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Opinions of Sunday, 5 November 2006

Columnist: Amankwa, Kwame

Amanfuo: Enact an Anti-begging legislation

In the olden days “begging” or “kick up” as is unofficially known was the preserve of mainly our rural folks. When a white collar worker was returning from the city on their annual leave (apparently these days civil servants etc do not take the AL for fear that they would loose their kick backs), folks will send telegrams asking one to buy them Nsawam bread if in Accra or Kumasi bread.

There was nothing like Ghana asking Nigeria, Togo, or Guinea Bissau for “help” or investment. Rather, it was Ghana dishing out to other countries in financial distress. This humiliating act has now assumed a degree of permanency and character of its own, taking many high and low profile candidates with it. Even the president (excuse me to say because I use to play gutter to gutter with him. These days who doesn’t play gutter to gutter at the castle. These days working there as a secretary alone can guarantee you a shot at the presidency) appears to be a casualty. Let’s say it has assumed an official status.

Recently a friend of mine (foreigner) visited Ghana for a month on a UN sponsored project. On his return I went to find out what his experiences were of this beautiful country. His first remark was that people were friendly blah blah blah but quickly added that everyone appeared to beg for one thing or another. From the airport (custom officers asking for “something” ) to his hotel and back. He was nearly stripped of his very clothes on his last day of departure. The taxi driver was asking for his shoes, the hotel receptionist wanted his glasses, the local project mates wanted his “cheap pen”, university female students who has advertised their “services” in some of the hotels wanted his money, the immigration officer stamping him out wanted his last cedis or pounds and the list goes on. I explained that there was blessing in giving and that this practice of “begging” was not limited to Ghana alone. After all what possible defence could I put up?

I had read about the president travelling to foreign lands (some poor and others not so poor) on about 200 or less occasions to “ask” for investors, helpers, bar maids, partners, returnees, foreigners, traders (did I hear someone mention doctors), banker to banker operators, chop bar entrepreneurs, pastors, pensioners, ex-makola graduates, intelligence officers, asylum seekers, stowaways, pornographic film makers, ex-coupees, anti-NDC activitists, lawyers etc to come and invest in the economy. Many did respond to the call but the majority have been those who came to sell us what others call “prohibited white powder or substances”, or came because of what they could quickly get out of the country.

It was therefore not surprising when I read with my head bowed (in shame of course) a posting on Ghanaweb on the 20th October 2006 that the NPP man responsible for the Central region, Nana Arthur had appealed (official term for begging) to the Ex- president of Botswana, Sir Quett Ketumile Masire to “help attract investment for the rehabilitation of the Pomadze poultry farm near Winneba”. That the area where all the factories once stood have been turned into markets, play grounds etc. They have simply (? Which ones?) disappeared (collapsed) and wants them back to work. It is bad enough to beg, but to do that in front of a visiting dignitary from Botswana is unpardonable. That country is in the same slow lane as Ghana when it comes to development matters – poverty, poor standard of living, inequalities in wealth distribution, rural –urban poverty, corruption, youth unemployment etc. How about asking the honourable Sir to help fight corruption in Ghana, because that was the main theme of his visit, instead of these diversionary demands. And how about Ghana investing in the poultry industry in Botswana?

My first question is how many ex-presidents do we now have or are going to have in Ghana God willing and are they not more than capable of using some of the money they earned whilst in power to start some poultry business which Nana is keen to see. How many poultry farmers are there in Ghana who are capable of kick – starting this poultry farm? Many. Why haven’t they been asked? Because we believe foreigners have heavenly gifted and superior entrepreneurial powers than the locals. Why hasn’t Nana asked the president to help? Because he is shy. He is afraid of travelling by road from Cape coast to Accra because of its bad state. Because he lacks the leadership and vision needed to project the region onto a platform which everyone can be proud of. Because he is busy sorting out his own domestic problems etc etc.

