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Opinions of Friday, 24 July 2009

Columnist: Baafi, Alex Bossman

Obama’s visit – Fuel shortage and others have taken the shine

By Alex Bossman Baafi

The US president Barrack Obama and family left the Kotoka international airport last Saturday night for his home country after paying a historic visit to our dear country. Many African countries were envious of President Obama’s choice of Ghana and wished their countries were chosen among the lot of African destinations. Kudos to the organizers of this welcome visit though many well meaning Ghanaians thought the occasion should have been superfluous if time would have permitted the US president to grace the assembly of the chiefs, elders and people that gathered at Cape Coast in his honor as part of his welcome to our country. The socio-economic and political significance of his calculated visit cannot be quantified and as to whether we will harness it to the max for the benefit of this country depends on nobody but us as the beneficiary country. It behooves therefore on our political and economic leaders to make huge gains from this visit which I see as a windfall and one of the best things ever that had happened to this country.

Many people will agree with me that President Obama was bold to tell us in the face that we have to take our destiny into our own hands. Yes he made the point that world is how you make it and wished to see the day that Ghana will export food. Yes, he made the point that Ghana has made strides in upholding the tenets of democracy and highlighted opportunities, health and conflict resolution to be strengthened and improve upon as part of democratic dispensation. He shared the point that democracy without good governance will be meaningless and did not mince words on his view of corruption as one of the key issues that makes progress notoriously difficult.

Yes he made the point that he and President J.E.A Mills share some things in common in the areas of interest in sports, elected in the same year into office having won the elections on the campaign of change and both having enjoy the occasion to work as law professors. I know that for change, our president meant a change for a better Ghana whilst US president referred to a transformational change. Both mean change for progress to improve the lots of the people of these countries. It is here that the difference is clear that whilst President Obama has taken bold steps to tackle the challenges facing his country in the United States, President Mills has failed woefully to execute his duty as the president of this country. Calling a spade a spade by honoring a promise as a president is part of good governance. After being sworn into office the president has said one thing and meant the other. The very first day that many well meaning Ghanaians became disappointed in his administration so far was when he increased prices of petroleum products drastically instead of drastically reducing it as promised without explanation and apology to our people.

Having professed to be peace maker and father for all, he continually stands aloof anytime a section of people hide under his ruling party to visit mayhem on others on the other side of the political divide. Others have had their cars, toilets, and jobs taken forcefully from them just because his administration is meant for a particular group of people. As a peace-loving president, he has never come out to make any pronouncement of rebuke or condemnation against these unacceptable behaviors of certain lawless people from his party.

Yes as part of his oath into the highest office of the land, he said he would protect and defend the constitution of this country but, his actions and deeds are the opposite. The controversial ex-Gratia of his predecessor was never reviewed as promised even though it goes against the spirit of the constitution. Cars taken away from the predecessor’s home were never replaced. The constitution mandated office for the ex-president was never made provision for. By his actions and inactions the president is not fostering unity in this country in my humble opinion. How does he want to be treated at the end of his tenure in office? Human rights are being abused here and there with his full endorsement of the modus operandi of the BNI stopping people from traveling outside this country without showing any official identity and also detaining citizens of this country beyond reasonable hours with mere phone call invitations attests to his disrespect to our constitution. Unlike his vice who scorns mere invitation without warrant, his Excellency has come on air to endorse this unacceptable practice. When are we going to exude maturity and pride ourselves as a people living in a civilized world in this 21st century? Yes life is how you make it as the world is how you make it. Thanks to president Barrack Obama for his vision and advice.

The president has made us to believe that he is without blemish and hates corruption to the highest apogee. He is reported to have gone the extra mile to say that he would not even take per diem whilst killing himself for this country. Yes that was marvelous, yet under his watch corruption is growing wings. This was evident in the way, kyinkyinga, pampers and tractor grabbing professionals are actively part of his administration. There is a clear case of conflict of interest and abuse of office involving his trusted men around him which had been swept under the carpet. What kind of change did he promise us; a better Ghana or a bitter Ghana? The government has shirked its responsibility of taking bold steps to tackle the problems of joblessness, poverty and underdevelopment and has instead resorted to blame games. Anything that is not working came about because of the action and inaction of the immediate past administration. Whilst President Obama stands for transformational change, our President stands for retrogression change, a change for the worse. Let us face it, kindly pinpoint where this government has added value to the business of this country. Form health, education, security, infrastructure and the economy? Where do we see any value added or policy initiative put in place with the aim of adding growth unless you belong to the school of the Grasshopper which believes that every time is too early in life. Having taken the country back to the IMF for them to slap us with a freeze in public sector employment how is this so called social - democrat government going to create jobs is everyone’s guess. How is the withdrawal of subsidies from utilities going to benefit the poor and the vulnerable in the society?

Were we not promised a society where one can sleep without even closing the doors? A better Ghana where we can walk the streets 24hours without any fear of armed robbery or even robbers? What has changed? Our country has now become something else with every citizen having a 25% chance of being attacked by armed robbers on any given night.

Our economy today cannot be described as vibrant as it used to be last year as it is budgeted to grow 5.9% from 7.3%. Is this moving backward in the right direction or what? Inflation is hovering around 20.74% from 18.13% when the social democrats took office seven months ago. Depreciation of our national currency vis-à-vis the country’s trading partners is deteriorating very fast with nobody to apply brakes on it. The government is competing with the private sector to borrow from the money market. Treasury bill rate has gone up. For example, Govt of Ghana 91-day T-Bill is 25.85%, Govt of Ghana 182-day T-Bill is 28.85%, Govt of Ghana 1-yr Note is 21%, Bank of Ghana Prime Rate is 18.5% whilst June 2009 inflation is 20.74% (credit – Ghana Association of Bankers) this means T-Bills are more attractive and profitable to investors because of high interest and it is disturbing because it has crowded out private sector from getting the needed funds from the banks and financial institutions for investment to creating jobs, so where is the cardinal principle of social democratic governance promised by the ruling NDC? In the midst of all these, the president found it urgently necessary to approve GH¢50,000 each to members of parliament to purchase luxury cars for themselves forgetting about the fact that such a facility can be used to expand the social intervention programs such as NHIS, NYEP, and investing in the public transport for the benefit of the public masses that wallow in abject poverty and deprivation. I believe such a measure will make economic sense from social democratic view point since resources are scarce and we must make choices by prioritizing.

Every economy runs well on the wings of fuel availability and reliability. Have you taken the trouble to calculate the losses in terms of the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) as a result of the fuel shortage that plagued our cities quite recently? Why has it taken the current administration ages to secure adequate fuel supply for this country? This government should learn how to create more than to destroy. If it lacks the drive to find new ways of doing things then efforts should be made to consolidate or maintain what they inherited from the previous administration. This is because this attitude of one step forward three steps backward is retrogressive and unacceptable but they do not get it.

In my honest view, these and other challenges we are facing today have really taken the shire from President Obama’s visit. We must remember to take our destiny into our own hands because the world is how you make it. Finally I want to remind this current administration that 4years is not 400years, for, so far we have seen a bitter Ghana and not a better Ghana. Yes not yet. Email:abkbossman@yahoo.co.uk