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Opinions of Saturday, 12 June 2010

Columnist: Baafi, Alex Bossman

NDC Government Has Disappointed Ghanaians ...

With The Recent Increase In Utility Tariffs

BY Alex Bossman Baafi

In my view, NDC won the 2008 general elections based on a number of factors. They were the Rawlings’ factor, Mills’ factor, the campaign messages, wild propaganda against the opposition, sympathy votes and ambitious cum unrealistic promises among others.

Ex president, Rawlings is regarded by many NDC supporters as someone who has toiled and sweated in founding the NDC as a formidable political party that is now determining the destiny of the good people of this country. Many people in certain parts of the country identify with him as a charismatic leader who has the personality and character to lead and influence the political landscape of this country; hence, they cast volumes of vote for the party. Other NDC faithful may disagree with me but I personally feel that without him, NDC would have found it notoriously difficult to secure enough votes to give them the mandate to rule this country.

The president, Professor Atta Mills is one of the renowned professors in this country, known by many people especially during his lecturing days at the University of Ghana. In deed, many students had the opportunity to pass through his tutelage and could attest to the fact that he was among the best lecturers in what used to be the School of Administration, which is now called the University of Ghana Business School in the subject of Company Law. Much of his popularity stems from his campus life as a lecturer of repute. As a professor, he carefully selected the words of his campaign message that in my opinion sold and settled well with the people especially the floating votes including students who heard about his academic contribution.

Let us carefully consider the package of some of his campaign messages; “I care for you”, “Me de me pe asomdwee”, literally means “I am a man of peace”, “I will be father for all” and vote for me for “a better Ghana” to mention a few. In fact, these words were very powerful to sweep even the doubting Thomas off their feet to give the then candidate of NDC a try. In addition to those cozy words that were carefully calculated, he also enjoyed some sympathy votes because 2008 elections was his third appearance and therefore many simply simpthised with him by casting their votes for him.
We must not discount the effect of the wild propaganda that was spinned by NDC during the campaign period. Every move of the NPP administration was severely criticized and demonized. Corruption was on top of the spinning agenda where every member of ex president Kuffour’s administration was perceived as being corrupt. The then ruling party was tagged as “cocaine”, “money laundering” and many more derogatory remarks were used to bring down the ruling party. As if those were not enough, even when it was announced that this country had discovered oil in commercial quantities, NDC quickly rubbished it and described the oil sample as “Kube anhwa” meaning coconut oil irrespective of the relentless efforts put in place by the NPP administration that led to the discovery of the Black Gold.
The last straw that tilted the table in favour of NDC to win narrowly were the over ambitious and unrealistic promises that were made to the electorate. At the time world market price of crude oil reached its climax in the annals of the world history at $147, average price of fuel were pegged at GHc5 for the 4.5 liters but was described as very harsh and insensitive by the NDC then in opposition. Even though fuel prices were reduced by 17% at the heat of the campaign, professor Mills went ahead to promise the people of this country that he would reduce fuel prices drastically when he won the elections. Other promises were armed robbery being outdated, putting money in people’s pocket, filth-free country, abating pair trawling fishing and one-time premium payment for National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) to mention but a few.

On coming to office as government of this great nation of ours’ NDC government has failed woefully to tackle any of the problems let alone solving it. The government has not fulfilled any of the enticing promises made to the people. Mills-Mahamma led government has also not communicated its policy direction for this country. The president himself has failed to articulate his vision and assembling competent team to achieve his vision. The competence of many of his appointees had been questioned by the founder and party foot soldiers. Several appointees of the president had to be booted out of office by these “powerful” foot soldiers. The state of lawlessness in this country is appalling with the armed forces brutalizing their police counterparts. The conflict situation in the northern part of the country degenerated into some citizens becoming refugees in Togo. There are numerous failures one can pinpoint with the current administration but let me focus on one area of big disappointment on the part of the good people of this country including many NDC supporters.

