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Opinions of Sunday, 22 July 2018

Columnist: David Ampong

We are not second-class citizens

There are over a million Ghanaians in diaspora whose contribution to the development of Ghana far outweighed the over 100 ministers in Ghana. The majority of Ghanaians in diaspora did not achieve their success through Ghanaian government sponsorship. They worked hard and juggled multiple jobs while attending college.

The sacrifices and development many Ghanaians have made and continue to make in Ghana needs to be acknowledged and rewarded with a system that makes it easy for them to return home with the knowledge and skills they have acquired. The ministers and parliamentarians who curved the legislature restricting the domestic role of a Ghanaian in diaspora was out of ignorance or shear lack of knowledge of what it takes to build a nation.

A citizen of Ghana who has naturalized in another country does not automatically lose his or her identity and patriotism. Prior to my travel abroad, I had heard of how many Ghanaian intellectuals refused to return and how the West is “brain draining” our beloved Ghana.

Let us start from the Port. The Tema port is the main Ghanaian port for exportation and importation of goods. A vehicle that costs about $6,000 from the United States may cost about$1,500 to ship. The cost does not end there: to receive the vehicle in Ghana, the Ghanaian harbor system may charge you over $6,000. Taxation plays a major part in a national development, but the ridiculous taxation of people with the ability to develop a nation is a setback to national development. Nations such as Norway, where taxes are astronomically high on goods and services, have a system that ensures the money goes back into the development of the infrastructure and the provision of free education for all citizens.

Within the capital of Ghana, however, there are unpaved roads with disease causing pollutants. There are constructed roads without any underground sewer, and open gutters are filled with human feces and infested with mosquitoes. Within a filthy country, the National Bank of Ghana offers politicians millions of dollars to import 275 vans for political purposes. What contributions are these banks making toward the infrastructural and economic development of Ghana?

If a politician prioritizes the purchase of vehicle over the well-being of the people living in the country, then no intelligent person should vote for that politician.

Politics is about the appropriate allocation and prioritization of resources to benefit the people. This minister and his entourage want power and fame. Their actions have shown zero interest in building the country. How many engineering schools do we have in Ghana? When was the last time the Bank of Ghana donated to these engineering schools to boost their research?

It is time our financial institutions invest in our civil and mechanical engineers so we have well-constructed roads and sewer systems. At this age in the history of Ghana, no road or house should be built with open gutters around, especially in a tropical area where we have disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Where will the party find the money to pay the loan Freddie Blay made to purchase the buses? If the leaders of the NPP support Freddie Blay’s action, then they are as corrupt as any other party they labeled. Patriotic Ghanaians need to bring a legal suit against the party to answer how it will finance the payment of the buses.

The death of former president Mr. Akwasi Amissah raises many questions about the health literacy in our country. Based on the narration of Okye Hene, my understanding is that there was no automatic defibrillator (AED) machine in the gym. There were no trained emergency technicians to respond to cardiac arrest. There was no ambulance but instead many exotic and expansive cars.

Can someone check whether Parliament House has AED machines? Can somebody find out whether they have trained emergency technician? What about Flagstaff House, do they have well-trained medical personnel? Do they have AED machines? It is clear they have macho guys in Parliament House and Flagstaff House, but they cannot save you when “Oga” comes!

What about all the churches in Ghana, do they have AED machines? Oh wait, they believe in Jesus, so they are immune to cardiac arrest—or if it did happen, then it means the person was cursed or it was God’s call. A cry for my country!!

What about stroke? How do we respond? Do we have ambulances and trained personnel who can transport a patient to the emergency department within 90 minute to prevent permanent damage?

These are basic health concerns that should be inculcated in pupils at the elementary school level. However, the Ghanaian education curriculum is still based on theory and archaic inapplicable science.

In 2017, my mother died of stroke in the presence of a community-trained nurse who could not identify the signs of stroke, let alone authorize immediate transport to the emergency room for thrombolytic therapy. This was a mini-stroke that led to vascular dementia and eventually death.

My mother’s death was a turning point in my life. The circumstances surrounding her death were too painful for me to bear. I had to come to Ghana immediately upon her death. I was convinced by lawyers not to sue anyone. As a well-trained nurse practitioner, this case met all four elements of negligence in a medical legal suit against any practitioner involved: the duty of care, breach of duty, proximate cause, and damage were all there.

I pondered the issue and endured the pain for a year before deciding that I would channel my energy into building at least one school and a medical center that will focus on improving health literacy in Ghana and treating patients with cutting-edge innovation and technology.

This leads to my next area of concern for Ghanaians in diaspora: land acquisition. I started searching for land in Ghana, specifically in Accra and Kumasi areas. The cost of a plot of a land in Accra ranges between $7,000 and $10,000 depending on the location.

One strategic path to accelerating nation building and development is through the low cost of land. Some states in the United States offer land at a low cost to individuals, and some even pay residents to live in the state. It is a basic economic application that works for any state or country that wants to move out of economic crisis. Look at all the states with history of coming out of economic crisis in US and see a trend of property rate. Some will go to the extent of offering incentives for investors. The State of Alaska pays its residents annually out of the profits made from its natural resources irrespective of race—you just need to live there.

