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Opinions of Friday, 12 October 2018

Columnist: Nana Kwame Asamoa-Boateng

Melania has come and gone

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The Fourth Republican Democratic era has superficially proven that for the needless military interventions in perhaps our democratic experiments of the Second and Third Republics, this country would have made major strides and long gained international acceptability.

With that, we would perhaps have attracted major international attention and support for our socio-economic development. What is more, the fact that we have political parties in opposition changing incumbent governments within the Fourth Republican dispensation without firing an arrow is perhaps what amazes the world, considering the politically motivated conflicts on the continent we are a part of.

Big Uncle Sam, the United States of America, has been monitoring our political progress since 1992 and perhaps observed that Ghana seems to be operating along their lines, with two main political parties – the Democrats and the Republicans alternating in governance of that country. In Ghana, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) are the dominant political parties taking turns in governance.

The Social Democratic Party in the Democrats of the U.S.A has made friends with the NDC in Ghana while the Conservative Republican Party has also made friends with the NPP in Ghana. In 1998, President Bill Clinton leading the Democrats in the United States paid a glorious visit to Ghana when President Rawlings was leading the NDC in governance in Ghana. It was the first time as far as I know that an American President set foot on our soil. I am told that the wife of President Nixon was about to visit Ghana under the leadership of Prof. Kofi Abrefa Busia when the military overthrew the government in January 13, 1972.

When the NPP under the leadership of Mr. J.A. Kufuor took over power from the NDC in 2000, George Bush, leading the Republicans also took power from the Democrats. Subsequently, George Bush paid a major visit to Ghana and had very fruitful discussions with our President then. When in the year 2008, the NDC then led by the late Prof. John Evans Atta Mills won power once again from the NPP, Mr. Barak Obama leading the Democrats then also won power from the Republicans. President Obama then visited Ghana.

So the two political parties which have been governing this country since 1992 have had friends in the two dominant political parties in the USA on ideological grounds. So it is of very little surprise that the wife of President Donald Trump of the Republican Party of the United States of America, Mrs. Melania Trump, would visit Ghana, whose government is also led by an NPP President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to at least assure the nation that in spite of the ‘shithole’ phenomenon, the ideological bond between the United States and Ghana remains unbroken. We are grateful to Melania at least for representing her husband, the most controversial President the Americans have ever had.

What message her husband gave her to the people of Ghana, majority of us may not know at least for now. What message she is sending back to the husband, who at the time of her visit was seriously engrossed in the Kavanaugh affair before the Senate, we will not know; but at least the ideological friendship between the USA Republicans and the NPP in Ghana has been re-affirmed.

The two visits by the Democratic Presidents of Bill Clinton and Barak Obama in 1998 and 2010 did not bring any material benefits that I know of but at least we were the envy of the sub-region. At least Ghanaians remember the Obama admonishment to us that we should build strong institutions and not strong men. Very wise and often quoted message, however, we seem to ignore the fact that it is only strong men with strong will power, conscience and moral uprightness who can build and sustain strong institutions.

Ghanaians and generations yet to be born will forever remember that it is the visit of George Bush which saw the construction of the now George Bush Highway which is an extension of the Tema Motorway. He also left us with the millennium compact funds which are still being used for some of our infrastructural development. We do not know yet what President Trump will offer us this time but the fact is a Republican President offered us the Highway. Without it, the state of Accra, as far as road transportation is concerned, would have been more chaotic than we are experiencing today.

While appreciating our ideological relations with the Republican Party of the United States, it is worthy of note that the same party, once in government, has created major ripples for our economy anytime it is in power and the NPP is in power too.

In spite of the support we had from the Bush administration, the belligerent nature of its administration towards Iraq in particular and the Gulf region in general brought crude oil prices to its highest ever in the history of the industry. The peak of crude oil prices at US$147.00 per barrel in 2008 affected none oil producing nations globally and Ghana was seriously at the receiving end of this shock. Coupled with shortfall in electricity production, America’s policy in the Gulf region eroded the massive economic gains the Kufuor administration had made the seven years prior.

Even though the deregulation policy in the petroleum sector was operational, the government found it extremely difficult to pass on the increasing prices of petroleum products to the consumer in the face of high crude oil prices. It was a very tough period for the NPP administration. That situation accounted for the GH¢9 billion deficit the Kufuor administration left behind and which the NDC used as a tool to bastardize Kufuor’s achievements in the economic arena. What the NDC left behind after its eight years in office is not the subject for discussion now.

Almost two years into office, the Trump administration is targeting Iran, another major oil producing country in the Gulf region with sanctions which has triggered mounting prices of crude oil in the international market. From less than US$50.00 per barrel inherited by the NPP administration, the price of a barrel of crude oil has crossed the US$83.00 mark as I write. This has had very negative effective on the ex-pump prices of petroleum products in Ghana which is further worsened by the weak cedi relative to other foreign currencies.

In spite of positions of the allies of the USA on Iran on previous agreements reached by the EU nations and the US itself, President Trump is bent on finding problems with Iran to bring its economy on its knees, thus reducing crude oil supply on the global market and therefore its consequent price increases.

This policy of the US is having major repercussions on the economy of Ghana since the state of the nation’s finances does not require any form of subsidies on products like crude oil. While petroleum prices are biting hard on the citizenry, the whole economy would be thrown out of gear should any subsidy be contemplated at this time. It has come too early for the Akufo-Addo administration.

The Free SHS

A year’s review of the NPP’s flagship policy has taken place in Accra and experts in the field of education have digested the programme and made suggestions and opinions on the way forward known to the world. I did not have the opportunity to partake as an observer since I am hiding myself in my beloved Takoradi. However, I was amazed to hear one professor saying that the policy is not being fair to parents of day students since they are also tax payers and should benefit as much as parents of students in the boarding houses.

Hmmm, professor, prior to this policy, scores of thousands of children could not access secondary education; were their parents not paying taxes? When some children from other parts of this country were enjoying free secondary education, did that mean those of us who were paying our children’s school fees were not tax payers? I end here.

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