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Opinions of Thursday, 7 January 2010

Columnist: Adomako, Appiah Kusi

One Year In Office: Free Lunch Galore Of President

Appiah Kusi Adomako, Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation, Kumasi

It is almost one year since President John Evans Atta Mills was sworn in as the president of the Republic of Ghana. Time has moved so swiftly that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government led by His Excellency John Evans Fiifi Attah Mills would be celebrating its first anniversary in office. Whilst keeping our eyes on the four-year clock after having flip a year over, it is important that we assess the performance of the government in the light of its manifesto and what it inherited from the previous government.

There can be no gainsaying that President Mills’ government came into office at a time when the world economic order was seriously challenged. The credit crunch and its attendant recession had taken a toll on almost every nation especially, developed nations. The economy of Ghana which is highly susceptible to external shocks followed a declivity. At the beginning of the year under review, interest rates were insufferable the Ghana cedi had plummeted against major trading currencies and all fiscal and monetary indicators were on its knees. The net effect was an inevitable high cost of living, admitted or denied. All of these happened probably, because the country has no strong shock absorbers to weather the international shocks such that a slight tremor in London or Washington was registered on our economic seismograph. The year of 2009 under the auspices of the NDC government had been described with mixed vocabularies-mountains high and valleys low. Like any other year, it had had its high and low points, strength and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages, good sides and bad sides, and all ambi-descriptions. One may not be wrong to agree with the many who may describe the year as a difficult one in spite of its lofty sides. As expected, the expectations of people are heightened once again for the year 2010, given the president’s convincing New Year message. Another, manifesto for 2010 lunched, whether it will be delivered or not is another subject for academic thesis.

Ghana has for some time now been a mulatto both black socialist and white capitalist economic systems. There is nothing inherently wrong with each system- whether Washington style of capitalism or Havana doctrine of socialism, what matters is how the system would better the lots of the people. In spite of which ever system we practice, over dependence on donor support, primary exports, and reliance on foreign goods and services which “dollarize” our economy, would perpetually keep the country in the musical chairs of underdevelopment. We as nation can make progress if we circumcised our taste for some foreign products; the cedi would forever be under the influence the dollar’s “gravitational field”.

I think the government of President Evans Attah Mills has education in country at heart. To this end, he wants to provide free school uniform to some deprived school-going children in the country, increased the capitation grant, free exercise books and a promise of establishing more basic schools. This, the government believes that free compulsory universal basic education would be more free than it pertains today. No one can deny that basic education in the country is arrogantly challenged. If one happens to live in Accra or Kumasi, one seems to be divorced from the harsh realities in the rural areas. Teachers are not accepting postings to deprived areas for obvious reasons. In as much as some people may laud the government’s initiative one cannot gloss over the fact that in developed countries where budget surplus is the order of the day the government does not provide free uniform for pupils. In this present crisis, one may argue that the child in the deprived area may would prefer a teacher to teach him than been given a free school uniform. Though, the exercise books to pupils is may be a good beginning, tables and chair for the pupils and teachers to teach them is equally important and interdependent.

Again, President Mill’s administration has another free health cheese to offer Ghanaians, the “one time premium health insurance payment scheme”.

This policy is not only anaemic to government’s fiscal purse but also has a tendency of raising a generation of people who would have to rely on the government for everything including asking future government to pay their dowry price.

I may be tempted believe that this policy is not a good one. Governments should rather help the NHIS to grow than to stifle it by making the payment of premium onetime event. If care is not taken the NHIS would collapse on the altar of political expediency and should the NHIS collapse, it would mean that the health of the nation has collapse.

What government should do is to provide the enabling environment so that its people can work and provide their own needs and wants and those who fall below the social net, these are the people that needs to be towed away from the highway of life and not those who have money and can pay for needs and even their tertiary wants.

In as much as people would like to have everything free, the reality is that nothing is free under the sun and free things cost dearly.