Ghana has more resources than the State of Alaska. When did the mining industries in Ghana last pay the residents or citizens of Ghana? Quite the contrary! They have destroyed Obuasi and Dunkwa-on-Offin, a few of the mining areas I know in Ghana, leaving Ghanaians with deadly diseases from the prohibited mining of chemicals. How do you promote development in a nation with such a high cost of land? Why would a good investor consider Ghana when he or she can invest that $7,000 in real estate in the United States and start reaping the benefits within a year?

The leader of the current administration is a visionary. However, rhetoric and dreams can only materialize with strategic pathway and pragmatism. Remove these two major barriers—high cost of imported investment resources and high cost of land—to help Ghana develop further. Notice I said investment resources, not luxury resources or products that will compete with locally produce goods in Ghana. Any educated economist will tell you it is important to tax foreign imported goods and services at a high rate to promote the growth of local industries.

Last, I want to touch on the recent discovery of petroleum in Ghana. How transparent was the government with the Ghanaian public? What percentages go to the development of the nation, the city where the oil was found, and the citizens of Ghana? As part of tradition, there will be some negotiations for nananom to receive royalties so long as the mining continues. What about the residents of that town? What about their future posterity?

It is time for Ghana to adopt a better model that ensures the benefits of natural resources and that positively impacts all of her residents. Enough of this nonsense about “nananom, masters, and bugars” enjoying royalties while some citizens cannot put food on the table for their families.

The royals of Ghana have nothing but jewels to show after all the royalties they received from the gold, diamond, bauxite, and many other mineral mining for over 50 years since independence. Visit their cities and towns, and you will see abject poverty, from poor drinking water to disease-infested villages. If you want the new youth to respect you as Nana, it is time that you starting think outside the box. Demand that investors create jobs, build infrastructures for your towns, and pay every resident in that town annually.

To the youth, stop following these so-called politicians, pastors, nananom, and what have you. Stop being their boy-boy and focus on technical education. Do not go to university to study philosophy or theology. We have had enough of theology and philosophy. It has done nothing for the country but made us slaves to superstitious beliefs. There are more churches in Ghana than there are factories.

You do not need a higher GPA to study science and technology. You can start from the polytechnic.

Think of the problems surrounding you, get creative, be inventive, and be innovative. Stop the buy-and-sell business. Use the Internet to seek sponsors.
When you come up with a creative idea, develop the prototype and post it on the Internet. Create go sponsor, and I bet if your idea is good enough then many people will sponsor you to achieve your dream.

The Ghanaian government needs to start collecting taxes from these mushrooming churches all over the country. Please develop a better tax system that ensures the collected taxes are utilized for improvement and development. For over 50 years of tax collection, no ruling government has demonstrated that the taxes collected are used to promote development.

For instance, the road from Kumasi to Dunkwa-on-Offin has several toll areas, including the bridge to Dunkwa. The road is full of trenches and potholes because the government does not have the revenue to repair the road. Where is all the toll money? Our accountability foresight as a nation is so short that we cannot plan for a certain percentage of road tolls to be saved for the annual repair of the road.

Visit the Land’s Department in Accra, and you will understand how mediocre and stupid we are as a nation. The Land’s Department was built during the colonial period. Since then, a lot of money has been made from the licensing and certifications of lands in this vicinity. However, if you visit the place, you will see the roof is leaking, and the entire building is in bad shape. It appears maintenance is not part of our culture as a nation. Every civilized nation promotes a culture of safety through maintenance.

The lack of maintenance is why we wait till there is a change of government to launch an investigation into suspicious activities. A wise and smart government will invest in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) or an independent government agency that protects the nation from losing money through a continuous checks and balances process. It is not the work of Anas Ameyaw to investigate and alert the government.

The CID or an independent government agency must be supported with cutting-edge technology to track any form of dubious activity that can affect the nation. A well-supported CID should be able to have undercover operatives to infiltrate every government institution whose job is to alert the department of any suspicious activities.

Ghanaians in diaspora do not need dual citizenship; it is nothing but a waste of money. Ghanaians in diaspora are not second-class citizens. It is time we are accorded the same rights and opportunities to allow us to return to and serve our country. We want to see a change in Ghana.

A change in how we view ourselves as Ghanaians and how accountable we are to ourselves will go a long way. Our biggest enemy is superstition, ethnocentrism, and nepotism. Remove these barriers, promote patriotism, and corruption will reduce. I will also encourage the citizens of Ghana to file a law suit against any government that is exploiting them through taxation without any proof of where the tax is going and what the tax is doing for the nation.

The use of taxpayers money must be accounted for in any democratic country. The total amount of taxes collected annually and its utilization must be a public knowledge.

I will also encourage the citizens of Ghana to file a lawsuits against any government that is exploiting them through taxation without any proof of where the tax is going and what the tax is doing for the nation. The use of taxpayers money must be accounted for in any democratic country.

The total amount of taxes collected annually and its utilization must be public knowledge. Transparency does not mean honesty, so if a government claims transparency that also needs verification. Under no circumstance should a town be paying a toll fee for over 50-years and have dilapidated roads and infrastructure.

The solutions to the problems in Ghana will come from highly dedicated and patriotic youth, not greedy politicians and their bastards.