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Opinions of Monday, 11 May 2015

Columnist: K. B. Asante

Dumsor, dumsor is only the tip of the iceberg

The government should be congratulated on arranging for the Turkish power ship to ease the energy crisis before the end of the year.

But there are more fundamental problems it should tackle now if we are to withstand the looming economic storm. I am not an economist or a financial expert but I know when I am getting broke and I know that it is no different from a big organisation or even the government having little or no money. The sophisticated explanatory jargon of official experts does not alter the effects of insolvency.

I cut down expenditure or borrow or do both when my needs exceed my income. I know that the borrowed money should be used to get out of the debt and not to continue with uncontrolled spending.

We have to pay for the follies of the past no matter who was mainly to blame; wife, girlfriends or previous government. The money for the Turkish power ship should be paid in real terms and not by financial football between government and national institutions such as the Volta River Authority (VRA) and the Electricity Company of Ghana.

The economy is not in good shape and government should deal with it before it blows up. Only a few days ago the Minister of Agriculture was reported to have said that government could not absorb the students of colleges of agriculture into the public sector because of the “huge wage bills in the public sector”.

The Minister did not say that too many students were being trained in agriculture and therefore fewer students should be enrolled. So it appeared that we need the agriculturists we are training. He therefore asked the students to seek self-employment.

In my view government is running away from its responsibility by asking the students to employ themselves in the present economic climate. Those already in self-employment are finding it difficult to survive. If government wants self-employment to assist economic growth it should improve the appropriate infrastructure and the necessary business climate.

The government should establish the infrastructure and take appropriate measures to assist personal, community, private and state enterprises to prosper. This would need funds to be channelled to appropriate quarters. Unfortunately, the government has not much in the way of funds. This and previous governments have borrowed too much and there is not much real development to show for it. According to the Bank of Ghana, the stock of domestic debt stood at GH¢34.6 billion at the end of 2014. External debt stood at US$13 billion. These amounts are more than a third of what we produce in a year. It is difficult and unwise to borrow more.

The government must therefore raise more taxes from the impoverished population. It is a most difficult task. But that is what governance is all about. Those in government are elected to be in office to promote and enhance the interests of the people. They are not in office to make life comfortable for themselves and persuade the public to re-elect them into office by telling stories to make the people happy when disaster looms on the horizon.

Tough measures may be required. This should and can be done if the public is told the facts and the truth. True information is of the essence. That is why government should encourage parliament to pass the Right to Information Bill. Our President is himself an information expert and he should select competent and robust information officers who can tell the truth so that we do not fear but are galvanised into action to shake off the sloth and work hard to build and sustain a proud Ghana which does not depend for survival on hand-outs from the European Union and other powers.

Hard times are ahead. Already the economy wobbles and the social services creak. The resources allocated to our educational institutions are not sufficient to pay even for utility expenditure and the national health insurance cards do not guarantee attention for the sick because hospitals and doctors have not been paid for previous services. The forebodings are clear. But we can overcome. We have the talents in the country. We have the resources. We must regain our self-reliance. We do not need outsiders to reveal the true situation and tell us what to do. Our government should have confidence in us and let us have access to the facts and the truth which can make us free and release the urge to work for ourselves and a better Ghana.