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05.04.2019 Feature Article

Boot For Chale Wote Economics

Boot For Chale Wote Economics
APR 5, 2019 FEATURE ARTICLE

Ghana is an interesting country; one has no business being angry or pissed off because of the misconduct of an individual or groups of individuals to an individual. Painful though some of these may be, there is always a sense of humour somewhere to reduce one's tension and mitigate his anger. Political humour is very important in our body politic. I am told that in the early days of our struggle for independence when there was tension between the Convention People's Party (CPP) and the United Party (UP), a suspected CPP member or sympathizer threw a stone targeting Dr. J.B. Danquah at a rally organized by the UP. The person who threw the stone missed his target.

The response of Dr. Danquah to whoever threw the stone was that 'you see, they have very poor focus, they can't even properly focus to hit their political opponent with a stone'. A man who nearly had an injury at a political rally, that is if the story is true, just made a mockery of what would have been a criminal offence if the assailant had been caught.

The social, economic and political stress and tension that have engulfed this country is so serious for our collective good. Everybody seems to be angry with one individual or group of individuals or public institutions for actions or inaction which serves as impediments to their well-being. Ironically, the very individuals who complain about others' activities which are harmful to their interests hardly assess their actions or inaction which also goes against the interest of other people. People are dying needlessly out of stress and tension.

Over the past months, I have met people we worked jointly and tirelessly in the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the Western Region since the party went into opposition in 2009. Upon winning power in 2017, they had time to visit any individual with power to determine who plays what role in government once political power has been attained, to paint me, Kwesi Biney as an enemy without compare. Sadly, those who listened to the gossips but had known me much longer than they had known the gossips, believed them.

On a few occasions, as I stay my corner in Takoradi, some of these same people will spot me, and contrary to their expectations, perhaps expecting to see me emaciated, whining and pining, they still see Kwesi Biney very robust, agile, more relaxed and evergreen. They ask, eei, you have grown fat papa. My simple response to them that keeps them silent and perhaps wondering has always been 'I take very good care of my brains, and the body takes care of itself'. Life is so short; one does not need to live a life of stress and pressures which have become causes of deaths these days even among young people. Introducing more humour and letting pains die on their own without any thought of revenge will keep us healthy. It is in this vein that I appreciate the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia's BOOT For Chale Wote economic analysis. It should bring laughter to even the author of the theory of Boot for Boot.

I will not pretend to be an economist since my academic qualification in economics ended at the 'A' Level School certificate of old so I am not totally ignorant in economics. As a practising journalist, my specialization was also in Economic and Financial reporting and this limited knowledge places me in a point to appreciate many of the long economic terminologies and the comparisons made over periods.

Even though the Vice President and Chairman of the Economic Management Team (EMT) used economic indicators to explain the causative factors which influenced the recent fall in the local currency, that is the cedi in relations to other currencies particularly the US Dollar, I believe there have been some factors to the fall of the cedi which cannot be found in the textbooks but which are very real.

Every keen observer of the performance of the cedi will appreciate the fact that after every general election where the ruling political party changes for the opposition to take over, there is a sharp decline in the cedi relative to other currencies at least in the first quarter of the period when the new government has taken over power. During the hectic and highly monetized campaigning, hundreds of thousands of cedis, if not millions of cedis, find their way into the pockets of many key party activists.

Still hundreds, if not thousands of party people, make huge fortunes of monies out of unknown work. As soon as their party loses power, because of the nation's history, many of such people who hold such huge sums of monies in their homes or in the banks would want to cover up their wealth by exchanging their cedis for other foreign exchanges, particularly the US Dollar, the Euro or the British Pound.

The demand for foreign exchange pushes the exchange rates up. This affects our cedi each election period that produces a new government. Around June/July of last year, the cedi also started falling. Among whatever indicators which influenced that, the cleanup of some financial institutions also sent panic into the system and depositors rushed to withdraw their funds from many financial institutions. Those who managed to do so just invested them in foreign exchanges which brought in the demand and the supply factors. The above two, in my view, had nothing to do with the fundamentals being right or wrong.

The most worrying factor which surfaced at the Town Hall Meeting is the ease with which people can trade in the cedi and other currencies in Ghana. The example given by the Senior Minister, Nana Yaw Osaafo Marfo, prevails in almost all the countries surrounding us. I nearly got stranded some 20 years back in Johannesburg not because I did not have money but that the hotel I was checking in was not ready to accept the US Dollar for payment except Rand. My flight to South Africa had delayed. It again happened to me in neighbouring la Cote d'Ivoire where the hotel refused my US Dollar but insisted of CFA France. In all the cases, I had to go to the bank to change my dollars into the local currencies.

In my view, the influx of nationals from neighbouring countries who do all manner of businesses here, both legal and illegal, have easy access to our hard earned forex which they transfer through illegal means into their home countries. We need to address that too. This is a major cause of putting pressure on the cedi.

The explanations by my good friend Peter Amewu on the power outages were very convincing to me. Why did it take that long for him to come out in the form he presented it? We allowed party people to attribute it to Pokuase interchange, a contractor who had destroyed a cable and a valve at Ghana Gas which has gone bad. The reasons from unofficial sources for the problem were basaaaaa. Why? If you compare some of the earlier reasons to the previous NDC ones, then Boot for Boot will come in.

Housing

Why is it that each time we have money to build affordable houses, we go looking for virgin lands to strip everything on it to build houses? Modern development must make room for regeneration of existing residential areas. Can you imagine regenerating Effiakuma NOS 1, 2, and 3 and providing the people with modern sanitation facilities? Yes, Nima, Mamobi, Asawase and many other such settlements in Ghana. We change the faces of the areas and improve sanitation there. A little change of style will bring a massive change. Let us think out of the box and stop the BOOT For Chale Wote kind of development.

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Kwesi Biney
Kwesi Biney, © 2019

This author has authored 89 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwesiBiney

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