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08.12.2001 Feature Article

Ghana Palavar is an Embarrassment to Professional Journalism

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Anyone who believes in a true noble of journalism may agree that the profession calls for objectivity in reporting news and publications, unless that media per se was setup for other reasons that I am about to reveal. On Tuesday, December 4 2001, one of the Ghanaian News Papers, called the Ghana Palavar, carried an article at the front page under the headline “WANTED”, referring to the president’s foreign trips as excessive within nine months. An editor of the paper, Jojo Bruce Quansah, published the story, enumerating the following charges: Count 1. Statement of Offence: Conspiracy to cause hardship and causing hardship to the people of Ghana. Particulars of Offence: JA Kufuor, as President of Ghana, agreed to act and did act together with the Cabinet to cause hardship to the people of Ghana, namely, to increase the prices of petrol and petroleum products by a whooping 65 per cent, prices which they knew the people of Ghana would not be able to bear. Count 2. Statement of Offence: Conspiracy to cause hardship and causing extreme hardship to the people of Ghana. Particulars of Offence: J.A Kufuor, as president of Ghana, agreed together with the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) to criminally increase prices of electricity and water by 104 per cent and 98 per cent respectively and threatens to increase the prices even further unless restrained. Count 3. Statement of Offence: causing hardship, embarrassment and humiliation to the people of Ghana and the Ghanaian business community. Particulars of Offence: JA Kufuor, as president of Ghana, unilaterally acted through his Finance Minister, to declare Ghana a HIPC country when there was no need for it, thereby causing Japan to cancel the agreed loans to Ghana for the construction of the Accra-Cape Coast and the Accra-Kumasi roads (technically referred to as the Mallam Junction-Yamoransa Nkwanta and Achimota-Anyinam Highways) making it difficult for indigenous Ghanaians businessmen to access foreign loans and credits, and generally lowering the esteem of Ghanaians within the country of nations.” Other offences include according to the paper include, conspiracy to endangering the future of Ghanaian students in second cycle and tertiary institutions, conspiracy to willfully causing financial loss to the state and conspiracy to cause illness and in extreme cases deaths to numerous Ghanaians, contrary to the NPP manifesto.” Whiles it is important that Ghanaians are informed about the benefits the president’s trips are bringing to the country, there is no doubt that this senseless editorial was intended to ridicule and disparage the president by portraying him as a criminal. In fact it does not even call for any sensible person to respond to this article but sometimes foolishness need to be responded to, so that the author may think twice the next time he proceeds to make such claims, so how the following as a response to those charges: (1) As an editor, if this author has been following politics in Ghana for the past years, he will be knowledgeable enough to accept the fact that president Kufuor and his cabinet are not the ones who are causing hardship to the people of Ghana but the previous government who ran the Ghana economy crushing down to its knees. Lets get the facts straight, during the last administration; petrol prices in Ghana were subsidized to the points that people started smuggling the petrol to neighboring countries to sell for profit. This government has taken the subsidies off as part of his policies to put the economy on track, and since Ghana does not produce oil, our prices are up. Furthermore, it should be noted that parliament has just introduced two different tax bills in November, on oil prices that has caused the prices of petrol to escalate, and I hope the editor is aware of that. (2) About the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) that has increased prices of electricity and water, we must understand that hydro electric power has been a major source of electricity for years and our public utility services has been on a continuous deterioration for the past twenty-plus years to the extent that in October 2001, it was reported that some 90,000 out of the 110,000 customers of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) in Kumasi alone, owe ¢35 billion in unpaid bills. To this end, the ECG took to a mass disconnection to compel defaulting customers to pay up. The point is that just like every stagnated sector of the economy, that this current government has inherited, there is no quick fix for the problem of our public utility services. The government has a plan for this sector, and it will take sometime for it to work. In fact, privatization is one of them and nine foreign firms from France, Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands have been short listed to take part in the Private Sector Participation (PSP) program of the water sector. This is due to come into effect about the middle of next year. But the government cannot implement everything plan in ten months. It requires patience and discipline on the part of Ghanaians. Besides the author must know that the patience of the prudent transcends ignorance. After all Rome was not built in a day. (3) About HIPC, if the author has followed the budget that was presented in March 2001, he will understand by now that the HIPC initiative has done Ghana better. Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, Minister of Economic Planning and Regional Co-operation on October 18,2001 indicated that about 150 million dollars could be gained by December from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, which would go into the national poverty reduction strategy. Firstly there is nothing wrong with being poor and acknowledging the fact that you are not in the position to pay your debts. Secondly if there are conditions that a country can meet to save from debt servicing, and gain write-offs, why should a country like Ghana not take advantage of such an initiative? For instance, 52 per cent of Ghana's external debt is owed to multilateral agencies while the remaining 48 per cent is owed to bilateral and commercial creditors with Japan and the UK being the largest creditors. The president’s trips to these countries have saved us at least 13 trillion cedis in debt servicing, and also writ-offs. When you owe somebody and you want to negotiate terms of payment, you go to them and remember that in politics image is everything therefore the president’s presence at these meetings are necessary and that is why he must travel. (4) The author needs to be informed that the government has done nothing to “endanger” Ghanaian students in the secondary and tertiary institutions. Our institutions have been running for decades without a proper direction that would bring practical programs to expose graduates to real life working experience. So far there has not been a proper direction towards education in general and this government has made it a priority to restructure our secondary and tertiary institutions. When all the facts are considered it is indisputable that for the first time within 10 months in Ghana, a government has been able to reduce inflation from 40.6 per cent in December 200, to 28.8 per cent at the end of October 2001. Interest rates have dropped, and foreign investment has increased. The cedi has been stable constantly for at least five months against major foreign currencies.
The current government has within the first six months, paid ¢18 billion to road contractors which was debt that was accumulated by the previous administration. In fact these are strong macro economic indicators that shows that Ghana is on the right track. In short one can say that there is light at the end of the tunnel so may be it is time for a media like Ghana Palavar to be a little more constructive and sensible in its publications.

Kwame Kodua
Kwame Kodua, © 2001

The author has 2 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwameKodua

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