This is a rejoinder to Joy's (via Ghanaweb) entitled article “MP's to receive $ 25,000 loan for cars” (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.asp?ID=74497).
After reading this article, I provided a response to a Ghanaian forum and the discussion that followed has convinced me that a wider readership may be worthwhile. Before continuing, let us provide a little history of government-guaranteed car loans in Ghana. The first set of government-guaranteed car loans for MPs did start in the NDC era. At the time, the opposition party (NPP) did what was expected – it challenged the loans' validity in light of scarce hard currency. After enjoying the new ride and realizing that the goodness of the pudding is indeed in the eating, the opposition NPP guys (now majority MPS after 2000 and 2004) wanted the same bacon they opposed. It's human nature, right? For sure, all MPs irrespective of party line did lick and continue to lick their chops of the good taste of riding in government-guaranteed plush air-conditioned cars. So the potbelly NEW CAR LOAN benefits were allowed to continue unabated.
This actually reminds me of the free university education that was instituted back in the Kwame Nkrumah days, perhaps a necessity back then due to absence of sizeable university graduates. As the universities increased enrollment and the government of the day realized it could not handle such large GIVE AWAYS, it decided to change the freebees in favor of university loans. Instead of our learned university students reasoning the cause-and-effects, most went on a massive disobedience, hoping that the government of the day (and subsequent ones) would rescind decisions and give them FREE EDUCATION. Nothing was done and the loans were made. What about repaying the loans? Hmmm, in Ghana like most under-developed countries, the so-called education loans only existed on paper – majority of the people did not pay and the few who opted to pay back were given different lecture-after-lecture or reasons to not pay. It is not uncommon to hear narrations of some loan collectors destroying loan applications for a measly sum in return. The irony is the same loan collectors who advised the students not to pay forgot that their salaries were derived from the loan payments. Yet, these same loan collectors wondered why they were given pink slips. In the end the so-called education loans became government debt, indeed government-guaranteed loans. One wonders what loan schemes are currently in use at our public universities.
Having written about the inefficient education loans, it seems that the MPs (mostly beneficiaries of government-guaranteed education loans) have wet appetite for more – this time car loans paid in hard-to-come-by hard currency instead of cedi-based education loans. Why not? If a typical MP can get free primary/middle, (junior/senior) secondary-school, and university education whether or not (s)he was a top performer (and therefore could get bursary/scholarship), why can't (s)he continue with the freebees while working as an MP? After all, the laws of the land are made by parliamentarians alike. Why can't they make laws that benefit them?
Folks, can Ghana (a HIPC nation) afford to borrow $1-to-1.25Million to buy cars every year (i.e. $20,000X200 MPs divided by 4 in 2001 and $25,000X200 divided by 4 in 2005) for her MPs – not counting ministers, assistant/deputy cabinet ministers and the like? There is just no sense in giving each MP a so-called loan of $20K and another $25K in just 4 years. Using simple arithmetic progression (of additional $5,000 each 4 years), this unwise loan will mushroom to $45,000 in 2021 for the MPs, the year Ghana is expected to move up to a medium world economy. At this rate of give-aways, it will be anybody's guess if we will attain this noble goal. A recent Ghanaweb article (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.asp?ID=74497) indicated that 197 out of 200 MPs did pay back their loans. If that is the case and most of the MPs were re-elected, why should they get new loans when their cars are virtually new? How much do our MPs earn to be able to re-pay such huge loans so quickly? – A four-year $20,000 loan requires a monthly payment of $417 per plus interest. Aren't these loans fast becoming a breeding ground for corruption when the only criterion is to become an MP? If so, do we foresee a time (soon perhaps) when prospective MPs will steal, cheat, borrow, beg, etc to run a successful election for MP positions? What kind of elections will our elections turn into - only the people with money need apply and/or can win? Will that be truly a democracy or corrupt-laden entitlement?
Other potbelly parliamentarian incidences that came to light on the Ghanaian forum that I cited earlier include:
1. Purchasing one-thousand-dollar Sony Ericsson P900 cell phones for each minister every three months (i.e. $4,000 per minister per year or $16,000 per minister per 4-year term) – Why not, it is not their money
2. Spending more than $1Million each week (i.e. $52Million yearly, $208Million in 4 years, or nearly half a BILLION dollars in 8 years!) PER DIEM allowances. - Is there a limit to greed at all?
3. Permission to purchase brand new cars, furniture, etc. at the end of four-year or eight-year public - A well earned retirement package?
4. Giving “Mosquitoes Allawa" to ministers, MP and some civil service managers. The forum contributor contends that such allowances were the means by which the Brits used to siphon out money from Ghana before March 6, 1957. Should Ghanaian politicians continue such practices when their fellow beings are asked to tighten belts?
If the above 4 parliamentarian benefits are true, it is suggested that payments be made when the politicians present receipts. This way, inappropriate expenses will be eliminated, saving our country lots of hard-to-find hard currency.
Let's now turn our attention to the aforementioned government-guaranteed 2001 $20K-auto loan, now $25K. All (most?) Ghanaians are for democracy and they are glad that a true form of democratic system is practiced in Ghana. However, there is no reason why the government should guarantee such huge loans for the MPs and others. Can't the MPs apply for personal car loans and pay through salary or per diem deductions? Otherwise, the delinquent loans that Ghana obtained of yester year (now being forgiven) will swell up and haunt and hurt us sooner than later. If the government-guaranteed education loans were either uncollectible or ill-advised, should our HIPC government and country continue to guarantee car loans for the MPs?
Certainly if the government can afford to expend more than $52Million yearly, why can't it use the same amount to improve our public transportation system so that the MPs will not be compelled to borrow such large hard-to-come-by foreign monies? If we are serious (which we should be), we could invest this $52Million yearly in constructing a reliable subway system in Accra-Tema. Then we could revamp our rickety rail system to connect all regional capitals. SURELY, $52Million each year WILL DO THIS JOB (of revamping public transportation) AND CREATE JOBS FOR OUR NUMEROUS UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE.
In closing, let it be known that the MPs are NOT breaking any laws. They are just taking advantage of available loopholes. It is suggested that the current 4th parliament session or the next session should seek the interest of the country/citizens first and do what is right PLEASE FIX OR PLUG THE LOOPHOLES. Otherwise, Ghana the will soon re-apply for another HIPC without support from the west. Let us account and/or manage our money wisely. Let us cut the per diem in half at least, use the savings in national development, and hire our unemployed. Kwaku Kwakyi Huntington Woods, Michigan USA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.