Let's finance our democracy -Oteng Gyasi
By Daniel Nonor
Mr. Tony Oteng Gyasi, Managing Director of Tropical Cables and Conductor, has reopened the debate on political funding, with a suggestion to Ghanaians to set up a special fund, which should be fed by little taxes from the adult population of the country.
Given the dangers and risks, instead of allowing foreign sources to pay and direct our political parties and elections, 'we should set up a special tax, as seed money to service the political parties.'
'For a country, which claims to have had its development derailed by foreign finance of the overthrow of its First Republic, one would expect strong laws against foreign financing of political parties. It is thus surprising, that we allow and actively encourage foreign funding of political activity in our laws.'
Oteng Gyasi made these suggestions at the University of Ghana, Legon, on the topic: 'Financiers of Political Change in Ghana: Heroes and Villains?' at the Annual AngloGold Ashanti Lectures on Business Development in Africa.
Ghana's dependence on foreign sources of funding is 'unfortunate, because, apart from the undue influence which foreign financing gives to non-citizens, it is also dangerous to hinge democracy on the generosity of foreigners.'
He recalled a case in the early years of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) era, where some veteran politicians, Kwesi Armah, Aryee Kumi and Krobo Adusei, were sent to court and jailed for facilitating a $1 million loan for the then Peoples National Party of Dr. Hilla Limann, from a South African-based Italian, called Chiavelli.
Mr. Oteng Gyasi noted: 'This danger was forcefully brought to us during the recent district council elections, when the foreign funding expected did not materialise,' adding that the special tax could be a small tax on all adults between 18 and 60 years, and with our 10 million adults, even at one cedi, such a tax could raise GHC10 million each year. 'This would,' he said, 'be the seed money for the democracy fund or election fund that keeps getting mentioned each time this discussion comes up, and the monies will be distributed to political parties, according to an agreed formula.'
Mr Oteng Gyasi, who is also the immediate past Chairman of University of Ghana, Legon, Council, advised the political parties in the country to equally reduce their expenditures to reduce the cost of democracy.
For example, he said: 'We should limit the duration of political season; expenditure on mass media, by way of advertising, both print and electronic should be capped, and that the media could be compelled by law to have a minimum amount of free public interest programming on a daily basis.'
He also noted that specific spaces should be provided for all posters and billboards in each village, town or city. These, he believes, would go a long way to reduce the country's dependence on foreign sources, and safeguard our democracy.
He noted that changes in politics were inevitable, whether in the developed or developing economies, and said that 'recent events in North Africa and the Middle East, and even next door in the Ivory Coast, should reinforce us for the fact that political change is inevitable. Regimes, which seemed well entrenched, have fallen overnight in Tunisia and Egypt.'
Mr Oteng Gyasi said other countries were tottering, as in some cases, after four decades of single person rule, change was underway, and one of the strengths of a true democracy, is the orderly and peaceful management of political change. Adding, 'it is a sign of national maturity. We have started this process in our country. We must strengthen our management of political change, finance it ourselves, institutionalise it and pass it on to future generations.'
He congratulated AngloGold Ashanti for endowing the Kwame Nkrumah Chair, of which its first and current occupant was the respected Professor Kofi Anyidoho.
In his tribute to AngloGold Ashanti, Mr. Oteng Gyasi noted that by endowing the chair and sponsoring this lecture series, 'AngloGold Ashanti has shown a commitment, not merely to their operations in Ghana, but also a commendable appreciation of our heritage,' hoping that the 'collaboration between AngloGold Ashanti and University of Ghana would grow even stronger over time, and become, not just a corporate social responsibility obligation, but a true partnership with Anglogold Ashanti taking full advantage of the excellent research facilities available in the university.'
In her earlier remarks, Professor Akosua Adomako Ampofo noted that as a result of the merger between the former Ashanti Goldfields of Ghana and Anglogold of South Africa, Anglogold Ashanti was born in 2004, and was currently, the world's number three gold producer, and a leading employer in the country.
The company, she noted, employs 9,000 Ghanaians, and makes up over 60% of the market capitalisation of the Ghana Stock Exchange.
The company has spent $811 million in support of its Ghanaian operations, and has paid direct and indirect taxes amounting to $279.5 million to the government of Ghana, since 2004.
He said the Institute of African Studies, as researchers, were seeking to interest AngloGold Ashanti in exploring emerging issues that were directly associated with livelihoods in Obuasi, such as leisure, migration, community relations, social cohesions, community aspirations, and community industry collaborations.