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19.10.2014 Feature Article

Ghana’s Laws, Presidency and the Economy: fixing the disjointed triad!

Ghana’s Laws, Presidency and the Economy: fixing the disjointed triad!
19.10.2014 LISTEN

Responsible citizenry is not a product of some superior human beings living somewhere but rather a function of an enforceable legal regime in which case the law becomes the regulator of human conduct. My contention here is that people will always flout the laws in a regime of suppressed laws. That is why in the absence of the law, humans become animals; behaving on the score of impulses and not by reasoning. The conscious being; with a high sense of morality and responsibility towards oneself and society, exudes personal drive to act in accordance with the norms that govern the society. Persons of conscience do not require the subtle but coercive hands of the law to prompt them into acting responsibly. However, there are those who though may be fully aware of the norms of the society yet find it fanciful to act in contravention to any existing norms. Within this context, the law needs to be fully activated in other to attain an organised society and responsible citizenry; lest lawlessness will abound and we would vainly wonder whether or not humanity has lost all conscience. It is held that the natural instinct to do wrong is an integral part of the human psychology. This notwithstanding, we do not have the luxury to stand aloof and allow society to be held hostage by individual indiscretion and wilful attempt to do wrong. To go on that tangent and still expect to have an organised society with law-abiding citizenry will be a nebulous and illusory way of attaining order. This explains why the law must be invoked and allowed to shape, organise and guide human conduct.

The Law in the Ghanaian Context
Whereas the law is active, functional and no respecter of persons, titles and positions in certain parts of the world, it is suppressed in Ghana. It is a worrying spectacle to see the law being set aside by powerful forces - politicians; business moguls; religious leaders, the rich and chiefs amongst others. Some members of these individual groupings have turned themselves into what I call 'a cabal of destructive forces' who repeatedly violate the laws through overt and covert means. Their actions revoke the law and limit its ability to regulate and shape human behaviour thus allowing deviants to create a disconnected society. It has for instance become a norm to call on police officers to plead for leniency when another police officer arrests a person with deviant conduct. Of the two police officers, the one whose power and might is able to loosen the grips of the law is deemed highly influential and very often, senior officers are the worst offenders. Ironically, constituents of the cabal of destructive forces include some of our 'honourable' men and women in the august house of parliament; the very fortress of laws in Ghana. The executive and the judicial enclave are equally fraught with a fair degree of the destructive cabal personages! The results of their actions and in-actions are not far-fetched; the surge in corruption, political despondency, ruptured economy where the fundamentals cannot hold and the flagrant abuse of the poor as the basics of survival continue to be an illusion and the sheer arrogance of some political appointees who have become monsters and are lacing the corridors of The Flagstaff House after having been found complicit in venal dealings!

In organised societies, the law speaks; talks, directs, controls and shapes human conduct. Very often, no persons are seen entreating others to observe the law; the systems put in place do the talking. Since the operationalization of the law is strictly systemic in such countries, there is minimal human intrusion at its enforcement. The point being made here is that the law is able to effectively work without the promptings of anyone; the systems are more than enough to label a person as having violated legal provisions. What I find even more interesting is that once a person violates the law, there is minimal human maneuvering in ensuring that the deserving penalties are exacted and that compliance is attained. At every stage of the processes, failure to honour the penalty only aggravates the punitive measures. A friend in Europe failed to settle a €30 installment payment for a mobile phone purchased on credit (which is the norm with most of the transactions here). At the expiration of the due date of payment, the claim was handed to a professional debt collection agency legally mandated to do so. The next letter he received was a €600 bill as compounded penalties. What was more, he had only 30 days to fulfill payment obligation else all his household furnishing were to be auctioned to defray the debt. This is how a €30 debt could sky-rocket to €600; with the possibility of his household items auctioned. In all these, the communication exchanges were mainly through letters. That is how the law in Europe works. Come to Ghana and the law only exist in books; perhaps only effective when applied to the poor, illiterates, and those with no connections with the powerful forces. I have heard many astute politicians, the clergy; parliamentarians, chiefs and opinion leaders urge the Ghanaian to be law abiding. They clamour morality and beg society to respect the law and honour its injunctions. They approach morality as if they are martyrs only for them to be the first to set aside the law. That is the irony of the call by the nobles!

The Presidency
The presidency in its current form and shape irks! It breaches common sense and reduces politics to opportunism. The presidency has tainted nationalism and reduced the law to mere jokes. Indeed, the presidency has in recent past months provided the licence to break the law with disdain and indignity! There is and must always be a symbiotic relationship between the presidency and the law (don't forget that all the three arms of government must work in concert whilst remaining independent). So the executive arm of government of which the President superintends must uphold the law at all times. The President must provide leadership by example as that will inspire followers to do same. Within the context of the law, the President is required to be the first to uphold the tenets of the very constitution that empowers him or her to preside over the people. That is why President John Mahama has no basis in flagrantly breaking the law with impunity; and later re-opened cancerous wounds with salty water in his attempt at providing absurd justification for breaking the laws of the land. Without making references to a plethora of events of which the president has woefully failed to apply the laws, I limit myself to the airlifting of 3 million US Dollars to Brazil in clear breaches of both local and international laws relating to financial transfers. It was and will remain one low-sided event in the history of Ghana. It was an act facsimile of a lawless president! As if that was not enough, the first citizen of the country had the ungratified aura of justifying the unjustifiable! Did the President need to have reduced poor managerial issues as warranting his setting aside the laws and putting Ghana on the list of most ridiculed nations?

