Letter to Jomo: Mrs Hesse's bonanza
A bogey everyone engaged in literary creativity dreads more than a highly infectious disease, is the so-called “writers' block.”
This is a distressing condition in which the writer suddenly and inexplicably becomes incapable of the inspiration and the creative energy needed to form words out of thoughts with the style and elegance that fire up good prose.
Another one of the writer's really bad times are those times when an event or subject he wants to write about, stubbornly defies coherent narration because all the facts are standing on their heads. I am confronted by both barriers and wondering what the heck to do.
You can tell a story straight, beginning from the beginning and working your way down to the conclusion. Alternatively, you could start from the end and work it right up to the beginning or open up in the middle and tell it upward and then downward or the other way round.
This one sounds incoherent no matter where you try telling it from, but hey I will give it a shot, Jomo.
Thanks to an apparent passing of documents under the table and a comedy of communication errors in the complicated realm of mass media, politics and public, former president JAK was this week set up by unwitting forces for verbal target practice by a public driven to righteous indignation over a controversial media report.
It was all about Parliament's approval of a retirement benefits package for former presidents of our great republic.
The retirement package for the retired president as reported in the media, sounds like a life-long, all expenses paid post-retirement vacation in a fantasy world of golden light, dancing colours, loyal guardsmen, attendants and adventures abroad.
The public on learning that an extra-extravagant presidential retirement package was approved by Parliament the day before former president Kufuor left office, let fly a swarm of the choicest if also most uncomplimentary adjectives ever to greet an official action or decision in recent memory:
“Insensitive, extravagant, inconsiderate of the needs of the poor, vain, vulgar, obscene, lacking in modesty, unconscionable, obnoxious, insane, fraudulent, etc.
In telephone calls to radio stations, radio discussion programmes, newspaper articles and on the Internet, people said they were “scandalised”, “dismayed”, “appalled” shocked”, “incredulous”, and apparent victims of a lousy joke.
The retirement package for the former president include two fully furnished residences, three saloon cars, two cross-country vehicles and one all-purpose vehicle all to be maintained, insured, fuelled, and chauffeur-driven at the tax payer's expense.
He is to be accompanied by police guards wherever he goes: (Some crazy fellow with a rusty axe to grind may try to bump off a former president, see?). Then he gets a lump sum payment of US$400,000 and one million dollars to establish a foundation. .
That is far from all: The former president and his wife are entitled to travel overseas at our expense once a year, for a maximum duration of 65 days. He will always be accompanied by three personal assistants and a security detail.
The taxpayer will provide the former first couple with an annual budget for “entertainment” and a 24-hour security guard. He gets an ex-gratia award equivalent to 18 months consolidated salary, and an additional resettlement grant if he has served two full terms. The couple gets free medical care for as long as they are able to breathe in oxygen.
Mr. JAK's former aides said the former president had nothing to do with the package. It had been proposed in a report of the Chinery-Hesse Committee which reviewed the retirement package of former presidents and other top officials under a constitutional provision.
The package they assured all and sundry, was not meant for Mr Kufuor alone but for every former president including JJ, the only other surviving former president. JJ spoke up, saying he would have nothing to do with “grandiose rubbish” he believed had been packaged specially for the former president.
Some people said if it were the case that the committee made the recommendations under mass hypnotism, what about Parliament? How could Parliament have approved such a package for a retiring head of a poor country where many still cannot obtain two square meals a day?
Normally vigilant and critical MPs deny ever having approved such a bill. Some members of the former president's own party, including former party General Secretary Dan Botwe, have condemned the alleged passage of the bill.
Maverick MP, P. C. Appiah-Ofori has called it “the secret passage of an obscene bill” and threatened to take the issue to court on behalf of the people for redress. So did Parliament pass the bill or not? Search through the murk for an answer!
It would indeed be a shame if we let a retired head of state live in near destitution but we can provide comfort and security for him without killing the tax payer and impoverishing the poor further in a country where many are hard put to obtaining two square meals a day don't you think?
Even the richest nations of the world do not have such extravagant packages for retired presidents. This is what George Bush is going to get as retirement benefits: US$191,000 pension, secret service protection for himself and his wife for life, paid travel expenses in the company of two assistants, a private fund to establish a library and free medical care for himself and his wife. Bush gets no car, no house and no gratuity.
In a posting on the Internet someone said he suspected that an elite corps of top level civil and corporate sector individuals who sit on commissions to review end-of-service benefits for retiring officials in the executive and the legislature, show appreciation for their own hefty and secret end-of-service benefits by coming up with such packages for the latter.
An MP ends a tern, gets an undisclosed ex gratia award, returns to the house thereafter because he has won an election again and waits to receive another ex gratia award. The executive approves of “this and that” for MPs and they do the same for the executive. Take care of me and I take care of you.
The Speaker of Parliament gets an end of service benefits package of GH¢126,600 ($120,000), a saloon car, a tax-free pension package, free medical and dental care for himself and his spouse, while the retiring deputy speaker gets GH¢100,000 and a saloon car.
The majority and minority leaders and deputies as well as the Chief Whip, get nontaxable ex gratia and settlement grants of between GH¢90,000 and GH¢100,000 and a saloon car.
We are told a presidential retirement package has been approved by the legislature and cannot be reversed, but many are those who have vowed to fight the fairy land package until it is at least appropriately revised.
Credit: George Sydney Abugri
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