Any President faced with the current economic circumstances staring Ghana in the face will naturally panic. I am told that Americans make it a point to focus TV cameras on their Presidents as they run up the boarding stairs of an aircraft or teeing off on the golf course; that it is not by accident that the cameras, “accidentally” catch their Presidents smiling at the world.
It is consistent with the American psychology: the world must know how tough America is – America the “blow man”, unperturbed, always winning, as in the cowboy or World War II movies!
I like pictures of Akufo Addo smiling at Ghanaians and talking tough. My prayer is that, unlike American Presidents, he is not putting up a front, because as every Ghanaian knows, our dear country is reeling dizzyingly.
Yet someone, in answer to a vox pop question on TV about the economy, demanded if this was the worst time in our 63 years. That gave me pause!
Is the economy at its lowest ebb? Is the spate of workers’ agitations, the sight of red bands and chants of “Yeni abre koo” unprecedented?
When I checked, the answer was no.
Limiting myself to the Fourth Republic, I remember, like yesterday, the lending rate by the banks in the last three or so years under Rawlings. A bank loan cost the borrower upwards of 40% interest. Why did he introduce VAT and other taxes? It went through Parliament because the NDC had a clear majority. And this was the era of the man who overthrew two governments of Ghana because life was so hard he was crediting yoke gari!
Strikes? Once upon a time in Ghana, under Atta Mills (RIP), strikes were so common, even workers in the most laid back institutions, namely Ghana Prison Service and Judicial Service of Ghana, laid down their tools.
Enter John Mahama. Ghanaians were given a million reasons for the unprecedented Dumsor in our history but there was only one reason: the economic fundamentals were so wrong that due to fuel supply challenges, the Akosombo dam, for instance, was operating at a diminished capacity of 900 megawatts, instead of the installed capacity of 1,020mw.
Dr. Henry Wampah, Governor of Bank of Ghana under President Mahama, did not walk out of the bank drinking champagne; he resigned. And Central Bank Governors resign for only one reason: when the economy’s engine room gets too hot. In fact, so dire was the country’s financial situation that one economist said, then, that “Dr Wampah’s tenure of office is the worst in the most recent history of the bank” – even though his mates, from Sixth Form to PhD, knew him as a financial colossus. The reality was that as BoG boss, there simply was not much he could do: the economy was about to go bust.
Fast forward to 2022, the Akufo Addo government is like a crab in boiling water. On February 28, 2022, the cedi was reported to be the worst-performing among Africa’s top currencies, having depreciated by 7.6% to the dollar from January 1 to February 25. Standard & Poor rated Ghana B-minus, Moody’s Caa1 and Fitch B-minus.
Thank God, we are told, there is good news. One is that the E Levy will be passed. Another is that there is the possibility of a World Bank injection of funds this year.
There, however, is where I have a problem. At the first signs of hope, Ghanaian leaders will, characteristically, fill up the glass again for “more wine” and go back-patting.
The bible has a passage that describes Ghana. We are like the man in James 1:23,24 “who looks at his face in a mirror, and after observing himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like”.
Workers, farmers etc are bearing the brunt, as always. What about the Office of the President? What are we doing to reduce public expenditure? There are Article 71 Officeholders who attend meetings for a few hours once or twice a week but are taking home ¢14,000.00 a month!
And for goodness’ sake, were our Presidential Commissions on Emoluments bewitched? Why two houses each to former Presidents – one in Accra and one in a town of their choosing, in addition to all the other freebies?
Being President of Ghana is no mean undertaking, I know, but aren’t we over-compensating, relative to what is available to the average wage earner? After all, what does a Ghanaian President use his salary for while in office?
Come to think of it, our Presidents could donate two-thirds of their salaries every month to charity and still live rich and happy both during and after their term. Ghana’s cloth is too small for the coat we are designing.