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Opinions of Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Columnist: Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

The NPP's manifesto offers nothing new

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Folks, the NPP has launched its manifesto, which I have gone through to conclude that it offers nothing substantially novel to enthuse over. I regard that manifesto as a knee-jerk approach to national development, based on assumptions and dangerous speculation.

I’m not alone in holding this opinion. Here is how a friend puts it: “As if we're illiterates in this country, the NPP’s so called intelligentsia who, for me, are the worst brand of illiterates, seek to deceive us all. They paint a very gloomy picture of the economy.

My question is simple: Which sensible economist will inherit a broke economy and proceed to cut/abolish all forms of taxes while at the same time, restoring all forms of allowances, promising a very long shopping list of things to do? Where's the money coming from?

“Basic Economics 101 tells us that if you cut taxes, you must equally cut public expenditure, more so when public debts with interest payments are rising. This is the same party that has a problem with government’s borrowing of money whether from internal or external sources. It is so easy to see that they are the illiterates”.

The fundamental issue is that the manifesto doesn't offer anything new. It is a rehash of ideas long circulating in the NPP's rhetoric and wrapped around expectations that the voters will buy into it within the context of complaints about the high cost of living.

I am glad that the manifesto is framed around issues that reveal the successes so far achieved by the Mahama-led administration. If the economy were, indeed, as bade as Dr. Bawuliar and the NPP machine continue to portray it, why should the NPP not tell us how it will depart from the status quo to grow the economy?

Everything in the manifesto points to the fact that the Mahama-led administration has already laid a solid foundation that an Akufo-Addo government (existing only in daydreams) will exploit, especially with its so-called social interventions aimed at vulnerable segments of the society (the aged, trainee nurses and teachers, and the Zongo communities, among others).

Talk about abolishing 17.5% VAT on domestic airline tickets; introducing tax benefits for organisations that hire fresh graduates; collaborating with the private sector to create jobs; restructuring SADA; and others. Mere hot air.

Then, consider this part too: Establishment of a Zongo Development Fund aimed at investing in the Zongo communities and improving health and education. Why the focus on the Zongo communities out of all needy/deprived communities in the country?

If we consider also the NPP's intention to "broaden the tax base with the formalisation of the economy" alone, we can see through the smokescreen. What is this “formalization of the economy”?

In any case, let’s flog the dead horse that this manifesto is. Talk about a desperate attempt to win sympathy from voters: Restructuring SSNIT; issuing National Identity Cards, or giving the aged some specialized support are notable intentions for mere political gimmicks.

The double-tongued (deceptive) ring is also loud and clear: “In the three Northern regions, one irrigation dam for every district”. When Akufo-Addo shot his mouth, he said the NPP would implement a “one village one dam” policy; but now, it is one district, one dam?

Outright playing to the gallery for political capital (votes) at the polls. If these are the highlights of the NPP's manifesto, I am more than irritated at its scope and depth. We all heard how the NPP made ugly noise about the NDC's manifesto and the bogus allegation that the contents were plagiarized from the NPP's manifesto. And also about Hassan Ayariga’s manifesto. What in the NPP's highlights reflects anything that the NDC has put out there?

What will be the state of the economy at the time? Strong or weak? If the NPP's negative politics about the economy is anything to go by, then, it is reasonable to say that the “damaged economy" under the Mahama-led administration's watch cannot be so strong as to shoulder the NPP's agenda.

(I am reminded of what Kufuor had said about the "endangered economy" under Rawlings only to ride on that very economy to do things as he wished).

So, upon all the fat noise that Akufo-Addo and Dr. Bawuliar had led the NPP to make, is that all they can offer Ghanaians? A child's play thing that they have accused the NDC and Hassan Ayariga of copying? Let me single out some specific aspects to prove that the NPP's manifesto is hollow and unfavourable for the Ghanaian situation as far as the party’s persistent criticism of the Mahama-led administration's approach to national development is concerned.

1. Building harbours in James Town in Accra and Keta? What for? Maybe, specifying the harbours as fishing harbours or jetties could be somehow acceptable; but as the case is now, James Town in Accra needs no harbour (the nearby Tema one is sufficient for Ghana). How on earth will any reasonable being think of a harbour for Keta, which is being destroyed by the sea?

2. The other items (Freedom Cards to the aged to have free access to all public transportation and other public facilities; restoration in full of teacher and nursing trainees allowances in the first quarter in office; increase in the amount of loans under the student loan scheme and restructuring to streamline its administration to enhance recovery of the loans; and non-payment of utility bills by students) are meant for mere political jingoism.

It is baseless and senseless in the kind of political framework that the NPP operates. The truth is that the NPP is not a socialist-oriented political camp to go this way with freebies. Where will the money for such Quixotic ventures come from when the manifesto is silent on what an Akufo-Addo-led administration will do to grow the economy in a manner different from what has been happening all these decades of self-rule?

3. Reduction of taxes on electricity tariffs to provide immediate relief to households and industries. The highest level of inanity occurs here. Why not tell us what you will do to solve the erratic electricity generation and supply problems?

This promise is premised on the assumption that there is no energy crisis or that an NPP administration led by Akufo-Addo would be fortunate to have no "Dumsor" crisis to deal with. Who would have solved that crisis before its assumption of office to warrant the freebie being promised?

Probably, to give them some leverage in their campaign of lies and calumny, they have chosen to rope in the business interests of Togbe Afede Asor. As claimed by them, the government has destroyed his business interests because he dared criticize it (See

Seeking refuge in Togbe Asor won't add any value to them or win votes from the Volta Region. They had better look into their own selves to stand on their feet for strategies to fight the political battle. For now, we laugh their manifesto to scorn.

After all, it is no manifesto but a ridiculous collage of irritating intents and purposes that conflict with economic and political reality. Are these NPP people really sure that they have what it takes to rule Ghana? December 7 beckons!!

I shall return…

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