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02.12.2002 Feature Article

Epidemic of "Fund-mylitis"!

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Rhapsodies On "Kindness" - Verse 6 Ghanaians are very hardy and ingenious people - have always been! Whenever the odds have been stacked up high against our nation, somehow, people have managed to survive. Some have even prospered. Whether it be drought, bush fires, famine, poverty, 'Rawlings chain', culture of silence, military intimidation and brutality or wages less than a dollar a day, Ghanaians have circumvented these obstacles through creative means even if such means have meant the mass abandonment of the country by more than a tenth of her populations. Fortunately, this instinct for survival has not been limited to the people alone. The governments of Ghana have time and again proved themselves formidable "artful dodgers" in turning a blind eye to the vicissitudes of life wreaked upon her own people, some of it as a direct result of the policies initiated by the self-same governments. But in the last twenty years or so, it seems that both government and people have had to dig deep into their creative pouches to engage a new coping mechanism to meet the challenges that the global institutions of poverty have thrown our way. For more than twenty years Ghanaians have been pummeled, buffeted, bamboozled, bewildered, baffled, perplexed, beaten up, punched, pounded, battered, cuffed, bullied, dictated to, admonished, structurally adjusted, recovered, and poverty reduced by the 'mother of all Funds', the International Monetary Fund and its sister institution the World Bank. Alas, not even the indomitable spirit of Ghanaians could weather this thorough inundation, and somehow, the national psyche has undergone a chemical change, a qualitative shift in coping with the new challenges. It seems this long association with the Fund and the Bank has, by a process of sheer determinism and osmosis, created an ionic bond between the Ghanaian personality and the "Fund". Led by our governments, Ghanaians have fully embraced the advent of the 'Fund'. Our minds are closed to every thing but the "Fund'. We eat, sleep, love, piss and defecate the 'Fund". When in doubt, when all seems lost, when there is no way out, when problems can't be solved, when you want to gloss over your incompetence and make it seem like profound erudition, just set up a 'Fund'. Nowhere is this malady of Fund-mylitis more evident than in the country's educational system. Given that this system has very little relationship with our development needs, given that it has a very high drop out rate, given that most of the products of the system cannot find jobs within the country, given that the system trains professionals for every other country but Ghana, the good government decides to invent some curious contraption called FCUBE (no relation to Nintendo's GAME CUBE or Microsoft's XBOX) to rectify the dire situation. This contraption, dictated to our government by the 'mother of all Funds", is intended to provide 'free and compulsory universal basic education'. With insufficient funds to deliver this program, the government invents yet another contraption to pretend it is funding the FCUBE. This new invention is curiously called GETFUND. Under GETFUND - Ghana Educational Trust Fund for long - MPs will be given about US$2300 each to promote the same educational system that does nothing to develop the economy and society. And what, one wonders, will US$2300 achieve? But to the government's pleasant surprise, GETFUND was to be outdone. No sooner than GETFUND was announced than the Asantehene decided to have his own Fund, the Otumfuo Education Trust Fund to help needy Asante students to gain education in Ghana and help then better prepare for their careers abroad? As part of the Otumfuo's foray into education funding, he advises university students to desist from politics, calling it a "negative act", and concentrate on their studies. Nana, if university students stop talking politics, what is left of the nations' atrophied conscience will die, but Fund-mylitis is a very dangerous disease and Nana Osei-Tutu may not be aware of that yet. Incidentally, it was during this occasion of Otumfuo admonishing the students that, the Asante Regional Minister announced the setting up of the Orphans Trust Fund to help needy children in the Asante region. Apparently, there exists no government program to help poor kids and we are after all in an era of PSPs. (Private Sector Participation) But Nana Asantehene himself was to be surpassed in his zeal, for Fund-mylitis was spreading fast, everywhere, an unstoppable contagion. Deep in the forests of Wassa Amenfi, the Kasapreko Educational Fund was set up last year to help needy JSS students. So far Nana Kaspreko says he has collected about US18, 000 into the Fund, most of it from Samatex, a tree-cut-and-export firm, who has asked the chief, Nana Kasapreko, to immediately declare (no pun intended) the other thirty-two timber contractors operating in the area, illegal. Apparently, the other thirty-two contractors have not contributed to the Fund. Once all the trees have been massacred, as they soon will, the Fund may have to find new sponsors. And in good old