04.07.2002 Feature Article

The Kettle and the Pot: The Legacy of Dr. Kwesi Botchwey.

The Kettle and the Pot: The Legacy of Dr. Kwesi Botchwey.
04.07.2002 LISTEN

There is a proverb I learnt from the Akwapims of Ghana, that translates that the pot (the clay ones used for boiling soup in Ghana) does not tell the Kettle he is black. If there are things this writer cannot stand in life, one of them must be hypocrisy. It's extremely hard for me to deal with hypocrisy. Hypocrisy of public officials should be a crime that Ghanaians should learn not to forget so quickly, if we are ever to learn and develop under the rule of law. Democracy is a way of societal governance where people learn to live and let others live, as we elect people to represent us for our good, not for them to enrich themselves and run. So far as their livelihood does not affect others to their detriment, it's Okay. It also holds people in public service accountable for the trust bestowed on them by society. Can we say this about many of the men and women who bullied their fellow men for almost twenty years, and today stand on podiums preaching Peace? I personally cannot imagine that Dr. Botchwey, a man whose economic policies drove many away from Ghana and kept those overseas there, today stands at the Ghana Embassy as invited guest of a government that was in opposition, in Washington DC, preaching about human values such as humility. In a GhanaWeb report dated 2002-07-03, we read: “Speaking at the launch of the Ghana Skills Bank at the Ghana Embassy in Washington DC, Dr Botchwey said some professional Ghanaians, who have worked abroad tend to portray a superior complex on their return home and invariably clash with their colleagues whose sacrifices, sustained the economy.” It is hard for some of us older folk who know the short history of brutal dictatorship, corruption and mismanagement in Ghana from 1981 to 1982, that has brought Ghana to HIPC, to imagine what Dr. Botchwey means by “whose sacrifices, sustained the economy”. What economy is he talking about? What does Dr. Botchwey mean by the word “sustain”? Does the mere living in or being born into Ghana mean a person is sustaining the economy? It is amazing how some people are able to be in the same room with such a man and no sparks of fire occurred. In all analysis there perhaps is no man who had faked his way into a job and lasted as long as this man, Dr. Kwesi Botchwey. I don't men to be personal, but no man can avoid responsibility for the job he has held for over 15 years to lead a nation to the brink of bankruptcy. This law Professor, an avowed socialist or communist, had absolutely no understanding of business and economics, and at best a textbook reading. One must remind those not familiar with the sad part of Ghanaian culture, that the title “doctor” or such degree, means to the ordinary Ghanaian expertise and knowledge in every field of man. Many have faked themselves as “Doctor”, whiles some African heads of state have influenced some Universities to have such titles bestowed on them. It is for this reason that most post Nkrumah governments in Ghana have had more doctorate degree holders than the American or British governments, from where these individuals may have obtained their degrees. On the practical side, Dr. Botchwey was the man who would announce an increase in the prices of petrol, kerosene and other products deemed “essential commodities” by say 27%, fix the prices farmers and manufacturers should sell their products, set the fares transport owners should charge for trips in Ghana, and at the same time claim that he would reduce inflation by 30% that year, whiles having currency printed to pay workers. What a wizardry! It is even amazing that World Bank experts, most of them also highly educated men without much practical experience, would buy such wizardry, and keep giving Ghana more loans year after year. Culture: In my thinking, and writings, I have always cited culture as a major factor why Africans and Ghanaians were kept behind civilization. Just a gist of it here. Ponder on this with me: Why is it that in our society a man could be a criminal, and yet as soon as he wears a nice suit and goes to Church, we are prepared to forgive and forget, whiles the victims of the crime are forgotten! The victims in this case are the people of Ghana. -Why is it that known crooks who had stolen for personal gain, and steered the nation of Ghana to the current economic decay, are allowed to walk as free men, the privilege they themselves denied others; and all our mothers will tell us is to “Let it be” (gye-ma enka”), forgive and forget, and give it to God (“fa ma Nyame”)? The Short Memory of the Masses: In Shakespeare's masterpiece Julius Caesar, he cites the mentality of the masses and their short memory that will turn from praising an Emperor one day, and when he is overthrown, they turn around and cheer for the conquerors, or in some extreme cases such as Julius Caesar's, his assassinators. After 15 years on the job, the man believed by the World Bank as the saviors of Ghana's economy, Dr. Botchwey, left Ghana in a hole $6.2 billion deep. Not a single 200 mile, or even 42 miles stretch of modern highway in Ghana could be shown for the $4.2 Billion borrowed for road construction in the early 1990s. At the same time, nations like Singapore picked themselves up, building industries at home and attracted back their young men and women who had studies overseas, to help develop Singapore. On page 63 of the book by the former Prime Minster of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, titled “From Third World to First. The Singapore Story”, we read: “ In 1997, we had nearly 200 American manufacturing companies with S$19 billion worth of investment at book value. Not only were they the largest of our foreign investors, the constantly upgraded their technology and products. This reduced their unit labor costs, enabling them to pay higher wages without losing competitiveness.” On page 87, he writes: “These changes in employment and industrial relations laws and practices brought tangible benefits. Within a year, in 1969, 52 new factories were built, creating 17,000 new jobs. In 1970, new investment added 20,000 jobs. Income increased.” It must be noted that twenty years in Singapore brought the Singapore per capital income from around that of Ghana's at Independence (about $300), to a number close to $30,000, with 97% high employment rate (or 3% unemployment rate), and exceeding even that of the USA. Can Dr. Botchwey say in all honesty that under his administration, any real progress was made to attract Ghanaians to return home? So what did Dr. Botchwey do that was so good for Ghana? Did the World Bank programs such as ERP (Economic Recovery Program), SAP (Structural Adjustment Program), and all those fancy acronyms, help Ghana to improve her economy and create jobs? Whiles contracts for road construction were being given out and the projects not being done to specifications, with our roads good only after two rainy seasons at best, what did Dr.Botchwey do? The masses should not have a short memory. The NPP should not. Short History: It is always Okay to forgive those who are too young to remember. As a great teacher once said, “For they know not what they say”. For those who remember, wasn't this the same Botchwey whose economic policy in 1989-90 time required that people who were importing ordinary Video Recorders and any cars with engine sizes of 2,500cc or more, be classified as living in (quote) “conspicuous consumption” and hence imposed his 500% Super-Sales Tax”? I have a personal testimony in 1990 when I arrived at the Accra airport, and refused to pay the 500% duty on a Video Recorder. On my Camcorder, I had to pay a $300 deposit before taking it inside Ghana – part of Botchwey's economic legacy. QUESTIONS: When businessmen were being chased out of Ghana, did Dr. Botchwey, as economic Minister or Secretary, and one of the main men Mr. Rawlings relied on for the economic development of Ghana, require that that they be given a fair trial? Or was he one of those who called businessmen anti-revolutionaries and asked them to produce arbitrary sums of money within days or face execution by the firing squad? When major businesses like Siaw's Tata Brewery and Mark Cofie's Mazda Assembly plant were being closed down or confiscated by government, was Dr. Botchwey present or not at such meetings? When C50, 000 (today's $7 ) was defined as too much money in the early 1980s, and his government confiscated all Bank deposits in excess of such C50, 000, was Dr. Botchwey involved in such decisions, or shall he plead innocent? As the economic Secretary to the illegal military junta the PNDC (Peoples National Defense Committee) did Dr. Botchwey ever give a word of warning in public, or even in private to dissuade his friends, that chasing businessmen out of Ghana and monetary confiscation would let Ghana lose all investor confidence, and that such loss would take decades to regain or never be regained? Why are Ghanaians still overseas? I find myself speaking for many Ghanaians overseas, many of whom have known me for the decades. In the late 1960s to early 1970s, I was one of the radical ones who used to jokingly pest the older Ghanaians about patriotism and why they were not returning home. Today I know why. It's Jobs? Jobs! Jobs! Ordinary decent jobs for a man or woman to take care of family when he returns home. Most Ghanaians again may ask Dr. Botchwey why Ghanaians, with such talent, are scattered overseas and not returning home. Does he have a clue? - Does Dr. Botchwey know the correlation between industries and jobs? Once industries were being closed down and never reopened, does he see any damages such actions of his and the others would cause Ghana and her children for generations to come? So why is he at the Ghana Embassy then talking on a day of inauguration of the Ghana Skills Bank? Why would the NPP even invite him? Do we have lack of speakers, or was he himself looking for a job? - On the strictly professional job performance aspect. One may ask: was Dr. Botchwey able to call for any audits of government accounts by any Accountant General during the PNDC time, a span of eleven years? The answer is No! - As Minister of Finance, was he able to call for an investigation of any government department in which massive World Bank loans and moneys were invested and contracts given to contractors who took us for a ride? Did he ever have any common sense about the fact that our roads were built to last only one or two rainy seasons? Did he ever appoint an independent Project Management team to oversee engineering projects? Or a public accounting firm to oversee such project accounts, to at least try to save on the misuse of public funds? No!
Some of us are seriously asking the NPP government to be specifically careful about personalities as opposed to substance. We are sick to know that the NPP is relying on Dr. Botchwey for any advice. It is a shame indeed on the NPP, for people would think they have no foresight and vision of their own. So far as this writer is concerned, any real audit of Ghana's economic malaise will show that Dr. Botchwey is criminally liable to Ghana, and Dr. Botchwey should be called to account for his time when the Cedi dropped from C300 to $1 to approximately C5, 000 to $1 by the time he left office. He should be in jail, if not now, in the future, if he fails to account for his part in Ghana accumulating over $6 Billion in debts with not much to show for it. Dr. Kwesi Botchwey was one of the Ghanaians who stood solidly behind the illegal PNDC regime that had overthrown an elected government in Dec. 31, 1981. The technical term for a man who aids and abets a criminal act is "complicity" in crime. Dr. Botchwey will be considered a criminal in any international court of justice if properly examined under the rule of law in most countries today. Our people should never forget. People should judge issues and events with no emotions and feelings against a person. I have nothing against Dr. Botchwey personally, nor any of his other accomplices such as Dr. Obed Asamoah, the Tsikatas, the Ahwois, and Rawlings, and others. Ghana is simply trying to establish a society that can live by the Rule of Law, and such will not happen so far as we do not know how to institute Justice and apply Laws to bring people to justice who abuse the public trust and fail us. It is a hard road to follow, but once we have chosen to live in the modern world, no man should appoint himself King or Head of State or treasury over others without being held responsible. Such is life, and the people like Botchwey must face the Law irrespective of our culture.
Kwaku A. Danso Fremont, California, USA.

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