The saying that the rich will always be rich, while the poor will always remain poor could not have been exemplified louder and clearer last week with the news of the Obamas’ 2009 gifts.
The story which hit the international news and caused some ripples in our local media was the revelation made on the list of gifts received by President Barack Obama of the United States of America and his family in 2009.
According to a BBC story carried by the Daily Graphic in its January 20 issue on the matter, the US had revealed that President Obama and his family received hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from world leaders in 2009. Wow, gifts alone in one single year?
Not surprising perhaps, among the top givers was Saudi King Abdallah with nearly $190,000 in gifts to the Obamas. In the US, by law, all the presents received by the first family must go to the US National Archives.
The BBC story listed many other gifts that the Obamas received in 2009. The list included expensive gifts from around the world some of which cost as high as $26,845 and as low as $775.
My puzzle, however, is why put such expensive personal gifts in the national archives? Could they not be auctioned with the proceeds going to provide shelter, food and clothes for the poor?
The story succeeded in making the rounds in the local media too. According to information picked up from the White House Federal Register, Ghana also featured on the list of gift- givers.
According to the information, when the US first family visited Ghana in July 2009, Ghana’s first Lady gave the visiting US first Lady a Backes and Strauss wrist watch costing $48,000, equivalent of GH¢72, 449.80. The watch was designed with the Black Star of Ghana and crafted in 18 karat gold with the strap encrusted in diamonds and leather.
Since the news broke out locally, the office of the President had come out to deny the media report that the gift was from the first Lady or even from the Government of Ghana. The real “culprits” have surfaced since.
In a Daily Graphic front page report of last Saturday, January 22nd, Backes and Strauss (B & S) and Africa Watch Trading Co Ltd, representatives of B & S in Ghana have owned up and defended the presentation they made to Mrs Obama in July 2009.
In a correspondence accompanying the watch, it was stated in part that the unique gift was on behalf of the people of Ghana to a unique visitor.
The publication from the White House Federal Register does indeed confirm the popular saying that the rich will indeed remain richer. Of course, the first family of the most powerful nation on earth does not need anyone to give them expensive gifts.
They can afford any gold and any diamond watch or jewellery from the most expensive designer names without any sweat if that is what they choose to wear. Come to think of it, they will never need any collateral to seek a bank credit and they will never need to borrow to pay their children’s school fees even if they want to send them to the most prestigious institutions in the world.
Ordinarily, giving is acceptable and it is almost like a norm. We do give parting or welcome gifts as tokens sometimes to show appreciation. Sometimes, courtesy demands that when one receives, one also gives in return. But really, looking round and scanning through many aspects of life, there are countless examples to show that indeed the rich will always get richer.
The instances have no end. Has anyone noticed that it is always those who can afford it who get the juiciest and the best of gifts? At events, it is the bosses who get the best of things sent to their cars when goodies are shared out, while the rest are asked to share whatever gets left over.
The giving of Christmas hampers has become a “craze” of late. However, during the season, the huge hampers dressed in all colours and overflowing to the brim always go in the direction of the big bosses who can easily afford all of the items in those baskets.
Many a time when officials visit the rural areas on duty, they return with their car booths filled with foodstuffs and livestock donated to them by the rural folks. Yet, these officials will go back to their offices to claim fat trekking or out of station allowances that would easily pay for the items they carried in the name of gifts.
In business, it is those who have the means who access facilities that would add on to expand their businesses. The banks and other financial institutions have made it such a way that if you do not have, you cannot access credit. What then happens is that, it is those who have who can access financial credits and loans to grow their business.
In these days of providing collateral before being granted bank facilities, who else but those who have properties to use as collateral will have access to those facilities. Once the facilities are available to them, they can provide collateral, it means more business and of course, more profit.
I am yet to find any human right activist taking this up to fight for equality when it comes to accessing bank credits.
The story is not different from home or car loans. Those who are earning good income can afford home assistance or car loans to enable them buy their own cars, homes or even build their dream houses, while those who are on low income continue to spend the little they have on rentals, thus putting money in the pockets of those who already have.
We hear of stories where people get hard up and desperately need money. For those who have landed property, without thinking through, they sometimes go ahead and sell off their landed property for pittance to those who can afford it.
In a few years, they in turn would be selling the same property in multiples of the price they bought it. A clear case of the rich getting richer. There are institutions and individuals who years back had the money and therefore invested in lots of landed property in prime areas all over the country at a time when the prices were going cheap. Today, those institutions or individuals are sitting on gold mines and will forever remain rich.
The same is with investment in equities. In the eighties when the stock market was developing in Ghana, for those who had the means to invest in stocks, they are laughing all the way for the stocks they purchased for next to nothing, has become big money today as Ghana’s Stock Exchange becomes one of the best in the region.
In the world of contracts which is the fashion today, jobs are often going to the firms and individuals with big names and solid finances. They are the ones who can influence or have influence.
They end up accruing more and adding on to their wealth. The guy with perhaps one employer and who may not have what it takes to influence at the top gets left behind. The opportunity will never come to him and so he would remain at the bottom of the pile.
Indeed, in life, there is no dispute that those who have always get more. It does not matter which part of the world one chooses to look at, those who have do always stand a better chance to add on to their wealth than those who do not have.
Sometimes in certain situations, hard work can be said to change one’s social status. That is true. However, invariably, once one gets to the club of the haves, they are sure to remain there because their social circle changes. They join the club where they can influence, where they are likely to receive or be given free of charge, whether they need them or not.
Indeed the rich, home or abroad, will always remain richer for as long as they remain in the club of those who have.