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Opinions of Friday, 16 April 2004

Columnist: Asare, Rexford

The real issues as we prepare for the 2004 election.

The December 2004 election is at the corner and our politicians are at their usual best attacking one another yet the real issues are found wanting. I have been following with keen interest what the political landscape in our dear country looks like as we glide towards another election time. Many are the accusations and counter-accusation by the various political parties concerning how the economy of the country has been ruined by one government or another and yet in vain have I found any single politician mention a single issue of national interest and stating his or her position concerning such issues. I think the era when we used to accuse each other of mismanaging the economic but failing to tell the electorate what we intend to do our selves to salvage it is long gone.

What we all need to do now especially among politicians is to bring out pertinent issues that affect the economy and tell the people how we intend to tackle those issues. To be reinforce my point, I will list some of the factors that is affecting the economy and which need to be debated by the various presidential aspirants. When these are debated publicly both in English and in our local languages over the various radio stations, then will the electorate make informed decisions as to which political party has the best laid out programs and which to vote for, come December this year.

The number one problem facing as a nation is our educational institutions, right from primary one to the university level. Every one and every politician you talk to will accept the fact that our educational system is in shambles but I am yet to see any political party tell us what they plan to do to salvage the ailing educational system. For example we the electorates need to know how the various political parties define the ?free compulsory basic education? and how they plan to continue with its implementation when they are voted into power. The also should tell us how they plan to entice academically competent people into our teacher training colleges so as to built a strong foundation at the primary level in the educational system. Let them tell us how they are planning to solve the problem of posting of teachers to primary and junior secondary schools so as to reduce the disparity between performance of schools in rural and urban areas.

At the second cycle level, we want these politicians to tell us their programs or how they think we can improve the performance of our students. For instant they should tell us if they have any program in place to test the performance level of students from our various second cycle institutions and if their performance is low, what programs they plan to implement to deal with the situation. Lastly they should tell Ghanaians what plans they have for our tertiary institutions. They should state their positions on cost sharing and what percent of the total cost of education should be borne by students and their parents. We will like to know from our politicians what programs they have to attract and retain teachers in our universities and what reforms they think the universities need to make in order to achieve these objectives.

The next big question where our politicians need to tell us where they stand is health care delivery in the country. One thing that comes to mind readily in this regard is the National health insurance scheme. In spite of the ?hoola baalo? about the scheme between the government and organized labor concerning the source of the initial capital for the scheme, I am yet to find a single presidential aspirant tell the whole nation what his or her position is on this dire issue. The politicians should tell us how they plan to implement the program if they are voted into office. Where they going to get the start up capital from and how they plan to collect contributions from people working in the private sector and the self employed. They should also tell us how they plan to take care of the vulnerable in the society who can not afford to pay for such a scheme.

The third issue which should also be important during the coming election is agricultural productivity. Since our economy is primarily agricultural base economy, let our politicians tell us their programs to transform our agricultural system from the predominantly subsistent farming to large scale mechanized farming so as to increase productivity. They should tell us their programs to revise our land acquisition system so as to make land available for people wanting to invest in large scale farming. In this same vain they should tells us programs they will implement to protect our poor farmers from competitive advantage from these large scale farmers. The last thing I will mention about agriculture is their position and plans concerning how we can reduce post harvest losses. This will tells us which party has our farmers at heart and which party has the most viable plan to stimulate our economy.

The fourth most important dilemma that face us as a nation but which the present government has failed to tackle and which the opposition parties have also failed to tell us what they will do about the canker of rampant road accidents in our country. I may not be far from right to speculate that almost every family in Ghana have had to suffer at one time or another the pain that is infringe upon people as a result of death of a family resulting from a reckless driving. Experience has shown us that no amount of driver education is solving the problem yet no government is ready to enact and implement the necessary laws that will ensure safe driving on our roads. Let the political parties tells us what their programs will be to ensure that when you are leaving home in the morning you will be assured that if you are ever going to die that day, it will at least not be through reckless driving by a drunk driver.

There are many other pertinent issues that we need to know where the various political parties stand and what their plans are to deal them but I will only add one more for now. One major problem that has made the headlines recently is the ailing national airline. We have heard the present government?s position on what it intends to do to redeem the airline though no concrete plan has been announce, but I am yet to find any alternative proposal on the part of the opposition parties concerning what they will do to salvage the national airline and make the airline the star it was intended to be. What our politicians fail to realize is that it is only when they take up such important national issues, state their position on it, and offer a more viable alternative will the people vote for them and not when they accuse each other of trying to rig elections.

In this vain I will implore the various radio presenters and their program directors that when they invite politicians to their programs, these are kinds of issues they should bring to the fore for discussion and not what political party A said about political party B or Whether Mr. A will be a more charismatic president than Mr. B. The TV stations and the other media house are is not left out is quest to make sure our politicians do the right things and are held accountable for their promises. When this is done it will only not help educate Ghanaians on what to expect from their political leaders but it will also enable them make informed decisions about who to vote for and who not to vote for.

Rexford Asare
University of Kentucky, USA

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