Readers will attest that yours truly hardly ever go personal in his articles. But reading Dr. Apraku’s lame excuses for wanting to buy a presidential with borrowed money thoroughly gets my goat. As a cultured African, I should know better than to insult an elder. But our elders say, that it is the old man who decides to relieve himself by the roadside that invite people to watch his buttock.
Our learned former Minister was of the opinion that “Ghana needs a presidential palace to lift her image among the nations of the world. “ What an utter bunkum!
A poser for you Dr. Apraku: As a well travelled man, what impresses you the most when you go to Asia or to Europe or the USA? Please do not tell me that it is the sight of their Prime Minister or Presidential jet that wows you, lest I say that you are insulting my intelligence.
I have done my bit of travelling around the world and I can assure you that a Presidential jet is the least of what attracts me to a nation. No, no, sir. I am thoroughly impressed when I see a country where the citizens are well-educated, well-fed, and decently-dressed. I am impressed when I do not see citizens living in hovels unfit for domestic animals or, God forbid, in squalid ghettoes like Aladjo and Sahara. I’m impressed when I see countries where children of school age are in school learning and not dodging travel in scorching sun selling bric-a-bracs like we have in the gigantic, unplanned, ramshackle ghettoes we prefer to call cities. I’m impressed when I see human being living in decent houses in clean cities. I like it a lot when I see countries that are well run and where services like tele-communication, electricity, water and transport system ran smoothly without depending on the vagaries of nature or of man. I like it when I see countries where the leaders are not totally disconnect from the led like in our dear land. I am joyful when I see countries where the elite do not look at their national treasury like war booty, to be despoiled with utmost dispatch.
Pray, Dr. Apraku, do you really believe that visitors to our dear land will be more charmed by our presidential jet than, say, riding in clean, modern buses instead of the dangerous metallic contraptions we call tro-tros? Would our visitors dance with joy when they glimpse our presidential jet (bought with borrowed money, mind you) or when they can relieve themselves in toilets with modern amenities?
Do not get me wrong, I am not against getting a presidential jet per se. But I am just appalled by our political elite apparently incurable and obviously insatiable propensity for compulsive consumption. First, it was a presidential palace that was promoted to a national imperative. Our rulers went ahead and contracted the loans to build the palace despite our vociferous protestations – no one has been able to tell us what the final price tag would be. Today, we are being sold the dummy that a presidential jet is must have!
We seem too eager to always get our priorities wrong. Any number of economists will tell you that there is nothing wrong with borrowing per se. We can borrow the money, invest it in some productive enterprise and use the profit to buy our president a jet or whatever. I do not know why this very simple idea always looks so difficult to learned people like Dr. Apraku. If we use the borrowed money to invest in, say, a metro system for say Accra or Kumasi; before long, we would have enough money from the profit to buy a presidential jet. If we use it to build amenities like swimming pools, libraries, amusement parks which our folks can enjoy to lessen the tensions in their lives, we will, in few years, realize enough money from the proceeds to waste as we deem fit. In which case we will eat our cake and still have it.
As a former Minister of Trade, I am going to assume that Dr. Apraku knows a thing or two about basic economics. One of the assumptions of Economics 101 is that MONEY does not grow on treetops; it has to be created through a productive means. The people from whom we are borrowing the money must have worked for it. But in our case we are borrowing the money for pure consumption; however much veneer government spin-doctors are putting on it. We can very safely dismiss the notion that presidential travels are going to yield the much-needed direct investment. As I have written somewhere else, no investors in her right mind would put her money in any economy that fails to get the basics right. I am talking basics like water, electricity, tele-communication, security etc. How many investors, apart from the speculators and those engage in extractive industries, have set up shop in Ghana?
Dr. Apraku’s assertion that we need to buy a presidential jet because poorer countries have same is not only illogical but, with all respect, downright silly. A comparable proposition is: do you have to become a drunk because your neighbor is a drunkard? Or do you have to become prodigal simply because a friend is profligate?
In the piece “Give the Slum a try,” I suggested that our rulers should set a day aside every month to experience the lives the vast majority of the ordinary people of this country are living. It is one of the ways that our rulers can start to reconnect with the ordinary folks. Our presidents and his ministers should forget their gleaming four-wheel vehicles for just one day, and tool around town in our dirty and over-crowded trotros. Our parliamentarians and District Chief Executives should abandon the comfy of their lush apartments and sojourn at the numerous ghettoes their policies have created and confined the vast majority of the people of this great land.
I plead that they do this for ONLY ONE DAY in a month. Let’s see if their consciences will be sufficiently pricked to stop them from continually making asinine excuses for wasting our sparse national patrimony on themselves.
As it were, we already spend too much on maintaining our expensive presidential system of government. We have thirty Ministers (including the four at the presidency, but excluding the regional and the Ministers of States). Germany, which boasts of the third largest economy in the world, has 15 Ministers. A country of some 20 million, we boast of 230 parliamentarians. In contrast, the Netherlands with a comparable population is making do with 150. We should add here that Dutch parliamentarians do not take anything more from the state apart from their salaries and emoluments. We can contrast this with our dear land whereby our parliamentarians granted themselves US$ 20,000 each as car allowance. And for those who do not know it, the economy of the Netherlands with a GDP of US$ 530 billion and a GNP of US$36,000 easily dwarfs our country’s paltry GDP US$ 60 billion and a US$ 452 GNP.
We would not be lamenting if our over-compensated political elite are living up to their billings. Alas and sadly, we are still saddled with leaders with tunnel vision who are still under the diktats of Global Imperialism. All we seem to have are local compradors of imperialism mis-managing our affairs in the interests of the apostles of globalization. A recent case in point is the sale (what else to call it?) of Ghana’s water utility company to a Dutch concern. Since the sale, our water generation and distribution system has never been this bad. Despite the fact that there is absolutely no theoretical basis for the much vaunted superiority of the private sector, our rulers continue to mouth the same dim nonsense and continue to strip our national patrimony in the interests of international capitalism.