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Opinions of Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Columnist: K. Badu

Push not NPP: It could well be disastrous to vote NDC

NPP and NDC flags NPP and NDC flags

I have always insisted that discerning Ghanaians made a catastrophic mistake by voting the NPP government out in 2008 general elections, as Ghana, as a matter of fact and observation, was heading towards the right direction following the eight years of pragmatic governance by Ex-President Kufuor and his equally dynamic team.

But in spite of all the numerous programmes and policies that put the country in a highly favourable position, discerning Ghanaians disastrously bought into the NDC’s propaganda and voted out the NPP government in 2008.

Back then, the NPP communicators, so to speak, displayed sheer complacency and disappointingly failed to counter the NDC’s political gimmicks.

We cannot, however, ignore the fact that prudent and pragmatic governments more often than not manage to improve upon the economic fortunes of their respective countries if they are allowed to stay in power a bit longer.

Take, for instance, in Rwanda, The officeholder is elected by popular vote every seven years, who in turn, appoints the Prime Minister and all other members of Cabinet.

Suffice it to emphasise that Rwandan current president, Paul Kagame, has been in power since 2000. In fact, Rwanda has undergone rapid industrialisation largely due to the implementation of pragmatic policies and programmes over a sustained period of time.

In Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, who returned in 2018 as the head of the opposition coalition, and the oldest Prime Minister At92 years old, stabilised the Malaysian economy from 1981 to 2003.

Tun M, as Mahathir is called by his supporters, oversaw a period of rapid economic growth and development in Malaysia during his first long stint in office.

In the United Kingdom, the Labour Party assumed power from 1997 to 2010 under two separate Prime Ministers, Tony Blair from 1997 to 2007 and James Gordon Brown from 2007 to 2010.

As a matter of fact, Blair and Brown did their utmost best and managed to stabilise the UK economy until the Labour Party lost power to the Conservative Party in 2010.

In Ghana, since the attainment of independence from the British on 6th March 1957, the NDC tradition (PNDC and NDC) had governed the country more than any other government one can think of. In fact, that tradition had governed Ghana for approximately 27 years out of Ghana’s 62 years.

Ghana’s Fourth Republic is 314 months old (as of March 2019). And, the day-to-day management of the country within that period had been a shared responsibility between the National Democratic Congress (NDC), whose share of the governance is 192 months and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), who has also governed the country for 122 months to date.

It would be recalled that when former President J. J. Rawlings completed his 96 months democratic rule on 7th January 2001, he packed up as directed by the Ghana’s 1992 Constitution. Thus, the stage was set for other qualified people to take over the presidency.

It is worth pointing out that although quite an impressive number of political parties presented their formidable candidates for the important position, the race for the next president was keenly contested between the NDC candidate, the late John Evans Atta Mills and the NPP candidate, John Agyekum Kufuor.

It must, however, be mentioned that the 2000 election travelled into the second round and John Agyekum Kufuor emerged victorious on 28 December 2000.

The zestful President-elect, John Agyekum Kufuor then took over the presidency from former President J. J. Rawlings on 7th January 2001.

Disappointingly, however, President Kufuor had a tough time in office initially as there was not much funds left in the national purse to plan anything meaningful.

Regrettably, former President J. J. Rawlings’s total rule of 228 months (military, 132 months and democratic, 96 months) administrations only managed to destabilise Ghana’s macroeconomic indicators.

Rawlings’s administration indeed adopted a seemingly calamitous Economic Recovery Programme (ERP), which was introduced under the auspices of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The vast majority of tangible national assets, including the state owned enterprises were allegedly sold to friends and families for pittance.

In practice, the apparent unfavourable Economic Recovery Programme culminated in a catalogue of hardships. And, on top of the harsh programmes and policies which threatened the economic fundamentals, the population had to brace itself for food shortages, a situation which was comparable to the concurrent Ethiopian famine that resulted in millions of deaths.

Perhaps more than anything else, the initiation of the Programme of Action to Mitigate the Social Costs of Adjustment (PAMSCAD) did not improve the unfortunate situation as untold hardships permeated many households.

Starvation, so to speak, visited the vast majority of Ghanaians, and as a result developed hideous collar bones which the humorous Ghanaians renamed as “Rawlings Chain”. That was indeed the pernicious extent of the hunger.

