Opinions of Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Columnist: Pacas, Idris
Ghana is most likely to be a tenant state (a country where the govt rents every property or service) by 2040 or much earlier. The causes are two—the disquietingly high rate at which the state is selling its property especially to foreigners and the non-sympathetic attitude of people in power to the state. After independence, Ghana had a lot of lands and the CPP government continued procuring more and putting up more buildings. Somehow, the buildings were more than that required at that time. What was in Kwame Nkrumah’s mind when he was undertaking such ambitious projects? —That we will one day need them because the economy of Ghana, the hope of Africa, will be booming.
Several years down the line, officials of successive governments have sold ‘all’ the over thousands of govt lands and buildings to themselves. Ask why they are doing this. And the answer is to convert Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana into a tenant state where every govt dept must rent an office and every minister or govt official must rent accommodation. But at where and from whom? The buildings they will construct on the diverted govt lands and/or the buildings of the state which they cheaply, immorally and ‘illegally’ sold to themselves. Here, they (the govt officials) will solely determine the rent to be paid by the state.
The first of such evidences that Ghana is irreversibly bound to be a tenant state is the most recent scandal that hit us—the US $700,000.00 annual rent advance paid by the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) for an office space that far exceeded its staffing requirement; the monthly rent being $63,000.00. Through its PRO, NPA made two elementary justifications for this mouth-boggling expenditure. That the old building is dilapidated with cracks which endanger the life of its staff and that it will sublet the extra space to recover part of the cost. Ask who owns the building and the answer is one of the persons in power.
How did we get to know of this over-extreme spending? —Courtesy the Minority NPP. Knowing this gratuitous overspending from the Minority raises several concerns. That if the Minority had not spoken we wouldn’t have heard of it; that the NPA and govt never saw anything wrong such a transaction and that similar transactions have already taken place. The sinfulness of this transaction is evidenced by the time it occurred—a period of self-inflicted economic hardship with practically no signs of return to normalcy. A period when NPA introduced what it termed ‘automatic adjustment formula’ only to generate sufficient revenue from fuel price hikes to rent an office that is so spacious that it has now converted itself into an estate agent which must look for subtenants.
Following the news outbreak, govt started its usual gimmicks. A 5-member committee was constituted by the Energy and Petroleum Ministry to investigate the scandal. To find out what? Using common sense, one noticed that the annual rent alone is enough to put up a permanent office space for NPA. This point was attested to by the Chief-of-Staff, Prosper Bani, when he suspended the non-biting committee that would have represented another avenue for needless sitting allowances. Obviously, the board of directors of NPA themselves are fully aware that their decision and actions deliberately caused a huge financial loss to the state. But what might have motivated those seemingly ‘normal’ and apparently ‘patriotic’ citizens to render this disservice to our dear nation? I have no answer.
Contrast the above needless expenditure to the recent divestiture of state property. Some few years ago, we woke up to be told that a govt bungalow occupied by the former chairman of NPP, then Chief of Staff, was bought by him. How much? Somewhere around GH ¢390,000.00; this amount being severalfold LESS THAN the amount NPA used to rent an office for just 12 months. Attached to the bungalow is a 1.06-acre land. Now, the bungalow and the land have reportedly been resold to foreigners at several times the cost at which it was sold to him by the govt. Again, ask yourself these: ‘Why is the state selling things that it needs both at present and in the near future? Couldn’t NPA had used the $700,000.00 to develop that 1.06-acre land as a permanent office?
Turning our attention to two other governmental transactions which are converting Ghana into a tenant state, we start from the last one. In 2006, then President JA Kufuor decided to sell Ghana Telecom (GT). The most prominent but somewhat the ‘weakest’ argument was that the debt of GT kept increasing. Asked why Mr Kufuor took over the governance of this country in 2001 but could not provide good leadership to prevent the state enterprise from accruing an avoidable debt and your answer would be what you were told. But using the debt and other justifications, Kufuor’s govt sold GT amidst fierce objection from the then opposition NDC and some FEW civil society groups.
Again, how did we know that Mr Kufuor had an ulterior motive for pressing on with the sale of GT? His own party MP who never received the $5000.00 white envelope (reportedly, each NPP MP was given this amount before the vote in Parliament). Little did the new Management of what is now Vodafone settle did it start mass redeployment. What happened to all those workers (now the tenants) thrown off by the new owners of GT (the landlords)?
We move to the most recently concluded transaction by the NDC govt—the sale of Merchant Bank. The Minority NPP argued vehemently against the sale but the ruling NDC stood grounds and eventually sold the bank. How did we know the huge offers the NDC govt refused from foreigners but accepted the little one from Fortiz? —from the Minority NPP.
Countrymen and Women, what is obvious from these politicians is that a transaction is only faulty if and only if their opponents are those executing it—NPP is only crying foul because it’s not the executor and/or direct beneficiary of the ‘excesses’ from the transactions. The same holds true for NDC, for we’ve heard and seen them during their 8-year reign in opposition.
The direct consequence of these actions is that Ghana is at the point of losing its state identity typified by the massive influx of foreign retail-traders in our markets. And what makes these actions dangerous is the posture of the youth in these two parties. Institutionalising the Department of Radiohoppers (popularly called serial callers), the governments of NDC and NPP have succeeded in converting their youth into talking machines who argue wholesale for every governmental transaction. On no single occasion has we (the youth) reasoned and questioned the actions of our party leaders, which are eventually turning us into ‘rent-paying landlords’.
And our failure to question the past and present leaders will result in our grandchildren cursing us.
Long live concerned youth! Long live Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana!
Idris Pacas: 020 910 1533