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27.12.2004 Feature Article

What next NPP?- A Note to the President and Parliament

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I congratulate all Ghanaians who participated in the just concluded elections for a job well done. Kudos to all the political parties that participated. The NPP won the election fair and square, the nonsensical protestations of ex-President Rawlings to the contrary notwithstanding. The NPP has the mandate though not an overwhelming one to steer the affairs of this nation for the next four years. In this piece, I will attempt to address some pressing issues facing Ghana. NDC Contrary to what some pundits want us to believe, the NDC has not been relegated to the dustbin of history. That would be bad for Ghana politics. We need a viable opposition if our fledging democracy is to survive. We need a viable opposition not only as a credible alternative to the ruling government but also as a countervailing force to the ruling party's indiscretions. Looking at the returns, it is pertinent to note that 47% of the electorate who cast their votes did not vote for the NPP. That is a number that can not be ignored. President Kuffour needs to pacify a divided nation during his second term. It's time to reach out to the opposition and invite qualified people in the opposition especially from the NDC to join his cabinet. How should President Kuffour use the political capital he just earned? I've some recommendations. Legislative Agenda A) An overhaul of the tax system-Top on the President's legislative agenda should be a law streamlining the income tax system. Our tax system needs an overhaul. The President should present legislation to Parliament that would fundamentally overhaul our byzantine tax system. We should get rid of the tax regime that allows a majority of the population engaged in legitimate business or otherwise to operate outside the tax system. The President should say good riddance to the current porous, exemption-riddled tax system that allows the briefcase toting connection man, the globe trotting drug trafficker, the bribe-dependent civil servant and the countless kalabule business men and women to evade tax on their income with impunity. The politician who is convicted of bribery and embezzlement should pay tax on the monies misappropriated. The property owner who rents out or leases his property and is paid monthly rent in local or foreign currency should pay tax on his income. The property owner who gets a lump sum payment (advance or goodwill) for leasing his property should pay tax on this windfall. A capital gain tax should also be enacted to tap into the vast pool of untaxed monies earned by people who sell their properties, businesses and stocks. In addition to prosecuting offenders, the IRS should be given the power to attach the properties of those found guilty and sell them on the open market.

Sales-tax-Should the central government be receiving all sale taxes or that should go to the regions? Sales taxes should all go to the regions where they were generated.

Property tax- There is no reason why cities like Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi etc. should be primarily dependent on the central government subvention in order to function. With the boom in housing construction, the revenue from property tax should also increase exponentially. The problem is nobody pays property tax in Ghana. The current laws on the books have failed to curb this widespread tax evasion. That is why we need new and tougher laws to assist local governments in collecting the monies owed them. The various local governments should also be staffed with accountants, tax lawyers etc. to help them maximize their revenue from property tax. All defaulting land lords and property owners should have their properties forfeited and put on the auction block. There should be no laxity in enforcing the law. The various local governments should set the deadline for payment of property tax. If you're in default after the grace period, the property should be sold to recoup the money owed to the local government.

B) Posse Comitatis Law- The recent death in military custody of Alhaji Issa Mobila has drawn home the urgency in passing such a law. This law draws its name from a law passed in the United States originally intended to prohibit federal troops from supervising elections in the former confederate states. It generally prohibits Federal military personnel and units of the US National Guard under federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity in the US except where expressly authorized by the constitution or congress. Why such a law in Ghana? We have all seen the abuses of government officials in using the military against defenseless civilians. The directive to use the Armed Forces of Ghana in any law enforcement capacity in peace time should only come from the President. Our military should not be politicized. The use of the military in settling personal scores- collection of personal debts, enforcement of eviction notices etc. should all be proscribed under such a law.

C) Ghanaian Integrity Law- There has been many instances where foreigners domiciled in Ghana have abused the traditional Ghanaian hospitality-employers in the country treating their employees as second-rate human beings. In one astonishing case, a Dutch foreman in a company in Ghana compelled his employees to drink from the same bucket that he routinely uses for defecation. We need laws proscribing bigotry in all shades and forms in Ghana and setting stricter penalties for violation should be a top priority of the President's second term.

D) Whistle Blower Law - The president's legislative agenda for the second term should include the passage of a Whistle Blower Act. Such a law should be designed to protect patriotic citizens who seek to reveal malversation in government. The law should not only protect the whistle blowers from reprisals but should also award them monetary compensation. We need to give ordinary citizens who have evidence of government officials causing financial loss to the sate, an incentive to disclose their evidence to the authorities. E) Racketeering Law Such a law should be used to target and nab corrupt politicians, businessmen and organized crime elements engaged in illicit business practices etc. Sting operations, wire tapping etc. should be allowed under the law to nib the nefarious activities of the citizenry in the bud. This law should be used to attack corruption in the government from the high ranking minister to the clerk. It's a commonplace to see a clerk who works in Customs and making minimum wage leading a life way above his means. Clerks owning big mansions and fleet of cars should explain how they came by their riches.

A corollary to this act should be a Gifts Tax. The politicians who use their sons and nephews as fronts to recycle stolen state funds into the system should pay a gift tax. It should be mandatory for all citizens who receive gifts of $500 or more to report such gifts on their tax filing and for politicians to disclose all gifts of $100 or more annually to the IRS.

F) Inefficiencies in the Public sector- The president failed to address the inefficiencies in the public sector during his first term. The bureaucracy is bloated. Do we need all these ministers and deputy ministers and special assistants? I don't think so. Why should a country of 20 million people have 16 Supreme Court judges when the US with a population of 295 million and undoubtedly the most litigious nation on earth, has only nine? President Kuffour should trim this bloated bureaucracy during his second term. Let the downsizing of the civil service begin now. Not only that, also let the subsidy of the city dwellers by the rural folks (principally the cocoa farmers) also end.

G) Ya Na Assassination

One pressing issue the NPP should also resolve during the second term is to find out and punish the perpetrators of the heinous assassination of the Ya Na. The axe of justice should fall wherever it may be, regardless of whose ox is gored. So long as the perpetrators of this heinous crime remain at large, Dagbon shall know no peace. This crime has tainted the image of the country and the NPP's handling of the case is so inept and so at variance with its international reputation for gravitas. Let's find the perpetrators once and for all and punish them so that genuine peace can return to Dagbon. This should be our collective sacred obligation to Dagbon. I've said this many times elsewhere and I'm repeating it here. Finding the culprits should be a top priority for the second Kuffour term.

Congratulations, Mr. President on your victory at the polls.. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Baffour Ennin
Baffour Ennin, © 2004

The author has 18 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: BaffourEnnin

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