You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2008 02 09Article 138949

Opinions of Saturday, 9 February 2008

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie/Daily Dispatch

THE OUTSIDER: And we say they have jobs

Government officials like to gloat in the fact that they’ve created jobs for so many people. And they have every justification to be basking in self-adulation, don’t they. Under this administration a lot of jobs have really been created. There are certain positions I didn’t know existed until the Kufuor administration came to power. Take the position of ‘special assistant’ as an example. I stand to be corrected but I think Jake Obetsebi Lamptey started it by appointing the late Ferdinand Ayim as his special assistant. Then suddenly a lot of other ministers started shopping around for special assistants. Now, almost every minister of state has a special assistant who is paid with state coffers, even though their jobs are not sanctioned by the constitution. The numerous special assistants should have given us a clear indication that this is a government meant business and was ready to go to extraordinary (but unconstitutional) lengths to fulfil its promise of create jobs.

If you need more proof about the government’s commitment to job creation, just ask about the number of “government spokespersons” around. There are about a dozen different people speaking for government on different issues. So there are respective spokespersons for health, infrastructure, social services, the economy etc. This is in spite of the fact that there is an information minister, who to my fickle mind, is supposed to be a bridge between the government and the people. Furthermore, the president has a well-paid spokesperson (who prefers to be called ‘press secretary’). To cap his job creation efforts, the president has also been very good at appointing ministers of state with questionable job specifications. For example, what the heck is the minister of state at the finance ministry supposed to be doing when there is a substantive finance minister and a deputy? Huh? Why do we have more than one deputy at some ministries? What does a minister of state at the presidency do when there is a minister for presidential affairs? The answers to these questions are in one simple phrase: jobs for the boys.

For being so good at creating jobs for his boys (and girls), I want to congratulate President Kufuor and his various advisors (who are also very well paid) for confounding the sceptics who didn’t believe he was going to fulfil his promise to create jobs. Life must be good for all those who have government jobs and get paid regularly, on time and with several other fringe benefits. Blessed art thou for you shall not hunger or thirst for as long as you remain in government.

Having created all these nice jobs for his people, I believe, the president must have been feeling guilty that a lot of the ordinary people who actually voted him into power were still in need of jobs. He realised that he couldn’t just point to the many wonderful jobs for some of his beloved pals as fulfilment of his promise to create jobs. So he came up with a very novel idea. It’s called the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP).

Under the NYEP, hundreds of mostly unskilled, untrained and, therefore, unemployable youth have been given various jobs. Some of them have become ‘community police officers’, whose main job function, it seems, is to be conducting traffic at busy road intersections – especially when the traffic lights are out. No wonder most of our traffic lights do not work well. Seriously, if the traffic lights start working as well as they should, these yellow-shirted men and women, wouldn’t have much to do, would they? Some of those who have been ‘employed’ under the NYEP are supposed to be teaching in schools around the country. My question is: if they were so qualified (and good at their jobs) why would we need a special employment stream to absorb them into the system when the Ghana Education Service often complains about the lack of teachers? It’s sometimes impossible to make sense of the wisdom of the ruling class.

Apparently, the NYEP has employed thousands of young men and women who are doing all sorts of things in different sectors of the economy – some are sweeping the streets, others are registering people for the National Health Insurance Scheme and some of them are reportedly involved in (ahem!) software development. Government officials take a lot of pride in the NYEP. And you can’t fault them. It’s true that hundreds have been ‘employed’ under the programme. The only problem with the programme is that those who have reportedly been ‘employed’ under the NYEP do not get paid as regularly and as sumptuously as the special assistants, ministers with non-descript job specifications and the various government spokespersons do.

Ever since the NYEP started, hardly a month passes by without me hearing or reading reports about the plight of those who have been offered jobs under the programme. Just a few days ago, I heard them whining and threatening to go on strike if their salary arrears are not paid. All government says is that “we are working on it” or something to that effect.

They have been working on it for far too long and the time has come for decisive action to be taken. And I don’t mean action from the government. They are working on it. The action I speak of should come from those who government claims to have employed – the NYEP recruits. They should simply go on strike. Or they should look for some other jobs to do. That’s exactly what Nana Akomea would have done if he didn’t get paid for his job as employment or manpower development minister. I don’t think that if something bad were to happen, making it impossible for government pay our ministers and fuel their vehicles and pay their utility bills, they would work for 12 straight months without any compensation. They will quit.

But since they are so well-paid, they still stay on and when people like the NYEP recruits complain, they only retort that “we are doing something about it”. One of those ‘somethings’ they are doing is the introduction of the mobile phone talk tax, proceeds from which are supposed to be used to pay the NYEP recruits. The fact that they are now thinking about how to raise money to pay the NYEP recruits is a clear indication that the whole NYEP idea was not very well thought out. We don’t even know when the necessary legislation will be passed for this new tax to take effect and how long it would take for the first tranche of cash to be raised to pay the NYEP recruits. Meanwhile, they will continue walk around with the illusion that they have jobs. What is a job if it doesn’t put bread on your table?