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Opinions of Monday, 29 May 2006

Columnist: Jeffrey, Peter

RE: Construction work on new Prez Palace begins

Those who have been unfairly criticise the construction of the Presidential palace or rebuilding of Flagstaff House should pause and consider the notion behind this project.
This writer does not; repeat does not speak for speak for nor is a mouth piece of any organisation, but rather comment on issues that are of utmost importance to the nation.
Everyone recognised that the castle at OSU is not a place that the president of the nation can live and work at the same time. Dr Nkrumah used both Flagstaff House and the castle to welcome foreign dignitaries and to conduct the business of the country. Dr Nkrumah mostly lived at Flagstaff House and Peduasi Lodge as his official residence. Thus by redeveloping Flagstaff House, John Kufuor to some degree creating a residence fit for an executive president.
When it comes to the issue of national development, it is imperative that commentators look at the benefits and/or any drawbacks before they criticise. It is true that the $30 million loan from the Indian government might seem a lot considering the state of our economy, but folks we cannot wait until the take off phase before planning for those institutions and buildings that present a good image of our motherland.
No one can denied the massive developmental projects undertook by the Nkrumah regime, but then the economic conditions in Ghana at time was not as precarious as today.
The hands of any government since the 1980s are tied behind their back by the Bretton Woods institutions as to what programs the country can pursue. There are country directors of both the World Bank and the IMF who monitor every aspect of the government?s economic activity. It is sad but that is the fact of reality. Until and unless we pay off those huge debts the country would always be held hostage by these unregulated and sometimes reckless institutions.
What the press and social commentators should be doing is to monitor the delivery of projects by the government and those areas that are not meeting standards be criticised. The press have got a very important role to play in the country?s infant democracy.
Thank God Ghanaians are now more away of the empty promises made by some politicians and thus have the vote to boot out those who come into office with the attitude of a feudal mentality to terrorise the citizenry and to line their pockets with ill gotten wealth, wealth that belongs to the people. These were the notion behind the president?s recent cabinet reshuffle and the renewal promised. Although Kufuor might be a lame duck president, with barely 2 years left to leave office, but does not mean he should allowed himself to be held hostage by special interest groups.
He was elected to serve 4 years and that is precisely what he is doing. If after 4 years people are not satisfied with his stewardship, then the voters can and must use the ballot box to punish his party. Every vote cast must and would be counted no matter what. The elections would be monitored by both the local and international electoral monitors to ensure transparency. That is the essence of democracy. Thus the presidential palace should not be allowed to distract the role of monitoring the performance of the NPP government nor to distract the opposition parties to present to the Ghanaian people what policies they intend to pursue when in government.
Eradication of poverty, income equality, easy access to education and health are some of the major issues confronting the motherland. What makes our development more interesting is the awareness that our democracy has brought to the people. The case of two people stands out when it comes to education and gender.
The first was about a 55 year old grandmother who enrolled to go to school to learn literacy and numeracy. Although Ghana is still regarded as a poor 3rd World developing country, but this case clearly shows how important Ghanaians have embraced the VISION 2020 Project. The grandmother?s desire to be educated sums up the role of how important the country must tackled education that encourages all children, irrespective of gender or social status, to be educated equally.
The second was about how an African American of Ghanaian decent (Shannan Akosua Boaten Magee) who after studying in the country as a Fulbright scholar was inspired by the achievements of late Nana Yaa Asantewaa to start a science and technology school to educate girls in the land of her ancestors. Shannan Akosua Boaten Magee?s aim is to equip girls in her motherland with the skills that would help in the development of her motherland.
Soon Ghana would be 50 years old, and as President Kufuor rightly stated, Ghana needs institutions and infrastructure fit for the 21st century. This president might not have done a lot, but he has put in place policies that his future predecessors can built upon. The same can be said of President Rawlings. Both presidents are fighting the same cause, and that is to see Ghana developed and take her rightful place among those that she graduated with, including Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong. Our country can and must do better than what we had achieved thus far.
At almost 50years old our country is last among her peer group (countries mentioned above). As our class mates are forging ahead to join the developed class of countries, with an average GDP of $5,000, our country is still classified as a poor third world country. Our country still depends on aid from the Bretton Woods Institutions and our colonial masters to balance our budget. Most children in our country go to bed without food. This is fact. Health care in our country is still a lottery and countless expectant mothers, children and old folks die needlessly because our health care system has collapsed. Why? Because 8 out of 10 of our doctors and other professionals leave the motherland as soon as they graduate to pursue their careers elsewhere. Yet medical school are among the best in sub-Saharan Africa if not the world at large. Brain drain is what is holding our country back. Thus it is imperative to start engaging with the Diaspora community to entice some of our best brains to do teach and research in our universities during their vacation period. My compatriot Atsu Amegashie did suggested this idea in one of his analysis. My brother Okyere Bonna, who supports Dr Arthur Ebo Kobina Kennedy, and himself an accomplish scholar and Osahene Kojo Boakye Djan both agreed that this vital source of human capital can be tap into by the education ministry in Accra. Having spoken to some of these brilliant academics, almost all are willing to offer their services to the motherland free of charge in our pursuit to forge ahead.
The road ahead might be long and difficult to negotiate, but with right policies Ghana can make the grade.

Peter Jeffrey
London.


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