Ebo Quansah in Accra
It tells a lot about the contributions of Dr. Paa Kwesi Ammisah-Arthur to nation-building that he is getting more space on both the electronic and print media out of government than he ever enjoyed at Government House as Vice-President of the Republic of Ghana and Head of this nation’s Economic Management Team.
So ineffective was he perceived as head of former President John Dramani’s understudy that my nephews in the house conferred the title Ankobeahene on him.
One of those mischief-makers even likened the former Vice-President’s role in government to that of a child in the house. He was to be seen, but not to be heard.
At the weekend, the former Vice-President, Head of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Economic Team, one-time Governor of the Bank of Ghana, ex-Deputy Minister of Finance and who was also lecturer in economics at the University of Ghana, courted controversy when he made his personal contribution to the sitting President’s new economic model tagged Ghana Beyond Aid.
The former head of the Government’s Economic Management Team told members of John Dramani Mahama’s Presidential Press Corps that the Ghana Beyond Aid mantra is mere rhetoric.
“I’m comfortable if ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ is saying we will only borrow for capital investment and not recurrent obligation. But the problem has not been defined for me to understand it. It is just the rhetoric. It sounds nice, but what goes into it? People will support it if they understand what the objective is. As at now, everybody is left to define it how he understands it, and then to decide to support or to oppose it,” the former head of the Government’s Economic Management Team told the newsmen.
The former Vice-President asked the government to provide time-lines for the achievement of the policy to make it measurable. “It is good to have a policy. But you must also have a time-frame. That, after 10 years, if someone offers to pay AIDS medicine, because we don’t have money, we will reject it, because we will have to pay on our own?” he asked.
I am very despondent this morning. If the former Lecturer in Economics, Deputy Minister of Finance, Governor of the Bank of Ghana, and Vice-President of the Republic, who was also head of the Government’s Economic Management Team, is unable to appreciate the simple notion of building Ghana Beyond Aid, then there is a very serious problem.
I do not believe the President, his Vice, Alhaji Muhamudu Bawumia, the Finance Minister or anybody in government has ever said that Ghana Beyond Aid, means we are trying to build a nation where aid would be totally rejected.
All that the President is proposing is a paradigm shift in economic management, laying more emphasis on this nation’s ability to cater for itself, rather than depending on aid, which has underlined our national development agenda for the past 61 years.
“We have been on that trajectory for 61 years, and it has not happened. One other reason the country and Africa could not continue to rely on aid is that there is aid fatigue,” the President told the nation at the independence parade at the Black Star Square in Accra on March 6, this year.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Add did not end there. “Even if there is no aid fatigue, and with all the best will in the world, and the most charitable governments in place in the so-called donor countries, there would never be enough to develop Ghana to the level we want,” the President explained. “Aid is never meant to be what will bring us to the status of a developed nation.”
I do not believe we need any rocket science to appreciate what the President is trying to establish in this country. We have depended on aid and hand-outs all through the 61 years of independence. At one point in time, we were so dependent on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that this country was the star pupil of the two Breton Woods institutions. At one point in time, 45 percent of the national budget needed aid to execute.
It is the equivalent of a human being depending on the financial muscle of others to eke out a living. While fathers, uncles, mothers, auntie, brothers and sisters are prepared to pay for the education of the child, and to support his or her living generally, once the person is of age, that person is required by society to be on his or her own. If the person is unable to depend on his or herself in adulthood, society begins to frown on him or her generally, to the extent of even disowning him or her.
The Akans will tell you: ‘Waso aware a toto wo mprete.’ Literally, it enjoins the person on the verge of marriage to be financially sound.
I am not an economist. My knowledge of economics does not go beyond supply and demand taught in journalism classes. But I do understand the import of what the President means by encouraging all of us to aim at Ghana Beyond Aid.
My understanding is that this society must be in a position to earn enough to feed, clothe and house its citizens. If in the process of catering for ourselves, someone offers aid, we are not going to tell him/her or they to go to hell. We are going to take the aid to add to our own efforts and help build our society.
On the eve of independence, we were told to “seek ye first the political kingdom, and all others shall be added unto it.” I do not think the notion of the founding fathers was to seek independence and fold our arms waiting for manna to fall from heaven.
As a matter of fact, the last time manna fell from heaven was when the Israelis were on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, several thousands of years ago, and they had no means of catering for themselves. I will like to believe that God Almighty created the human being to strive for success on his or her own. Success was never entrusted on idlers.
Ghana Beyond Aid is synonymous with Dan Lartey’s domestication or Kutu Acheampong’s Operation Feed Yourself, except that Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is asking for a society that could stand on its own, aid or no aid.
In other words, this country should produce enough to pay our bills, and for its citizens to live more comfortably. The idea of One District, One Factory is to be able to produce for export, so that this society could earn more money from finished goods traded on the open market, instead of perpetually remaining hewers of wood and drawers of water that underlined the Guggisberg economy of the 19th and 20th centuries.
When the President addressed the United Nations General Assembly in September last year, he took time off to meet the movers and shapers of the cocoa industry. It turned out that Ghana and La Cote d’Ivoire, which produce 70 percent of the world cocoa beans between them, are merely rewarded with under 10 percent of the total world cocoa trade of US$100 billion. The concern of the Chief Executive of Team Ghana is how farmers of this nation, and its immediate Western neighbour, could maximise their incomes from the cocoa trade.
The President’s solution is for the two countries to add value to the raw beans before export. I will like to believe that this is the essence of Ghana Beyond Aid. It is not some magical process that should attract the interest of only dare devils.
