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Opinions of Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Columnist: aL-hAJJ

JM must cut down the travels

-There can’t be moral justification

Having received widespread commendation for banning his ministers from travelling First Class during their foreign travels, there is an ongoing nationwide appeal to President John Dramani Mahama to cut down on what has been described as “numerous overseas travels”.

While travelling abroad to advertise Ghana, woo investors and attend international conferences is part of a president’s responsibilities, critics say some of the President’s foreign engagements could have been done without his physical presence in those countries.

Ironically, even members of the president’s party, the National Democratic Congress are also complaining about Mr Mahama’s foreign travels with some of them supporting the views of non-members of the ruling party that “there are more pressing domestic issues to deal with than always junketing abroad.”

Demonstrating their abhorrence to the president’s penchant for foreign trips, some members of the governing party are said to be struggling to reconcile their position on overseas trips by former president Kufuor and what is currently happening under the Mahama government.

“We persistently criticized former President Kufuor for traveling over 158 times in his eight years in office… Former President Kufuor’s foreign trips at a point in time became chorus on our lips…we even nicknamed him “Mungo Park the world traveller” but now look at what is happening under an NDC government. President Mahama has now outweighed Mr Kufuor in terms of foreign travels,” a leading member of the NDC (name withheld) recently told The aL-hAJJ.

The NDC is known to have heavily criticized ex-President Kufuor for his numerous overseas travels; some of which they alleged were of no benefit to the nation. The NDC party, then in opposition, chronicled President Kufour’s trips and often used that to discredit the then ruling NPP government.

President Mahama last week left the country for the United Kingdom to receive an honorary doctorate degree. He returned home Saturday, March 19, 2016 and a day after left for a two-day trip to Cote d’Ivoire to address the 4th edition of the Africa CEO forum.
Prior to this, the President has made several travels and visited countries like US, Turkey, China, Dubai, Japan, Norway, Denmark and a host of African countries.

Criticisms over President Mahama’s overseas travels intensified following his recent trip to Scotland last week for an honorary doctorate degree in law.

Speaking his mind on the president’s frequent travels, A US-based Ghanaian Professor of English and a strong Mahama loyalist, Professor Michael J. Bokor, wrote on his facebbook wall… “Sometimes, I wonder why he (President Mahama) is travelling so much, having already told us earlier on that he won't do so. Let's be frank to say that those organizing such visits need to be circumspect. It is time to stay home and do government business. Let Ghana's Missions abroad do some of those things that do not necessarily need his physical presence to reap any windfall for Ghana's progress.”

Prior to this, a member of the NDC communication team had also bemoaned President Mahama’s numerous travels at the expense of pressing domestic issue.

The opposition NPP has also had cause to question the President’s travels. Member of Parliament for Manhyia, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh late last year criticized what he described as wasteful foreign travels by President John Mahama.
In his view, in spite of the huge per diems and entourage, the frequent trips abroad by the president have not yielded any positive results for Ghana.

“President Mahama has broken the record of presidential travels abroad in the history of Ghana. In the last three months, he is virtually out of the country every week yet Ghanaians are languishing in abject poverty,” he added.

In a riposte, the NDC MP for Keta, Richard Quashigah acknowledged that the ruling party erred by overly criticizing ex-President John Kufuor’s frequent travels during his tenure as President of Ghana.

“We do agree that we might have erred in the past to have overly criticized him (President Kufuor) for those travels because some yielded positive results,” said the former Propaganda Secretary of the NDC.


Hon. Quashigah admitted that the party overly condemned ex-President Kufuor’s trips because “it got to a point where it was realized that he was taking regular vacations abroad and his entourage usually was so big. I think President Kufuor’s was quite intermittent.”