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Opinions of Thursday, 10 July 2014

Columnist: The Al-Hajj

In defence of Raymond Archer: We won’t allow disaster to strike before…

An article on the Ghanaweb with the headline “Influence Peddling In NDC: Bature, Raymond Archer ride high,” which was ostensibly choreographed to taunt the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Enquirer newspaper, and the Managing Editor of The Al-Hajj newspaper ended up exposing the nakedness of certain faceless cowards ensconced at the Flag Staff House, the seat of Government.

These dangerous individuals are impediments to the smooth running of the government by the Mahama administration but rather conveniently chose to blame others in order to cover up for their weaknesses, mischief and bad intentions.

The article, supposedly written by one individual (more on this guy later) who claimed to be called Moses Ayambi was a direct riposte to our earlier article titled “Prognosis of Economic crisis by fearless Journalist Raymond Archer’s Epistle Prez Terkper… Finance Minister JM”.

The said Mr. Moses Ayambi, if he really exists on the surface of this planet Earth, in his article on Ghanaweb on Monday 7th June, 2014 without addressing the relevant issues on the economy and the President’s Gatekeepers raised in the Raymond analysis that we also amplified, went off tangent attacking the personalities of both Mr. Archer and our Managing Editor, Alhaji Bature Iddrissu.

According to the article, “hitherto, politicians and businessmen were the people that could peddle influence to catch the eye of the President or the powers that be. But in Ghana these days, journalists sympathetic to the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) are peddling dirty influence in order to catch the eye of President Mahama, his wife or some ministers”.

“Two of such journalists are Alhaji Bature and Raymond Archer, Editors-In-Chief of The Al-Hajj and The Enquirer newspapers respectively.

“The target of the two journalists is no other person than Mr. Seth Tekper, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning (for the record, Hon. Terkper is the minister of finance and not minister of finance and economic planning) and President Mahama himself.

“It was Alhaji Bature who, not long ago, launched a blistering attack on the Finance Minister for some strange reasons after the then Minister of Information, Mr. Mahama Ayariga, had claimed on Joy FM that the finance minister was extremely truthful with how the economy was doing.

“Alhaji Bature since then has countlessly attacked the minister with some misleading and simply weird economic analysis.

“Last week, Raymond Archer, who is struggling to be reorganized in the scheme of affairs in the Mahama administration, wrote in his Enquirer that has been reduced to a mouthpiece of Kofi Wayo, Harry Zarkour and a certain Henry Mainly-Spain, who wants to lead the Greater Accra NDC, that Mr. Terkper was behaving as the President while the President was doing things like the Finance Minister.

“Raymond Archer went further to talk about how the Chief of Staff and persons around the President should go about things.

“Archer in that piece claimed that he was a system analyst and made lots of suggestions as to how things should be run at the Presidency.

“It is instructive to note that Raymond Archer had claimed once on Radio Gold that he was advising the late Professor John Atta Mills on certain issues when he was the President.

“Days after his article in The Enquirer, Alhaji Bature gave themselves up as to why they are constantly attacking Mr. Terkper by lifting Raymond Archer’s article and placing it at the front page of his Al-Hajj newspaper.

“Interestingly, Alhaji Bature showered lots of praises on Raymond Archer for pursuing his influence-peddling agenda and went further to give a bite to the article and as usual attacked the President and the Finance Minister.

“Alhaji Bature has little influence among some ministers and persons closer to the President, but Raymond Archer, who now claims to be a businessman, is struggling to catch the eye of the President.

“The young braggart, who creams government printing contract but goes round complaining to almost all government officials, from his article, made the world to believe that he could manage the Presidency more than the Chief of Staff and any other person in the country.

“It is widely suspected that Raymond Archer engaged the services of Alhaji Bature when he realized that his Enquirer is not making the needed impact as far as his influence peddling agenda was concerned.

“Sincerely, the two are just wrong because the President and the Finance Minister have always been truthful with the state of the economy.

“If Alhaji Bature and Raymond Archer feel that Mr. Terkper is blocking some of their people from doing their own thing at the Ministry of Finance, then they should think again.

“Anybody with the NDC at heart and not interested in what they would get from the party should rally behind the Finance Minister and the President to “turn things round instead of talking as if they are the repository of knowledge as far as governance is concerned,” the writer concluded.

Raymond Archer, in his well-written analysis on the current malaise of the national economy, sought to bring attention of the President to certain urgent governance issues that His Excellency the President may have ignored, which in the opinion of the internationally acclaimed journalist could be the cause of the nation’s economic predicament.

For instance, Raymond Archer has advised for proper filters of information especially on the economy coming to the President from the Finance Minister in order to ensure that the President is not misled by the isolated finance minister.

