: Is there a Way Out of the Menace of Poverty and Degradation?
As we have celebrated our independence on March 6th 2003, we must ponder and reflect on where we are and where we want to go.
There is no doubt that after more than two years in power, the Kufuor’s NPP government has failed to arrest the flagging economic situation, the daily slide and more wretchedness and poverty and the valueless of the Cedi. It may be said that it is unfair for one to make such a statement and that two years is not enough for any government to have brought about substantial change to the lives of ordinary people. However in making this assertion, I am not judging the NPP government on the basis of how much they have contributed towards the improvement of the lives of the ordinary people. If the NPP two years in government has to be judged, it must be judged on policies it has pursued so far. To what extend are these policies contributing to the mitigation of poverty in the country? Is there any light at the end of the tunnel for a better future? Even if there are much trumpeted so-called poverty alleviation programmes, to what extend can we say that the current policies by the NPP are not antithetical to the poverty reduction programmes?
Of course the NPP will argue that they have been in power for a short while and that people should not expect miracles. Though they will justifiably blame the PNDC/NDC misrule for our woes, there is no excuse that their policies are exacerbating and entrenching mass poverty in the country.
The NPP may think that because they have just won the Wullensi By-Election their policies have resonance with the people and gives them the licence to continue to implement policies that are pushing people to the edge. The NPP will not tell you the cost of their victory, so succinctly detailed by Krabea (SIL) in the GHANAWEB of 4th March 2003 (Back From Wulensi- A Personal View). The obvious bribery and the negative manipulation of ethnicity to secure victory! To some politicians, it is the end that justifies the means. If they have to win by spending couple of billions of cedis here and there and exploit ethnicity factors, it does not matter to them. Whatever comes out of such policies let the future determine, as we saw in the case of the Dagbon tragedy. We have bound to see a repeat of such victories before the next elections in 2004.
There is no doubt that in the absence of any credible opposition the NPP government will continue to win elections and implement their antediluvian policies that are contributing to the misery of the mass of our people and entrenching of elitist and privileged rule, though fraudulent and corrupt as it is.
The NPP government since its inception has pursued a strictly monetarist agenda. It was these same policies that in 1982 during the era of the Rawlings PNDC that some of us opposed that led to us being hounded out of this country. In 1982, when the PNDC abandoned and refused to look at viable alternatives for economic development, we opposed these policies, which led to our exile and some to their early deaths.
It is right to judge a government from day one, on the economic and social policies that it want to put in place to uplift the living conditions of the people.
Right from the word go, the NPP has pursued pro-IMF policies. Though they made it clear from the onset that they were against the NDC government because of its failure to pursue the IMF policies very well, we should have no regrets that the NDC were booted out through the polls and we have a new government. It was not a victory for the NPP alone, but a combined victory of pro-democracy forces who worked night and day to maintain the momentum of opposition against the PNDC/NDC and which brought to the victory to the NPP eventually. It is sad that some sections of NPP claim the credit of removing the Rawlings oligarchy. In politics people need alternatives, and they need to exhaust these alternatives, even if they are moribund ones. To have allowed the PNDC/NDC dictatorship to continue in power or even to contemplate and support them as alternative to the NPP in 2004 is very dangerous and will continue to cement the poverty of our people.
In the continuous struggle to improve the living conditions of our people, there are battles between those who will loose out if there is fair distribution of the national cake and those who are bound to benefit from it. The forces that are ruling Ghana today are the forces of pro-foreign businesses. The President talks about the “golden age of business” and creating property owning democracy. All what this mean is that they will use the state to amass wealth. To do that others must loose. And so it comes to pass, they have increased petroleum prices by almost 100% and put up tariffs of water and electricity by 12% and have planned more hardships for the people in the next couple of months. By squeezing the mass of the people and impoverishing them into submission they believe they are creating the necessary conditions for their continuous stay in power and the property classes that they want to create and entrench. The NPP does not have in their imagination dream that it is the same policies that saw off the PNDC/NDC. They fail to comprehend that it their policies that are contributing to the mass flight of our professionals in the medical profession from the country for greener pastures. The appeals for the national good will fall on deaf ears, because they do not practice what they preached. The NPP has failed to realise and recognise that it their failure to do something about the health service and astronomical cost of education of our children through the school system that are contributing to the massive corruption in the country.
