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Opinions of Thursday, 9 April 2015

Columnist: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku

Rebelling Against Societal Evils - Who Leads the Crusade?

Ghana, the 2nd largest producer of cocoa in the world, the 2nd 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. In spite of her rich human resource, the attainment of economic independence continues to be a mirage. Corruption has permeated in every facet of the economy. The GYEEDA report, GRA/SUBAH criminality, dubious judgement debt payments, the scam at the police recruitment, the Brazil 2014 fiasco, and the open display of bribery during electioneering campaigns are practical evidence of the enormity of the problem.

But, how well has the leadership of this country responded to problems at hand? The answer has been "Y3rentie Obiara" to wit, we won't mind anybody because we are "dead goats". Today, one could see a 'virtually collapsed' education sector, but nobody seems to take note. Many of our schools are without qualified teachers, yet there is a ban on teacher recruitment. Teacher Trainee allowance meant to motivate people to enter the teaching profession has been scrapped. Graduates cannot access public sector jobs because of IMF conditionality. In the health sector, patients are being asked to buy all kinds of drugs, although they have spent money to acquire national health insurance cards. The killer cash and carry system seems to have secretly found its way into the healthcare delivery killing poor Ghanaians.

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 etc, "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 Zoomlion.

At the ports and harbours, 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 (DVLA) is not the best. If anyone wants to find out how corruption is endemic in our society, the person should make his way to any DVLA offices. Through the agents of DVLA bosses, Ghana is losing significant amount of money on daily basis.

Whilst the Trades Union Congress (TUC) continues 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, Prez Mahama, receives GHC12,000 (120m old cedis per month), and his over 80 ministers and Special Aides, as well as MPs get around GHC7,200 per month. The National Debt has shot from GHC9.5bn in 2009 to over GHC60bn in 2015 without any significant investment in the economy to modernise it. We then run to the IMF for bailout. Payment of judgement debts seems to be a cleaver way of siphoning the taxpayers' money into private pockets. Our attitude to work as citizens, especially those in the public sector is very appalling. This has led to low productivity and consequently a fall in the National Income.

Most of the trunk roads are manned by armed robbers instead of security personnel, and teenagers and women are being raped by these muggers. Strangely, some police officers 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 the government feels comfortable 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.

In the major cities, especially at the Kumasi Kejetia Terminal, hawkers have taken over the streets with some using the terminal as their places of abode. Most market centres have now been turned into stores by the rich leaving fewer spaces for car parking and pedestrian movement. The government's payroll is full of "ghosts" because employees in the Controller and Accountant-General's Department, school accountants, and heads of institutions have connived to do so. Heads of public and private institutions, for instance, demand bribes or sex before people are employed.

Some paramount chiefs and queen mothers are so corrupt that plots land are sold 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 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, thus defeating the essence of having higher, professional qualifications and experience. The energy crisis has made the Akosombo and Bui dams useless. Mediocrity has been accepted as the norm by almost every Ghanaian. Those, who will be courageous enough to speak against the evils in the society are branded with all names, and victimized. Some may have their business collapse for speaking the truth.

Is Ghana worth-living at all? Admittedly, the problems enumerated above cannot be attributed to one particular administration, but is there not a way out? If over 90% of the country's leadership has had the opportunity to study and work abroad, what prevents them from making positive impact on our lives? Indeed, Ghanaians might have lost hope in their own country, but the question is; Who leads the crusade to save the country from sinking further?

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri
(katakyienpp@yahoo.co.uk)
0202471070 // 0547851100 // 0264931361