Perhaps the only achievement of NDC government is reducing inflation from 18.1% at the end of 2008 to 13.66% in April 2009. The prime rate is now 15% and one would have thought that the government would push for economic growth by influencing the commercial banks to bring down the cost of doing business considerably to boost investment to create jobs to improve upon the living standard of the people. Instead, this government has resulted to the use of excessive taxation to milk and impoverish the ordinary people in this country.
For example, NDC has increased prices of fuel drastically by 40% though the world market price of oil is graciously hovering around $73 - $85. Tariffs on food imports including rice, edible oil, and fish and poultry products were astronomically increased citing boosting domestic production as the prime reason. This took effect early this year. Roads and Bridge Tolls were increased drastically in February by an average of 1,500%. Already, fruit and alcoholic beverages including the local gin “akpeteshie” had suffered a 20% hike in tax. The cost of acquiring and renewing driving licenses had sky rocketed. National Insurance Commission came out with 200% increase in premium but public outcry led to its withdrawal.

Just the beginning of this month, this NDC government has slapped us again, in another shocking disappointment with high electricity and water price increases to the tune of 89% and 36% respectively in the face of massive complaints about inefficient and unreliable services rendered by these utility providers. This government lack creative ideas as to how to generate revenue through wealth creation. The seizure of toilets, cars, toll boots, lorry parks and forceful confiscation of luxury vehicles genuinely imported through our ports could not generate enough for the country’s needs after all. What happened to the personal income taxes generated out of the 1.6 million jobs created by the government?

These knee-jerking increases without any consultations whatsoever have come about because of lack of creative ways of generating revenue. Karl Wilson was empowered by certain greedy bastards at the castle to scare away all potential and prospective importers both home and the neigbouring countries that loved to use our ports. Where is the revenue going to come from? NDC government failed to pay our hard working cocoa farmers realistic prices culminating in massive smuggling of the produce to neigbouring countries. NDC foot soldiers seized Toll boots, printed their own tickets and pocket the toll proceeds with impunity, would this increase revenue to the government?
In the face of breeding the masses to the last atom of their strength, NDC government is not paying any living wage to the public sector workers. These unacceptable increases will hit hard on our industries to suffer losses. The state of joblessness in this country is going to be worsened. Inflation that has been under control will begin to shore up, affecting interest rates and hence the exchange rates. The small and medium enterprises, SMEs, will be the major casualties of these huge increases in utility tariffs because they are unavoidable operational costs. Investments and the creation of jobs and wealth will dwindle leading to a reduction in economic growth and hence low revenue to the government.

To turn around the economy and avoid over reliance of taxation, NDC government must first curb the widespread corruption, mismanagement and misappropriation of tax funds, prioritizing the efficient and effective use of government revenues. In my humble opinion, funds expended in support of hajj and June 4 celebrations were all misplaced priorities. The government should continue to invest more in the agricultural sector to boost food production to bring down the cost of food in the country.
As we are getting into the fishing season, with hindsight, we should make inputs including premix fuel available to ensure that we do not miss the bumper harvest this year. That will go a long way to cushion our people from the likely inflationary spiral because of not following our Social Democratic Principle by putting the masses first in everything we do as a government.
The government should make it a priority to put in place the support systems that encourages the establishment and growth of SMEs in the country. Holding policy dialogue with the banking industry in particular and the financial institutions in general to reduce interest rate in line with the fall in the prime rate will be a step in the right direction. We need to improve our infrastructure, pay living wages to workers and strive to create the enabling environment for economic growth. These and other policy tax initiatives that are skewed to protect the poor must be initiated and implemented to ensure tax administration justice.
Many well-meaning people are disappointed because apart from the broken promises, the Social Democratic Principle that never was, the Better Ghana Agenda is also fast becoming a mirage. We are disappointed because so far the president and his government have not live up to expectation.

Email: abkbossman@yahoo.co.uk