No nation has ever been successful and improved the living conditions of it people when over 90% of the people live below the poverty level with their monthly wages and salaries incapable of feeding them for a week. No government can last for that long when it woefully fails it people. However, to maintain power and just as the PNDC/NDC did before, the NPP will use its control of the state organs to maintain itself in power. That is why they have almost managed to take over the entire news media including the private press. However, such control is ephemeral and will not last. Note that when Rawlings instituted the “culture of silence”, the bubble broke when the people could not take it any longer.
We know that NPP policies will not carry the nation forward. That is why alternative forces must be built to challenge the NPP. At present the NDC is being represented as the alternative force. However, it will be suicidal if the NDC is allowed to come to power because of the hollowness of the NPP. The NDC will simply use this as an endorsement of their policies and they will obstinately pursue the same policies that the NPP are doing, though in opposition they are now claiming that they are against the policies. Moreover, the NDC should not be allowed to become a viable alternative. The NDC was built on many lies, false hopes, deceits, murder of innocent people and the pursuance of economic policies that have brought this nation to its kneels. It is also a personal apparatus by the Rawlingses to use to protect themselves from the wrath of the people, and the unparallel human rights violations that they have visited on this country. Look at the lessons they taught to one of their puppets, Dr. Kwesi Botchwey. When he dared at certain time in his career disagreed with Rawlings and resigned Rawlings never forgave him. Not knowing the forces that he zealously served for over a decade, he thought he could inherit the NDC for his Presidential ambitions.
Moreover, the NDC cannot and do not have a viable economic policy or can be a credible alternative to the government of the NPP. Having said this it does not mean that they may not be well-intentioned people in the NDC who can contribute to the economic development of the country. However, they cannot do this with the moribund NDC apparatus.
Having dismissed both the NPP and NDC as parties that will not and cannot solve the economic problems are there alternatives?
Despite the poverty and the mismanagement of the economy by the NPP and the obvious nepotism and putting of squares pegs in round holes, we must continue to struggle for democracy in the country. We should definitely fight for a voice of all oppressed people and ensure that the NPP does not dominate the news media as it does currently. We must struggle and ensure that no adventurists like the type of Jerry Rawlings use the genuine problems of the people for their personal aggrandisement.
There are quite a number of issues that many people care about and we can all organise around those issues and ensure that we prevent the NPP from implementing policies that detrimentally affect us all.
First of all we must strengthen the campaign to ensure that water is not privatised. Already civil society and many organisations including the TUC are against the water privatisation. We must continue the campaign to ensure that the NPP does not sell water to the highest bidders. The campaign apart from demonstrations, meetings, seminars, poster campaigns, could also include letter writing to MPs to oppose these policies.
Secondly, we should mount a campaign to stop the wholesale implementation and the increase of tariffs on water and electricity as demanded by the IMF/World Bank that the NPP is implementing with relish.
Thirdly, we must campaign against the increasing hospital charges, the exorbitant prices of drugs in the drugstores and ask the NPP to honour its commitment for access to health services for our people. Thousands of people are dying daily in their homes because they cannot go to the hospitals. This is a human rights issue that the NPP must honour.
Fourthly, we must fight to ensure that education is free to all, and not for the rich minority. The developed countries did not develop by making it impossible for the mass of the people to access to education.
We must be on our guide constantly and subject NPP policies to the microscope and point out the anti-people nature that is often grossed in populist rhetorics and half-hearted measures to dampen down opposition to their policies.
And finally we must ensure that the NPP do not single out people, such as they tried to do in the case of Kwesi Pratt Jnr to discredit so as not to have any opposition to their moribund policies. We must continually point out to the NPP, that it was the culminated struggles of our people for fair play, justice, democracy, independence and what have you that made them beneficiaries to the demise of the Rawlings dictatorship. And we must point out to them, that when we criticise them, we are doing so as Ghanaians with alternative views that can push Ghana forward.
We must be on our guard and use all avenues, private newspapers, the private radios and state newspapers if they allow us, to expose the anti-people and unpatriotic policies of the NPP. If equally they take up measures and implement policies that benefit our people, we must praise them for such courageous actions.
Through these struggles, we will and can build an alternative to the NPP. There are a whole host of organisations out there and civil society that we must struggle with and ensure that the view of the powerless and the disadvantaged is heard.
It is only through these struggles against the monopoly of state power by the NPP, that we can begin to offer a viable alternative to the NPP.