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09.03.2009 Editorial

We disagree, Mr. President


President Mills announced during his recent State of the Nation address that his government was going to review the agreement signed by his predecessor government for the purchase of two luxurious presidential jets. His argument was that looking at the current financial status of the economy, it would not be prudent for his government to maintain the terms of the agreement.

A few hours after making this disclosure, former President Kufuor, who initiated the idea for the purchase of the two jets, told reporters at the Parliament House that his government had already made part payment for the jets and that no matter the situation, Ghana still needs a presidential jet. During the debate for the ratification of agreement for the purchase of the planes, one of the important points raised by then minority was that most Ghanaians do not have access to good drinking water, therefore, it was not advisable to purchase the planes.

Many Ghanaians supported this assertion because most people do not indeed have access to good drinking water. In fact, in most of the rural areas, people share access to water sources with animals like cattle and goats. In some of the rural communities, pupils still attend classes under trees due to lack of properly constructed classrooms, and sit on stones due to lack of furniture. In the face of this, it sounds strange that we should be thinking about the purchase of two jets for the presidency.

With the current state of the economy, The Chronicle therefore understands the sentiment of President Mills, that it would not be prudent to buy two presidential jets. We however, disagree with the President's decision to abrogate the contract for the supply of the two planes. There is no doubt that whether we are broke or not, Ghana still needs a presidential jet since we can no more rely on the old Fokker 28, also known as the 'Flying Coffin'. Despite all the retrofitting exercise that was carried out on the Fokker 28, ex President Kufuor was compelled to abort his trip to Equatorial Guinea when it was discovered that pressure in the plane had gone down.

Former President Rawlings also suffered the same fate with the same Fokker 28 when it developed mechanical fault and he had to abandon it in the US. This alone should tell us that we need a new plane for presidential travels. The Chronicle thinks what the President must rather do is to ask for the review of the agreement to convert the two planes into one bigger one, that can carry more people.

We may be crying that majority of the Ghanaian people are walloping in abject poverty, which is justified, but if the plane is purchased, Ghana will not be thinking of any presidential jet within the next thirty years. As we noted in this column when parliament was debating the agreement, if we acquire this plane, it would help ease the flight problems that Ghanaian teams go through when playing continental matches. Several teams come to Ghana to play their soccer matches using the presidential jets of their country. We should not sit down for the unexpected to happen before we start thinking about the future. Yes, people have no access to water, we lack good educational infrastructure, but this should not blindfold us not to think about the safety of our President.

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