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Opinions of Sunday, 20 July 2008

Columnist: Atta-Quayson, Alhassan

Re: Please Sack this “Kokonte” Minister

I wish to express my appreciation to the owners of this medium for having given Mr. Kwabena Mprah Jnr and myself the opportunity to air our views on issues of our interest. The purpose of which I have undertaken to write this piece is neither to argue for nor against sacking the so-called “Kokonte” Minister, but rather to assess the original article in order to ascertain whether Mr. Mprah Jnr, who appeared, and indeed claimed, to be a logician, could arrive at his conclusion on the basis of the premises he put forward in his paper. I should therefore not be regarded as a supporter of Hon. Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, thereof.

I wish to note right at the outset that it is indeed difficult, and almost impossible, for any discerning mind to identify even a single reason from the 16-paragraph treatise of Mr. Mprah Jnr that can substantiate, no matter how weak, the assertion that the so-called “Kokonte” Minister be sacked. Thus, from his essay, there seem to be no evidence whatsoever that is capable of logically sustaining his plea. What the original essay was able to do, as far as I am concerned, was to carelessly confuse rather irrelevant and unrelated issues in a single piece with a subtle hope of appealing to people’s emotions in anticipation of tarnishing an image. I will therefore urge Mr. Mprah to be discerning, logical and objective in criticizing leaders if and only if he seeks to reform.

I wish to recall here that Hon. Stephen Asamoah-Boateng was appointed by President John Kufuor to serve as a Minister of Information and National Orientation. He was subsequently vetted by the Appointments Committee of Parliament and given specific duties and responsibilities. I could not believe myself to have read this from my senior logician and I quote from the first sentence of his 13th paragraph “Information management must not be toyed with by any government so an inpatient and of course undiplomatic person must not be given that role”. He had earlier on, unfortunately, challenged and questioned the credibility and integrity of the Appointments Committee as well as the Parliament by asking, and I quote from the first sentence of his 12th paragraph “But what actually beats me most is what really went into selecting Mr. Asamoah-Boateng for the position of information minister”.

I wish to inform Mr. Mprah Jnr, and those who agree with him on the matter that following his appointment and vetting, the Minister’s removal must logically follow from the inability on the Minister’s part to execute, as expected of him, the functions assigned him as per his appointment. It however saddens my heart to observe that my learned logician woefully failed to identify even a single duty assigned the Minister that he was unable to perform as expected of him. I therefore wish to ask Mr. Mprah Jnr that given the foregoing, what grade would he (Mr. Mprah Jnr) have scored if his piece were to be marked on grounds of logical reasoning, a field he claims to have mastered so much?

I wish to bring to bear that despite the original paper carelessly confusing issues in the piece, I could identify three issues that concerned the Minister. But a huge question still remains as to how those issues could serve as reasons let alone substantiating Mr. Mprah’s plea. But I will leave that to my discerning and impartial readers to judge. The first issue concerns the Minister’s response to an interview concerning the whopping US$1.4 million medals for the State Awards. In this regard, the Minister could not have remained mute as Mr. Mprah expected of him as a best strategy. As far as Mr. Mprah’s report on this matter is concerned (which could be inaccurate), the Minister only noted that the medals were expensive and worth what we paid for. As to whether the acquisition of those medals was outrageous, in the midst of water shortages and worsening poverty situation in Accra, the Minister remained mute. This, I think, clearly coincides with my learned logician’s best strategy which pleads the Fifth Amendment of the United States. The question of whether the awards ceremony constitutes outrageous expenses on the part of the government still remains and I will hint my position in conclusion.

The other two issues concerning the Minister regard his prescription in the midst of high cost of living (where he derived his so-called “Kokonte” Minister) and his involvement in the sacking of Mr. Okine. In respect of his prescription, he was only emphasizing the need for Ghanaians to move away from indiscriminate and conspicuous demand for foreign products in order to create domestic demand for our locally produced goods and services so that we can grow. This is the philosophy and must be understood as such! It is important we put issues in perspective rather than removing them out of context, and hammering them unnecessarily so as to score cheap points. All good development strategies I have come across in my life put some sort of emphasis on creating and sustaining significant domestic demand. If the Chinese had not ensured this, their economy would have been hit extremely hard by the decaying US economy. With regards to the Minister’s involvement in the dismissal of Mr. Okine I have very little to say but deem it unrelated to the substantive issue and even doubt if the Minister is so powerful to be dismissing Deputy Commissioner of Immigration Service at his will.

I wish to conclude by deviating from my purpose I set out for this paper. So long as the state of the Ghanaian economy is concerned, the move by President John Kufour to organize US$1.4 million Presidential Awards is quite outrageous. This is closely intertwined with the scale of the awards which I deem very large. It is now important as a nation to define a limit to the number of honourees for future Presidential Awards. But this profligate spending of the John Kufour government did not start with the Presidential Awards and there seem not to be any indication that this government is ending such spending there. Indeed over the past three years our national budgets have clearly shown significant deficits, an indication that the country is on a spending spree and the government is continuously living outside its means. Instead of spanning a significant number of projects over 2-3 years, the government has decided to do everything this year, leaving no fiscal breathing space for the government itself. WHY???

Kind Regards

Alhassan Atta-Quayson Post Office Box UC 353 Cape Coast, Ghana

Alhassan Atta-Quayson Student, Univ. of Ghana