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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Corruption, Mahama’s ratings and 2014

By George Sydney Abugri

I shall probably spend the Christmas holidays writing up a new English dictionary which will pack more precise vocabulary for a historical documentation of the political life of our intriguing nation.

There will most certainly be the word “earjacking” {eavesdropping or secretly recording the tactless conversations of a deputy minister and if she is called Vicky Hamah, so much the better} in the dictionary.

There will be the word “blamestorming” {arguing hotly over which political administration has been the more corrupt, Kufuor’s or Mahamah’s}.

There will also be the word “ginormous” {combination of “gigantic” and “enormous”, to replace former Attorney-General Martin Amidu’s “gargantuan”, {the word in HIS dictionary that he says, most aptly describes his perceived scale of official corruption in Ghana.

My difficulty wills probably settling on a word that aptly describes President Mahama’s first year in office: How do we rate President John Mahama’s first year I office? A reasonable assumption is that he spent the first year in office laying a foundation to build his vision for the nation on.

He has tried to lay that foundation under very distracting circumstances throughout his rather most eventful first year in office:

Constantly hostile political opponents, striking doctors, teachers, nurses, lecturers and other categories of workers, utility service providers on the war path demanding increases in tariffs, a long chain of fire outbreaks in the country’s major markets, an election petition that disputed the legitimacy of his presidency, a national electricity supply crisis etc.

Not all achievements are statistically or physically quantifiable and the political opposition may not be particularly impressed, given the distractions he has had to contend with his performance rating in my opinion, is commendable, even if there is still so much to be done in the pursuit of national goals:

There are still hundreds of thousands of kilometers of roads yet to be built. There are still hundreds of thousands of children across Ghana who are taught in goat pens and hen coops and many more who have never seen a computer.

There are piped water supply systems and modern toilet facilities in the dreams of poor urban and rural communites waiting to be installed and a national economy in need of resuscitation.

Athough there have been improvements in electricity supply, it still sometimes appears that power supply is managed by a mischievous ragamuffin who gets a thrill out of switching power off and on, up to 20 times in as many seconds.

Then there is the problem of street people. Street peopel seem to outnumber citizens living in homes. As for the unemployed, why, they make up quite a sizeable army.

There is also the shrill outcry against official corruption: A general response to similar loud cries of corruption during Kufuor’s administration was that official corruption is a public perception.

Every government in Ghana has had its fair share of brazen official corruption and former President Kufuor will probably be remembered by some for his declaration that corruption has existed since Adam.

The Auditor-General’s general has in the past 30 years and longer repeatedly reported, the “misapplication”, “embezzlement” “misappropriation” and “diversion of public money. We could undertake an investigation: I have asked elsewhere whether there really has been a dramatic explosion of official corruption during the past one year that John Mahama has been in office, which explosion can be statistically verified.

Accusations of corruption have also been made in connection with the operations of youth entrepreneurial development programme, GYEEDA, the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the acquisition of Merchant Bank by Fortiz, judgement debt payments etc.

All the same as the nation enters 2014, it may be useful exercise in the study of partisan politics, governance and propaganda, to establish why all of a sudden, every radio and television station, every newspaper and internet blog, every Ghanaian is talking about corruption as if epoch-making invention of the present administration.

It is uncertain if ALL who are complaining about corruption calling for decisive action in fighting corruption and prosecuting the corrupt are sincere. A test of the nation’s sincerity and commitment to fighting corruption should ideally begin with an appraisal of all previous corruption probes to determine what findings were arrived in each case what sanctions were recommended.

Both the government and the police administration have scored the police high marks for making armed robbery statistics take a dip but I am always wary about statistics-happy public officials and politicians. Statistics {including questionable ones} can be used to portray public institutions and governments as efficient but in the process and in the process lull society into dangerous complacency in the pursuit of national programme targets.

No sooner for example, are news headlines like “HIV/AIDS cases go down” fed into the media, than folks begin to copulate and screw around like nocturnal tom-cats, and the next thing you know, the statistics are sky-bound again.

The same goes for programmes to control child morbidity, malaria, road accidents and armed robbery. The police have indeed managed to drive the robbers into hiding but unless the police offensive remains a permanent feature of the war against robbery, the bandits will be back with a vengeance, trust them. They simply know no other life.

Like his predecessor, the late President Mills, Mahama has brought some modesty to the image of the president: He has replaced the ten-kilometer long presidential convoys which zoomed by like mechanical demons fleeing the inferno of hell, with fairly low-key presidential convoy movements.

While he has occasionally thrown a barbed or acidic word or two back at verbal assailants, President Mahama has generally avoided the abusive conversation that most politicians engage their opponents in and his nice guy image has remained intact even among some of his opponents.

While it may seem insignificant, the tendency of most presidents to stand on the gangway of planes waving to party supporters and television cameras when arriving in or leaving the country is something he has apparently tried to avoid, an affirmation of personal modesty as a leader.

The Guardian recently reported that Ghana could “consolidate her position as the regional star but added that it depended on the Mahama administration ability to take courageous measures in the management of the economy and Ghanaians’ expectations:

It described Ghana as “Africa’s biggest economic and political success” but added that inflation still soared above 13%” and that “steep rises in the price of electricity and water, {both in erratic supply}, plus increases in food costs, have shrunk the real value of wages.”

“The local currency, the cedi, has continued to slide. The price of gold, Ghana’s most valuable export, has been dropping. Cocoa has missed its production target. Though oil is beginning to flow in greater quantities from newly exploited offshore fields and the economy is predicted to grow this year by 7% Ghanaians are feeling the pinch”, the influential publication added. Website: www.sydneyabugri.com/Web Email: editing@sydneyabugri.com

Corruption, Mahama’s ratings and 2014

By George Sydney Abugri

I shall probably spend the Christmas holidays writing up a new English dictionary which will pack more precise vocabulary for a historical documentation of the political life of our intriguing nation.