Ghana was then declared as Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC). The fact of the matter is that the newly elected President Kufuor had a tough decision to make, by either embracing or rejecting the HIPC status.

However, the forward thinking President Kufuor chose to swallow a bitter pill with a view to getting over the malaise. He thus pragmatically embraced the HIPC status in 2001.

As a matter of fact and observation, the benefits of the HIPC were unprecedented during former President Kufuor’s administration, from (2001-2008).

The fact of the matter is that macroeconomic indicators begun to stabilize and Ghana’s debt stock was significantly reduced by about $4 billion within that period (BOG 2009).

In addition, as a result of the HIPC initiative and prudent borrowing, Ghana’s external debt stock actually declined from $6.1 billion in 2000 to$3.8 billion by 2008 (BOG 2009). It was “unprecedented” achievement, so to speak.

It is also worth emphasising that the average GDP growth of the NDC from 1993-2000 was 3.8% while that of the NPP from 2001-2008 was5.2% with economic growth reaching 6.3% in 2007 (GSS 2008).

As it was expected, former President Kufuor successfully completed his first term in office (four years), having managed studiously to stabilise the macroeconomic indicators.

Subsequently, the good people of Ghana handed him the mandate for another four year term following a keenly contested presidential election on 7th December 2004.

It is, however, not an understatement to point out that former President Kufuor’s pragmatic policies reaped tremendous results. Nevertheless, due to time and space limitations, I will only enumerate on a few of his wonderful achievements during his tenure in office.

1.Helped moved Ghana from HIPC status to Lower Middle Income status.

2.Ghana received a debt relief of around $4 billion, spreading over 20 years period.

3.Built numerous infrastructural projects, including not less than 5 interchanges. Nonetheless President Mahama said back then that the erection of infrastructural projects is only an exercise in mediocrity.

4.Discovered oil in commercial quantities before handing over power to the late Mills (Ghana has since received over $3 billion in revenue).

5.Increased the economic growth from around 3.5 in 2001 to around 8.4 in 2008.

6.Quadrupled Ghana’s GDP to $28 billion by 2008.

7.Introduced free Maternal Care.

8.Implemented National Health Insurance Scheme.

9.Introduced Metro Transport System.

10.Implemented School Feeding Programme.

11.Introduced the National Youth Employment Programme, known as GYEEDA.

12.Implemented the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty.

As I hinted earlier, the list of former President Kufuor’s achievements is not exhaustive. Nonetheless, due to time and space constraints, I would not be able to list all of them at this point in time. But all that I can state is that, former President Kufuor did so much to improve on Ghana’s economic fortunes.

President Kufuor exerted dint of critical thinking, worked strenuously for eight solid years, laid an auspicious economic foundation and retired honourably. He then passed on the baton to the late President Mills on 7th January 2009, following his victory in the second round election on 28 December 2008.

It must, however, be emphasised that the late President Mills was extremely fortunate to have inherited a very good economic foundation laid by the effervescent President Kufuor and his equally hard working team.

Take, for instance, three years after former President Kufuor’s NPP government discovered oil in commercial quantities, the late President Mills had the joyous task of turning on the valve at an offshore platform in December 2010 to pump the first commercial oil.

And, lo and behold, Ghana joined the petroleum exporting countries. And believe it or not, Ghana started to export crude oil and thus boosted the economic growth.

The economy grew from around 8.4 per cent to around 14 per cent by 2011 and Ghana thus reached the Lower Middle Income status.

“Ghana has come a long way and is the world's fastest growing economy today-2010.

“Ghana's economy is growing at a blistering 20.15 per cent, says Economy Watch.

“Blessed with rich reserves of natural resources, Ghana has suddenly turned around and is now speeding along the growth path.

“Ghana is oil-rich, has large gold and diamond deposits, and has a booming tourism industry” (Economy Watch 2010).

And, who said that the propitious economic foundation laid by former President Kufuor and his team was not the main contributory factor in the Ghana’s economic upsurge?

Regrettably, however, the late President Mills capitulated, got carried away and somehow allowed the create loot and share cabals in his government to have their way. The incompliant cabals began to dip their ‘thievery’ hands into the national coffers.

The racketeers even managed to allocate judgement debt amount in the national budget (purported to be around GH600 million), with the sole objective to create, loot and share. Do you remember Woyome’s GH51.2 million scandalous judgement debt payment?

