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Opinions of Saturday, 27 December 2008

Columnist: Kwansema, Ekua

Is This The Best Time To Get Your Pay Increase?

Ask Ekua Kwansema

Voters tend to be lucky during election time especially when the ruling party has become so unpopular and wants to do everything to retain power. It is at this time that the ruling party moves heaven and earth to resolve all the pertinent issues confronting voters in order to win their trust and confidence come the election day. President Mugabe of Zimbabwe did it, so the Kufour administration also used that same trick to resolve some unresolved payment issues to workers just before the December 7 elections.

First doctors in Ghana who have clashed multiple times with the government over the increase in their working allowances woke up weeks before the election day to hear that the government was going to pay their allowances after all. Most of them I hear could not believe their ears when they first heard the news. Reason being that in spite of their pleas, negotiations and strike actions this year, the government did not see the need to honour the working allowance increases for the doctors.

As a result, the announcement turned out to be more of a shock that relief to the doctors. I hope you are not reading too much into why Kufour eventually paid them. Don’t think I am going to say it was a ploy to win the votes of the doctors and their family members for the NPP.

Then came the turn of the railway workers of Ghana. Truly these workers have suffered a lot under the NPP government. I wish some of the readers have family members who work with that organization. For precious six months these workers went unpaid. Their strike action which was captured under the bottom tree at Ketan near Sekondi was largely ignored by the government. My brothers and sisters, these workers were punished by the Kufour administration that promised to bring positive change into the lives of Ghanaians when they were voted into power in 2000.

Is it then a positive change to go unpaid in Ghana for precious six months? These are questions that should engage the attention of well-meaning Ghanaians to help them determine whether the NPP should be voted out of power or not. Just consider the harsh economic situation in Ghana today. Even workers who get their monthly salaries in time are finding it extremely difficult to cope. Most of them go a borrowing since their meager income is virtually insufficient to keep their mounting expenses till the next payday. Therefore, can you fathom how these railway workers and their families were able to cope for six precious months under this insensitive act by the Kufour government?

But out of the blue moon came a little relief for the railway workers. Somebody might have warned the NPP of the impending disaster that awaited them at the polls if they continue to marginalize these railway workers by not paying them their salary arrears. My fellow Ghanaians, do you know when that relief came? Just a week before the December 7 elections. The Kufour administration for fear of a backlash found some money somewhere and paid them their salary arrears. A check with my sources at the railways even confirmed that their December salaries have also been paid.

What bothers me is that if the Kufour administration could find money just before the stroke of the December elections, why did they not do it too soon? Why make so many families suffer unnecessarily? Why make these workers become bitter towards the Kufour government in general and the NPP in particular? I mean why make these workers go unpaid for six months? Is this the forward looking message the NPP people are preaching to Ghanaians?

The Health Services Workers Union of the Trades Union Congress were in the same predicament. Whatever they voiced out concerning their salary arrears hit the wall. The Kufour administration was in no mood to help them out. Why should they when they were busy spending a couple of millions of dollars buying gold award chains to honour themselves.. Does the Kufour administration have any priorities? You bet. But these priorities are largely to help themselves, their family members, cronies but not towards the Ghanaians upon whose goodwill they came to power.

But God being so good to the Health Services Workers Union, the NPP did not win round one of the December 7 elections. This good omen served as a good opportunity for them to press home their demand for the payment of their salary arrears. These hardworking health personnel issued a one-week ultimatum just a day after the elections, and do you know what happened? It even shocked the workers beyond belief. The health sector minister, Major Courage Quashigah (Rtd), responded the very next day after the ultimatum by the health workers and approved the payment of their salary arrears.

What took them so long only God and Kufour knows. Why is the NPP pushing the very Ghanaians that they claim they came to power to help to the wall? Why has the government become so insensitive? Would Kufour be able to go to sleep if he was not the president and has a relative working with the Ghana Railways who had not been paid for six months? Or how would Kufour have felt if he had been a Railway worker and not been paid for six months?

My fellow brothers and sisters of Ghana our motherland, these are hard times. And hard times call for good critical thinking. It is time for every Ghanaian to sit down and think about where he or she would want to be in the next four or eight years. During the critical thinking, I would ask my fellow Ghanaians this question, “Are you better in terms of economic traction than you were eight or four years ago”? Is your living condition better today than it was some years back? It is even sad that even in Accra today people are paying monthly water bills yet their taps are not running. Are we moving forward or backward? Is this the kind of situation that Ghanaians want to live in during the coming four years? Will you continue hitting your head against the wall if it continues to hurt you (Courtesy Obama)? Is this what the Kangaroo dancers call positive change?

As we prepare for the December 28 elections, these are the issues that should help us to vote wisely. We should consider the kids in the northern and other parts of the country who continue to sit under trees to study. We should consider the drug menace that is destroying the good name of Ghana. We should consider the corruption that has become so widespread that government officials caught engaging in serious corrupt practices are let go quietly. We should consider the future of our children and those yet unborn. We should consider the legacy that we would leave to the future generations. Are you going to be one of those who missed history by voting for a better candidate. Professor Mills just like any individual may have his faults, but this is a man who has trained so many successful lawyers in the country for the past 25 years. Therefore, between him and Akufo-Addo, I would stick my neck out and say Professor Mills is the lesser of the two evils. If we do not want the next generation to blame us, I humbly urge you to vote Professor Mills as the next President of the Great Republic of Ghana.

By the way have you heard about what Alan Kyeremanteng is doing again in the Ashanti Region? Distributing cash to sway voters. My advice to him is that, if it did not work on December 7, it aint gonna work come December 28.. God richly bless you all.

ekwansema@yahoo.com