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03.11.2008 Feature Article

The vain promises of courtship are soon forgotten

The vain promises of courtship are soon forgotten

Promises are made readily when courting youth want their hearts' desire. Likewise politicians make comforting promises when they court us for votes. It is normal. But we should realise that it is during courtship that the promises can be examined and firmed. After that it is too late. We may then find ourselves asking, as in Shakespeare's sonnet.

"Why didst thou promise such a bounteous day. And make me travel forth without my cloak?"

If we find ourselves beaten by rain or travel without a cloak or umbrella, we should hot blame the promise of a fine day. The weather forecast foretells the likely event and the clouds forewarn us. So do the resources available and facts foretell the emptiness of some major promises which lure us to vote for parties and politicians?

If we do not seriously question them now, they will take us for a ride when they get into power. The world economy is in somewhat dire straits and Ghana cannot but be affected. We have been forewarned and we cannot as thinking men and women believe any political promises of bounteous days ahead.

On the contrary, we should ask those who wish to govern us what plans they have to minimise possible difficulties and problems, and what sacrifices are expected of us to withstand the forthcoming storms and to promote that economic growth which will relieve the crushing burden of life.

As recession threatens those who consume our products of raw materials, we should expect lower export earnings and decide on appropriate measures instead of merely planning to take the begging bowl around. Incidentally the present government policy of processing most of our cocoa beans is good and I hope it is not the usual Ghanaian pastime of talk without action.

We have been talking about diversifying our exports and processing our raw materials since the time of Governor Guggisberg over 80 years ago, but have not done much about it. The processing policy must therefore be seriously pursued.

Meanwhile, in the immediate future, we must survive in an apparently hostile global village and work hard not to sink further in a quagmire of poverty.

To survive and progress we must take difficult measures. The trouble is that those in the higher income groups, including politicians and high functionaries, do not want changes which would affect them adversely or tamper with their present lifestyle.

Sensible measures are therefore put aside for so-called political considerations. We should call the bluff off and tell our politicians that we are ready for effective and well administered measures which would put the economy right and make Ghanaians walk tall tomorrow even if we suffer a little today.

The sacrifice made by Ghanaians to educate their children shows that they believe in a better future. A former driver of mine proudly showed me the results of his son's Exam Council Secondary School results. He was glad the son has good prospects of entering the university and going in for a profession. That is the spirit which builds a nation. Our next government should not by maladministration and incompetent economic measures let the people down.

Those who want our votes should tell us the truth and we would support difficult but necessary measures.

I was away for sometime and when I returned I noticed that the lights were off again quite often. Now what is the reason? The e1ectricity people have given what they consider to be an explanation. But to me if it is much of a jargon smelling of inefficiency and incoherent state policy. We should demand that those who seek our votes state their energy policy clearly.

Are we investing so much in energy to make our industries efficient and competitive and to improve social well-being? Or is the main thrust to revamp VALCO and establish an aluminium industry? If the latter is the case, facts and figures must be produced to justify the viability of Valco and the confidence in an aluminium industry in present circumstances.

A major use to which we put energy, especially oil is transport. Petrol prices should therefore be debated in depth and comprehensively. I remember an article in the Daily Graphic of November 27,2007 which reported the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning as saying that either the tariffs on petroleum products were reduced or funds allocated to other sectors of the economy reduced.

Crude oil prices were then $99 a barrel.

They climbed much higher and money had to be siphoned off from other areas to enable us to move around without much complaint.

Today oil prices have come down and it is being suggested that the price of petrol and other oil products should come down. But surely money was diverted from somewhere to enable us to enjoy the relatively low prices we paid for petrol. Even at that rate, I found the price high and had to plan my journeys judiciously. I am sure it was the same for many who lived on fixed salaries and pension.

We have survived these high prices and it would be a relief to pay something low now that oil prices are down. But then the debts incurred to give us low prices remain. They have to be paid and we may as well continue with the present rates to liquidate the debt.

The argument that much of the price we pay for petrol is tax, is not strictly relevant here. It is relevant when we consider taxes in general and how best to raise funds for social services and development. In this regard, we should consider the entire tax regime and what is needed to run the state.

High energy prices may make our products uncompetitive and this should be factored into the determination of an appropriate regime for energy costs. In this as in many areas we need robust thinking and analysis and not pandering to the masses for votes.

Incidentally when petrol prices were being considered a year ago some suggested hedging. Our late minister, Mr Baah- Wiredu, to his credit decided that hedging was not a viable alternative. When I tried to run away from difficult situations by clever manoeuvring, my father used to tell me that if there were such smart ways out of life, my grandfather would have discovered it.

Recent events in the money market and banks show that smart financial mediation cannot permanently replace basic facts. If we need petrol we must pay for it. The smart young men and women of finance may spring up novel ideas about making money which their superiors may not understand but which earn them very high salaries and bonuses. However, as is being learnt painfully now finance oils but cannot replace the production of goods and services by hard work.

Ghanaians work hard when they have to.

Our politicians should tell us the truth and we would work hard to improve our lot. They should make the clarion call and we would rise up to build that prosperous Ghana we all desire.

Their reward is not the riches they may amass, but the good name left behind. Theirs should not be John Wilson's epitaph to a King; "Here lies a great and mighty President whose promise none relies on;

He never said a foolish thing, nor ever did a wise one".

Daily Graphic
Daily Graphic, © 2008

This author has authored 236 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: DailyGraphic

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