Feature Article of Friday, 24 February 2012

Columnist: Otchere-Darko, Asare

Mills Has Had More Spending Money Than Kufuor

FACT: Mills Has Had More Spending Money In 3 Years Than Kufuor In 8: NA SIKA NO WO HE NE?

Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko

For any president seeking a second term the task is straight forward: you have only one thing to rely on -- your first term performance. You have to show what you have done with your current mandate to justify why you deserve a second term.

That performance will depend to some degree on the record you inherited. Nevertheless, regardless of what was bequeathed to you, voters look out for how you have dealt with the issues that have confronted the nation under your stewardship.

If the record was so bad (which during your previous campaign you would have hammered on to support your message for change and your programme of change) you have to show what you have done to fix what was broken. Have you done enough to inspire hope for the future? Have you done enough to show that you are up to the job? Or have you, like Emperor Commodus, been sleeping on the job, surrendering control to your praetorian prefects, who are selling imperial favours for their personal gain?

If the record was not as bad as you made it to be, then the question is: what have you done to build on what you inherited? In Ghana, the governing NDC, which is seeking its fourth term in office against the NPP’s third term, is quick to make the kind of point which seems to suggest that President Mills started on ground zero. In their defense against any legitimate bashing of his performance, the NDC will tell their critics not to compare the four-year record of Mills to the eight-year record of his predecessor, Kufuor. But there is a distinguishable – a clear contradistinction -- point that, in my view, characterizes the Mills administration. Which is this: it has had more money in 3 years than the Kufuor administration had in 8 years. Exactly! Let me put it in another way, even discounting exchange rates and inflation, President Mills has had more money to work or play with in his four years than President Kufuor had in his 8 years and these facts are public records. For the 8 years, President Kufuor received a total of GH¢2.975 billion in foreign loans. (Do note that receipts refer to the actual disbursed amount of loans contracted). By the end of last year, President Mills had received Gh¢4.06 billion from loans in three years, as captured in the national budget. This was out of some $12 billion of foreign loans contracted. Indeed, a deputy minister of information has come out to say that “only” $7 billion of the huge loans contracted have been disbursed. But, let us stick to the lower figure for now. Na sika no wo he ne

Also, let us limit this piece to delving into a question that has been posed on at least three major platforms by the President’s main opponent, Nana Akufo-Addo. That question is this: Na sika no wo he ne? Meaning, what has President Mills done with all the resources that has been at his disposal to develop the country and tackle poverty?

When it comes to grants and revenues, President Kufuor in 8 years received a total amount of Gh¢24.29 billion. In just 3 years, the tax professor, President Mills, on the other hand, has received, Gh¢28.25 billion. For his eight years, President Kufuor’s total expenditure was GH¢31.24 billion. And, there is a lot to show for that level of expenditure. In his first 3 years, President Mills’ total expenditure stood at GH¢35.11 billion – this figure includes the GH¢642 million paid in so-called judgment debts. On top of that, recent figures released by the Bank of Ghana indicate that in January 2012 alone, President Mills spent GH¢1.4 billion, with total revenue and grants of GH¢649.3 million for that month. What it means is that government spending for this year alone could be as high as GH¢20 billion.

Candidate Mills will do well to focus his 2012 campaign in showing to Ghanaians clear evidence of what he has done with all the resources that has come to his presidency for the ‘Better Ghana’ agenda or risk being tagged the worst leader Ghana has ever had – in that he had opportunities and squandered them all.

Life has been very good to Mills, as compared to his two recent predecessors. God has been so good. “The current government has had much more resources than any other government in the past. Higher taxes, higher duties, record earnings from gold and cocoa, billions of dollars of loans, leading to a doubling of our total debt portfolio in just 3 years,” Nana Addo has emphasized.

Ghana has, indeed, been showered with blessings of cash under our ‘God-fearing’ President. But, the omphalic question remains: what has he done with all the blessings? God, indeed, must be one very disappointed Father, right now.

Mills has been the luckiest president since the First Republic. No other president in our Republic’s history had oil revenues to work with. Last year, total exports shot up by 60.6% to $12.7 billion, with new help from crude oil and renewed help from favourable gold and cocoa prices. Gold fetched $4.9 billion, cocoa beans $2 billion and oil, $2.7 billion over the same period.

President Mills continue spending and borrowing, borrowing and spending. But, where is it all going? It is as if there is a leakage at the Castle that leads into the Atlantic Ocean. Already, the mad rush for loans has begun to bite and this should not be lost on the young generation, who will carry the bigger burden of settling the piling public debt in future.

Take for example, for the yesr 2008, President Kufuor spent GH¢700 million in loan repayments. In 2009, President Mills repaid the smaller amount of GH¢540 million. By 2010, our annual loan repayments had shot up to GH¢1.4 billion, increasing further to GH¢1.7 billion the following year.

President Mills inherited a total domestic debt of GH¢4.8 billion. By 2010, he had nearly doubled it to GH¢8.3 billion. Last year alone, he added another 43% to the total stock of Ghana’s domestic debt, bringing it up to ¢11.84 billion, according to the central bank.

The total public debt now stands at GH¢23.6 billion, more than doubling within a three-year period, in which the government claims it has both stabilised the local currency against the dollar and kept inflation firmly in single digits.

For his quest for a second term, candidate Mills must tell Ghanaians how far he has gone, not only in fulfilling his campaign promises, but even more importantly, in implementing the very programmes that he has been putting before Ghanaians each year since he took office in 2009?

Is there a single, significant policy initiative that he can be remembered by? The ambitious home construction project could have been such an initiative. But that deal was dead, ab initio. But, what threw the monkey wrench in the STX deal has been a victim of the usual spin? The explanation from the President is that the deal fell through because of boardroom squabbles, as if the government had nothing to do with it. But, it was because of the problems the deal was having that triggered the boardroom wrangling in the first place. Not the other way round. It was only when the Koreans could not come up with the money that B K Asamoah attempted to look elsewhere, with the two emerging factions trying to take each other out to own 100% of the STX nothingness.

For an incumbent, your campaign message is about nothing else but your performance. Whether the propaganda that President Mills inherited a country that was broke will work or not, he has nothing but his leadership deliverables to take to the ballot box. The contest is not as much about his opponent, who had more votes than Mills on December 7, 2008, than it is about Mills. At least, half of the electorate in 2008 were willing to trust Akufo-Addo as much as Atta Mills in an election eventually settled by less than half of one percent.

Indeed, the 2012 contest is a bi-issue referendum. First, on President Mills’ performance and, second, and most importantly, a referendum on the future of Ghana. Which of the two candidates can Ghanaians trust to deliver a brighter future for them from what they have witnessed from the performance of Mills and what they think of Akufo-Addo’s vision, braced of course by their assessment of his leadership characteristics and commitment to the cause of Ghana over the years.

And, as to where Ghanaians place their bet or the fate of that future could be gleaned from the performance of the incumbent against the promise of his main challenger.

To end with the now famous phrase: Na Sika No Wo He? The message that the NPP must take to the voters is this: what has been the impact of all the billions and billions of dollars that this President and his government have had on your individual life; on your family; on your community?