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Opinions of Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

Hypocrisy Over “Made In Ghana” Goods

Irmo, SC 10TH November, 2014

Last week, Parliament was caught pants down on its commitment to locally manufactured products.

Despite the President’s aggressive campaign to promote “Made in Ghana” goods, Parliament was shopping for furniture abroad.

It was revealed that our lawmakers had imported over 275 chairs and tables from China for the chamber to use. When questions were asked, Parliament’s leaders claimed that local manufacturers could not have delivered the needed amount of furniture in the required time. The Deputy Majority leader, Hon. Agbesi, explained that if local manufacturers were used, the delivery of the product would be “maybe in a year’s time or two years time”. Echoing the Deputy Majority leader in a classic case of Parliament showing unity in pursuit of its narrow interests, the Minority leader, Hon. Kyei Mensah Bonsu, delivered a long, tortured defense of the decisions on Joy fm’s “MORNING SHOW”. In his rambling defense of the indefensible, he brought up the Timber Utilization Law, Electricity and transportation as some of the factors that would have made it impossible for the local furniture industry to supply 275 chairs in 14 weeks. This works out to about 20 chairs per week or 4 chairs per day—assuming a five-day work week! In a back-handed way, the Minority leader, assuming he was right, made a very strong case for why local manufacturers deserve to have the laws changed to free them to compete on the global stage. Responding to the Parliamentarians, the President of the Woodworkers Association of Ghana (WAG), Reynolds Debrah, insisted that local manufacturers could have made the chairs and made them better. Then he went on to draw a commonsense link between local manufacturing and the economy. He said “If they order these things from us Ghanaians, we create employment and the dollar which is running away from us—our contribution will help the dollar stabilize and come down.” Right there was what our august Parliament should have been thinking of --- employment—revenue—the dollar. Humorously, while all this was unfolding, Trade Minister Spio Gabrah was launching a “Made in Ghana” Fair!! Hmmm Ghana anaa!!! Notably, while the Minority leader was, in the name of his colleagues, defending this mistake, the President was wisely distancing himself from it. According to media reports, “NDC Communicator Sam George Nettey says the President is upset with Parliament for importing furniture from china.” This whole saga raises some important questions: • How could Parliament stab Ghanaian manufacturers in the back so recklessly? • Did Parliament spend as much time looking at Ghanaian furniture as they did looking at Chinese and Italian furniture? • Did this have more to do with the benefits of travelling to China and Italy compared to those of travelling to Accra and Takoradi and Kumasi to look at furniture? • Was the Minority leader speaking for the NPP or just for himself? Why are most MP’s claiming ignorance of the process that led to this? • Was it cheaper to get the furniture from China? Could it have been delivered by sea instead of by air? Since they are already breaking down, is there a warranty on the furniture? All those questions should and hopefully will be answered in due course but this Parliamentary Chinese furniture saga, once again underlines the commitment of our governing elites to “Made abroad” things. Imagine this. In the 1970’s we developed the BOAFO and ADOM vehicles. That was the time Japanese vehicles had a bad reputation all over the world. However, the Japanese never gave up. They kept improving and now, their vehicles are amongst the best in the world. Along with them, Korea and India are now house-hold names in vehicle manufacture. What if we had supported our own? What if we had a law requiring all the vehicles used by Parliament and government to be acquired from Apostle Kwadwo Sarfo? What if Operation Feed Yourself had been continued? What if we had not sold all the State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s) at “donkomi prices” to cronies of those in government? Today, ADOM and BOAFO would be household names and hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians would be working in vehicle manufacturing. We would be self-sufficient in food and net exporters. We would have a thriving industrial base.

Indeed, things are so bad that we even import toothpicks.

TOOTHPIKS!!! TWEAAA!!!

And this shows in our economy. In 2006, manufacturing was 10.2% of our GDP. By 2011, it was down to 6.7%. A nation that does not make what it uses and use what it makes is in trouble and indeed, we are. Let us all accept President Mahama’s campaign for made-in-Ghana goods and lift our nation up.

It echoes Nkrumah’s indigenization campaign.

It recalls the “Operation Feed Yourself Campaign” It rhymes with Kufour’s relentless search for oil and the building of BUI dam to drive our industries.

Let stop talking “MADE IN GHANA” and start practicing it---- together.