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Opinions of Saturday, 28 April 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Dancing warmongers and the sad cedi

By George Sydney Abugri

The money market has gone haywire, Jomo, and the almighty Yankee dollar just keeps shooting straight for the upper heavens like a space shuttle on blast off, in a mad race against the tumbling cedi. Yes sir, phenomenal inflation stares a republic indecently consumed by acrimonious, peace-threatening partisan and electoral politics in the face.
Bloomberg says our cedi has been the worst performing African currency in recent times. What a darned silly time for a bloke to go on retirement after forty years of public service, Jomo.
The prices of all and everything are sky-bound and the value of pension peanuts paid to public servants who retired last year has been farther reduced by nearly hundred percent, from the value of pensions paid to retirees in 2008! Good Lord, can life get any more dicey, Jomo?
When some folks began prancing about in anticipation of dollars suddenly raining from the skies over Ghana, on account of the country having joined the list of the world’s oil producers, I suggested they dance on the side of restrained optimism:
The production of oil did indeed result in the expansion of the economy by 14.4 percent in 2011 but then, the subsequent very high demand for dollars by the oil producing companies to buy the necessary equipment and materials has led to the dramatic depreciation of the cedi to the dollar.
Some say blame unrestrained imports. Others have wagged accusing forefingers at the telephone companies, which they claim, generate and repatriate profits in dollars, while bringing in none, apart from their initial investment capital.
I have heard some people say currency depreciation is usually a passing phase in the lives of developing economies, an argument the Governor of the Bank of Ghana backs with the statement that the fall of the cedi against dollar is transitory.

The problem with the current depreciation of the cedi is that it has been progressive, sustained over a fairly long period and drastic to the extent that the two cedis may soon be traded for one dollar.
The acrimonious prelude to the December elections has no doubt also led to unease among investors, some of who are inclined to take away rather than bring in dollars. The leaders of the political parties probably underestimated the gravity of the likely consequences of their war mongering antics all over the place.
That people are engaged in a wild war dance does not mean they will go to war. That is what one traditional philosopher said the other day. He had better be right:

The republic’s Chief Constable Mr., Paul Quaye made a public statement on Wednesday about the precarious security situation but said pretty little new, except to pledge the impartiality of the police in responding to any acts of violence and warning of decisive police action against trouble makers.

Commander Quaye has obtained Cabinet approval and a 50 million euro budget to go shopping for 1,110 pick-ups and saloon cars, 100 heavy-duty motor bikes, 1,000 walkie talkies, two cabin patrol cutters, four high speed interceptor boats, ballistic vests, helmets bullet-proof vests and ballistic plates ahead of the elections. Naturally, the news bulletins said nothing about guns and bullets.

Its gets as boring as its gets somewhat embarrassing for those inclined to nationalism, this business of threatening to blow up the republic for no sensible reason other than that it is an election year and the NDC and NPP must each win the election else there will be dead bodies all over the place.

The phrase “hate speech” has found its way back into the national vocabulary pretending to be a new phenomenon and all over again.

Do you reckon hate is an emotion that evolves randomly in the psyche of people without any causative stimulus? If there is hate seething between the NPP and NDC rank and file, it all probably has as much to do with mutual fear as with the quest for power.

What has fear got to do with it? Here is what: Fear of the incumbent returning to the opposition or the smarting opposition being condemned to eight or more long, agonizing years in out of power and its awesome reach.

Fear of payback time: After every election the period of transition from the departing political administration to the in-coming one is always a troubled one: In varying degrees, successive incoming political administrations have harassed departing political opponents, sacking some from jobs, imprisoning {sometimes justifiably in cases of theft of public money}, persecuting and hounding others out of town.

The bedlam the politicians and their supporters have raised all over the place is distracting us from the very central issue of the election which finds effective expression in one question: The republic and her people are beset with a trillion and forty-three problems which are impacting distressingly on the general quality of life and welfare of the people. How do those seeking our mandate to rule propose to solve them?

Peace activists must forcefully steer the warmongering politicians and their followers back to the critical issues through unrelenting agitation.

The next televised debate for presidential candidates will be held next month under the auspices of the Institute for Economic Affairs but I am all for complementing that forum with another televised program involving the candidates sitting in the studio for at least three hours and answering questions from ordinary citizens across the republic.

Whoever wants our mandate to rule for the next four years may want to tell us how he proposes to deal with fundamental problems such as the problems of erratic electricity supply, road accidents, widespread insanitation, run-down infrastructure in the areas of health and education, unemployment, official corruption, public safety and security etc.

Public safety has become a very serious challenge in Ghana today. The epidemics of highway banditry and armed robberies in towns and cities from coast to northern borders which have ravaged the country, come in waves as the experts will confirm.

The lull in between the waves always scores plus points for the police and the political establishment and gives the public a false sense of safety until the next wave hits forex bureau, petroleum filling stations, banks, shops, communities etc as has happened again and again. It only makes sense to vote for someone with the answers.

Hey, Jomo, for a nation of people gallantly coping with hardship, the turn out for voter registration has taken me quite by surprise: Probably far more than half the population of people of voting age will register.

So what is the secret? There is probably none but I overheard someone say to a friend in a registration queue: “I don’t know about voting, but I certainly need this card badly as an ID.”

…Don’t bother visiting my website today, Jomo. Its has been off the web for the past week, unceremoniously knocked out cold by a cyberspace bandit who loaded heavy files onto my bandwidth, burning up the rest of my space for the month. Barmy is the word, Jomo. Absolutely barmy.
Website: www.sydneyabugri.com
Email: georgeabu@hotmail.com