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Opinions of Friday, 15 May 2015

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Mahama Begins To Govern

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
May 10, 2015

The decision by President John Dramani Mahama to seek the abolition of the unrealistically high salary disparity between politicians and government appointees, as a means of reining in a burdensome public service expenditure, is a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, I am not sanguine enough as yet to readily and heartily congratulate the President, for I strongly suspect this move to be one of the characteristic conditionalities of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is in the process of helping the notoriously profligate Mahama government out of the Stygian economic morass into which it has callously plunged the country (See "Emoluments for Article 71 Office Holders Will Be Abolished" / 5/11/15).

I suppose by "emolument" is meant the neocolonialist economic arrangement which has enabled highly placed Ghanaian public servants, so-called, to enjoy unearned incomes directly filched from the public till, almost as if they were European expatriates in the colonial era. It is this sort of reprobate and unconscionable arrangement that has enabled cabinet and other ministerial appointees to rent out their private homes for profit, even while occupying free public housing facilities at the expense of the average Ghanaian worker, while also being generously paid housing allowances for the public real-estate properties which the already occupy gratis.

Much has been debated and written and published about this criminally wasteful spending of the people's money and property, and so there is no need to belabor the issue at this time. What is important to demand to know is how soon this fat-trimming of the public dole will come into effect. For merely publicly declaring his intention to abolishing Article 71 and its attendant wastefulness does not mean much, unless it is promptly followed up with pragmatic and palpable policy measures. We must also hasten to underscore the fact that much of the wasteful spending of taxpayer money has not come from Article 71 office holders alone. Rather, the bulk of such gross misappropriation of public funds has come from the ability of the key operatives of political parties in power to dip unaccountably into the public till to fund electioneering campaign horse races.

At least as leading economic maven Dr. Mahammudu Bawumia has adumbrated time and again, a high percentage of the current economic mess in which Ghanaians find themselves is the direct result of President Mahama and his minions playing politics with the taxpayer's money in the lead-up to Election 2012. The problem has been further complicated by the fact of the executive branch of government's amateursh decision to staff most cabinet and deputy cabinet portfolios with graduate students, rather than mature and professionally well-qualified personnel. What this means is that too many people have been hired by Mr. Mahama for jobs whose demands these hires or government emplyees are incapable of meeting. This also unmistakably translates into wasteful spending; and Mr. Mahama ought to be prepared to trim the blubber in this direction as well.

The preceding notwithstanding, the real issue at stake here is the government's ability to solving the raging energy crisis - for the name of the game in town is "productivity." In other words, so long as industrial and civil-service productivity continues to precipitously decline, as a result of erratic energy supply, no amount of blubber trimming, salary-wise, is likely to register the anticipated and/or desired impact. This is not rocket science; it is common sense.