Ebo Quansah in Accra
This was no ordinary lecture. The Fifth Ferdinand Ayim Memorial Lecture at the plush hall of the Institute of Physicians and Surgeons in Accra, on Wednesday, had several sub plots. It was to officially introduce the running mate to the elephant family.
It was also intended as the occasion for the rank and file of the elephant family to be convinced of the credentials of the man they had waited on, all this long, while that he was away helping to reshape the battered economy of Zimbabwe.
Above all, it was an occasion the leadership of the party had planned to subject the so-called economic achievements of the Government of Prof. John Fiifi Atta Mills to professional scrutiny, with the intent to expose contradictions in the economic indicators being tossed about.
With these expectations, the lecture was over-subscribed in attendance.
On first entering the neighbourhood, one got the impression that a new car garage had been opened in the vicinity of the Institute of Physicians and Surgeons. Cars of various shapes filled every parking space available.
The entrance to the hall had taken on the look of a World Cup final day, with spectators squeezing into the arena. It took quite a struggle for the audience to have mercy on me, after some members of the audience had recognised me, and pleaded with them to allow me in, since I was reporting the event.
Even then, I struggled through and perched at the edge of a seat of a friend I had not seen for a long time. Throughout the period, only one side of the left buttock touched the seat, with me occasionally rising to stretch the body.
The lecture itself was a master class of a job on an economy that has been built more on the concept of make-believe and propaganda, than the substance of directing the economy of the state. When Gabby Okyere Darko, a trustee of the Ferdinand Ayim Foundation, organisers of the lecture, rose on his feet at 6:50 p.m. to officially begin proceedings, the milling crowd cheered wildly at the mention of the name of President John Agyekum Kufuor, as the Chairman for the function.
Even the announcement that ex-President Kufuor met then Theresa Mensah while a student of Oxford University, and that the two had been married for 50 years was greeted by cheers that sounded as if the Black Stars had scored a goal in an international engagement.
The former President described Ferdinand Ayim as a selfless visionary who espoused the liberal democratic concept of the New Patriotic Party. The late Mr. Ayim, the ex-head of state said, believed in the concept of Ghana. He died in the line of duty. “I believe Freddie was a hero,” the gentle giant said, cheered on by the large crowd.
He introduced the Main Speaker as a young man who had achieved it all, not only as Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana, but as an international economist who has just returned from a tour of duty in Zimbabwe, where he was the country’s representative of the African Development Bank.
The former President praised the role played by Dr. Mahamadu Bawumiah in the successful re-domination exercise undertaken by his government in 2007. He also linked the speaker to the introduction of the E-Zwich card for financial transactions in the country.
With former Vice-President Aliu Mahama, NPP presidential candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, former cabinet ministers, including Dr. Kwame Addo Kufuor, Gladys Asmah, Hackman Owusu-Agyeman S.K. Boafo, and many other NPP stalwarts present, Dr. Bawumia started by assuring Ghanaians that the party seeking to regain power restructured a failed economy when it was given the right to steer the economy in 2001, and would do it again, when Ghanaians return the NPP to power in December this year.
He said the National Democratic Congress Mark One handed over a dilapidated Tico car to the NPP in 2001. Due to the hard work and diligence of the Kufuor administration, the NPP handed over a brand new Metro Transit bus to the NDC in 2009. At the moment, the Metro bus has been so badly handled that it is in tatters.
“It is only natural that the NPP is given power to rescue the Metro bus,” he said to loud applause. Dr. Bawumiah jabbed the NDC administration stating emphatically that the leadership of the Mills administration was driving the Ghanaian economy into the woods. “What Ghanaians crave for, is not a Better Ghana for a few well connected people,” he told his audience.
Dr. Bawumiah said when the NPP took over in 2001, the economy was in tatters. But, through the prudent application of resources of state, and freeing of over $4 billion in capital of what should have been used to service debts, the Kufuor administration handed over a fairly robust economy to President Mills.
He listed about 55 structural reforms undertaken by the Kufuor regime to put the economy on track. He told his audience that between 2001 and 2008, the size of the national economy increased from $5.1 billion to $28 billion, a six-fold increase.
“Now that is what can be described as unprecedented. Even in the face of a global economic and fiscal crisis in 2007/2008, with oil prices reaching a record high of $147 a barrel, economic growth in 2008 rose to 8.4 percent,” he pointed out.
What is undeniable, according to Nana Akufo Addo’s running mate, is that Ghana was transformed during the eight-year rule of the NPP, saying he was usually amused when he hears officials of the Mills administration trying to compare their failure to the first three years of the Kufuor administration.
Dr. Bawumiah said the Mills administration inherited an economy well oiled by petro dollars. On top of this, the government has benefitted from a number of international and internal goodies. International price for cocoa has increased by 93 percent. Gold has risen to 90 percent of its price. “Imported crude oil has gone down from the peak of $147 experienced in the 2008,” he said.
“Ghanaians should, as a matter of fact, expect a much Better Ghana.” Instead, he surmised, agriculture is failing to produce to feed the nation, and fishing output has experienced negative growth. The economic guru, pooh poohed the single digit inflation being bandied about, saying, much as he respects the professional integrity of officials of the Ghana Statistical Service, who compile inflation figures in Ghana, he was at a loss as to how the single digit inflation had not reflected in the well-being of the Ghanaian.
The presidential running mate said his visit to Mallata Market in Accra New Town, a day before his presentation, told him that prices were rising in double and treble figures, way above the single digit inflation being bandied about.
He wondered why a nation with single digit inflation should have its currency falling to the extent that it is now considered one of the lowest currencies in Africa. When the Mills government took over in 2009, the cedi was exchanging for GH¢1.10 to $1. “Now the cedi exchanges for GH¢1.8 to $1 and is still tumbling.”
He said the attainment of single digit inflation should reflect in reduced interest rates, but this is not happening, and asked why the missing link?
The economic guru said single digit inflation is not a new creation. He said in 1958, for instance, inflation in Ghana was zero percent. It remained in single digit for most of the Nkrumah era. In 1970, inflation was single digit in the Busia regime. In 1994, under Rawlings, and in 2006, inflation was in single digit under the Kufuor regime.
When he came to corruption, the crowd burst into the Woyome song. The audience was in full voice, and it took a while before all was quiet again for Dr. Bawumiah to resume. When the song died down, Dr. Bawumiah told his audience that a government that could pay the kind of money handed over to Woyome, CP and others for no work done, could not be trusted to direct the economy properly on behalf of the nation, and invited all Ghanaians to invest their votes in the NPP.
On the evidence of the rapturous reception given him after the lecture, Dr. Bawumiah has been accepted into the elephant family as one of its favourite sons.
Summing up the evening, former President J.A. Kufuor invited the media to endeavour to publish the full contents of the lecture to educate Ghanaians.
The evening ended on an emotional note, when the three children of the late Ferdinand Ayim appeared on stage to thank those who have aided them in diverse ways since the demise of their father.
Mr. Ferdinand O. Ayim died when the car he was driving on his way to the Kwahu Mountain in April 2006 to organise the 2006 Easter paragliding event on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism, was involved in an accident.
Ebo Quansah in Accra