You are here: HomeNews2000 11 20Article 12097

General News of Monday, 20 November 2000

Source: Accra Mail

OPINION: The Falling Cedi "Nkatie Burger" to Blame - Rawlings

The "commissioning of projects", much beloved by African politicians, even in normal times, assume bloated dimensions in election years. In Ghana, Elections '92 and '96 saw frenzied commissionings in the last months leading up to the polls.

In this year's elections, it has assumed even more serious dimensions. In the two previous elections, the sole NDC candidate, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings had the commissioning field all to himself, but this time round, he is sharing it with Prof. Atta Mills, the NDC candidate for Election 2000! In line with this commissioning outlook, Flt. Lt. Rawlings last Tuesday commissioned a project which had been operating for the past three years: the thermal electricity generating plant at Takoradi.

Rawlings was not only the commissioning dignitary but also the guest speaker, which meant he had to read the mandatory speech. After his audience had listened to him deliver the full text of his prepared speech and given him the equally mandatory applause, and was expected to take his seat, he refused to go. After some seconds he flipped through his speech again and shouted, "there is something I have to say which is not in this speech" a signal for another rambling off the cuff speech. He took his audience through another grueling forty-minute extempore speech talking on many disparate subjects. In explaining how far he claimed the economy had come, he said as an army officer, he had to buy a bicycle for himself because military rules barred soldiers from boarding public transport. He could not afford a car at that time, and so, "I broke the rules because I did not have the money to buy a car. But today, look at the CEPS and Police officers, they are all driving in cars. Look at the number of cars on our streets, the number of buildings that are springing up, that tells you how the country has developed." At a time of great anxiety about the breakdown of discipline in society, Rawlings' confession of breaking military rules, and glorifying it, yet again raises the issue of who is responsible for the current indiscipline in contemporary Ghanaian society. He said whereas those with doctorate degrees who are dreaming of becoming minister of finance cannot explain why the cedi is falling, he, with an O-Level qualification feels it is the importation of items like 'nkatie burger' (sugar coated nuts) from China that are the cause.

"If we don't use the power to produce goods, the value of the cedi will continue to fall," he told his captive audience. He said it was a misconception by some people that the rise in demand for electricity was the result of the government's national electrification programme. He said the increase in demand is largely due to the growth in industrial and commercial use of power, adding that it was gross injustice to ordinary Ghanaians who were not connected to the national grid almost twenty years after the completion of the Akosombo Dam. Even after twenty years in power, Rawlings still cannot shed his inferiority complex with regard to academically endowed citizens and misses no opportunity to lash at them. The attack on Ph.D. holders was as uncharitable as it was insulting to his own handpicked successor as party boss, Professor Atta Mills. Meanwhile, even though the thermal power plant has been operating for three years now, parts of Ghana, especially the urban centres, continue to suffer from debilitating power outages. The nation's capital, Accra is currently under the grips of a major load shedding exercise. An outage and a surge last week caused the burning down of a popular tourist spot in the city called "The Labone Coffee Shop".