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Opinions of Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Columnist: Appiah Kubi

The economic problems of Ghana: A view from Far East

As a Ghanaian studying outside the country, I feel so sorry for what my beloved nation is going through; especially when I compare China where I currently study, to my homeland. I always read about the kinds of hardship the people of Ghana are going through with absolute pain. I find it simply unbelievable that a country with a population of just a little over 25 million, cannot manage anything in the country.

There are so many things that are not going right in the country but this piece will be centered on ‘the table tennis manner’ leaders of the country are playing with our ailing economy and its devastating effects on the ordinary Ghanaian.

Over the last 14 months, Ghanaians have watched in disbelief, how our economy has been mismanaged to the extent that has been hauled into severe fiscal deficit and gross depreciation of the Cedi. This mismanagement of economy has forced Ghanaians to live under serious economic stress and hardships.

What breaks my heart is the fact that, people who are suppose to come together to find lasting solutions to our economic woes keep playing with our economy by deliberately shifting blame from one political party to the other. The question I keep asking myself is, do we place Ghana second to our various political affiliations?

I have listened intently to some of the commentaries on our economic situation and I could not help but weep for mother Ghana. A highly ranked Government spokesperson and a member of the NDC legal team, Abraham Amaliba sat on Joy FM news analysis program, Newsfile and spilled out skewed perspectives like attributing our economic problems to high rise buildings being constructed in our country; how in the name of God will one think so?

How then are countries like China who is currently building the world tallest building called sky city tower, in Changsha, Hunan Province and United Arab Emirates who possesses so many high rise buildings and have been accredited world record holder of the tallest building in the world, (the Burj Khalifa) have such booming economies. If really, our economic decline is as a result of high rise buildings, then these countries should have their economies in shambles by now.

If indeed this is the mindset of leaders ruling our country, then all Ghanaians should brace themselves for real trouble because this may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Ghana’s economic situation has become so serious to the extent that, people who society presumes should contain their feelings have been forced by circumstances to air their opinions. When they do so, they are vilified and dragged in the mud as though they have no right to openly express their views on what transpire in the own country; such was the case of the Methodist Bishop of Obuasi Diocese, Rt. Rev. Stephen Richard Bosomtwi-Ayensu.

As much as I believe the man is a Rev Minister and thus should have kept his opinion to himself, he is actually not wrong in telling Government to do all it can, to fix the economic situation since Ghanaians are really suffering. From the onset of this case, many Government communicators chastised the man verbally via various media platforms. The question I keep asking myself is, was he wrong to have questioned the very aspect of governance that affected his life and that of others?

Are Ghanaians not suffering? So what is wrong if a man of God prompts the Government to sit up and alleviate the plight of the people who voted them into power? We profess to be practicing democracy yet we quickly jump at the throat of well meaning Ghanaians who speak the truth.

It is a fact that due to the harsh economic situation in Ghana, Ghanaians are resorting to desperate measures to survive in the country. The first desperate measure was the prayer and declaration for the Cedi rise by the General Overseer of the Action Chapel International (ACI), Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams. I believe in prayer and I also believe that the good Lord has power to turn things around but we all know that if our political leaders do not resort to the right things, we will continue to suffer. So, as much as the Archbishops prayer is welcome, he should also tell our leaders to rise up to the challenge and find lasting solutions to our problems.

The second desperate measure was the imposition of road tolls by the authorities of the University of Ghana on students while lecturers and their dependants were exempted. I read this in total disbelief - has the university gone so broke that now it has to resort to such a desperate measure to raise money for running the University?

These are really desperate times in Ghana indeed. I am therefore fully behind the SRC President of the University of Ghana for petitioning parliament over this road toll on the campus. My heart also goes all out to support the two students who are heading to the Supreme Court on this same issue. They should fight it with all their might because the harsh economic situation in Ghana is felt by all, not the University alone.

Another desperate measure was made by the Bank of Ghana to curb the depreciation of the Cedi by the injection of $20 million into critical areas of the economy to shoot up the Cedi. This measure has been described as a “joke’’ by Prof Newman Kojo Kusi, a renowned economist of the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS). He was quoted on Neat Fm 100.9 Fm and published on Peacefmonline.com, saying “… it is a joke; because I don’t think the excess demand is $20 million”. I think they should investigate this problem properly to find out the root cause of the economic decline. Is it a speculative demand by traders wishing to get around further depreciation? Is it by the activities of non-residents who off load bonds to the local market? Is it because Ghana Commercial Bank, which is authorised to buy foreign exchange with our reserves are using it for other purposes? or is it because we simply do not have foreign exchange to put into the market?