He also advocated for a well-organized structure at the Flag Staff House that would eliminate or limit the preponderance of Presidential Staffers whose roles are mainly communicating or parroting government policies without making any significant input in the policies, thereby adding to the army of government communicators whose discordant voices are fuelling more anger against the government and President Mahama.

“The more brilliant the President becomes at explaining and cracking his brain about the state of the economy, the more I become worried about the structure of his government. I am convinced that there is something fundamentally wrong with the President’s Gate-keeping setup.

“When I heard rumours about a possible shuffle or reshuffle in the wake of the economic crisis, I was hoping to see a shuffle or reshuffle that will strengthen certain key Ministries and most importantly the strengthening of the President’s Gate-keepers at the Presidency.

“I hear things like, “The old man has a way of communicating with the people” or He has that ability to communicate with the people.” But I am afraid, the more I hear that, the more I feel there is something fundamentally wrong with the gate-keeping structure at the office of the President, which allows the President himself to be the one who has to spend so much effort in explaining and fixing the economy.

“Currently, there is a huge army of officers at the presidency, who are Presidential Staffers. When you see the background of some of them, it appears that the title “Presidential Staffer is given to someone the presidency doesn’t know where to send him or her. Or someone you cannot appoint to any position.

“Times are hard, and I will take advantage of my background as a system analyst to offer some few suggestions about what the Presidential Gate-keepers structure should look like.

“First, I will suggest that the “Office of the Chief of Staff” at the Office of the President be considered more as a “Secretariat of the Chief of Staff” at the Office of the President where the possible experts and consultants and Presidential Staffers, with specific portfolios, work around the clock to coordinate the most strategic Agencies and Ministries assigned to them.

“The secretariat should consist of Staffers/Consultants (Not Presidential Spokespersons) responsible for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, National Security, Ministry of Justice/Attorney General, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Communication Strategy.

The Chief of Staff’s Secretariat at the Office of the President should be set up as proper coordination machinery for the above-mentioned strategic Ministries and Agencies and also serve as a proper filter for information that finally gets to the President.

“The way things are, many times Terkper is constantly briefing the President directly on many economic issues. This scenario exposes the President to all manner of vulnerabilities, and it doesn’t take a Superman analyst to foresee that.

“Under the current state of affairs, the Office of Chief of Staff is very weak in its administrative coordination and oversight on the President’s key appointees,” he said.

“The Chief of Staff’s Secretariat at the Office of the President at this moment should have the heavyweights who understand the economy and could act as a sifter of all the policies being pursued by the isolated Finance Minister Terkper and also guard and guide the Minister and the Presidency on the way forward on the economy.

“Retired Finance Ministers Dr. Kwabena Duffuor and Dr. Kwesi Botchwey and economic guru Dr. Nii Moi Thomson are the kind one would want to see as the Economic Consultants/Presidential Staffers. This kind of team would require a Chief of Staff of the caliber of the Late P.V. Obeng,” he added.

The faceless cowards behind the article attacking the personality of both our managing editor and the Enquirer CEO are the ones who rather want the downfall of President Mahama. For they and their gang at the Flag Staff House are doing everything under the sun to make sure that the President does not get the true picture of what is happening in both the economy and his administration.

They know that once the President gets to see the true picture, they and their godfathers at the apex of power at the Presidency will be the first casualties. So, one must understand them for trying fervently to protect their turfs.

Amongst them we know is individual, who attracts negative publicity wherever he goes. He should thank His Excellency President Mahama for his magnanimity in keeping him there despite the numerous scandals hanging over his neck.

This particular ‘hazardous’ character has gained notoriety in sordid and despicable acts including his lust for money and penchant for using rough tactics to undermine people including his own colleagues wherever he finds himself.

We are aware that his beef with both The Al-Hajj managing editor and the Enquirer CEO is not because we have raised issues with the President or the finance minister. It is because, he feels threatened that we are raising issues which also largely affect his Godfathers. So he used the President and the finance minister as alibi to attack us, using his surrogates.

We want him to hear loud and clear that we remained focus in thwarting any attempts at hiding the realities in government to our beloved President Mahama. For both Raymond Archer and Alhaji Bature had risked their lives in working hard to bring this government to power at the time that some of them were enjoying in the comfort of wherever they were.

At the appropriate time we will let the world know how at some point they were even at the forefront of attacks against the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government and those of us defending it.

As our trademark, The Al-Hajj will continue to raise any relevant governance issues that come to our attention including the issues of the economy and how we can make it better in order to win the 2016 elections.

You don’t need The Al-Hajj or The Enquirer to tell you that currently, things are not well with the direction and the state of the Ghanaian economy. We are not ostriches or sycophants and will say what needed to be said to get our nation and our government delivering the ‘Better Ghana’ we promised the people. President Mahama does not need sycophants at this moment if he is to succeed and we are determined to help him to succeed by constantly bringing to his attention what he needs to know.

