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Opinions of Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Both NDC and NPP Must Share Blame


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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

The fallout from the President’s latest impromptu visit to the Tema Harbor, in the wake of the mercurial Mr. Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ exposé regarding rank and abject corruption at the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), should cause all Ghanaians, particularly members of the executive and legislative arms of government, to sit up and seriously ponder the destiny of our country.
As a result of the President’s visit, some eleven CEPS officials who had been identified in an underground video investigation by Mr. Anas, largely for taking bribes, are to be subjected to the severest of penalties under the law. The President has also, reportedly, asked for “the institutionalization of an assets declaration regime at CEPS” for customs officers (See “Sir John Scoffs at Mills’ Visit to Tema” Ghanaweb.com 2/7/11).
Nonetheless, as Mr. Franklin Cudjoe, executive director of the Accra-based libertarian think tank IMANI, intimated recently, the problem of bribery and corruption at CEPS has far more to do with a deliberate, systematic and regressive culture of greed on the part of policymakers which dictates the blind and massive exploitation of importers – largely Diaspora Ghanaians – as a dubious source of revenue for the development of the country (See “Blame Atrocious Taxes for Corruption at Port – IMANI” Ghanaweb.com 2/7/11).
If the foregoing critical analysis has validity, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that it does not, then it clearly appears that the endemic problem of corruption is a bi-partisan policy regimen of which deleterious consequences for our national economy both the governments of the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) must assume equal blame.
Needless to say, those of us who tirelessly and vociferously fought for the election of the Kufuor-led NPP had a rude awakening when, throughout his eight years in office, Mr. Kufuor adamantly refused to cause a drastic and salutary revision of import duties. And as IMANI’s Mr. Cudjoe rightly points out, while Ghana maintains, perhaps, the highest tariffs on imports in the ECOWAS sub-region, there is absolutely no evidence, whatsoever, indicating that the country has become self-sufficient in the raising of revenue for national development. Even as I write (2/7/11), the Atta-Mills government continues to sedulously solicit massive development funds from such major Western lending institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Mr. Cudjoe is also quick to point out that rather than institutionalize such cosmetic and resource-draining measures as the installation of CCTV to monitor the activities of CEPS personnel, what needs to happen is for the government, as well as parliament, to sensibly reduce import duties to levels that are within the means of most importers. In consonance with the latter, of course, must be a remarkable salary increase for CEPS workers as a logical incentive towards considerably reducing the high spate of bribery and corruption.
And while this is not the first time that such progressive measure has been suggested, nonetheless, Mr. Cudjoe ought to be heartily congratulated for promptly and boldly reprising the same in the wake of the President’s surprise visit to CEPS. For it does not make sense, for example, for a country like Ghana with no vehicle-manufacturing plants or a heavy industrial base to impose taxes on imported vehicles which are, in many instances, higher than their purchase prices abroad.
It is also rather unfortunate for the General-Secretary of the NPP, Mr. Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, to be making light of this rectifiable and unnecessary national headache, and to curiously and sophomorically pretend as if the NPP government, under President Kufuor, attempted to do anything progressive and substantive about the problem (See “Sir John Scoffs at Mills’ Visit to Tema” Ghanaweb.com 2/7/11). Really, Mr. Owusu-Afriyie needs to sober up and channel his clearly infantile cynicism in a more productive enterprise.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and author of “The Obama Serenades” (Lulu.com 2011). E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net.
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