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Opinions of Sunday, 23 May 2021

Columnist: Adam Mutaka

Let us fix Ghana together

According to the author, coronavirus is not the cause of our current economic woes According to the author, coronavirus is not the cause of our current economic woes

Of late, Ghana has been bedeviled with a quagmire of economic challenges. And it is largely blamed on the unfortunate downpour of Covid 19 from the skies of the International space.

However, Covid 19 is not the cause of our current economic woes, exclusively. Covid 19 only represents the tip of the iceberg. Many other factors are at play in this mischievous game of economic "chaskele". Aside from covid, let us explore some other causes of this present economic gloom.

Payment of Ex-gratia to the Legislature and the Executive is one of the causes of our present economic slump.

On the May Day celebration, the President of the Republic was reported to have announced a freeze on the increase of his salary, and that of all other public servants in the arena of the Executive Arm of Government.

This decision came as a result of the President's desire to minimize government expenditure in 2021 and beyond.

Now, let us ask ourselves, have the President and the other honorable men and women in the Executive portfolio taken Ex-gratia for their just ended four-year term in office? If yes, why? Why take Ex-gratia at a time when Covid 19 is seriously preying on the economy? Why take Ex-gratia when there are obvious indications that the economy of the country is struggling to stand on its feet?

The announcement made by the President was good, but not enough. I have not heard the President pledged that he and the other members of the Executive fraternity will forfeit Ex-gratia after their next four-year term, as a contributory factor to fixing Mother Ghana.

To fix the country, we expect the First Gentleman of the land to publicly pledge that appointees of his government will relinquish their desire to take Ex- Gratia at the end of their second term in office. It will even be more gratifying to us the citizenry if the Legislature could join the Executive in such a noble cause. Ex-gratia paid to the Executive and Legislature should be replaced with something that the country can reasonably afford. Paying this current form of Ex- Gratia to public officials is such a heavy burden on the State.

Failure of the State to amend some unpleasant institutional systems, orders, and policy arrangements has contributed to our current state of affairs. Some of the privileges that are enjoyed by certain top Public Servants are simply mind-blowing. Arrangements have been made by the State to pay such persons fat salaries, and as if that is not enough, they are further insulated from expending on certain utility bills. They ride on vehicles whose engines draw fuel from the pumps, at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer. Aside from the fat salaries, they are also beneficiaries of many allowances of varied forms. These persons are made to live luxurious lives. Us the ordinary taxpayers are told to tighten up our belts, whilst the ace public servants (CEOs, Ministers, etc) are loosening theirs.

To fix the country, It is about time those privileges be repealed to ensure that salaries of such top public servants are slashed and they too, like all else, be made to pay for whatever services and products they make use of. This will go a long way towards reducing government expenditure and the recuperation of the economy.

Bribery and corruption is yet another evil that aims for the bullseye in terms of breaking down the economic and social fortunes of a country. Bribery and corruption: the Siamese Twins of social decomposition and economic deterioration are in Ghana, and staring at us in the face.

Let us put aside the "Perception index of corruption in Ghana" and deal with the optics. Nowadays, certain admissions, recruitments; seeking the services of some public officials, accounting and auditing, and many others, are all subjected to the sleight of hand in the dark arts of bribery and corruption. The public official who is paid with the hard-earned money of the ordinary taxpayers bends rules to satisfy the egocentric desire of himself and that of his paymasters. Contracts are awarded to those who are willing to pay a percentage of the contract sum to the awarding party.

Revenues are not properly accounted for. Some Monies that are collected as government revenue usually end up in the wallets of private individuals. The pillage at our state institutions lives much to be desired. Honesty and integrity are seemingly murdered in the halls of public administration. And the murderers, whose palms are dripping with the betrayal of purpose, are cleared of the crime. How sad?

To fix the country, the State needs to put rigorous systems in place to stamp out the menace of bribery and corruption. Policies should be enacted and implemented to make bribery and corruption a very high-risk enterprise. Punitive measures to the scourge should be drastic and enduring.

