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14.01.2006 Feature Article

Rejoinder: A Light To The Benighted

Rejoinder: A Light To The Benighted
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Ato Kwamena in his Feature Article of Wednesday, 11 January 2006 (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/artikel.asp?ID=97377) assumed that he was opening our eyes to see the relevance of accepting the proposed $30million presidential office. In his piece Ato Kwamena also asked those of us who oppose the idea of the $30million presidential palace to also jump up and condemn the $77 million renovation of Kumasi and Accra stadia. Ridiculous!

Ironically Ato in his conclusion said “We must as a people choose the high moral ground of putting an end to letting our own President govern our beloved country from a dungeon where so many people perished.” Interesting! And when did we realize our cherished Osu Castle was a dungeon? If indeed it is the location of the seat of government that has made her incompetent and indifferent to the plight of the people of Ghana then this author says, yes let's move the presidential office from Osu Castle. But I doubt this is the case.

Does Ato Kwamena know the revenue the two stadia yield into the economy of Ghana annually? Does Ato understand the concept of international standards (in hosting such a tournament)? Let not people like Ato think some of us are just bent on criticizing for criticisms sake. We are not idiots or loafers who have nothing to do but to get up and talk at every giving moment.

Ato would only be excused if he accepts that he has no idea of economic concepts. How much will a Presidential palace give back to the economy? And is it comparable to a well designed stadium in a HPIC country? Does Ato know that the building of the presidential palace can be built from revenues from ticket proceeds from the two stadia? Let Ato Kwamena tell us if any proceeds from the presidential palace (if any) can build one residential house? No one is undermining the importance of giving extra comfort to our government officials or the President. All we are saying is after 48 years of independence Ghana doesn't need a loan to build a presidential edifice. If Ghana is not ready to raise her own money for a presidential house then we should wait until we are ready.

One may even ask, has Parliament or the Executive ever thought or planned towards this? The answer is No. They just heard of some loan availability and thought this idea will fly. For all you know it is only for their pockets and selfish ends. Now tell me how long is this project going to be completed? Will Kufour be moving in before his term ends? So why are they not listening to the people? Granting that it is good for Ghana NOW, how are they going to account for the monies AT EVERY STAGE OF THE PROJECT? Are they going to render periodic accounts as to the completion of the palace? I bet that will be the end of it if it never gets completed before Kufour leaves office like all the other national projects. Don't the people have the right to know? Believe me this is not the case of building/renovating a stadium for an impending All African tournament.

Ato Kwamena wrote,

“But friends, could not such an argument be also made against the Cup of Nations tournament that our country will be hosting in 2008 with its two new stadia (stadiums) that will be built? Do you know the cost of the two stadia? It's over $77 million. Why should we invest millions of dollars in building sporting facilities when the 'ordinary Ghanaian' “cannot afford three-square meals” a day? What's good for the goose is also good for the gander! Why did we not hear such strong protest against the building of sporting facilities?”

The answer is emphatically No. Because Ghana can not afford to let the stadia collapse and kill Ghanaians for overcrowding. Nor would Ghana be permitted to host if her stadia do not meet international standards.

Ato Kwamena wrote,

“After all, sport is not as important as the provision of portable water, building of healthcare facilities etc. Why don't we spend that $77 million to upgrade Korle-bu, and Komfo Anokye hospitals with spiral CT-Scans and MRIs, amongst other gadgets? So why the apathy or indifference shown towards the provision of the more expensive stadia but the sudden uproar against a Presidential edifice? “

Whoever told Kwamena sports is not important. I bet he live in some remote place. Does he know the economic benefits of sports to the Ghana economy? It would be wise for Ato to know that sports and health are equally vital sectors of the economy. Hence they need to be addressed separately. Both cater for the good of the people. We should rather make sure the loans received fro the various sectors are used appropriately as per Ghana government budget.

Ato Kwamena Wrote,

“Under the guise of advocating for a better priority list of needs for the country, some have questioned the rationale of the government of Ghana going for a loan to put up a Presidential Office building. In the face of people lacking portable water, lacking “three-square meals a day” (whatever that means), adequate healthcare facilities, etc why should we invest in a Presidential Office building? Only an insensitive government will take such a decision, they say. What would be the benefit of a Presidential Office building to the 'ordinary Ghanaian? Whilst some of those against the construction of a Presidential office building are decent and honorable Ghanaians who truly believe in the justness of their cause, a good number of them are people with sinister and parochial minds who cannot look beyond partisan politics.”

What is more ad hoc than to propose a new presidential castle when we don't even know or have debated the location in parliament? Ato I am sorry to say that your point here only strengthens our argument. Building/renovating a stadium is not and ad hoc plans or decision. It is in order where sports are major revenue for the country and her citizens. We have not forgetting the massacre that took the lives of precious Ghanaians at the Accra Sports Stadium. Perhaps if it were properly designed for the crowd lives could have been saved. By the way I want people like Kwemena to realize that sports is one of those infrastructures in Ghana that Ghana government needs to develop. This is one part of the “human gold” that has not been tapped in our country. I hope Ato will accept that saving Ghanaian lives transcends beyond party politics. Hence advocating for a better priority list of needs for the country. It was only prudent and patriotic that Ghanaians objected to the rationale of the government of Ghana going for a loan to put up a Presidential Office building. We must admit the reasons so far identified does not make it URGENT to build the palace over the sports stadia. No Ato such an argument cannot be made against the Cup of Nations tournament that our country will be hosting in 2008.

Ato wrote,

“Some cite the projects that the other countries that will be enjoying the Indian government loan are going to use theirs for to criticize the Ghana government's decision to use half of hers for construction of a Presidential Office Building. But I ask: 'which of those countries – Ivory Coast, Mali, and Congo – have not already built a Presidential palace?' Do your own investigations and find out if they house their Presidency in Slave Castles! Ask Ivorians how much it cost them to put up their Presidential Palace which sits at the heart of Abidjan? Those countries do not need to spend it on a Presidential Office Building because they have one already. But we, shamelessly since independence, rather chose to use a Slave Castle and have lacked the decency to realize that what we have been doing smacks of a people with no values at all. Many a times we let hatred for a man to blind us and prevent us from doing what is right. In the midst of the instability in our West African sub-region, it's very appropriate for us as a people to invest some of our resources in the strengthening of our arms of government.”

Is it the right thing to build a palace when you cannot afford health care etc? Please Ato, don't insult the Ghanaian intelligence. The fact that Ivorians have built a presidential palace does not also warrant one for Ghana when we have refused to put our house in order. I think this is very parochial and spongy argument to say the least.

Yes the seat of government, the Osu or Christianborg Castle, was built over 4 centuries ago by the Danes and it might have been built as a post to exploit the African people of their natural resources but the time does not warrant a loan commitment that would be paid back with interest. Posterity is not willing to be deviled by such a loan payments. The good news is that this loan from India does not oblige Ghana to be spent on presidential house. Therefore as a HIPC country we must set our priorities straight. We would all be proud of a nice presidential office but not when we cannot pay the bills. Okyere Bonna, Secretary, Ghana Leadership Union, Inc. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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