The Vice President, Paa Kwesi Amissah Arthur; Finance Minister, Mr. Seth Terkper; the Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), Dr. Kofi Wampah and the Chief of Staff, Prosper Bani are letting the President down and in any serious jurisdiction in the world, the quartet would have voluntarily given up their posts for fresh people to take over. They are out of touch with the economic and political realities on the ground, they have run out of ideas on what to do next to salvage the situation, and they are running out of time to open the vital fiscal space that is needed for the productive spending and investment that need to be done in the fiscal years 2014, 2015 and 2016 to win our party and our President another mandate in the 2016 elections.

While some could criticize the judgment of the President in employing them in the first place, one should also be cognizant of the fact that the President is not a magician or a soothsayer to know that they would lead him into this dangerous alley. For, the Vice President doubles as one of the longest serving deputy finance ministers in this country and a former Governor of the Bank of Ghana. Mr. Terkper was also the immediate deputy finance minister, having worked under Dr. Kwabena Duffuor for four good years. Dr. Wampah was also a deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana whiles Prosper Bani before his appointment by President is a product of the UN system having been disgracefully sacked from the BNI as intelligence officer.

So therefore, any careful analysis of the socio-economic and political issues currently plaguing the nation will exonerate the President because he is not a clairvoyant or omniscient to know that these consummate professionals and technocrats with many years of experience in economic management will perform so badly that the Cedi will be depreciating at this fast rate consecutively for two years and could likely extend to the third year if tough decisions are not taken immediately.

If the writer and his backers will not see this, we at The Al-Hajj together with the suffering masses are seeing it and we shall continue to put pen to paper and write articles that will bring the attention of the President to these relevant issues in order to take the tough and hard decisions including holding someone or some people responsible to save himself and his presidency.

The President’s attention needs to be brought to the fact that, the current economic crisis has morphed into pure political problems hanging on his neck. There is no time for him to postpone tough political decisions in order to save his government and our party.

Should the President take the bull by the horn and hold some of his appointees responsible for what is happening to the economy and his government, his image will dramatically soar and he would surely get the sympathy and support of Ghanaians, a situation that would enhance his chances of retaining power in 2016.

We have more stakes in the success of the President than that faceless writer and whoever is behind him and so we shall continue until the right things are done.

We have no personal problems with the finance minister, but we have issues with his mode of economic management and certain information given to President Mahama from his outfit which is largely to blame for what is happening to the economy presently.

The fact of the matter is that there are serious short-term macro-economic challenges facing the economy and unless those challenges are addressed, nothing will work in this country. Medium to long term issues can only be tackled effectively if the short-term challenges of Cedi stability, credible fiscal consolidation policies, and domestic revenue mobilization are addressed effectively.

The country should have entered into an IMF-supported stabilization program since September last year when the third quarter data of the fiscal year 2013 were pointing to the wrong direction, but the rigidity of the finance minister and his stubborn refusal to heed the advice of more experienced economic managers including Drs Abbey and Kwesi Botchwey is mainly to blame for the nation’s current predicament.

We have said it time and again that the so-called homegrown policies of the finance minister will not work, and we are being vindicated with the continuous depreciation of the Cedi and the likely third consecutive year of double-digit fiscal deficit. Having worked at the IMF, Mr. Terkper should have known more than anybody that a small country like Ghana would never succeed in a policy (homegrown) that could question the relevance of both the Fund and the Bank. That is the politics of the Fund and the Bank. This is as simple as ABC. If Ghana succeeds or is allowed to succeed and tomorrow Nigeria or the Gambia or Ivory Coast finds itself in a similar situation, what would they do? Definitely, they would copy what Ghana has done and that would make IMF redundant.

Apart from this political issue at the Fund, an IMF-supported programme will bring in the much needed balance of payment support (at a much lower rate than the Eurobond) to stabilize the currency in the shortest possible time and pave way for macro-economic stability.

In any case, in implementing the so-called homegrown policies, we have already swallowed much bitter pills than the ones IMF will ever prescribe in its conditionalities. The daily increases in the prices of fuel and utilities and the imposition of harsh taxation policies are part of the bitter pills under the homegrown stabilization policies. The unfortunate aspect of the policy is that unlike an IMF-supported program, there is no one cent for the nation as balance of payment (BoP) support that will go to the central bank to support our fast depreciating currency.

Right now, the window is almost closed and the fiscal space that the government must create before the 2016 election is becoming a mirage. So, once we enter into 2015 with this economic situation, then disaster is awaiting our nation, our party and our President. Tofiakwa?