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06.08.2009 Feature Article


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We are revisiting Vice President John Mahama’s plea with Ghanaians to tighten their belt and bear with government as it takes measures to place the economy on a sound footing. We do so not as rabble rousers, but to remind our politicians about the ‘Social Contract’ between the government and the governed,

The ‘Social Contract’, set forth as far back as 1762 by French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, implies that by the very act of casting their vote to elect their representatives in government and paying their taxes, the people have signed a contract which binds the elected leaders (i.e. government) to fulfill their side of the bargain.

Three weeks ago, a head of state in one of the Asian countries was asked to shed light on why there were so few industrial actions and public demonstrations against government.

His answer was that his was a country in which the people trusted the government implicitly; that they know that their taxes would not be misapplied to finance pipe dreams and personal aggrandizement of the leaders.

Sad to note, there are not too many African leaders who can strike their chest to make such a bold statement.

Too many of our leaders are thinking not of the people who elected them, but of themselves and how to multiply their satisfaction at state expense.

Tightening of belts is a good cry; but the governed must be given concrete evidence that the belt is not being loosened around the waist of the leadership.

It is precisely with this in mind that we recall the claim by Vice President Mahama when, in asking the people to tighten their belts, added, inter alia, “as those of us in leadership have done”.

As the reaction on radio (via phone-ins) suggested, Ghanaians do not seem to know what those in leadership have done that amounts to “belt-tightening”.

In the name of the Social Contract, the Ghanaian Times suggests that in future, belt-tightening measures by the leadership would have to be deliberately communicated to the people.

We said it yesterday, and we repeat that Ghanaians have grown weary of sacrificing.

They look around and they see many sleek saloon cars for parliamentarians every four years; while ordinary workers break their backs and toil for upwards of between 40 years, they go home with next to nothing on retirement.

Even the paltry sum paid them takes forever to show in their bank account; yet they see huge sums as ex-gratia against the names of MPs who have served for only four years.

Ghanaians need explanations for these disparities. That is when belt-tightening will make a lot of sense to them.

The ‘Social Contract’ demands that the burden of sacrifices must be equal on both sides.

Often, it is the failure to share or bear the burden equally that incites social unrests.

Ghana has seen the evils of coups d’etat and has sworn not to go back to those dark days.

Nothing must be done to suggest that our new found democracy is only for the comfort of a small elected elite.

Let’s get the social contract working to the satisfaction of both sides – the governed and the government., © 2009

The author has 1 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: newtimesonlinecom

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