That the C. region has no viable economic activity so Sir should help. Was he mistaking Sir for Tony Blair, Mr Mbeki or Bostwana for South Africa? Or was he asking the gentleman whether he has any extra cash “spirited” out of his country when he was premier and if so to put it in the Central region? The sad thing is that the ex-president was accompanied by no less persons than the Pro-vice chancellor of Ghana’s topmost university and a minister of state.

It we are being honest and realistic, it will not be lost on anyone’s mind that the Central, although underdeveloped from the outside (old and wooden buildings, pot holed roads, over crowded and poorly planned houses etc), has a lot of potential riches which many a nation outside Ghana will die for. The CR has rich land, rich citizens (infact many of the filthy rich people in Ghana hail from the area), rich history, rich resources, rich educational facilities and very very educated people, rich culture, in fact rich in everything. Let me give an example. I visited the Cape coast castle recently with a friend who had been dying to see this place (which has an envious place in the history of the slave trade). So to Cape coast we went. In 1978 I visited CR and the picture that I saw 20 years plus was no different. The only thing that appeared to have changed was the main roads.

At the Castle we were shown around what was described as slave dungeons etc. After the tour l left feeling so disappointed. There was the lack of creativity and foresight written all over the place. Empty dungeons and rooms. I visited the bedroom that was apparently used by governor Mclean or some idiot like that. Guess what – it was empty. How about coming to London to buy some colonial beds and sheets and recreating a semblance of the governor’s bed room. There is madam Tussauds, a famous tourist attraction in London.

Thousands queue everyday to watch celebrity waxworks displayed in it. There is Mandela, M. Thatcher, M. Jackson etc. When you visit there once, you would want to visit it again. How about creating the largest round the clock African theme park or Madam Tussauds in Cape coast or even the CR becoming famous for the establishment of educational institutions for Ghanaians and other foreigners abroad (a friend of mine from Guinea recently told me that she wanted to send her children from London to schools in Ghana as she had heard that they were very good). These are big industries Nana. Poultry are susceptible to vagaries like bed flu etc, but solid investments in attractions as I have mentioned will endure forever. There are enough poultry farms in Ghana anyway. How about contacting akoko Darko or even the doctor in Accra who was recently duped to the tune of $26,000 by the radio DJ Pastor with the promise to send his 2 children and his 2 concubines abroad !

Anyway, on our way from Cape Coast I stopped to buy some pineapples that were being sold by the road side. Very fresh from the farms and cheap too. I asked what they did with the excess which may be unsold. The response was – thrown away!!!. Whose fault is it? And we are not talking about attitudes or under-development which started only yesterday or four years ago. So it is wrong to blame the NPP, NDC or anybody for that matter.

It is a well known fact that the building of industries has never been one of strongest points or high on the priority list of many a government in recent times. It was not done in 20 years plus and cannot certainly be done in 4 or 8 years even with the best will in the world.

London is not noted as a developed place because of its factories, but the finance, IT and tourism industries are what have made the place great. The CR is no different from London, except that its own people have failed to develop it.

If an area that has seen and contributed to great developing people like Kofi Annan, Atta Mills, the late Arkaah cannot resurrect itself or build industries to sustain itself or acquire a development face other than appealing to the ex-president of Botswana (who had only come on a 4 day visit to see the famous castle only to be confronted with this ridiculous request from a very respected politician), then heaven help us. Did Sir know where the Pomadze Poultry farm is?

On that score I say an anti-begging legislation that will officially prohibit the soliciting for financial or un-financial assistance of any sort home or abroad, from visiting or exiting foreigners, be it for the purchasing of T shirts for electioneering purposes or establishing poultry farms is urgently needed. I hope to secure the services of the Wahala demonstrators to support my campaign. Places should be created at the Nsawam prisons for a person or persons convicted of undertaking any such act. That is the only way to stem this practice else do not say I never told you so.

God bless the people of Central region and all the people of Ghana. The most peaceful place on earth.

Remember Ghana can only be developed by Ghanaians themselves.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.