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Opinions of Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Columnist: Asante, Boateng, Ramadan

Economy Boils As Things Fall Apart: "Mieku-Kum”

Ladies & Gentlemen of the press good morning and welcome to another session of interaction with the Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG). Ghana today is in a situation which we all thought we left behind some 13 years ago: economic hardships for the masses, empty state coffers and mounting public debts.

In 2012, President John Mahama repeated President John Mills' pledge to the people of Ghana not to take the country back into the "cyclical slippage" culture of election year. And, yet, 2012 was the year that, like no other year, we saw a government overspending in a very reckless manner. Indeed, GHC8.7 billion was what government spent over what it said it would. What is even worse is that, whilst this amounts to 12.1% of the 2012 budget, the President has only been able to account for 4.1% of it, as shown in the 2013 budget. This means that we still don't know what exactly President Mahama and his NDC government used nearly GH6 billion of our money for. What is even more annoying for the suffering masses of Ghanaians is that 2012 was the year that the NDC government could not even meet its critical capital spending target that it set for itself. So bad was this that we entered this year with electricity and water crisis; two essential needs for the economic survival of the already suffering masses.

Ghanaians are bound to ask, where all the millions of dollars spent on this election came from if not mainly from our own coffers. Thus, the most frustrating thing of the way this NDC government under John Mahama has treated us is that, after misapplying recklessly our money to buy and/or steal votes in 2012, it has come back to the people in 2013 to ask us to tighten our belts and pay for the reckless corruption and overspending that it imposed on us.

We do not think it is fair and godly.

This is the most challenging period of our generation, with no jobs and no hope, piling debts, corruption, caused by a president whose character trait is indecision. Governance in Ghana has been reduced to ad hoc, costly decisions and an obsession with pleasing everybody and ending up by hurting everybody. This is a president who spends quality time reshuffling his newly appointed ministers, naming, renaming and ‘denaming’ his residence, offering free cash for pastors who have not asked for it when the people asking for economic reliefs are ignored. Today the masses of Ghana are faced with the harsh economic results of massive corruption, weak and indecisive leadership and poor economic management. In this regard, and more than ever before, the masses of our people are confronted with the severe problem of high food prices, high fuel cost and pending increases in the prices of utilities and allied expenditures. There are still no signs of job for the masses. No signs of when we will get electricity to power our small businesses that put food on the table. Children are being sent home because secondary school fees have not been paid and yet there is not a programme to show how this government intends to address the affordable, quality education it promised.

The National Health Insurance is collapsing and the reason is simple. The Minister of Finance thinks it has better use of the 2.5% NHIA Levy and because the coffers are close to empty it is illegally misapplying it, starving service providers of funds and putting the lives of Ghanaians at risk.

Fellow Ghanaians, over the past 4 years, our cumulative debt stock since independence has increased well over 300% but with no value for money to the Ghanaian. In dollar terms the NDC in 4 years more than doubled our national debt. But what have they to show for? Dum-dum-dumso; dum-dum-dum-so. The excuse by the president that much of such expenditure landed in the pockets of formal sector workers as a result of the introduction of the single spine salary structure is absolutely untenable in the face of high public expenditure due to ghost judgment debt payments, massive patronage, inflated cost of contracts, massive corruption allegations against government appointees, and a flamboyant campaign by the NDC. In factiIs the president telling us that he is borrowing money to pay wages? How then does he account for GHC6.7 billion of the GHC/.7 billion deficit he incurred last year, when you take out wages? How can he explain the fact that over GHC5 billion in arrears is still owed to contractors and others?

When will he be honest enough to tell Ghanaians the truth? We want to know and deserve to know what he did with the 2012 budget; what he did with the GHC8.7 billion deficit; what he did to get to the GHC35 billion debt; and how he intends to get us out of this. The way this President is going about the job he is working hard at becoming the worst leader Ghana has ever had. Like Henry IV, who took a crown that did not belong to him, the President, as he confessed, is having a sleepless night because uneasy sleep is for the head that wears the crown that doesn't fit.

Ladies & gentlemen of the press, the old notion by government that, the citizen will pay for their wasteful expenditures through the imposition of huge taxes is no longer true. There is therefore, the need for a positive action against government with respect to mass civil actions to press home our resolve that, the consequence of government's mismanagement and poor leadership cannot be charged on the Ghanaian.

Fellow Ghanaians, the current economy can best be likened to "a comatose patient at the intensive care unit without a diagnosis". Ladies & gentlemen, we need a change in direction, and not until the Supreme Court provides justice to reflect the will of the people, we will continue to suffer economic injustices from a government that appears bedridden over issues that bothers on corruption and sound economic management. Fellow Ghanaians, all is not well!!! We must speak out now or forever hold our peace.

Increasingly, as the economic hardship bites, more and more Ghanaians are getting frustrated by the obvious delay in the Supreme Court handling of the presidential petition before it. We fear this is a very dangerous happening that must be corrected as soon as possible. In fact, as soon as we announced this demonstration on economic hardships, we have been inundated by calls for the call for justice to be added to it because to many people the injustice of December 2012 is at the heart of the sufferings that have engulfed the nation. It is as if the country is cursed and the people are made to suffer for it.

We need urgently that true justice that will bring us economic justice and real peace. We are in difficult times and all is not well. However, there is no justification for the continuous hardship and sorrowful economic situation of the ordinary Ghanaian. It is our position that, we don't need more loans and excessive taxation of the Ghanaian only for much of the money received to end up in private pockets of those with the duty to spend our resources on our collective behalf. What we need is good leadership, zero tolerance for corruption, financial discipline and value for money. In the midst of abundant resources especially with the exploitation of oil, Ghanaians cannot be found wanting. Mr. President we have more than enough for economic development but your government has no eyes to see, and no ears to listen. There is a lot of pain in the heart of Ghanaians.

In this regard, we are announcing a mass action on the 26th of March that will see to a peaceful walk by the ordinary Ghanaian from the Obra Spot to the Hearts Park. The theme of this demo is "Mieku-Kum" Demo. Mieku-kum is an Ewe word meaning we are dying. This demonstration has become necessary because, we can't sit aloof to see the wanton dissipation of our scarce financial resources as this continues to weaken our state institutions. The bad record of the last 4 years continues, with chronic light offs, water and gas shortages, collapsing NHIS, bad roads, high housing deficit, massive unemployment, collapsing NYEP, poor education infrastructure with a confusing curricular. This is besides our fast eroding disposal income due to the high cost of goods and services, and imminent increases in utilities. Barbers, hairdressers, vulganisers, tailors, and small shop keepers who depend on refrigerators have all seen their incomes, already hit by fuel price increases, vanishing because of the avoidable crisis in power and water.

We cannot be quiet any longer. We are coming to break this new culture of silence imposed by a government that it can buy silence. We want a government that will not spend our money trying to look good but will spend our money to lead good and make us all good. We are going out there to wake up journalists, pastors, civil society groups, teachers, nurses, traders and all who are suffering but don't know where to turn or are afraid of being insulted for expressing their right to resist oppressor's rule. Signed:

Haruna Asante Arnold Boateng Abu Ramadan Dr. Nana Ayew Afriye Davis Opoku Ansah