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Opinions of Sunday, 13 May 2007

Columnist: Amonu, Kofi

Diasporans Must Do Better Than Complaining About Bad Governance

The deep-seated agendas of nearly all politicians in Ghanaian today are one and the same. Primarily, they are about stealing public money but to do so their party must first be in power. So, in the hope of winning votes, the NPP's weapon of choice is to habitually blame the NDC for all the country's tribulations. Likewise, the NDC walks out of parliament over issues that are unfavorable to them. When I reflect over the fact that the NPP is not noticeably different from the NDC in terms of doing harm to the people of Ghana, I wonder who on earth has the strength of character, truthfulness, and commitment to help Ghana. Perhaps our salvation lies in the hands of Ghanaians living abroad who are referred to jointly as Diasporans.

That is the writing I see on the wall. Unfortunately, most Diasporans only complain about bad governance at home because they and see the Ghanaian politician as arrogant and unchangeable. Diasporans are generally uncarring about how their country is being governed. Many are aloof while a few have even become narrow-minded government praise-singers to the detriment of the suffering masses at home.

One may be tempted to argue against my pronouncement without looking at the overall effect of Diasporans to the political and economic growth of Ghana. The effect of Ghanaians taking residence outside is an intricate issue to discuss. Indeed, it is remittances from Diasporans that is keeping Ghana's economy afloat today. The actual total sum of remittance is hard to guesstimate because the reported amount does not include the monies that enter the country in pockets and luggage and things that are brought home and sold or given away. Besides remittances, countless Diasporan associations, individuals and churches are helping a lot by making donations of goods and services to their communities. I am personally aware of a Ghanaian medical officer who annually returns home with his colleagues to perform lifesaving surgeries free of charge on ailing women who ordinarily would not have sought treatment because of the costs involved. Such benevolences are not considered when remittances are tallied. There are many other Diasporans contributions that are unnoticed. A large portion of the working capital of the SSNIT is the contribution from many a Diasporan who will never collect a pension in Ghana. The flipside of Diasporans' financial contribution is that Ghanaians, most of whom have benefited from free or cheap education at home, are using their expertise to help build nations other than Ghana.

Diasporans, nonetheless, have a long list of their own complaints. Top on the list are the very appalling treatment they receive when they travel by the national airlines, paying taxes and duties that exceed the value of their imported automobiles, the cumbersome procedures that they go through in order to clear their personal belongings at the ports and having to pay bribes to people in government and/or people on government payroll. Nearly every discussion among Diasporans is centered on dissatisfaction with how the country is being managed. I have not met a Diasporan who does not agree that the indemnity clause in the constitution must be removed, the number of ministers must be drastically trimmed, and the excessive spending by government and lavish parliamentarian lifestyle must cease. Diasporans have many worries but they do not speak directly to the government with one voice. It is good to read about a Mr. Nii Okunka Bannerman suggesting that 'Mpiani And Wereko Brobbey Must Be Tamed Now!' but the same complaint will carry more weight if it is made by the executive officers of a united Ghanaian Associations of North America or Europe and directed to the Castle. Diaporans may double their remittances, both in kind and in cash, but what becomes of the country depends largely on the decisions that the government makes.

Fellow Ghanaians, Diasporans and friends of Ghana, our country is faced with insurmountable problems. I do not share the opinion of some Diasporans that Ghanaians are lazy. A 'lazy' worker in Ghana goes to work late, does little or no work, and leaves early yet when he goes abroad, he takes two or three jobs and wins an awards for punctuality and hard work. This proves that it is the system that is broken and not people. Ghanaians do not work hard because they are not well paid, they are not well paid because they do not work hard enough to support pay increases. This cycle of self-destruction must be stopped but the government alone has the authority and capability to do so. The government is not tackling the problem because nobody governs the government. It therefore necessary for all Ghanaians, especially Diasporans, to push the government into action. Recently, the British Prime Minster, Tony Blair acknowledged that Ghana's resources have not been equitably distributed to all the regions. He was responding to a letter from Mr. David Atugiya, secretary of BONABOTO UK, about the distribution of over £110 million given to the Ghanaian government by the British Department for International Development. The impact of this single letter may, in the long run, be more helpful to the people of the northern regions than remittances to those regions. Let us keep in mind that building a community center in one's village or paying the school fees for a child in one's primary school alone will not change Ghana as much as what government does so it is very important that Diasporans pressure the government of Ghana to emulate the good governance of their countries of residence. It is hypocritical of Diasporans to celebrate independence by gathering to listen to an ambassador singing praises to the government of Ghana only to disperse and grumble to each other about bad governance in Ghana for the remaining 364 days of the year.

I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

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