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Opinions of Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Columnist: Asare, Emmanuel

Let Us Confront The Real Issues

Perhaps it needs no saying that in the turbulent economic times our country finds itself, public office holders willing to forego their salaries would naturally earn commendation from all, more so when it is the conditions of service (as attractive and inviting as that) of the Finance Minister that is in question here.

But In our bid to commend, let us not overly harp and resort to unnecessary deductions about these gestures as done in a recent article titled “A million gun salute for Duffuor’’ which appeared in the October 5 2011 edition 0f the Daily Graphic. As it draws our attention away from the real issues which confronts the people of Ghana!

The said article authored by one Justice Baidoo commends the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning (and rightfully so) Hon.Dr. Kwabena Duffuor on his decision to forego all his conditions of service save fuel for official assignments. This gesture the article said has amounted to two hundred and fifty thousand Ghana cedis (GH¢250, 000) to the state in the near three years of the Honorable Minister’s tenure. This commendation should have been all there is to the article but that was not be as the author writing with a certain sycophantic air went on about the cost of building a six unit classroom block in the country and how conditions of service of the seventy- four (74) or so ministers of state put together amounted to so much and that if others emulated the Finance Minister more Classroom blocks could be build and on he went. As if to say that the inadequate educational infrastructure or the slow pace of development in the country for that matter is the direct result of the “huge” remuneration for public officials! Yes without a scintilla of doubt an amount of two hundred and fifty thousand Ghana cedis may appear so much. Yes so much to erect some classroom structures to reduce the number of schools under trees. Or perhaps offer a monumental support for the ICT programme recently rolled out by government. But wait a moment reader, weigh this amount against the soaring levels of graduate unemployment, the continuous assault on our environment by mining firms, the country’s shrinking manufacturing base and our import driven economy just to mention a few, this amount (GH¢ 250,000) really and I mean no disrespect appears like a sop in the gulf!

As was noted by Robert F. Kennedy some five decades ago, in the battles against illiteracy, hunger and diseases (all three plaguing our dear nation). Pleasantries, sycophancy and self-satisfied mediocrity would serve us bad! Let us bear in mind that in a country such as ours, if “things” worked, if systems put in place functioned and if political leadership took the long view about “matters”, “productivity” could only soar therefore the remuneration of public official would not become an issue. In fact it should not as public officials in the country are among the poorly paid on the continent. (Perhaps the ordinary Ghanaian feels the political class is not doing much to ameliorate their worsening plight thus such modest figures appears outrageous for them) Emmanuel Asare Is a citizen’s activist.

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