Litany of Failures: The Change that Never Was
A year in the life of any political leader and party is a very long one – the quarter mile marker of a four year term. Coming events oftentimes cast very long shadows, such as brisk heavy winds precede heavy tropical storms and lightening precedes thunder. Nsuo ebeto'a nframa dikan. Edwa beso'a efiri anopa. As such it would not be out of place to appraise President Atta Mills's one-year anniversary and try to forecast where he would have taken the country at the end of his first term in government.
One year ago the buzz word was “yeresesamu”. The president himself in his inaugural speech introduced a new dictum: “Yeresesamu na yen ako yen anim”, to wit, “We are changing in order to go forward”. There I knew he was Kwame Nkrumah's student, they are very good at stealing other peoples' names and slogans. Like Nkrumah stole the word “Convention” from the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), Atta Mills unabashedly took Nana Akufo Addo's NPP mantra – “Yere ko yen anim” to pair with his deficient and hollow “Yeresesamu” slogan, which by the way he lifted from Paa Kwesi Nduom of the CPP. Little did we know we were facing a year of hocus pocus abysmal performance. This is the year that change became an end in itself, instead of as a harbinger to greater things.
Gone is the charisma and magnetism that leaders bring to inspire their nation. The president is wane and boring, fumbling and uninspiring, but a faithful husband. Let's give Prof Mills his due credit, he is not flamboyant, has no sticky fingers – thus says Kwame Pianim, and our daughters and women are safe around him. Some say Naadu Mills is a desperate housewife, whatever that means.
There were promises made and promises to keep leading up to the election of Prof. Mills. To be blunt president Mills promises on oil and petroleum products prices were perhaps the vainest of all political promises. According to some experts it was the singular thing that perhaps tilted the election in his favor in the Central Region. Candidate Mills in his distorted and vain pursuit of power promised the electorate reduced oil prices, even tinkling tribal strings like Kufour built cold stores in Kumasi rather than at the coast because he was not a Fante, adding to effect “Adze wo fie oye”. This is father of the nation or asomdwehene for you. We believed him, gave Atta Mills our votes and in less than no time rather saw petrol prices inked up a whopping 30% up.
2009 was the year when “Konomtea” entered the Ghanaian political lexicon. This is the year that we saw complete delegation - no, dereliction - of duty to chains of committees for every conceivable emergency. Call it anything but it is apparent president Mills style of governance is adhocracy (PDCs?). Why do we have whole ministries, principal secretaries, top notch civil servants, and yet the president has this reflex reaction of announcing committees as the first response to every major event? That to me sounds like a guy who cannot make up his mind and does not have the men to govern the country with. Please cut down the chinchinga and tea committees. That is not change we can believe in. That is inertia and indecision.
When was Atta Mills elected, when did he finish making his political appointments, what did they do and how did they do their job? Atta Mills promised to hit the ground running but man, if you call 2009 as running then I don't know how you would describe crawling or lame duck presidency. The government took almost 6 months to get all its appointments in place. In the interim team upon teams of BNI men and shadowy party apparatchiks were let loose on the party that has just left office to harass and confiscate cars and toilets, whilst they themselves became property owning converts. Some even helped themselves to 5 tractors and pulled down and started mansions all over the place. Talk of people who engage in double-speak!!!
As late as December 2009, the president was still conducting aseda tours. Ex-president Rawlings suddenly found his rhythm, inspecting guard of honors, touring military installations, ordering Mills to arrest and jail NPP politicians he had concluded to be corrupt. We have been initiated into the politics of vindictiveness and nobody cared to inform us. President Mills would want us to believe he is anti-corruption crusader, but if the same can appoint people like Dan Agbodapki and ex-convicts as ambassadors, I don't care what you preach; you are fake and a gimmick.
A year ago Ghana (2008) was being touted as an African success story. Our GDP chalked up unprecedented healthy growth of 7.4%, there was money in the pockets of the people, shop-keepers were ringing sales like there is no tomorrow, our stock market was the best performing market in the world, food was plenty and affordable. What a difference a year makes. The thrill, joy and hope are gone. The smiles are gone out of the faces of Ghanaians. Despondency is in. Today our stock market is the worst performing market in the world. I can't believe this is a country whose initial sovereign bonds were oversubscribed to the tune of almost $800 million from a base of $500M. That in a year when oil was selling at $150 a barrel was nothing short of sterling quality and a huge vote of confidence from the international community.
Compare that to Atta Mills's government. President Mills's major foray into the international capital and funding market was to negotiate for a $1.2 billion loan from the IMF. The loan agreement was completed on June 26, 2009. The approval was to follow some months down the line, but let's see what we got. Immediately the agreement was reached we were hammered and corralled to increase fuel prices by 30% in advance of any approval of the agreement. The IMF asked the Mills administration to remove all subsidies, including for electricity, education and health care. Those of you counting on Atta Mills to give you once in a life-time premium payment on the NHIS, I am sorry to say, he lied to you, it would never happen. That might wait until maybe we are awashed in oil money.
Further Ghana was required to cut its budget deficit by 37% in a single year from 14.9% of GDP to 9.4% by the end of 2009. Ghana is a country with a per capita income of $510 per year. Life expectancy at birth is 59.7 years. At least 30% of the population lives below the poverty line of $1.25 per day. None of these bothered the IMF in pushing down their barbiturates down our throats. It is in the light of the conditionalities attached to IMF and World Bank loans that should make you appreciate the herculean job MP Kwadwo Baa Wiredo and the able team at the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Ghana under Kufour did, in weaning us off from the IMF, only for Atta Mills and his mediocre team to come and push our necks right back into the noose. If you are wondering why all of a sudden you are feeling this choking hold of economic downturns, the worldwide recession notwithstanding, know where to place the blame, it is the incompetent Atta Mills government that has taken you back to the cleaners.
The question that needed to have been asked and asked again before we voted for Mills was; where in the world would a corporation hire back a former CEO that had led it into bankruptcy? Doesn't make sense right? What were we thinking when we elected President Mills and his economic team? Wasn't Mills the chairman of the Economic Management team, during which time Dr Kwabena Duffour , the present Finance Minister, was the governor of Bank of Ghana, which saw our currency become useless, to the extent you needed cocoa bag full of them to buy just a deep freezer or a car ? Guess what, we are back to the future under NDC2 rule. No growth, no progress, no change. The current governor at Bank of Ghana was Deputy Minister of Finance during NDC1 first term. Somebody put the economic gear in the reverse. The cedi is on its way back to worthlessness!!!! We had forgotten why we went into HIPC (bankruptcy for countries) when we voted the NDC back. Here we agree with ex-president Rawlings and Spio Garbrah on their assessments of this NDC2. That it is made up of illiterate and incompetent mediocre people. In fact Rawlings went as far as to describe some of them as greedy bastards. I rest my case. Somebody wake me up in December 2012.
By: Eric Kwasi Bottah (alias Oyokoba)
Development / Accra / Ghana / Africa / Modernghana.com