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Opinions of Monday, 7 November 2016

Columnist: Sarpeah, Adu

The Impact Crew: “HIPC versus IMF bailout."

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The land of Africa can never be poor, but our greedy politicians have chosen to tread upon the path of greediness, lies and deceit thereby putting their citizens in perpetual poverty. Geographically, in the Western part of the African continent is where a country called Ghana can be located. For once, I'm tempted to say that nature had a personal choice in the distribution of natural resources in his creation. Ghana, my motherland, is too blessed to be stressed in terms of its resources intended to be used for the well-being of the citizens. But is it the reality we're witnessing now? We sit on gold, but lick dust and sit on river, but cry for being thirsty? The answer to the above questions still remains unanswered! On the eve of independence day, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah stood up at independence square including Kojo Botsio, Krobo Adusei and some top government officials at that time and declared vehemently that the black man is capable of managing his own affairs. Since then, the nation has been in economic crisis and the worst of all is happening in this modern times in a country where's there's a bounty of richness. Why should this be so? Our politicians from the time of independence till now have proven to the citizens that, without grants or aids from the European countries, no aspect of the nation can be run or administered smoothly.

We've been told from the days of Adam up to this time that, no one is an island nor self-sufficient. If so, should our politicians always use this cliché and beg for grants and aids for innocent people of Ghana to suffer the consequences? Our Ghanaian politicians consistently knock doors at the various worldly financial organizations for loans which come with a lot of regularities and clauses. Do we always have to run to IMF and World Bank after messing our economy? Sometimes, it is as if our politicians are blind to read the details of the foreign loans they've been signing, because how rational can it be to sign a contract that deters your citizens from getting employment in the public sectors? This is so, because our leaders have proven to Ghanaians that they only care about them during general elections. I'll limit myself with the major happenings during the reign of Ex-President John Agyekum Kuffour and the incumbent government presided by His Excellency President John Dramani Mahama. Ghanaians can never forget to include Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and International Monetary Fund bailout (IMF), grants as happened under the leadership of Ex-President Kuffour and President Mahama's administration respectively. For all you know, all of these deals were signed at a time when majority of Ghanaians opposed to the idea. However, through their own interest whiles neglecting the voice of those who "wasted" their time to queue in the scorching sun and voted them into power, they move on to sign such contracts.

The first time majority of Ghanaians heard of the acronym Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), especially the illiterates was under the government of New Patriotic Party (NPP), by the leadership of Ex-President John Agyekum Kuffour. Ghana declared HIPC in April 2001 to relief it of its debt and put the economy back on track. At the time, the country's per capita income was $390 whiles HIPC countries were defined as countries with per capita income less than $690. Gloomy as the situation may have been to the leaders who went in for the HIPC fund, it didn't go down well to the acceptance of the citizens of the country as it led to bitter discussions on air, in newspapers, drinking bars, on the streets and many public places. A group who called itself socialist group at the time led by Kwesi Pratt Jnr. and Dr. Abdul Nasser protested vehemently against Ghana joining the HIPC group. President Kuffour at that time never listened to the voice of Ghanaians as majority of the citizens were not in support of the idea. Hence, Ex-President Kufuor's new position for joining HIPC contradicts his speech at Ghana's 50th Independence Day declaration that Ghana is not a poor country and can indeed forge ahead on her own steam. It also left many people confused because a few days ago the Minster for Media Relations, Miss Elizabeth Ohene said in an interview to a state daily newspaper that the government had not taken a definite position on the issue. In the first place, why must a country blessed with almost all the natural resources still remain poor? This country has always been in debt since we instituted constitutional rule. Meanwhile, as the saying goes, there's nothing like free in this world. This HIPC initiative which intended to scrap off the 95 billion Ghana cedis national debt came with serous regularities and conditions to be fulfilled. One of the topmost conditions in the HIPC is the privatization of government enterprise. Therefore, the administration of Ex-President witnessed so many selling of state-owned enterprises as a result of fulfilling the HIPC conditionalities in the contract signed.

Fast forward, a new administration also came into our political scene and it's still managing the affairs of our beloved nation. His Excellency President John Dramani Mahama also took the grant and aid baton and tied the knot with IMF bailout without considering the repercussions. Due to his action, innocent people of Ghana are paying for the bailout repercussions. Likewise, the idea to opt for the IMF bailout was vehemently opposed by political gurus and statesmen in the country. Simply, the conditionalities in the bailout contract will pose a threat to innocent Ghanaians. Lo and behold, Ghanaians are feeling the heat from the selfish decision of President Mahama. The various educational institutions in the country continue to produce graduates each and every year, but remain unemployed. Thus, our public sector has failed to recruit qualified personnel as a result of fulfilling the directives of the bailout. In the first place, why must the contract be agreed upon by the government looking at the future threats as contained in the contract. I'm tempted to believe that, President Mahama and the officials who signed the IMF bailout contract didn't understand the hidden terms and conditions. However, if they did, it means the welfare of Ghanaians is not their topmost concern! Let me say, bailout don't come on silver platter. There is always a price to pay. Eventually, VAT, Custom duties and utility bills have increased tremendously adding another woes to the life of Ghanaians. Currently, most Ghanaians do not know whether the country is being ruled by IMF or President Mahama. Because it looks like everything the IMF desires is being implemented in the country. Not too long ago, the IMF was looking forward to see the implementation of public financial management bill which seeks to publicize national expenditure. Will our hands be tied to our backs to implement their conditionalities all the time?

So far, our politicians have made it a tradition to secure huge sums of loans and grants from international communities which becomes a burden to the citizens per the interest conditions attached. With all the resources at our disposal, we're still facing macro-economic challenges such as high inflation rates, high unemployment rate, high interest rates, weakening of the domestic currency, high energy costs and presently high fuel costs in a country blessed with oil. The incumbent government came into power at a time when Ghana's crude oil was ready to be extracted but because of "alleged incompetence and greediness," innocent Ghanaians are not benefiting from it in any way and why should this be so? Gone are the days when prestige was attached to education, but the trend has entirely changed. After paying huge sums of school fees to obtain degree, unemployment becomes the only option. Our politicians have failed us especially under President Mahama. Lies and deceit have become a policy under the incumbent government. Because of votes, newly constructed industry at Komenda has become "useless" now as it's not serving any purpose to the benefit of Ghanaians.Our politicians can't use the construction of roads and building of schools as a yardstick of achievement. What we need is realistic policies and job creation that'll bring money into the pockets of Ghanaians. What's the use of buildings and roads when citizens do not have money to pay for the current huge admission fees, lorry fares, utilities and many others? It's high time Ghanaians become strict and hold their political leaders accountable. We can't, therefore, continue to remain mute even when hope as a commodity, is becoming more expensive in each and every passing day.

Adu Sarpeah