What about the undeserving $30 million judgement debt payment to the Waterville, the dubious $25 million to ISOFOTON, and a lot more reported to be totalling a staggering GH800 million?

Apparently, things started to fall apart. It went from bad to worse following President Mills sudden and mysterious death in July 2012. The conspiratorial plotters then had a field day leading to the 2012 general elections.

It is, however, worth stressing that President Mahama and his NDC apparatchiks went berserk in their desperation to cling on to power. Thus they broke all conventions. Many government departments spent over and above their allocated budgets.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, many observers harbour a strong view that Ghana’s economic downslide came about as a result of the unbridled sleazes and gargantuan corruptions that have been associated with the NDC government over the years.

Dearest reader let us take a critical look of some of the wanton sleazes and corruption the NDC government perpetrated on the good people of Ghana.

The dubious Embraer 190 aircrafts deal which prompted former President Mills to set up a Committee to investigate the then Vice President Mahama.

The $300 million bill we incurred on the unsuccessful STS housing deal which was spearheaded by the then Vice President John Dramani Mahama.

The bizarre GH800 million judgement debt payments.

The undeserving GH51.2 million judgement debt payment (create, loot and share) to Woyome.

The questionable $30 million judgement debt payment to Waterville, which the Supreme Court of Ghana ruled as unconstitutional and ordered the NDC government to retrieve, but to no avail.

The wrongful $25 million judgement debt payment to ISOFOTON, which the NDC government failed to retrieve despite the Supreme Court’s order.

The scandal (create, loot and share) at the National Service Secretariat which cost Ghana millions of Ghana Cedis.

The SADA scandal which deprived the people of the Northern Region millions of Cedis meant for development.

The SUBA scandal which cost Ghana millions of Cedis meant for the improvement of the economy.

The GYEEDA corruption scandal which deprived the youth of Ghana millions of Cedis meant for the creation of jobs.

The amount of $250 million from the Euro bond which was meant for infrastructural development, and yet lodged surreptitiously in an unauthorised bank account.

Inflated costs of infrastructural projects (the former Minister of Local Government, Collins Dauda raised concerns previously).

In fact, the list is not exhaustive, but time and space constraints would not allow me to enumerate all of them at this juncture.

Somehow, President Mahama and his NDC apparatchiks failed to acknowledge that corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.

But all said and done, the general belief back then was that they bought votes with the tax payers’ money. They nonetheless clung on to power following the controversial election on 7th December 2012. Suffice it to state that their victory came with a huge costs to the state.

Apparently, the previously single digit inflation and budget deficit doubled astronomically. The GH9.5 billion debt which former President Kufuor and his NPP government left in 2009 rocketed artificially to unpronounceable figures. Our total debt ballooned to GH122.4 billion as of December 2016.

Let us therefore face it, Ghana went into the throes of economic collapse due to mismanagement and wanton sleazes and corruption.

Take, for example, Ghana’s economic growth slowed for the fourth consecutive year to an estimated 3.4% in 2015 from 4% in 2014 as energy rationing (dumsor), high inflation, and ongoing fiscal consolidation weighed on economic activity (World Bank, 2016).

Moreover, the high inflation rate remain elevated at 18.5% in February 2016 compared to 17.7% in February 2015, even after the Central Bank’s 500 bps policy rate hikes (the inflation stood at 15.8 per cent as of October 2016).

Dearest reader, if you may remember, prior to the 2008 and 2012 general elections, President Mahama and NDC beseeched the good people of Ghana for the electoral mandate, and in return, they guaranteed everyone protection of life, property, provision of social amenities, better socio-economic standards of living and to a certain extent liberty.

Moreover, President Mahama and NDC gave a slew of Manifesto promises, amongst other things, making dumsor a thing of the past, putting money in Ghanaians pocket, creating more jobs for the jobless, stabilising the economy, protecting Ghanaians from the menaces of galamsey and Fulani herdsmen, bringing an end to dubious judgement debt payments, fighting the rampant sleazes and corruption, working with ‘lean’ government, getting rid of the filth in Accra within 100 days, introducing free SHS, implementing one-time NHIS premium etc.

Consequently, the good people of Ghana bought into the NDC’s Manifesto promises and then gave them the needed electoral mandate in the 2008 and 2012 general elections respectively. Unfortunately, however, the successive NDC governments failed to honour their promises.

