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Opinions of Monday, 31 October 2005

Columnist: Koney, Ebby

Can President Kufuor become another MOJO man of Ghana?

Bernard Shaw said: ?There are two tragedies in life; one is not to get your heart?s desire; the other is to get it.?

To begin our present inquiry, we ask whether or not in his heart?s desire, Kufuor covets that MOJO which Rawlings has; whether he desires to be regarded as Charismatic, like Rawlings; Or, whether Kufuor?s tragedy, like that of Shakespeare?s ?Man of Uncertainty? Prince Hamlet, is that, he does not know whether he wants to be a leader with a Rawlings? MOJO, or, would prefer simply to lead Ghana perfunctorily till his term is over and by the law of averages, retire gracefully Jan 6, 2009, at midnight prompt.

Delving into what makes Kufuor tick is certainly a no mean task. Can he be said to adhere to William Shakespeare?s charge ?Unto thine own self be true?, or, an advocate of Rock Legend Sir Elton John?s ?Candle blowing in the Wind?, a yo-yo, beholden to special interests, foreign (some people from Italy & Gisselle Yajzi) and domestic (Brother-in-law JH Mensah and company)?

Could Kufuor by now, have carved a niche for himself in the annals of Ghana History with a superlative performance in office? Could he have altered Ghana?s path to development with modernized agricultural techniques, encouraging abandonment of subsistence agriculture? What about enhancement of production for domestic consumption into production for global markets? Could Kufuor have set the tone for a robust manufacturing industry? Is Kufuor?s doing anything to ensure poverty eradication, environmental protection, land reform, sufficiently meaningful to the ordinary man? Would ordinary folks remember him after he leaves office as their champion?

Now comes a rather intriguing question: How do we measure the man Kufuor, not in reference to other Ex-Presidents, but objectively, based on his record? In 2000, he had no record. So voters did not know how to judge him. In 2005, he has accumulated some, and voters are wiser.

Strike One: QUALITY GRAIN PRODUCING RICE

Quality Grain project at Aveyime became entangled in a political maelstrom. Ghana?s hard earned foreign money had been utilized to import machinery, the best in the world according to reports and fully operational unlike the 1966 snowplows show and tell used to denigrate Nkrumah by the NLC government. The Aveyime Quality Project was viable in 2000, even as it is viable today. Regardless of the Cotton Saga, the project should not have been allowed to lie fallow for the duration of Kufuor?s first term in office, and even to this day.

Is it not criminal negligence, err?? Ahem, causing financial loss to the State, not to have utilized Quality Grain Project to reduce the over 100 million dollars of Rice Imports into Ghana? Then again men and women with close ties to Kufuor control the Rice Importation Business in Ghana. The local adage is that if your little one soils your limb, you do not cut the limb off and throw it away, or, that, one never throws out the dirty bath water with the baby. Yet that was exactly what Kufuor did in 2001 by shutting down Aveyime Quality Grain Project and continues with foolhardy obstinacy so to do to this day. Why couldn?t he let the Courts deal with the legal issues, at the same time as employing the broad ambit of ?NATIONAL INTEREST? or ?NATIONAL SECURITY?, to free Quality Grain Project and set it up for production, making it work for taxpayers to recoup their investment? Strike one against Kufuor!

Strike Two: PRESIDENTIAL PLANE AS TOURIST PLANE

The Presidential Plane, which had been paid for with Ghana?s money, now sitting idle at the Air force base in Accra, like the Quality Grain machinery at Aveyime, is yet another strike against Kufuor?s MOJO. Kufuor vowed not to fly in it. Fine, I have no quarrel with that. Could he have, or can he turn it over to Jake Obetsebi Lamptey for use as a ?Tourist Plane? to ferry tourists, domestic and foreign, willing and able to pay premium price to fly inland to enhance Tourism?

Strike Three: CORRUPTION, CORRUPTION & CORRUPTION

The sound bite from Kufuor?s first inauguration as President was his call for Zero Tolerance to Corruption. What did that mean to him? Though in politics, perception really counts, it is not the aim of this piece to draw out the saga of Dr Richard Anane, whose paramour has disclosed the use of defunct Ghana Airways Maryland Funds to pay for child support for his son Nicholas. Close friends of Kufuor, on Boards of Public Companies, for example the Mamponghene formerly of Energy Commission Fame, have proven to be candidates not suited for hailing as folks showcasing the Zero tolerance to corruption edict of Kufuor. Kufuor?s Ministers have serious perception of corruption. Their dealings, from Castle Renovation of 2001, Government Buildings Renovations, Sale of Ghana Ambassador Residence in Washington DC and elsewhere, purchase of Mango Seedlings have been questioned. The point being canvassed here is that Kufuor has not lived up to his declaration of zero tolerance to corruption, leaving aside for now the sordid tale of Hotel Kufuor. The ominous question is whether for the duration of his presidency, Kufuor has had courage and fortitude to discipline, any of his subordinates. Perhaps, we are being told that all the President?s men are angels; that butter do not melt in their mouths and they are more pious than dead Popes! Ghana?s Index on Corruption according to World Figures is rather disappointing. Strike three against Kufuor?s MOJO.

WHAT HAS GONE WRONG WITH KUFUOR SINCE 2001?

