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Opinions of Monday, 4 July 2005

Columnist: Ampofo, Ofori

Save Ghana Now Politically and Economically - IV

Ladies and gentlemen of HIPC Ghana, listen to this news headline ?MPs to receive 25,000 US dollars Loans to purchase cars.? Ghana web general news of Wednesday June 22nd 2005.

They have started chopping the G8 debt cancellation money. They know that some money is on the way coming so they have started dipping their hands into it. Four years ago the government granted 20,000 US dollars to every member of parliament to buy a car. There was public outcry so much that, a lot many thought it was unjust but we could not do anything at that time because the loans had already been disbursed.

When the MPs realized that they couldn?t pay off the loans by the end of their four year term in office, they demanded that their salaries be increased to enable them service the cars loans. That was an unjustifiable request; but whether that request was granted or not, no one knows. The MPs taxable salaries then, was around 2.3 million cedis per month, plus around 4.2 million cedis un-taxable allowances. Refer to my article Save Ghana Now Politically and Economically part 1 for details of the un-taxable allowances. It is claimed that every member of the then parliament has paid off those loans. We have no way to verify that claim anyway. Only God knows if they paid any intrest on the 20,000 US dollars loans or not. With all the public outcry four years ago against such car loans to MPs, I was surprised to read on June 22nd 2005 the news headline underlined above. The deputy Majority leader Mr Abraham Ossei Aidoo told the Ghanaian Times news paper that, the primary obligation to pay back the loans has shifted from the government to parliament as an institution; but let me tell Mr. Aidoo that, as a guarantor to the loan, the government will be held responsible in case of any default. The real concern, is not whose obligation it is, government or parliament to be responsible in case of default; but the propriety or impropriety of the loans. If nobody has a problem with the loans, I do and that is, I don?t believe that Ghana?s most urgent priority, is spending 7 million US dollars granting loans to MPs to purchase cars; period. Apart from corruption and greed, one of the biggest problems of successive governments, have been misappropriation of the national wealth. We don?t set priorities right to enable the country develop economically and create infrastructures for job creation and provide the necessary essentials of human life affordable as can be to our people. The contention of the MPs is that, officials in the public and civil service are entitled to official vehicles and wonder why they should be denied similar facilities when theirs are in fact loans? The answer is that no government official should be entitled to any official vehicle at the expense of the tax payer. It is wrong, and a big drain on the nation and therefore has to stop.How should officials enjoy everything free,receive pay, and expect the country to develop economically?

The MPs campaigned extensively within their areas to win their seats in parliament. They did not walk while campaigning; so it presupposes that they were self sufficient individually. 7 million US dollars is a sizeable portion of Ghana?s resource that can be well invested for national economic development. It would have been much reasonable and understandable if the headline had read " New MPs to Get 25,000 US dollars Car Loans". Granting across the board every MP car loans every four years, is a total disregard and neglect to fighting for the interest of the poor, the marginalized and disadvantaged people in Ghana. Seven million US dollars could go a long way to rehabilitate the abandoned shoe or fiber bag factory in Kumasi which are now at the center of controversy between the Patriotic citizens of Kumasi and the NPP government?s failure to fulfill its campaign promises. The plight of all Ghanaians especially, the poor should be the number one priority of the executive and legislature. I have said in my article Save Ghana Now Politically and Economically part 1 that, when government officials and parliamentarians enrich themselves and the mass of the people continue to live in abject pooverty in a democracy, it bleeds discontentment, and over a period of time, there will be a civil disobedience or otherwise; and law and order breaks down consequently.

I will re-emphasize on that statement and appeal to government and the legislature to do everything they can to be the servants of the people instead of looking for their riches and selfish ends. After all, every MP in Ghana is a million times better off than the ordinary man on the street.I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND WHY LEADERS IGNORE THOSE WHO VOTED FOR THEM AND BECOME SO GREEDY,WITHOUT THE SLIGEST CONSIDERATION FOR THE POOR AND THE NEEDY.

The news item was silent on the interest rate the Barclays Bank is charging on the seven million US dollars loan. NO bank will grant a facility to the government interest free. That will never happen. The Barclays Bank is a profit making entity. It is not Ghana airways. Let the public therefore know about the actual work sheet on the loan. Borrowing rates are considerably high and depends on agreeable terms between the parties; in this case Barclays Bank and the government of Ghana. To satisfy my curiosity,if the annual percentage rate was ten percent, the interest on borrowing 25, 000 US dollars for four years payment plan,will be about 9,000 US dollars. The total payment, Principal plus intrest to be paid by the MPs should therefore be 34,000 US dollars. This is just speculation so it will be just right if government or parliament will come out with the loan document from Barclays Bank which the government signed as a guarantor for public scrutiny. I would like to verify the terms of the loan agreement from the government as a citizen; and I believe a lot many others will want to verify it too. I don?t believe we have all the facts and figures about the loan. As along as the tax payer will be held responsible in case of default, it is important that we demand to know all about the loan agreement. If the Government is absorbing the intrest element on behalf of the MPS, Fine; but make it plain to the tax payer because the money is our money. We shall no longer take just word of mouth. Let us save Ghana Now Politically and Economically.

God bless our Homeland and Our People

Ofori Ampofo
New Jersey (NJ)


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