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Opinions of Sunday, 4 March 2012

Columnist: Bawa, Abdul Razak

More Grass For The Fat Cows

I was shocked beyond words last week when Members of Parliament (MP), issued a threat to boycott the President’s State of the Nation Address, if nothing is done about their salaries which they say is pegged at GH¢3,000.

In any agitations for increment in salaries and conditions of service of every worker, I have asked myself, several times that how much is enough for anybody?

When the government decided to implement the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS), in 2010 which was to all intent and purposes, to ensure fairness, and eliminate the disparities in the salary structure of workers in this country, there were a lot of agitations among various workers groups, who believe they have not been treated fairly.

I have always maintained that if the money is there, to be paid everybody how much they asked for without any negotiations downward, the government through the Fair Wages Commission, would gladly accept any figure and grant their wishes.

But the government is occupied with providing the basic needs of the people who put them into office, wages and salaries is the microcosm of what is expected of every responsible government.

The problems of education, health delivery, infrastructural development take the chunk of the money, for which to a larger extent we are lacking behind and need to speed it up.

The responsibilities are endless, so when workers think they are the only people who need to be taken care of must also take cognizance of the fact that even the road they travel on to and from work needs construction or rehabilitation.

The hospitals their relatives attend whiles they are sick need to be constructed to meet modern standards , equally, is the schools their wards attend also need to be constructed to ensure that, this country does not only produce graduates but quality graduates. Need I go on?

At the beginning of every fiscal year, the government through the Minister of Finance delivers the budget statement to the House of Parliament, outlining the income and expenditure for a fisical year. Parliament debates it, understanding fully well the amount of money available to the government.

If not for mischief and double standards, how can they ask for more than the country can afford? In my young life, at least I have only lived in the Fourth Republic, I don’t recall anytime MP’s have threatened to boycott, the State of The Nations Address.

In my understanding of governance, I reckon that our elected officials must only be demanding for better conditions of service only if the electorate is well taken care of. But not, in this part of the world; that is not the case in our part of the world, where the already well-fed cows are still asking for more.

A tour at the august House, and one is amazed at the type and model of cars parked there.

It looks like a showroom for a car dealer, but no that is our House of Parliament and the cars parked there are the motley of cars for our elected MP’s.

Nobody and certainly not me is suggesting for a moment that our MP’s don’t deserve better treatment more than they are getting now. Anybody who puts his life in the service of his country deserves more. But the question, really is, can the country afford what they are asking for?

Some of the reasons given by the MP’s were simply not tenable; the fact that they have spent a lot of money in their primaries and for that matter they are broke, defy every logic and common sense.

I didn’t know they went splashing money at their primaries because they know they can hold the President to ransom. If anybody had dared to suggest that they were seen distributing monies and other goodies, they would have quickly denied it, but alas, they have to be broke to admit that.

I don’t share in their grief and tears because they would go promising heavens knowing fully well that is not possible. A friend once told me a joke, where an aspiring MP went to a village, and promised them at a rally that when elected he will build a bridge for them. A friend quickly whispered into his ears that, they don’t have any river in that town. All he could say was, “we will bring a river here and construct the bridge for you”.

The behaviour of some members of the August House leaves much to be desired. Recently, there was an allegation from a member of the House who accused his fellow colleagues of sleeping with young girls. He was chastised and had to apologise for speaking the truth.

Is it safe to say that the increment being demanded by Members of Parliament is to enable them to continue their sexual escapades?

If they can not sanction a dishonorable member like Kennedy Agyapong, who has consistently dragged the name of the house into the mud, by unguarded utterances, and having two issues with NPP Parliamentary aspirant, Adwoa Safoa without regularizing the relationship, then they should stop asking for more money.

Remember it is the tax payer’s money that is going to be used to pay them, how well have they represented their constituencies, have they articulated well enough the concerns of their constituencies?

Over the years they have become rubber stamp, doing the bidding of the executive, instead of standing up to defend the interest of their constituents.

Has it occurred to them (MP’s) that after every term of four years in the life of Parliament, they are paid End of Service Benefits. So those of them who have being there for two four terms or more are already smiling to the bank.

The interest of this country must be placed above any individual’s parochial interest. We expect more from our MP’s; they are supposed to represent the will and conscience of our people.

I am only ashamed at members from the Majority side who have always allowed themselves to be bullied into submission by the Minority members. Their loyalty to the President is waning. It is sad and I for one thought that they should have been given another opportunity to contest again, because when the party was in opposition most of the people today who have won primaries to contest on the ticket of the party shied away because the party was not attractive. But we are in a democratic era where choice is the fulcrum of all it entails.

So they should eat their humble pie and hope to fight again next time, Instead of trying to punish the President by stabbing him in the back.

After all like President Kufuor said, it is better to be a messenger in a ruling government than a general secretary in opposition.

I doubt if this would happen in the era of John Agyekum Kufuor.

By Abdul Razak Bawa (razakbawa@gmail.com)