When The Vote Matters More Than The Person
Date published: March 7, 2013
Ebo Quansah in Accra
The Chronicle has decided to buy a new briefcase as a donation to Finance Minister Seth Terkper, to enable him present the next budget in a more dignified manner. Yesterday, the management of this newspaper held a crisis meeting, after Mr. Tekper’s presentation in Parliament, and announced that the minister or his representative could call in at our Tesano offices at any time convenient to them, to collect the new briefcase.
A budget presentation is a very serious business, and should not be reduced to a shambolic ceremony with any type of container holding the official document. Last Tuesday’s presentation descended into the comical. Apart from the unacceptable nature of the bag containing the budget briefs, the substance of the presentation failed to offer any clues on how the dum-so dum-so in electricity, and water supplied in tots, would be confined to history.
On the eve of the 56th Independence anniversary, Ghanaians had absolutely nothing to cheer about a budget which main emphasis is to tax and tax the already hapless Ghanaian to pay for the profligate expenditure of officialdom to buy the vote of December 7, 2012.
Yesterday, President John Dramani Mahama decided to ignore the circumstances leading to the sharp division in this society. Rather, the Head of State, awaiting the official verdict of the Supreme Court on the challenge to his continued occupation of Government House, identified lack of patriotism as a major bane on the forward march of this society.
The President went on to sing the third stanza of the National Anthem, which is a call to patriotism. “Raise high the flag of Ghana…And one with Africa advance…Black Star of hope and honour, To all who thirst for liberty.”
I must be honest, I was thrilled by his melodious voice and rendition. I am writing to the event organizers, Charter House, to consider the Head of State for nomination as the Male Vocalist of the Year in the Ghana Music Awards, scheduled for the International Conference Centre in Accra, in April.
Beyond the singing of the national anthem, the President sounded disappointing to many nationals, who are looking for clues on how to bridge the yawning gap on the political, as well as the economic, fronts. I hope the Head of State was not playing the ostrich in the last two presentations of his.
The State of the Nation address in Parliament on Thursday, February 21, rather referred three times to supposed called victory in the December 7&8 elections. When he took the salute at the march past of our school kids and security services yesterday, President Mahama called for patriotism, without any reference to the outcome of the vote, which has further polarised this nation.
In Parliament House on February 21, President Mahama singled out the Electoral Commission, which conduct in the 2012 elections is a subject of an election petition at the Supreme Court, for praise.
The stark fact is that this society is polarised. It has been so for a while now. The nature of our politicking, spiced with insults and name calling does, not augur well for the unity of purpose. Unfortunately, that has been aggravated by the negative election campaigns for the 2012 vote.
When the New Patriotic Party cried foul over the way and manner the Electoral Commission declared the results of the 2012 Presidential and Legislative elections, without a resolution of the party’s concerns, the nation was polarised even further.
By the results declared by the Electoral Commission, the two leading political parties enjoy nearly 50 percent each of popular support in the country. The National Democratic Congress and the NPP both polled over five million votes. President Mahama is said to have won the vote by 300,000 or so votes. With the opposition crying wolf, the best thing to do is not ignore their concerns and turn round to complain of a divided country.
I am afraid, this country would remain divided until the leadership wakes-up to the reality that they could not appropriate state resources to themselves and their cronies, and leave the rest of society to fend for ourselves.
In Parliament House on Thursday, February 21, President Mahama stated in his State of the Nation address that resources of state had been dissipated, and that we were left with the bare bones, a scenario that ties in perfectly with the analysis of the economy delivered by Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, running mate of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate of the NPP in the last presidential election.
“The data coming in on Ghana’s economic performance in 2012 indicates that public finances are out of control. And the economy is in trouble… At the end of 2012, Ghana’s budget deficit was a whopping GH¢8.7 billion, amounting to 12.1 percent of GDP. This is the highest recorded budget deficit in Ghana’s history,” Dr. Bawumia submitted in an official release.
In other words, this nation has engaged in profligate expenditure against our meagre income. I do not think we need any ghost to tell us why. In the run-up to the 2012 elections, the government spent as if there was no tomorrow.
Dr. Bawumia puts it succinctly. “The crux of the problem is that government spending increased astronomically to 34.5 percent of GDP, even though government revenues amounted to 16.1 percent of GDP, a gap of over 100 percent. In the submission by the eminent economist, there is an extra GH¢4 billion owed to contractors that had not even been factored into the economic picture yet.”
The economy is in trouble. But, that can certainly not be the fault of the ordinary Ghanaian. This administration spent its way to power.
On the eve of the December vote, it was discovered suddenly, that our Regional Houses of Chiefs and certain traditional rulers needed vehicles. Some chiefs with sympathy towards the ruling NDC were given four wheel drive vehicles. On the various university campuses, it was a common sight to behold young women, some horribly young, riding in Hyundi i10s. In this part of the world, the car is fondly referred to as ‘Atta Cambuu’.
Trust Ghanaians to be witty. Someone hit on the brilliant idea that the small vehicle resembles a popular sports wear. And since it was during the reign of Prof. John Evans Atta Mills that the particular brand of car became popular, it must be ‘Atta Cambuu.’
The serious aspect of the issue is that these vehicles were handed over to students, obviously paid from state resources, to enable the beneficiaries campaign for then interim President John Dramani Mahama. If you want to know how come state resources are down to the bones, there is your answer.
The government, apparently, believes that, as tolerant as they perceive most of us to be, we would continue to sleep in darkness, receive water in tots and continue to fund the recovery of the economy, which fate it has put into jeopardy by reckless expenditure to buy our votes.
In the name of economic recovery, petroleum prices have been hiked to the roof. Officials of this administration still have the guts to talk of “more subsidies to be removed.”
On Tuesday, when the Finance Minister went to the House to present the 2013 Budget, he put most of the government’s eggs into the collection of taxes from the already over-taxed Ghanaian.
“The focus on revenue generation in the 2013 Budget,” stated the Finance Minister, “is expand the tax base and improve the efficiency of tax administration.”
According to Mr. Terkper, goods and services scheduled for tax in the budget include Personal Income Tax Bands, Vehicle Income Tax, Environmental Tax, Environmental Tax on Plastics, Penalty on over-aged vehicles, Airport Tax and Communications Tax.
In all these, the evidence is clear. It is the ordinary man, who cannot even afford two meals a day for the family, who would be further burdened to fund all these new taxes.
Your vote may matter in the election period. I bet most of us Ghanaians cease to matter the moment Government House is in sight!
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