05.12.2003 Feature Article

Letter From The President (XXIX): Tips for a HIPC yuletide

Letter From The President (XXIX):  Tips for a HIPC yuletide
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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, Join me to sing various songs of praises for I have been told that with each passing day, our country continues to benefit from the HIPC initiative. I know that such benefits do not reflect on the size of your pocket. But if you look around, you will see the public toilets and schools which are being built with HIPC funds. That should give you something to cheer about and help you to forget about your deflated wallet or purse. As Christmas approaches I thought of using some of the HIPC funds to buy 20 million pieces of chicken for each and every Ghanaian. I thought about this issue and called a meeting of my economic advisory team. Well, as you are aware, economists enjoy multiplying and dividing figures so when I told them that I wanted to buy 20 million pieces of chicken they all took out their calculators to do what they do best. They told me that with chicken selling at about 35,000 cedis apiece, I will need about 700,000,000,000 cedis (that is 700 billion cedis) to buy a piece of chicken for every Ghanaian. I didn’t need Albert Einstein to tell me that my sudden streak of magnanimity will not make economic sense, even though it would be a very wise thing to do in the political arena. Oh, how I wish there was no economics in politics. Well, after they shot down my idea of buying chicken for each Ghanaian, I didn’t relent and continued to look for other ways of helping Ghanaians to untighten their belts.

I suggested to the overfed members of my economic management team that we should use some of the HIPC funds to bail out some of our distressed companies (expecially the utility providers) whose services will be very much in demand during the yuletide. The economic managers told me, and backed their words with economic instruction from the IMF, that the HIPC funds cannot be used to prop us companies which are in dire straights and that the money is supposed to be used for poverty alleviation only. To make a short story even shorter, the economic management team has vetoed most of my plans to make the yuletide a memorable one for you.

So now you are on your own. What are you going to do? How are you going to celebrate the yuletide? I can offer a few words of advice, if you don’t mind. I know that around this time of the year, everybody needs more money to buy presents, especially for the kids and sometimes, for the concubines. I know it is very difficult to make honest money these days and so most of you will be tempted to do so many ‘other things’ to make more money. For God’s sake, this is the Christmas Season, not your Cocoa Season. ‘Tis the season to give more and receive less. Those of you in the civil and public services, particularly, have been demanding brown envelopes all year round and I think now is the time to give your clients a break. All the monies you have been taken since the beginning of the year should take care of your wife’s cloth and your children’s squash (drinks). In essence, what I am saying is that you should not be demanding bribes this season and if anyone willingly decides to bribe you, think twice before collecting it and remember that it is against the law.

Whether or not you demand bribes to supplement your income, I will advise you to live within your means. You will be tempted to outdo your neighbour by being more extravagant – buying more bags of rice than you can eat, feting a lot more friends and getting expensive presents for people you don’t even care about. Christmas is not a time for competition. Don’t do anything just because your neighbour is doing it and don’t buy anything simply because your neighbour has it. Also, don’t throw a party to outdo your neighbour. If you don’t resist this temptation to outdo your neighbour you will be thrown into a serious debt crisis for which there is no HIPC initiative and from which you will never recover unless you go back to your office and start demanding ‘brown envelopes’. Once again, don’t forget it is a criminal offence to demand and receive brown envelopes.

I also want to remind you that no prizes will be awarded for any ‘careless’ celebration of the yuletide. You will not be rewarded for drinking more bottles of ‘ker ba shor’ than your body can cope with. If you drink too much ‘ker bar shor’ and decide to drive like Schumacher, well, you might receive a bottle-shaped coffin for a prize accompanied by a lot of colourful wreaths as your trophies. Tonnes of tears will also be shed for you for being so foolish as to think that our potholed streets can pass for a Formula One track. I will also advise you to break ties with all those ‘friends’ you don’t really need as well as those distant relatives who only show their faces during this season to demand presents. Forget about the extended family for now and concentrate on giving presents to only those family members and friends who have stood by you all through yet another HIPC year. Any distant relative who shows up at your door without notice deserves a very simple present – a one-way ticket back to wherever they came from. To the men, especially, I will advise that you also break away from all those concubines you have surrounded yourselves with. Now is the time for renewal, so find your way back to the bosoms of the mothers of your children and do everything to drive away those bloodsucking concubines who are obsessed with mobile phones, shoes, jewelry and junk Chinese food.

Finally, show your kids more love than you have the in the past 11 months. Your kids you cannot, and should not ignore. This is their season and you must do everything to make it memorable for them – even if it means tightening your belt even further. It’s their season but there may come a time when you might want to invest in earmuffs, which will block the whining of your kids who, as usual, will develop an insatiable appetite for different toys, clothing, sweets and foods. The yuletide will be even more memorable for you if in spite of your HIPC conditions you, partially block your ears to some of the demands of your kids and look out for someone in need to help. That’s what the season is all about. Enjoy the yuletide! Excellently yours, J. A. Fukuor [email protected]

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