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Opinions of Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Columnist: Ackumey, Cornelius

Parliament gives Ghanaians bitter pills for the X'mas/New Year

One of the reasons why we vote people to represent us in Parliament is for them to work in the interest of their constituents but not work against the interest of the constituents which is the case in many countries but in Ghana it is to work against the constituents.

We received the shocking news just before Christmas that the parliament of Ghana has imposed 20% tax on Akpeteshie which is a locally produced alcohol and which if I'm not mistaking employs hundreds of thousands if not millions of Ghanaians both directly and indirectly.

The imposition of 20% tax on Akpeteshie is one of the most useless, irresponsible and senseless taxes ever imposed by any parliament in any part of the world which to me is part of the Sharia laws.

"The duty imposed was a prohibitive one to discourage the consumption of Akpeteshie because of the harm it could cause to consumers. He wondered why a "convert" of the Seventh Day Adventist Church would attempt to promote alcoholism"

The above stupid statement was what Haruna Iddrisu,the MP for Tamale South who I like very much in parliament was reportedly made to support his argument to impose the tax on Akpeteshie.

My question is who told Haruna Iddrisu about the harm of Akpeteshie to consumers and does he have any statistics from any reliable organization, not the bogus Ghana Statistical Service to support his argument and why he has to be too personal talking about somebody's religion in parliament?

If you are selling something and people are not buying it definitely you will be out of business one day and if you do not eat or consume something then you can tell others also not to buy it which is what Haruna Iddrisu's means to tell Ghanaians that since he or Mr Prempeh does not drink Akpeteshie, those who drink it should pay more.

That kind of mindset is Makola mentality where unfortunately many of these lawyers are trained and it shows how selfish some of us are.

Who told Inusah Fuseini also that imposition of tax on Akpeteshie is in the interest of Ghanaians and why is it that only the MPs from Tamale where not even a drop of Akpeteshie is produced are against the production and consumption of Akpeteshie, are these MPs aware of how much it will cause the poor folks to consume Akpeteshie?

Is this how we are going to bridge the North-South development gap, since Akpeteshie is largely produced in the South and are we aware that Northerners also consume Akpeteshie which is the poor man's drink?

I don't know how old is Haruna and Inusah and how much they can remember but I will like them to know that even in the 70s when Akpeteshie was banned in the North it was still there for people to consume so their senseless bill will not deter people from drinking rather it will increase their poverty because they will have to pay more to drink.

Thank God the people of Tamale Central have realized quick that Inusah Fuseini is the wrong person to represent them and have chased him out of the NDC Women Conference.

My next question is how are they going to enforce such a law when they cannot even collect tax from hotels?

Let us not think about only those who drink Akpeteshie who may not be able to consume it but rather the poor farmers who produce it are the big losers and we should know that we are destroying businesses.

In every region in Ghana perhaps except the 3 Northern Regions Akpeteshie is a bread earner for a lot of farmers and there are a lot of people throughout the country who are engage in Akpeteshie business.

Akpeteshie which is produced from Oil Palm, Sugarcane, Plantain, Banana, Adoka, Cocoa and many other raw materials helps a lot of farmers as a second income or in some areas as the only source of income which if taken away will even affect education of their children.

How can MPs from places like Anlo, Keta, Ketu North, Ave-Avenor South Tongu and other constituencies in the Southern part of the country vote for a bill that will discourage people from buying what their constituents produce?

For example, in the deprived areas of Anlo/Keta constituencies called Shime or Torgodo as the coastal people refer to them to separate them or to look down on them where the only time they see their MPs or government officials is during electioneering campaign, the only source of income for most of these people is sugarcane farming which they use for Akpeteshie production so if a member of parliament from any of these areas will not reason but to follow the crowd to vote his stomach but not his conscience that individual does not need to represent them in parliament.

What the MPs from both Keta and Anlo need to do is to fight for the construction of at least Adzato road from Agortoe to link Atiavi and to Anyako so that people from the coastal areas of the district and other areas don't have to travel through South Tongu and Akatsi districts before making it to places like Anyako, Abor, Atiavi and other areas and also how to help these people also enjoy electricity but not to vote for a bill that will destroyed their already destroyed lives

Big shame to those NDC MPs who voted to impose hardship on their own people and thanks to NPP MPs who showed their sensitivity in casting their votes especially Mr. Osei Prempeh and Mr. Frederick Opare Ansah.

What the government of Ghana needs to do is to find other ways to generate income but not to tax the poor people who are already suffering.

How many Ghanaians can afford even beer let alone Vodka, Brandy Whisky, Gin, Hennessy and other imported alcoholic beverages, are we encouraging them to patronize these foreign drinks than the locally produced ones?

Is this also IMF or World Bank requirements that Akpeteshie be taxed 20% or it is a religious belief?

I will appeal to President Mills not to sign into law any tax on Akpeteshie but if he goes ahead to sign it then NDC should be ready to pay a price for it in the next election and I will like the NDC leadership to be aware that those days that we said Ghanaians forget the past are no more.

We all want NDC to remain in power but the people will not vote for any government that makes life difficult for them back to power even if Jesus Christ and Mohammed campaign for us.

My appeal also goes to both the NDC and NPP leadership to seriously consider sending competent people to parliament but not those who go there to be observers or go there to behave like bunch of idiots in English Football Stadiums. We need people who will go to parliament to debate issues and those who will know what they are voting for but not what their leadership is voting for. We do not need the YEA, YEA OR BOO BOO people in parliament any more, the few delegates electing these OBSERVERS IN PARLIAMENT is not helping our democracy.

If we had serious people in parliament that bill would have been defeated by the minority with some help from conscience voting MPs from the majority side but we have MPs who just follow the crowd to vote anything without analysis even if the bill says they should kill their wives.

The serious and dynamic parliament that we had in 1979 and even the first two we had under this constitution is not what we have today and we missed the likes of GK Agama, Jones Ofori Attah, Nana Akuokou Sarpong, Harry Sawyer, Joe Geker and others who did very well in parliament and succeeded in rejecting Limann's budget although they were in minority.

What we have today are just bunch of jokers who only think of what cars they drive in.

The type of system we have in Ghana today even if we ID dogs as NDC parliamentary candidates in the Volta,regions most parts of the 3 Northern regions, some parts of the Greater Accra region, those dogs will be in parliament and on the other side if we ID dogs to represent NPP in parliament in the Ashanti region, some parts of the Eastern and Western regions and some parts of the Brong Ahafo region for both parties those dogs will definitely make it to parliament. The only problem the dogs will have is to buy their way through the primary and they are in the next parliament which is helping some of these MPs not to work in the interest of their constituents knowing very well that their constituents will vote against their own interests by voting for them to go to parliament.

I just returned from Ghana few weeks ago and have talked to a lot of people and have seen a lot, the people are suffering, let us not increase the problem for them and let us not sit in SUVs to be deceiving ourselves that they are happy with us or be grading ourselves with high marks which is the opposite of what the electorate are giving us.

Finally, I will like to appeal to those government officials and some of the MPs who want to combine religion and state to know that these are separate institutions and if they really want to rule then they should separate them or resign to take up preaching jobs on the streets of Accra .

Cornelius Ackumey.

Colorado.