There will most certainly be the word “earjacking” {eavesdropping or secretly recording the tactless conversations of a deputy minister and if she is called Vicky Hamah, so much the better} in the dictionary.

There will be the word “blamestorming” {arguing hotly over which political administration has been the more corrupt, Kufuor’s or Mahamah’s}.

There will also be the word “ginormous” {combination of “gigantic” and “enormous”, to replace former Attorney-General Martin Amidu’s “gargantuan”, {the word in HIS dictionary that he says, most aptly describes his perceived scale of official corruption in Ghana.

My difficulty wills probably settling on a word that aptly describes President Mahama’s first year in office: How do we rate President John Mahama’s first year I office? A reasonable assumption is that he spent the first year in office laying a foundation to build his vision for the nation on.

He has tried to lay that foundation under very distracting circumstances throughout his rather most eventful first year in office:

Constantly hostile political opponents, striking doctors, teachers, nurses, lecturers and other categories of workers, utility service providers on the war path demanding increases in tariffs, a long chain of fire outbreaks in the country’s major markets, an election petition that disputed the legitimacy of his presidency, a national electricity supply crisis etc.

Not all achievements are statistically or physically quantifiable and the political opposition may not be particularly impressed, given the distractions he has had to contend with his performance rating in my opinion, is commendable, even if there is still so much to be done in the pursuit of national goals:

There are still hundreds of thousands of kilometers of roads yet to be built. There are still hundreds of thousands of children across Ghana who are taught in goat pens and hen coops and many more who have never seen a computer.

There are piped water supply systems and modern toilet facilities in the dreams of poor urban and rural communites waiting to be installed and a national economy in need of resuscitation.

Athough there have been improvements in electricity supply, it still sometimes appears that power supply is managed by a mischievous ragamuffin who gets a thrill out of switching power off and on, up to 20 times in as many seconds.

Then there is the problem of street people. Street peopel seem to outnumber citizens living in homes. As for the unemployed, why, they make up quite a sizeable army.

There is also the shrill outcry against official corruption: A general response to similar loud cries of corruption during Kufuor’s administration was that official corruption is a public perception.

Every government in Ghana has had its fair share of brazen official corruption and former President Kufuor will probably be remembered by some for his declaration that corruption has existed since Adam.

The Auditor-General’s general has in the past 30 years and longer repeatedly reported, the “misapplication”, “embezzlement” “misappropriation” and “diversion of public money. We could undertake an investigation: I have asked elsewhere whether there really has been a dramatic explosion of official corruption during the past one year that John Mahama has been in office, which explosion can be statistically verified.

Accusations of corruption have also been made in connection with the operations of youth entrepreneurial development programme, GYEEDA, the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the acquisition of Merchant Bank by Fortiz, judgement debt payments etc.

All the same as the nation enters 2014, it may be useful exercise in the study of partisan politics, governance and propaganda, to establish why all of a sudden, every radio and television station, every newspaper and internet blog, every Ghanaian is talking about corruption as if epoch-making invention of the present administration.

It is uncertain if ALL who are complaining about corruption calling for decisive action in fighting corruption and prosecuting the corrupt are sincere. A test of the nation’s sincerity and commitment to fighting corruption should ideally begin with an appraisal of all previous corruption probes to determine what findings were arrived in each case what sanctions were recommended.

Both the government and the police administration have scored the police high marks for making armed robbery statistics take a dip but I am always wary about statistics-happy public officials and politicians. Statistics {including questionable ones} can be used to portray public institutions and governments as efficient but in the process and in the process lull society into dangerous complacency in the pursuit of national programme targets.

No sooner for example, are news headlines like “HIV/AIDS cases go down” fed into the media, than folks begin to copulate and screw around like nocturnal tom-cats, and the next thing you know, the statistics are sky-bound again.

The same goes for programmes to control child morbidity, malaria, road accidents and armed robbery. The police have indeed managed to drive the robbers into hiding but unless the police offensive remains a permanent feature of the war against robbery, the bandits will be back with a vengeance, trust them. They simply know no other life.

Like his predecessor, the late President Mills, Mahama has brought some modesty to the image of the president: He has replaced the ten-kilometer long presidential convoys which zoomed by like mechanical demons fleeing the inferno of hell, with fairly low-key presidential convoy movements.

While he has occasionally thrown a barbed or acidic word or two back at verbal assailants, President Mahama has generally avoided the abusive conversation that most politicians engage their opponents in and his nice guy image has remained intact even among some of his opponents.

While it may seem insignificant, the tendency of most presidents to stand on the gangway of planes waving to party supporters and television cameras when arriving in or leaving the country is something he has apparently tried to avoid, an affirmation of personal modesty as a leader.

The Guardian recently reported that Ghana could “consolidate her position as the regional star but added that it depended on the Mahama administration ability to take courageous measures in the management of the economy and Ghanaians’ expectations:

It described Ghana as “Africa’s biggest economic and political success” but added that inflation still soared above 13%” and that “steep rises in the price of electricity and water, {both in erratic supply}, plus increases in food costs, have shrunk the real value of wages.”

“The local currency, the cedi, has continued to slide. The price of gold, Ghana’s most valuable export, has been dropping. Cocoa has missed its production target. Though oil is beginning to flow in greater quantities from newly exploited offshore fields and the economy is predicted to grow this year by 7% Ghanaians are feeling the pinch”, the influential publication added. Website: www.sydneyabugri.com/Web Email: editing@sydneyabugri.com