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Opinions of Friday, 8 November 2013

Columnist: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku

Only "Drunkards" Think we are in a "Better Ghana" Era

The ugly noise about the "Better Ghana" agenda took centre stage in the 2008 campaign of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Some of the key highlights were one-time premium, free school uniforms, STX Korea affordable houses, and drastic reduction of fuel prices. In 2012 when the Better Ghana metamorphosed into "Advancing the Better Ghana" agenda, we were once again deceived that, in addition to the afore-mentioned, Eastern and Western Corridor roads, 10 new Colleges of Education, 200 new senior high schools, and public university in the Eastern Region were going to constructed. Besides, quality basic education and the expansion of all the existing pro-poor policies/programmes - NYEP, capitation grant, free maternal care etc were going to be a bonus to the poor.

However, it's almost five years down the line and as a patriotic citizen, I have been painstakingly searching for the "Advanced Better" Agenda without any success. Seriously, my eyes cannot see it; my ears cannot hear it; my mouth cannot talk about it; and neither could my nose smell it nor my hands feel and touch it. The "Better Ghana" agenda has been a sham characterised by mediocrity, graduate unemployment, massive corruption, and harsh economic conditions:

Who would have thought that Ghana, once a beacon of hope of Africa, and a regular participant of G-8 meetings would ever win a bronze medal in the comity of corrupt nations? But, thanks to John Mahama, this difficult "feat" has been chalked within a year into his maladministration. For his failure to declare his assets to enable his appointees follow suit, John Mahama has proven beyond all reasonable doubts that he is the most corrupt leader in Ghana's history. Under his tenure as president of the Republic, corruption has permeated in every facet of the economy. The GYEEDA report, GRA/SUBAH criminality, the refusal of Alfred Woyome to refund the GHC51.2m judgement debt, and the open display of corruption during the 2012 electioneering campaign are practical evidence of the enormity of the situation.

Ghana, the second largest producer of cocoa in the world, the second largest producer of gold in Africa, a country with the largest artificial lake in the world, and more importantly an oil-producing country is under serious economic retrogression. Our educational system has collapsed and nobody seems to take note. As I write today, many of our schools are without teachers, yet there is a ban on teacher recruitment. Teacher Trainee allowance meant to motivate people to enter the teaching profession is no more. Over 180,000 pupils failed in the 2012/13 Basic Education Certificate Examinations and nobody sees anything wrong with that. First year SHS students are paying GHC1,500 as admission fees, making education a privilege, and not a right anymore. In the health sector, patients are being asked to buy all kinds of drugs, although they possess national health insurance cards. The killer cash and carry system seems to have secretly found its way into the healthcare delivery.

At the roads and transport sector, several communities have been cut off from the urban centres due to the bad nature of the roads. Even in the central business districts of Kumasi, Tamale and other cities, "manholes", have replaced potholes and first class roads. If we were to talk about filth, we would probably need decades to discuss it, yet people are employed at the District Assemblies and the Roads and Transport Ministry. Why do we pay such people at all? At the ports, the bureaucratic nature of port authorities has compounded the social canker of corruption. One needs to double the fee to quicken the pace of vehicle clearance. Import duties are so high that most of these imported vehicles have been confiscated by the state and given to party cronies.

The story at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority is not the best. If anyone wants to find how corruption is endemic in our society, the person should make his way to the DVLA office in Kumasi. A registration fee for a home-used Toyota Corolla for commercial purposes, for instance, is less than GHC160. However, until you pay GHC350, through the agents of the DVLA boss, you should forget about the registration of your car. Vehicles not worthy have choked our roads causing vehicular traffic, because roadworthy certificates have been given to car owners undeservedly.

Whilst the Trades Union Congress continue to agitate for better wages and conditions of service for the Ghanaian worker, the president, ministers of state , and Parliamentarians decide for themselves how much they should be paid every month. For example, John Mahama, receives GHC12,000 (120m old cedis per month). This excludes other allowances, utility, and accommodation. His ministers and deputies also get around GHC7,200 per month. They all have free cars and accommodation, yet they complain about lack of funds in the national coffers and ask other government employees to make sacrifices. The National Debt has shot from GHC9.5bn in 2009 to GHC43.9bn in 2013 without any significant investment in the economy to modernise it. Payment of judgement debts seem to be a cleaver way of siphoning the taxpayers' money into private pockets.

Our trunk roads are manned by armed robbers instead of security personnel, attacking innocent Ghanaians and raping our women. If an individual NDC member, Yaw Boateng Gyan could set up Special Forces in the Ghana Armed Forces to harass political opponents, why can't he act to save Ghanaians from armed robbery? The Police would condone and connive with armed robbers in their criminal operations. A police officer would prefer GHC1 to conducting a thorough check on drivers and vehicles.The oil find is more than a "curse" to the ordinary Ghanaian, for fuel prices just go up anytime time the government feels to do so. Lorry fares cannot be paid leaving food crops to rot in the farming areas. Loans cannot be easily accessed from the banks by petty traders because of the high rates of interest. Are we in an era of low inflationary rate, Mr. President?

In the major cities, especially at the Kumasi Kejetia Terminal, hawkers have taken over our streets. Some even use the terminal as their places of abode. Most of the market centres have now been turned into stores by the rich leaving fewer spaces for car parking and pedestrian movement. Congestion is now the order of the day. The government's payroll is full of "ghosts" all because employees in the Controller and Accountant-General's Department, school accountants, and heads of institutions have connived to put ghost names on the payroll. Heads of public and private institutions, for instance, demand bribes or sex before students are admitted into schools.

Paramount chiefs and queen mothers are so corrupt that some of them sell lands to two or three people at the same time. Cocoa purchasing clerks are adjusting their scales and exploiting poor cocoa farmers. Commercial and rural banks are declaring huge financial profits on yearly basis, yet their customers are poor. Others acting as Micro Financing Companies are bolting away with customers' deposits. Judges are have replaced justice with bribes and pastors are giving false prophesies and exploiting their followers. MPs' Common funds are being diverted for personal gains. Appointment to key posts by the president is by favour and tribalism, but definitely not on merit. This defeats the essence of having higher and professional qualifications, and experience. Mediocrity has been accepted as the norm by almost every Ghanaian. We allow people to get away literally with murder just because we want peace. Those, who will be courageous enough to speak against the evils in the society are branded with all names, dismissed or beaten to death. Some may have their business collapsed for speaking the truth.

And with all these evils, some Ghanaians with common sense have the belief that we are in a Better Ghana era? How and why? May be they are drunk. What wrong have Ghanaians committed to deserve this kind of maltreatment by own own people? The time is up for Ghanaians to wake up from their slumber. Our patience has been stretched to its utmost limit, and thus cannot allow these greedy politicians to take us for granted. It's time to rebel against societal evils spearheaded by John Mahama and his "crooked monsters".

God bless Ghana! God bless Kufuor!!!

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri (Free SHS Ambassador) Official blog: (www.katakyie.com) katakyienpp@yahoo.co.uk 0202471070 : 0264931361 : 0547851100