Take, for instance, the NDC promised wholeheartedly to make ‘dumsor’ a thing of the past, if voted into power.

Back then, Haruna Iddrisu, the then Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, boldly asserted: “If voted into power, the NDC government would have no excuse to keep Ghanaians in dumsor”.

Ironically, however, the dumsor got worst following the NDC’s victory. Consequently, the discerning Ghanaians rightly fretted thy souls with disappointments and curses, and, demanded answers as to why President Mahama failed to bring the dumsor under control.

However the dire consequences of the dumsor, President Mahama and NDC government could not fix the dumsor. The dumsor continued to cripple hundreds of businesses. The dumsor indeed contributed to Ghana’s economic downslide.

Besides, President Mahama and his NDC government pledged to implement one-time NHIS premium. That Manifesto promise, so to speak, was destitute of honesty and integrity. The NDC government failed woefully to implement the one-time NHIS premium to the utter dismay of Ghanaians.

And, after successfully shooting down Nana Akufo Addo and his NPP’s campaign promise of Free SHS, President Mahama and NDC hastily turned round and promised to implement free SHS policy. However, they failed once again to fully implement the somewhat tentatively thought-through policy.

It would also be recalled that the NDC told Ghanaians back in 2008 that the NPP government under President Kufuor had sunk the economy into the mire, so Ghanaians should give the NDC the opportunity to put the economy back on track.

Nevertheless, all the available evidence suggests that the NDC government under President Mahama rather managed to worsen the socio-economic standards of living than any other government in the history of Ghanaian politics.

Take, for example, whenever the good people of Ghana expressed their grievances over the never ending harsh economic conditions, President Mahama and his vociferous communicators would go berserk: “aren’t we transforming lives by building roads, hospitals, schools, toilets, water facilities and many other social infrastructural projects?”

Regrettably, however, most of the projects were not up to the required standards, albeit the projects were often overpriced. The former Minister of Local Government, Collins Dauda would attest to such assertion. He previously decried over the NDC’s poorly constructed and overpriced projects.

I recall when the concerned Ghanaians complained about the poorly constructed roads in Kumasi, President Mahama angrily responded: “You ungrateful lots, you would never even be appreciative if I constructed your roads with gold.”

The fact of the matter is that President Mahama and his non-performing appointees refused to appreciate that exemplary governance is not all about putting up numerous infrastructural projects.

It is, however, worth stressing that excellence governance goes beyond the provision of social infrastructural and amenities. As a matter of fact, praiseworthy governance also involves continuous improvement of socio-economic standards of living.

But all said and done, the good people of Ghana experienced economic hardships due to President Mahama and his NDC government’s inability to improve upon Ghana’s economic fortunes.

As a matter of fact and observation, President Mahama and his NDC government wilfully collapsed the hitherto thriving economy. Indeed, they broke their earlier promises, thus the bonds of trust were infringed to the chagrin of discerning Ghanaians.

Let us face it, though, if President Akufo Addo managed to keep most of his campaign promises, I will daresay that he could easily complete two terms in office.

Take, for instance, President Akufo Addo would have done well if he implemented the Manifesto promises of one District one Factory, one Constituency one Million Dollars, free SHS, one Village one Dam in the Northern part of Ghana, tax reductions, including taxes on utility bills, amongst others.

In any case, I am of the firm conviction that the Akufo Addo’s NPP government will deliver on its promises as done by the previous NPP government led by former President Kufuor.

If we take a stroll down memory lane, the Kufuor’s government kept the Manifesto promises and introduced social interventions such as the free Maternal Care, the School Feeding Programme, the National Health Insurance Scheme, the Mass Transport System, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), the National Youth Employment Programme, now known as GYEDA, and many other social interventions.

I would, therefore, like to conclude that upon satisfactory performance, President Akufo Addo could complete his two terms in office as prescribed by Ghana’s 1992 Constitution and then pass on the baton to either John Alan Kyeremanteng or Dr Mahmoud Bawumia.

That said, between the two aforementioned potential presidential aspirants, my bet will be on Dr Bawumia, whose candidacy could keep the NPP in government for a further two terms.

Well, believe it or not, the unwearied Dr Mahmoud Bawumia has come of age in Ghanaian politics and has thus far won the hearts and minds of the good people of Ghana.

It is for this reason that I would like to believe that the odds will tilt in his favour in any political contest in the near future.