In the first MOJO odyssey, Kufuor?s HIPC was discussed. The conclusion was though HIPC puts blank check in the hands of the government, it is not a program that facilitates large scale development projects. Rightly or wrongly, Kufuor lives and dies with the HIPC tag. The mistrust between the incoming Kufuor government and the outgoing Rawlings government in 2001 did not augur well for Ghana. The change that took place was not small, but rather huge. Like Knights in shining armor riding Elephants, not Horses, the incoming Kufuor Administration took their mandate to be simply changing from a set of wrong policies to better policies. They surmised that their predecessors had followed misguided objectives, which they had come in to jettison into the Korle Lagoon, whether or not dredging thereof was ongoing.

The global economy is fast paced. For a developing nation like Ghana, continuity of development projects even though change of government occur, should be beneficial to the body politic. If national development plans are drawn by apolitical technocrats with the nation?s interest at heart, though politicians at the helm of the nation?s affairs may provide political vision. Does Kufuor think along these lines?

Since 2001, has Kufuor focused on technical innovations in terms of Tom Friedman?s observations (extensively examined by me elsewhere), population growth, infant mortality, urbanization, rural development, Land Reforms, environmental pollution and Education.

Kufuor should have concentrated more on the above, rather than those ill-advised and unnecessary trips abroad, now questioned as motivated by per diem dollar pay days; or, not concentrated on vilifying his predecessor government; or, not pursued IF?C?, CNTCI bogus funds expending taxpayer monies in the process, in his own way, he would have been imbued with MOJO!

These are only a few of Kufuor?s numerous mis-steps.

Over-reliance on promises from rich nations has a way of making mockery of leaders. Recently, money expected from the Millennium Account, is all Ghana?s leaders have been dreaming about. Nothing is wrong with dreaming. Taking grip on reality is however a saner thought. Though a long time ago, and though death has done its thing, it is worth always recalling the experience of then President Duarte of El Salvador. Between 1980 and 1982, Duarte undertook land reform with a promise of US aid to compensate landowners. The late Senator Jesse Helms introduced legislation and killed that promise. The result was that prices of the country?s commodity exports fell and Duarte found himself in disgrace. Jesse Helms is dead, but are there no other Jesse Helms in the US Senate today?

It would have been really positive change, if Kufuor had revived old industries like Brick and Tile Factory with new technology and effected a mass movement towards Brick Homes by Developers and cutting down on clinker importation for cement for domestic use, at the same time as pursuing an aggressive export of made in Ghana Cement at competitive price, at least in the Ecowas sub-region, if the developed nations won?t buy our cement. The demise of our Textile Factories which could not compete with cheaper Chinese imports is another indictment on Kufuor. When Nigeria took steps to safeguard its Textile market against infiltration through Ghana of Chinese wax-prints, Kufuor had the effrontery to attempt to make Nigeria change its mind to no avail.

THE DEFENCE OF KUFUOR?S MOJO BY ?RS?

(?RS? is one of the more enlightened folks who write rejoinders to my pieces and with whom I have enjoyed civil discourse. This is quoted without permission, yet, I am hopeful there would not be any objection. CAVEAT: I disagree with most of these comments by ?RS?; I know, however, there is sincerity in the penmanship)

?RS? writes:

???..the current government is a) realizing that private customary land ownership is a central pillar of land reform b) incorporating stool ownership as an alternative land purchase and management system, I have read excerpts of their land reform agenda and it appears they have the common sense to appreciate that this may be a more efficient and effective system than the prevailing government managed one c) re-instituting private land ownership to its rightful place in development

2) extension, safeguarding and expanding property rights. Private land ownership is the greatest asset the poor possess, it is also one of few meal tickets that they have. You must have read about the increasing success and expansion of the micro-finance sector throughout the developing world? One of the keys to its success is realizing a way of capitalizing on the poor who ?cash strapped? but ?real property rich? are i.e. transforming their small holder farms and informal livelihoods in to assets that are valued in the mainstream economy and thus can be traded with on the market.

3) Imaginative forms of credit-I cannot stress enough micro-finance, rural banks, credit unions, private cooperatives. Is it a coincidence that the credit union and rural bank sector in Ghana is on a rebound and blossoming? Perhaps Kufuor cannot take all the credit for this but it is instructive that it is occurring under his watch!

4) Training-alternative education facilities outside the formal system such as vocational schools, polytechnics and trade schools. This government is not doing nearly enough, I agree with all sentiments to that effect. However I appreciate the fact that they have acknowledged that Ghana's education system is lacking, in effective and inappropriate for the current competitive global environment. Indeed, this is an area that requires about 40% of government investment.

Job creation-since I do not see this as either government's role or business, I can't comment. In closing, my take is that Kufuor is actually fueling Ghana's MOJO :). I do not believe he is pursuing 'pure' economic liberalism but rather is weaning the country off state intervention which to me is sorely needed. He has facilitated an environment that taps peoples' creative energies and talents. Where I will agree with you is that more focus needs to be put on those sectors of society that require a greater head start to catch up. I favor prescriptions that desist from government welfare and dependency like a) government underwriting of capital for micro-finance start ups b) competitive grants and loans for small business creation c) free, subsidized education up to the secondary school level d) special grants for tertiary education targeted towards the poorest areas e) significant tax breaks for the informal sector f) subsidized private/public housing developments that provide tax revenues and incentives for stool authorities.? TO ?RS?: I disagree with you in material particular. So expect my thoughts in due course.

Definitive responses to questions asked in this piece should be parlayed and be forthcoming in the next round. Right now, the jury is out on Kufuor?s MOJO.

It would be my objective to discuss Mass Transport, Police Equipments, Black Stars/Soccer and other issues, as Kufuor go in search of MOJO, MOJO and MOJO.

MOJO ODYSSEY continues.



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