Cape Vars, the Deputy Minister of Education recently launched the Ghana-Canadian Students Chamber Education And Community Development Fund! Now we must plead ignorance to the concept of 'chamber education' but we do congratulate the Deputy Minister for warning the organizers not to turn the Fund into a "beehive of passports, visa and foreign travels…" Not surprisingly, the inaugural fund raising event yielded US$400. But dear reader, if you think that Fund-mylitis is only a phenomena in education then open your eyes and read some more. The Korle Bu Hospital, that flagship of Ghana's health care system, Gordon Guggisberg's monument of scatological splendor, that sits astride a sewage infested lagoon, and has oftentimes, in its illustrious existence, moonlighted as a death trap, is to become a beneficiary of Fund-mylitis. According to the CEO of the hospital, this national eyesore has not seen any 'major rehabilitation or replacement of facilities and equipment' since Sir Gordon inaugurated it in 1923. Many governments, including the present one, have promised to rehabilitate the scatological wonder, but the promises have never materialized until the era of Fund-mylitis moved the present government to announce a 500 billion cedi Endowment Fund 'to be' set up 'for rehabilitation and refurbishment' of the hospital. The key words are 'to be". It simply means it will happen maybe in about 100 years. "Kwatrekwa se obema wo atade ahye a wo bisa no se ntama ben na efra wo? (When the naked man promises you a new dress, ask him what he himself is wearing). And dear reader, don't panic at the amount. It is only about US$60 million. At the time of writing this article we were unable to determine in how many 'tranches' the Endowment Fund will be. Lest you think the above are the only symptoms of Fund-mylitis, consider the most insidious, the 'mother of all symptoms', that financial underpin of the current decentralization process - the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF). Also dictated by the 'mother of all Funds', the DACF, together with its sister fund, the Poverty Alleviation Fund, a reward to Ghana for being a highly indebted poor country, meant to build schools and holes in the ground for defecation, has become the greatest source of patronage for party faithful. Infact, so insidious is this symptom that, in some villages it is tearing asunder the cordial working relationship that is supposed to exist between MPs who have a share of the Common Fund and the District Chief Executive who are supposed to administer the Fund. By some Houdini-like sleight of the hand, Ministers, MPs, DCEs and assembly members have turned into construction contractors all dipping their hands into the Common Fund. In one district, Birim North where this scribbler's good friend and former roommate, Dr Boakye Akoto, is MP, the DCE, who is feuding with the MP over political turf, has actually issued construction contracts from the Poverty Alleviation Fund to the members of the district executive of the ruling NPP party. Whoever said Ghanaians are not creative in the face of adversity? Not to be outdone, the Minister of Industry whose concept of industrialization seems to be limited to importing machinery to boil Ghanaian agricultural produce for export has inaugurated his own Industrialization Fund ostensibly to offer support for 'teething and distressed' industries. Following closely on his heels is the research staff of the Center for Scientific and Industrial Research, which seems to exist only to perform research for Malaysia, Indonesia and Ethiopia. Ninety percent of the budget allocation for this organization goes into paying the salaries of their staff with 10% going into actual research. And this in the 'Golden age of business'! Having nothing much to do, the research staff, like other Ghanaian educated professionals, are abandoning the country in droves. To remedy the situation, they have decided to set up, well, a Research Staff Association Fund. Finally, despite the District Assembly Common Fund and the Poverty Alleviation Fund, the Minister of Rural Development decided to jump on the bandwagon of Fund-mylitis. Of course, he has set up the Rural Development Fund. You say wetin? You think say he no go join? Launched by the President himself last year, the Fund has US$250,000 in it, which amounts to about US$2500 per district. Somehoe, this amount, according to the Minister, would enable the government to meet the development needs of 60% of the country's population! But this is far better than the Western Regions Emergency Social Relief Fund, which has zero funds in it. Only in Ghana! So as our government succeeds in shedding all its responsibility to the people in the name of Private Sector Participation, and as Ghana becomes a big time supplier of child slaves to the West African market, and as 228 teachers die in one year in the Central Region alone, 90% of them from alcohol related illness, we begin to wonder if soon we will need a Fund merely to exist in Ghana. We will call it the Right To Survive Fund, or RITOSUFU, for short. So how?

Kwesi Yeboah
Kwesi Yeboah, © 2002

The author has 34 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwesiYeboah

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