One sure route to Ghana Beyond Aid is minimising corruption and ensuring that this nation gets value for money in any venture that Ghana has an interest. As Deputy Secretary in the Provisional National Defence Council military junta, Governor of the Bank of Ghana, and Vice-President and Chairman of the Government’s Economic Management Team while Mahama sat at the Castle, Dr. Amissah-Arthur cannot claim to be unaware of how unbridled corruption and naked thievery under his watch has undermined Ghanaian’s ability to be self-sufficient in its economic standing.
Yesterday, the Institute of Fiscal Studies issued a report that is damning of the era of the Mahama/Amissah-Arthur leadership of this society. According to the IFS, this nation spends 41 percent of its gross revenue servicing its debt.
At the time former President John Agyekum Kufuor was exiting the Castle, the total debt standing in the name of the Republic of Ghana was GH¢9.5 billion. We are told that by the time the people of Ghana called time on the Mahama regime, this nation was indebted to foreign and internal creditors to the tune of GH¢122 billion.
One does not need the genius of late Prof. Francis Allotey to appreciate the fact that a considerable chunk of state resources is needlessly going into debt servicing, leaving very little for carrying out the duties of state. In a situation like this, scratching to service development is an uphill task. In all fairness, Papa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur and all those who directed the economy of this country, under the watch of President Mahama, need to account for their roles.
Debt servicing aside, the naked plunder of state resources under the watch of the leadership of the NDC, should rather compel the likes of the former Vice-President to answer for their stewardship. Where was Dr. Amissah-Arthur when sole sourcing was perfected into an art that aided party agents and cronies to deplete the national coffers.
When one reflects on dubious judgment debt payments to the likes of Mr. Alfred Agbesi Woyome, Waterville, Isofoton and countless officials and agents of the ruling NDC at the time, one is tempted to hold that the whole gamut of government under John Dramani Mahama was exercised in such a manner as to aid cronies to bleed this nation dry.
It tells everything about why the state is still struggling in court to retrieve GH¢51.2 million paid to the man described as an NDC financier. That is not the only story told about the failure in accounting for state resources under the Mahama/Amissah-Arthur oligarchy. Remember the infamous migration of guinea fowls from farms under the Sahara Accelerated Development Agency supervision in the three northern regions? What about the GH¢33 million trees allegedly planted and withered during the dry season?
What about the lap-top per child policy which allegedly cost this nation US$100 million? I tell you all these were carefully choreographed to ensure that cronies of the regime John Mahama directed became billionaires overnight, while ordinary Ghanaians could not eke out any meaningful living.
I hope and pray that the Special Prosecutor traces every single cedi wrongly paid to cronies, and ensures that the perpetrators are brought to book. This nation has a duty to be serious. We cannot enrich cronies at the expense of the state and turn round to mock those trying to put the pieces together.
What Nana Akufo-Addo is proposing in the Ghana Beyond Aid programme is to avoid the wanton waste of state resources. By Ghana Beyond Aid, the sitting President is asking Ghanaians to maximise resources of state to ensure that this nation can execute its development agenda without looking over our shoulders.
Somewhere in 2015, the administration of then President John Dramani Mahama summoned all economic gurus and captains of industry to the Royal Senchi Hotel at the banks of the River Volta in the Eastern Region.
The meeting was sold on the roof-tops as the gathering of economic gurus of this nation to find home-grown solutions to the economic woes of Ghana. I regret to state that the last person had hardly left the comfort of the Royal Senchi Resort, when an announcement came from the Seat of Government that the Mahama regime had turned to the International Monetary Fund to bail the county out of its economic mess.
The IMF was to restructure our economy and offer a bail-out of US$981 million over three years. No lunch, they say is free. And true to the dictates of the IMF, the conditions attached to the meager bail-out was that this nation could not employ fresh hands into vital state institutions.
This stringent economic condition imposed on Ghana is one of the reasons why we now have a burgeoning Association of Unemployed Graduates. It is also at the heart of thousands of unemployed nurses sitting at home at a time the Ghana Health Service is struggling to fill various nursing vacancies in public health institutions.
At the age of 61, this country is old enough to cater for itself. That is all that Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is trumpeting from Government House. It is a shame if the likes of Papa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur and other top officials of the NDC do not understand this simple policy.
Take it from me, Dr. Amissah-Arthur is not that daft.
As a Lecturer in Economics, Deputy Minister in the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) regime, Governor of the Bank of Ghana and Vice-President of this Republic, who was also head of the Government’s Economic Management Team under John Dramani Mahama, Moree-born Ammisah Arthur is well versed in the intricacies of economic management of this country to appreciate the need for this nation to forge ahead with Ghana Beyond Aid as its economic mantra.
The other day, on my visit to my native Ekumfi District, I overhead a conversation between two activists of the opposition NDC. To these two activists, corruption is rife in the country because the Kufuor regime declared this country HIPC and gained handsomely from debt relief. How HIPC and debt relief could contribute towards massive corruption is one myth understood, perhaps, by only party foot-soldiers.
One thing cannot be discounted though, no one should be surprised if the correlation between HIPC, debt relief and the rise of corruption in Ghana becomes a lively topic on the campaign trail in the campaign leading to the 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
This one is a personal advice. If Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur ever dreams of adding his name to the contenders for presidential office, he should revise his notes on Ghana Beyond Aid. If by the time the 2020 vote comes around, and the former Vice-President still holds on to his view that Ghana Beyond end is mere rhetoric, his pipedream of ever leading this society would be dead in the water. I am dead serious.
I shall return!
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