publicized to inform Ghanaians about the true picture.
Whenever I hear anything from these NPP functionaries, boasting that their party would return to power in 2012, I am tempted to be very angry. Why should Ghanaians return them to power after their disastrous handling of the affairs of state? Everything that is possible must be done to expose the dirt that the NPP government has hurled at Ghana and a serious campaign must begin immediately to make the NPP unattractive in every sense. I am prepared to sacrifice my time and energy for such a project!!
Kufuor and his batch of incompetent administrators have already created deep-seated problems for the country. I pity President Mills and the NDC government; but they shouldn’t sit down unconcerned. This is the time to hit hard on the NPP’s inadequacies in administering the country so that nobody is ever tempted to see them back in power.
I don’t want to act as a prophet of doom; but let me caution President Mills and his NDC government that if they go ahead to implement this package as it is currently determined, they will lose my respect. It is not beyond or beneath the dignity of Ghanaians to take to the streets to protest against this daylight robbery. Considering the narrow circumstances in which our people have lived, it is criminal for anybody to hide behind officialdom to strangle the economy this way. Ghanaians are not cowards. They are capable of taking drastic action to prevent this kind of treachery against them. Politics should not be seen as the panacea for personal economic problems. It hurts me a lot to imagine that this Kufuor, who couldn’t even manage his small brick-and-tile factory even though he had contracted a bank loan to do so will now live in luxury because of the unfortunate quirk of historical circumstance that put him in office as the President of Ghana. This package must be rejected!!