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Opinions of Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Columnist: Thompson, Kofi

We Must Never Accept What Politicians Say At Face Value

By Kofi Thompson

Every time a political party comes up with a policy proposal that will benefit ordinary people, we must commend them for it, to encourage the other parties to do same too.

That is why it is gratifying that at long last, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has finally come up with a policy proposal for which they will not have to resort to Kweku-Ananse-economics, in order to try and justify.

That is because it is a policy proposal that is actually doable and feasible, and, above all, just the sort of policy proposal that will impress an important Ghanaian demographic: the nation's small crop of independent-minded, patriotic and discerning individuals whose crucial swing-votes now decide who becomes Ghana's president.

In a nation in which the two biggest political parties, the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), and the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), can almost always rely on the support of millions of "My-party-my-tribe-right-or-wrong" myrmidon-types - whose blinkered support for both parties is slowly destroying Ghanaian democracy - it is comforting to know that it is the swing-votes of those independent-minded and discerning individuals, which now determine the outcome of presidential elections.

And luckily for Mother Ghana, those independent-minded and patriotic citizens, are also very much aware of the fact that there is only so much available to the government of the day, by way of tax revenues, to enable it implement its developmental agenda.

They are also aware that a large chunk of those revenues invariably go into the payment of public-sector employees and to ensure that the machinery of state functions effectively.

It is this awareness of how little room for manoeuvre there is for every government, budget-wise, which makes such individuals doubt the sincerity of those politicians promising to turn Ghana more or less into a land flowing with milk and honey, in which there are endless freebies for ordinary people, if voters elect them to power in the December 7th elections.

In reality, every policy proposal that offers something "free" to Ghanaians, actually has to be paid for, out of those selfsame inadequate tax revenues.

What that means in practice, in the real world, is that the government of the day has to resort to either borrowing money or levying additional taxes, or make drastic cuts in government spending.

That is why discerning and independent-minded Ghanaians are keen that Ghana's politicians tell ordinary people, precisely where they intend to find the money from, to pay for the freebies they are offering Ghanaians.

It is in the light of all the above that as someone who for over two decades has advocated that tax holidays on rental-income ought to be extended to real estate companies offering well-designed, well-built and affordable rental accommodation to ordinary Ghanaians, I now feel able to commend Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) presidential candidate, for assuring members of the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) that that will be one of his government's key policies.

That is just the sort of creative thinking by politicians that will redound to the benefit of ordinary working families in urban Ghana. Pity that the hard-of-hearing Mills regime never listened to those of us who gave them that selfsame idea for free.

So kudos to the NPP's Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, for proposing to offer tax incentives to real estate companies in Ghana, that provide affordable rental accommodation.

Let us hope that the many promises that members of our political class (across the spectrum) are making to voters, don't end in tears for the ordinary people of Ghana, eventually.

For this year's presidential and parliamentary elections, it really is vital that ordinary Ghanaians are a great deal more discerning than has been the case in the past.

Above all, instead of accepting things that Ghana's politicians say at face value, ordinary people must constantly question those politicians making policy proposals in campaign speeches across the country, in order to get a whole-picture-view of issues. A word to the wise...

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