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Opinions of Sunday, 11 February 2007

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Beyond Taxing "Jujumen"

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong on how taxing Ghanaian “jujumen” is part of the opening of the cultural values in the country’s development process

The “directive from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies to tax fetish priests in their respective areas” may seem ordinary but reveals the emerging development thinking that real progress starts from within the core Ghanaian indigenous values first and any other second. The instructions also indicate how for almost 50 years Ghanaian elites are yet to map out the progress of the country from within their values first. For long time it has been from within foreign valies and thinking. Part of the reason why such situation has occurred is not only because colonialism suppressed Ghanaian values but also post-independent Ghanaian elites’ inability to think holistically in relation to Ghana’s development in terms of opening the huge rich cultural values – economic, medicinal/pharmaceutical, social, spiritual, communal, environmental, political, institutions, agricultural – for progress has added to the huge untapped values waiting to be unearthed for progress.

For instance, unknown to a lot of Ghanaians much of their indigenous products are increasingly being appropriated and exploited for economic gains abroad though locally they have not had much respect them because their elites have created the enabling climate, developmentally, for them to understand or know how rich most of their indigenous values are, not only in the national economic scene but also in the international development landscape. For instance, the bath soap, the hand wash soap, and body cream I use are all made from Ghanaian/West African shea butter. The beauty cream my fiancé uses are also made from Ghanaian/West African shea butter. The manufacturer, both in the United States and Canada, tout how healthy West African shea butter. For long time, I used to have dry and itching after taking bath but now it the dryness and the itching have gone after using the various shea butter skin products. This increasing use of shea butter in the international arena has come about because of the ability of some people to think through shea butter - more appropriating from the historical origin of shea butter – West Africa.

The Local Government’s instruction also reveals Ghanaian elites emerging from the cocoon of years of slumbering as directors of progress. The order shows Ghanaian elites, more the bureaucrats in this sense, thinking within their cultural values in a cloud of heavily Western structured and imbalanced system. An act of balances here open remarkable floodgate for development and show the importance of cultural continuity in the development process. For almost 50 years, there have not been any credible attempts by Ghanaian elites to correct the development distortions that have come about because of colonialism. Distortions here as result of the de-linking of Ghanaian values, openly, from colonial and Western values. One of the tricks Ghanaian elites can learn from the Japanese in Ghana’s progress, as they increasingly open the Ghana’s development field, is how they were able to tie their indigenous values with that of the Western ones, especially after the United States occupation. Already, Health Minister Courage Quashigah’s ministry is understudying how the Indians were able to tie their traditional medicine to that of the Western ones and have opened remarkable exports.

“The decision to tax the fetish priests stemmed from the ministry’s conviction that their professions were businesses,” therefore, opens new interesting vistas in Ghana’s development process, and other Ministries should follow the example of the Local Government Ministry. As a teenager, I used followed my grandfather to a fetish priest in the Brong Ahafo Region for health reasons and I was impressed with the amount of wealth I saw. And this is a wealthy man who does not pay taxes to the very state that protects him. The wealthy fetish priest reflects a large number of Ghanaians whose sound indigenous economic practices, because their elites have not been able to restructure their country after the colonialists left in 1957, as the Japanese did, do not pay taxes. In fact most, in most remote corners of Ghana, do not know what taxation is.

This situation has come about because Ghanaian elites have been weak as directors of progress not only because they are Ghanaians, they have been weak because they have not been able to think holistically from within their Ghanaian values first in their society’s development process but that of the structures imposed on them by the colonialists. This has made a large number Ghanaians, unknown to them, not paying taxes for progress despite the fact that they undertake healthy economic practices. Historically, Ghanaian elites relative weaknesses, in their progress struggles, was forced upon them by the manner Ghana, like other African nation-states, was created by the colonialists, and by their own inability to comprehend the diverse cultural values that are to drive their new nation-state. This means, as the Local Government Ministry has shown the way, national policies minted from the centre – that’s Accra – should be tailored down to respective locals informed by the values of the locals in order to move the development process in a holistic manner.



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