So the President who is to be a lead advocator in ensuring that the law is respected, turns around and fly dollars; in a chartered flight to Brazil where the Minister of Sports with his lieutenants were busily sipping coconut juice. That was President John Dramani Mahama's response to the Black Stars who boycotted training prior to their last group game against Portugal over unpaid or delayed payment of appearance fees. In a regime of cashless transactions and networked banking services in a borderless world, the presidency could airlift money of such quantum and describe this crude act as necessary though he admits the practice was illegal? So in the perspective of the President, the law can be set aside only when something is necessary and not legal? Unbelievable!

The Weeping Economy
That the economy is weeping cannot be disputed. The current push for IMF bailout is a clear indication that a lot of wrongs are associated with the fragile Ghanaian economy; evidence of which include the failure of government to honour statutory payments; increasing unemployment; unstable cedi when pitched against the major trading currencies; and the surging energy crisis among others. In the wake of these economic challenges, incessant debates about best-fit-approaches have been put forth by economic pundits. Many including yours truly have applauded Dr. Bawumia and Prof. Botchwey for being honest in providing an objective description of the state of the Ghanaian economy. The Senchi Consensus did touch on the surfaces of the economic issues of the country; baring the temptation of political twist. Poor as my economic background is, I do appreciate the gravity of the challenges, and in some cases, have lauded the viability of some of the approaches that have been proferred. Whilst appreciating the workability of the many theories and shades of solutions, I contend that the respect of; and application of the law is a major panacea relative to capital mobilisation and disciplined management of the economy. I humbly submit here that the law, when given full vent has the magic wand to raise the bar of progress and change the paradox of Ghana from a country of riches, but poor; to a country of riches and fully progressive and advanced economy.

The operationalization of the law will see Ghanaians respect time at the workplace because remuneration will be determined by performance so that not the mere presence of employees at the workplace would guarantee monthly salaries. A fully functional legal regime will see compliance with taxation laws at all levels so that tax evasion will be minimised because defrauding parties would suffer penal actions under the tax laws. Moreover, institutions and individuals will have no choice but to honour their tax obligations. Additionally, corrupt tax officials at the Ghana Revenue Authority and those in allied institutions will be hesitant to defraud the state. Indeed, at the full operationalization of the law, the likes of Anas Aremeyaw Anas and Manasseh Awuni Azure would heave a sigh of relief because their media exposés will be duly responded to and culprits brought to book. The law at its full operationalization will ensure that smuggling is extremely minimised because the police will be at the perpetrators neck. The law will shorten the thievery hands of GYEEDA, SADA, and SUBAH officials whose penchant for looting continues to cost the nation millions of cedis. The law will make it less attractive to pilfer, steal or rob the state of its scare resources. Ultimately, the law will ensure financial transparency and accountability; thus furthering good governance. Certainly, the law will bite and not merely bark as the present situation is! Would that not imply capital mobilisation, reduced wastage and proper utilisation of state resources?

It is the operationalised law that has made it possible for adequate capital mobilisation in many parts of the world where we source aid from especially as most of such aid-giving countries have no natural resources from which revenues are generated. Indeed, it is the payment of the little taxes that generate huge incomes from which we beg for crumbs! In most of the donor countries, individuals do not happily settle utility bills, but the laws make it mandatory. In such societies, a cent counts; a dollar means a lot; a pound is deemed more than enough so wastages of any kind are minimised. At my current place of sojourn, I keep admiring the elegance of the streets; littered with lights; no power outages; constant flow of water; effective transportation system, state-of-the-art health facilities, heavily secured communities and the sheer observance of the law and I wonder what kind of people inhibit this part of Europe. Back home in Ghana, the opposite is normal and what is supposed to be normal consecrated to mere dreams. So the state cries for funds whilst what is mobilised goes waste and into private pockets to fill the gluttonous stomachs as evidenced in the Wayome saga. GYEEDALAND is now awash with listless instances of same. It is not the case that corruption cannot thrive in certain countries; rather the laws make it less attractive and the implication is that capital wastage and siphoning is minimised to the barest minimum. Even in such law-abiding countries, security cameras or CCTVs are placed at vantage points including public offices. The presence of cameras is anticipatory of people breaking the laws hence a system to provide compelling video evidence for prosecutorial purposes. As hinted earlier, there are no superior human beings anywhere; at best, people having been accustomed to the laws and its strict enforcement, have developed the culture of acting responsibly. In same measure, let the laws work; enforce the punitive measures and over time, Ghanaians will develop the culture of orderliness.

Fixing the Disjointed Triad
From the above, the country is in a state of a disjoint in terms of its leadership, the presidency and the economy and we need to fix this. Constricted within the frustrating economic challenges and the paradox of a wealthy but poor nation, it would have been expected that the state machinery led by the Presidency and all other state officials will commit to ensuring that the laws of the land are operationalized. When the law, rather than the personnel manning state institutions is allowed to function with no intrusion of cabal personages, decency in all facets of the economy will be seen. When the tentacles of the laws are not manipulated to favour a few, civility will be restored and the pedals of growth will be the end result.

The illusion however is that of decay in the economy. Lawlessness is on the surge. But can we blame anyone when the President himself joined the bandwagon of law breakers as we saw in the airlifting of 3 million US dollars to Brazil? I daresay that until there is accord within the Law, Presidency and the Economy, the state will continue to experience economic retrogression no matter the kind of measures and bailout that would come from the Britain Woods institutions. We would slack in economic decay unless the laws are given the space to regulate the human conduct; and by extension create the culture of discipline; respect for time, commitment to nationalism and the sense of duty that people in advanced countries exhibit to our admiration. Let us rebuild the nation and let it not create mongers of deceptive and nation wreckers! Yes, the law can restore civility; it can propel discipline and it can change the fortunes of Ghana. All we need to do is to allow the law to bite!

Mr. President, the garb of power is laden with venal dealings! Is the torchbearer in a slumber?

Adama Bukari
19/10/2014
Email: [email protected]

The writer is a leadership, governance and social justice activist.

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