Closely linked to bribery and corruption is the issue of "Protocol" and nepotism. The economic wheels of the State are almost grinding to a halt because there are some square pegs in round holes. The manpower of every country is her lifeblood. Techniques and procedures in human resource management should always be adhered to when it comes to the issues of recruitment.

Sometimes some people are offered a job just because they are on the protocol list. They know someone who wields a lot of power, so they have to be selected by hook or crook. This issue has procured the State with a section of her workforce struggling to find their feet at work. And yet they draw salaries at the expense of the taxpayers.

To fix the country, the State must ensure that all forms of recruitment are based on merit. The issue of the "Protocol" list should be a thing of the past. Acquiring a job should no longer be based on "Who you know" but rather, it should be based on "Your work experience and what you can do".

The public debt stock is ballooning to bursting point. On Friday, March 12, 2021, the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and the then caretaker Minister for Finance, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu disclosed in the 2021 budget statement that the total public debt has increased from GHS122 billion, which is 69% of GDP to GHS291.6 billion, which is 76.1% of GDP, as of the end of December 2020.

This indebtedness of the State to domestic and international economic entities pushes the country to the brink of an economic meltdown. This is because the government cannot hire more persons to beef up its manpower corps. A substantial portion of government revenue goes into repayment of loans. the State needs more capital projects such as good roads, hospitals, schools, libraries, markets, and other social amenities but they are not forthcoming because there are insufficient funds to support the execution of such projects. Word on the street is that contractors are on the tail of the government to retrieve monies that they have pumped into State projects.

How much revenue does the State earn from gold, bauxite, and diamond exports? How about crude oil? Why are importing gargantuan tons of rice when we have land and climate that are favourable for rice cultivation? For how long do we have to accept peanuts as revenue from the mineral sector?

To fix the country, the government needs to reduce its appetite for borrowing. And look out for innovative ways of mobilizing State funds. Government should consider widening the tax net. This will ease the tax burden on those who do not evade their statutory obligation to pay tax. This is so because if many people pay tax, the revenue thereof will be substantial therefore there would not be the need for government to increase tax rates.

Government should also boost the production sector of the economy. We should be able to produce for our consumption and export. Ghana is blessed with many natural resources: gold, diamond, crude oil, natural gas, timber, iron ore, coffee, cocoa, rubber, oil palm, salt, vast arable land, rivers and lakes, territorial waters-- to mention; only a few.

The State should not export the above-mentioned commodities in their raw form. Efforts should be made to add value to the raw materials for them to fetch the State huge sums of foreign exchange. I am optimistic that this intervention will lessen our debt situation.

Our attitudes as Ghanaians also contribute positively or negatively to the health of the economy. Our general attitude towards work can be rated below average. Our zeal to protect State property is almost non-existent. We go about felling trees indiscriminately, smuggling goods in and out of the country, and evading the payment of duties as much as we can.

We call ourselves Ghanaians yet, we steal money from the State coffers with impunity and without shame. Galamseyers are on a rampage-- our beautiful vegetative cover and water bodies are being defiled beyond imagining.

We also steal electric power. We like taking shortcuts. We use substandard materials to execute government projects. There are protocol recruitment and admissions. Fraudsters are everywhere trying to defraud the unsuspecting masses. They are even granted airtime on TV to broadcast their nefarious schemes.

The moral fibre of our society has now become rotten, decadent. Students do not want to study hard to pass their exams-- they want to copy. A scheme that is code-named, "help". This has contributed to the fallen standards of education in the country.

To fix the country, we need to change our general attitudes. We need to follow law and order but not the order of the day. We need to make a paradigm shift from our current ways of doing things. We must allow the laws to work without fear or favour. Acts of indiscipline should be met with the appropriate legal resistance it deserves. However, we treat the country; the country will treat us in like manner.

May God Bless Our Homeland Ghana and make her Great and Strong.