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Opinions of Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Columnist: Hassan

Free SHS and the heritage fund vocabulary of my computer.

For some time now on the tongues of those who are citizens and civil society organizations is the term “heritage fund”. Heritage fund has become famous because of the fulfillment of a key campaign promise. It may be recalled that the current administration had plans of giving the Ghanaian student a free senior high education as kept in their manifesto. They promised a lot but the free senior high among a potpourri of free things was outstanding. I vividly remember how His Excellency compared Lesotho to Ghana.

He asserted that if Lesotho, a country which Ghana can beat 7-0 in a football match could successfully implement free senior high school education, how much more Ghana? I am not a policy analyst or an executive director of a Think-tank but His excellency as at then failed to recognize the fact that, emerging victorious over an opponent with a scoreline like one from a basketball match in a football game has no relationship with the implementation of a policy like free Senior high without placing premium on the nitty-gritty of such a policy. Besides, football is a different ball game together vis-à-vis governance.

Sorry to make you read this again, folks. The heritage fund was set up to benefit future generations after the discovery of oil. Because crude oil is a nonrenewable natural resource, the reserves is not here to stay eternally. It will deplete! Those who engineered this thought must be commended for having brought a good idea with their thinking caps. The heritage fund is a part of the petroleum revenue management act, 2011(Act 815). A meager 8% of the total revenues from crude oil is meant to rest on the bosom of this fund.

There is also a part of the Act that is meant to support the budget in times of crude oil price fall after the projected revenues from this commodity has been benchmarked.

Ever since 2008, the president has been promising this freebie pointing to our oil resource as a means of funding. Perhaps, he didn’t want his presidential ambition to die naturally because he was not specific on the Heritage fund as the resource. He never became specific! Otherwise, Citizens would have been up in arms and Civil Societies would have thrown the idea into a dustbin far away at Zoomlion's refuse dump.

To create your indulgence, our ministers are on it. One Senior minister said they would not bequeath the generation that was absent when Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantities with the heritage fund but they will rather use it in capacitating the current generation to tell the story tomorrow and One Finance minister also said they would not deny the future generation their entitlement.

He said the heritage fund will not be touched because they have an alternative source of funding this key campaign promise, however, he disappointed my curiosity when he failed to name the alternative. Ghanaians, where are you? Let me see your hands! You know why? Because we are blessed.

Not only a fact that we have gold neither because we do have timber nor crude oil but we are also blessed with lazy politicians. Politicians who don’t want to learn using previous scenarios as guide. In fact, we are really blessed with hidebound politicians! The erstwhile Mahama’s Administration was plagued with inconsistent and contradicted disseminated pieces of information at some point, ditto this embryonic Administration. Please, who is telling the truth and who is misinforming?

The man with the national pairs or the senior minister with no clearly "defined responsibilities"? Maybe, my elders were dead-on for saying that, you can foretell whether a testicle will develop into a hernia by looking at the prelims of the testicle. I am not a conspiracy theorist but it seems the testicle of this current administration will develop into a hernia if care is not taken or if a Urologist is not consulted!

Free education is good but that doesn’t mean that we should betrayed the taxpayer in implementing it. You may see absolute no sense in locking monies up somewhere for the future generation whilst the current generation weep and wail for help like I do here but it is equally important to always remind yourselves of the social contract you entered into with the ordinary Ghanaian at Kpatinga. We were never told that you were going to use the heritage fund.

I hate human ostriches! Mr. Aseidu Nketia, sometime back in 2014 said that “in this current situation we find ourselves in, it doesn’t make sense to be keeping any money called Heritage Fund.”, Source-citifmonline.com. He was purported to have averred that the heritage fund should be used in financing our current infrastructure deficit. Aftermath of that, weren’t the minority on rooftops with their rancorous Vuvuzelas? I hate the politician who cannot behave according to a certain guiding principle! Majority Honorable members, what was wrong in 2014 is still wrong in 2017 though change has come but wrong does not change to right with respect to time.

Why even make education free when feeding grants are in arrears in the books of certain second cycle institutions up North? Why not implement on pilot basis for feasibility studies? I know it will be rolled out in full scale because a politician like Akuffo Addo’s ilk is aware of the political cost in terms of electoral fortunes in case he appear on the ballot paper for a second term in the future but I doubt its sustainability. Let me give you facts because I am not the breed of Kennedy Agyepong who speaks without evidence.

I conducted a little internet research with my smart item. Between 2010 and 30th June, 2016, the heritage fund made for itself $3.3billion whilst the cost of education last year stood at GHS7.5billion. I chanced on a certain publication that was attributed to IMANI Ghana. I can’t quote it verbatim but it states that the Akuffo Addo’s Government needs about $600million dollars per annum for the implementation of free SHS.

Don’t let this figures strike you as I am not a writer writing to challenge IMANI but just a struggling BSc. Computing-With-Accounting student who had access to Airtel’s 2G internet to conduct his own facts fishing and eventually, siding with the aforementioned Think-Tank.

Hon. Senior Minister, I am not an aficionado of mathematics or someone with analytical mind but you can do the computations and convince yourself. It is clear that funding this pro-poor policy with even the heritage fund is not sustainable but you are the Senior and I believed whatever you will say at cabinet will be swallowed hook, line and sinker. You may Go ahead and deny them their Inheritance.

Writer’s Email: alhassanandani98@gmail.com