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Opinions of Monday, 10 August 2009

Columnist: Boateng, Akosua Abronoma

Government will soon run out of Excuses

Governance in Africa is terribly easy. All you do is blame your predecessor if you are lucky enough to have one alive, like Prof. Mills does. Alternatively, you take your economy to the ground and blame the west for it, like Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe, or simply change the constitution to make yourself the god of the people until you get cancer, like Umaru Bongo of Gabon. Is there anything wrong with our leaders?

Once upon a time (being 9 months ago), a learned Professor of Law and a Tax expert at that, literary walked “door-to-door” to tell any Ghanaian who cared to listen that he was the solution to all of Ghana’s problems. His followers called him the “prince of peace”, the tax expert and the key to unlock Ghana’s opportunities to that elusive development. Even though reasonable people tried to draw their attention to some of the outrageous promises, they were not prepared to let the facts get in the way of a thriving propaganda campaign that clearly was yielding double digit dividends. At a time when the global economic meltdown, sparked off by the spectacular collapse of the American housing market; fueled by the sub-prime mortgage crisis; high crude oil prices and a global food crisis, which resulted in street protests in capitals across Africa including Cote d’Ivoire and Egypt; then candidate Mills thought it was the fault of his predecessor, President Kufuor, that things were difficult in Ghana. He thought of him as an over pampered elite president who was busy buying himself a presidential jet, building a presidential palace and engaging in frivolous and expensive global site seeing while the people wallowed in dire economic conditions.

The tax expert professor of law, claimed the price of fuel which was selling at an average of GH¢5, was way too high. This was at a time when the global market price of crude oil was around US$147 a barrel, a figure never before recorded since records of such financial data began.

Then candidate Mills was busy turning the fishing communities at the coast against the NPP of president Kufuor, with his off-base statement at Moree that president Kufour did not appreciate the plight of fisher folk because he did not come from the coast: a statement which many political watchers found distasteful, but which his campaign refused to retract, in fact, they defended it. At the same time, his running mate and now Vice President, H.E. John Mahama, would simply ask people to feel their pockets and answer if they could touch any money, and if they couldn’t, it was the fault of Government. How easy was that?

It was reasonable for the ordinary voters to expect that a Professor of Law, and a tax expert at that, would have some inkling into how to get them out of their economic misery, even if his record at that assignment at the first time of trying, led to the most expensive wedding gift ever presented to any bride in her twenties in the United States of America.

But if the people of Ghana had hoped that they were in for a “better Ghana” as promised by the President, they were in for a rude awakening. Within 7 months of taking office, the Mills administration is already looking like it has been in power for the last 16 years. In fact, he has performed so abysmally that, the founder of his own party and his number one cheerleader, “Supervising” President J.J. Rawlings, thinks the Prof. is cast in the mould of a “one-term President”. Not only that, Former President Rawlings also thinks the Government is infused with too much mediocrity masquerading as expertise. Indeed, I would have to agree with the former President, because, I am still trying very hard to find an explanation why, a Ministry that was handled by Ekow Spio-Garbra, John Mahama and Owuraku Amofa at the same time, is now being handled by three people, who are barely qualified to do national service. Is it any wonder therefore, that our economy is where it is?

Just yesterday, 4th August 2009 at the 6 O’clock news on Joy Fm, Hon. Sam Okudzeto Ablakwa told the world that, the Cedi is now “equivalent to the dollar”. That is the biggest joke of the year, and I was personally embarrassed that this man is a minister. Is that the best this country can offer? Isn’t it a matter of necessary prudence that when facing your biggest challenges in life, you put your best foot forward?

Does Prof. Mills sincerely believe that all these giant international oil market players, when they come to Ghana to deal with our officials, they are going to take us seriously, if we have ministers who do not understand the difference between a letter of credit and transfer of funds? Does the president think that those investors are coming here because we had peaceful elections? The simple truth is that they are coming for our resources, otherwise, they would have gone to Benin who have a better record of peaceful elections and transitions than us, or Senegal, where a 95% Muslim majority, kept a Christian Minority President Abdou Diouf in power for nearly two decades and changed him in peaceful elections in 2001.

In the last 7 months, the evidence of the mediocrity that former President Rawlings spoke about is everywhere around us. For the first time in 8 years we have had to queue for fuel and our nation was grounded for nearly one week. How much did that cost the nation? It is no longer news when L.P. Gas runs out. Only last week, we had the icing on the cake. The very fisher folk that professor Mills actively turned against Mr. Kufuor have become the latest victims to the compelling and yet unraveling spectacle of incompetence. Not only is the price of fuel gone up by more than 40% percent by conservative estimates, we are lucky if we can get it to buy.

Now the new joke is that government is going to “dye” pre-mix fuel to prevent it from being smuggled. Who on earth is doing the thinking in this administration? Is there any evidence that suggests that “painted” fuel cannot be smuggled? In any event, how much extra I am supposed to pay for it as a taxpayer? Are we going to get the paint and the labour for “painting” free of cost?

Perhaps, the single biggest disappointment so far from this administration has been their handling of the Muntaka affair. All the champions of anti-corruption could do was a slap on the wrist for the Member of Parliament for Asewase. Well, if the outpouring of support for the AFAG demonstration is anything to go by, then this government is in for a rude awakening to its responsibilities. They cannot simply explain away their lack of creativity, by passing the buck to the former administration. The people are going to get tired soon, and when they do, no amount of Kufour-bashing or Asabee-grounding or stone-age proceedings at politically motivated inquisitions would be good enough. The excuses would simply run out and the government is going to realize that governments are elected to solve problems and not to offer excuses for why they happen.

Akosua Abronomaa Boateng (Concerned Ghanaian)