To inject $20 million is just like adding a ‘drop in the ocean’ and cannot entirely solve the problem”. For that matter, it is quite clear that the stop-gap measures been put in place by Government to arrest the economic situation in Ghana are simply unsustainable hence, its implementation will not save Ghanaians, it will only propel us to more suffering in the near future.

Government in its bid to solve the dismal economic situation has resorted to the imposition and increase in taxes on the same people who are complaining of untold hardship. Yes, I understand that the government needs to increase its revenue to be able to meet payment of salaries and other very important government businesses. The irony here is that the imposition of more taxes means further suffering for the people, coupled with rampant increases in prices of petroleum products, and increase in other utility bills. The average Ghanaian at this point is struggling to live a descent and simple life. We only thank God that the oxygen provided by the creator is free otherwise the entire nation would have died by now.

In my opinion, I think all well meaning Ghanaians should come together irrespective of their political affiliation to help solve this quandary. The Government should ‘eat humble pie and assemble economic brains’ from across the political divide to save the nation. People like Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, Mr. Kwame Peprah, Dr. Osafo Maafo, Dr. Paul Acquah, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, Dr. Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arther, Dr. Kwabena Duffour, Prof. Djan Baffour, Dr. Osei Akoto, Dr. Tekper, Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom could be called upon to come together to help rescue Ghana’s economy from its current state of hopelessness.

I strongly believe that these economic minds can formulate a strong framework that will save our country from collapse and put Ghana back on the path of economic development. Opposition parties should also help to solve the problems and not only criticise for political gains because eventually when opposition wins power, the other side also continues the same things and the political table tennis of our economy will continue to rage and Ghana cannot afford to mishandle the economy, the bedrock of our nation.

Though we welcome Bank of Ghana’s gesture of holding its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting earlier than scheduled to review the health of the economy as published by Myjoyonline.com, we can only hope that the situation has rigged the operations of the government. Either ways, this is a positive indication that Government has seen the need to act appropriately to save the nation. The MPC could brainstorm and come up with serious sustainable measures that can stabilise the Cedi and bring the economy from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) it has currently found itself in.

Government should continue in its efforts to curb the rampant corruption that has plagued the very fabric of our societies. Corruption play an integral part in the bad shape the economy finds itself presently. It has therefore become necessary that we work fervently as one people to nip corruption in the bud once and for all.

In order to create more jobs to ease the pressure government expenditure, Bank of Ghana, Securities and Exchange Commission, National Communications Authority, Insurance Commission should be encouraged to strengthen Ghanaian entrepreneurial base as a means of creating jobs for Ghanaians.

Incentives and tax exemptions could be granted to companies who process and add value to our raw materials. The government should create enabling environment like offering soft loans to farmers to enable them continue to provide food and other important crops for consumption as well as export, to generate more foreign revenue. If possible, embargo should be put on importation of products that can be locally produced to encourage Ghanaians patronise these products. This would inadvertently increase local productivity and increase jobs for the people.

To conclude, I am pleading the indulgence of all Ghanaians from all the different political dispensations, to bring all hands on deck to stop the political propaganda. The blame game, where one political party blames the other for our economic woes must also stop.

However, I am appealing to the Government to accept criticisms and to discontinue the practice of attacking people who share their opinions on national issues. Communicators on the other hand must learn to address issues not personalities in a much diplomatic manner to enable the country acknowledge its short falls and solve them accordingly.

Opposition to government must make constructive criticism and offer alternative ideas that can be used to correct our economic problems rather than indulge in political games that will only favour them to win political power.

Ghana is for us all, therefore we cannot continue to love our political parties more than the nation. If we are not careful and thoughtful enough to solve our problems now, some day there will be no Ghana for us to even campaign and win to govern. So it’s important that we come together as Ghanaians to end this economic crisis before it’s too late. Long live Ghana

Doctor Intern

Shenyang Medical College no.1 Affiliated Hospital

Shenyang, Liaoning Provence China

Former National President (NUGS-CHINA)

Email: appiahkk@yahoo.com

Phone no. 008613998344243