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Mahama Clutches @ A Straw   
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As indicators throughout the week pointed to a failed economic policy under President John Dramani Mahama, the Head of State answered critics by announcing a Code of Ethics for his ministers and their deputies, aimed, according to an official statement, at arresting the declining public confidence in the executive, and apparently, assuring the masses that the Chief Executive of the Republic was ready to crack the whip.

At Peduase, where the Code of Ethics was launched, President Mahama said the strongest way to prevent unacceptable conduct and abuse of office by public officials was to demarcate the boundaries of ethical behaviour, within which the actions and inactions of members of his ministerial team could be deemed acceptable or inappropriate.

President Mahama explained that the new Code of Ethics reflected his government’s vision to maintain a clean administration, imbued with systems and clear procedures and guidelines for performance and delivery.

“It must be seen as a strong prima facie reason for all to err on the side of caution, especially, in situations of ethical conflict. This manual is the first edition of our commitment to high ethical and moral delivery standards,” the President was quoted to have said.

“It is my utmost and onerous responsibility as President, to lead and carry all appointees with me in this goal to uphold the public interest. It must be seen as extension of my abhorrence for unacceptable behaviour by government officials and the general population,” state-run Daily Graphic quoted the President as saying.

The voice of the President had barely faded in the background, when it emerged that his Deputy Speaker in Parliament, Ebo Barton-Odro, had been cited at an Accra High Court as one of the originators of the letters that ultimately made it possible for Mr. Alfred Agbesi Woyome to be doled a whooping GH¢51 million of state money without any contract from the state to do any job on its behalf.

Throughout the week, the President and his administration were on the defensive from various indicators outlined by various organisations and individuals pointing to the fact that the economy was failing to respond to treatment.

At the weekend, the Trades Union Congress issued a statement at the end of a bi-annual general council meeting in Accra, raising serious issues about the management of the state’s economy, and invited the government to convene a stakeholders dialogue to find what the congress termed ‘home-grown solutions’ to the myriad of problems plaguing the economy.

The statement said the agriculture sector, which employed the largest number of Ghanaians, had performed poorly in the last five years – “The growth of the agricultural sector, as at June 2013, had declined,” in spite of the injection of huge capital.

It is, therefore, strange, weighed in members of the Minority in Parliament, that the government planned to levy more taxes on agricultural implements and fishing inputs, including outboard motors and fishing nets. Last week, Parliament approved a request by the government to levy a number of agricultural and farming implements.

Items scheduled to be levied include outboard motors, fishing nets, agricultural machinery, diary milking machines, clubs and arrows and cutlasses. Critics say at a time when agricultural output is falling, it is inimical to the success of the venture to pile on more taxes on poor farmers and fishermen.

Finance Minister Seth Terkper had pushed for the new levies to raise more than GH¢300 million to bail out the ailing economy.

Deputy Minister of Finance Cassiel Ato Forson, who moved the motion in the House, said the new taxes would “ensure fiscal stability, and provide resources for investment in social services and infrastructure,” but critics insist that the new taxes have the toxin to kill off initiative in agriculture, which is already struggling to feed the nation.

On Tuesday, the opposition New Patriotic Party held a press conference in Accra, and descended on what it termed the poor management of the economy. Describing the economy as in tatters, one-time Minister of Finance Mr. Yaw Osafo Maafo asked the government to replace its Team B with competent people to manage the economy.

The NPP Spokesman claimed that the 2013 Budget Statement, which was flagged as a set of remedies to give the nation a break-through, “is only a hogwash of assorted patchwork of propaganda.”

Charged Mr. Maafo: “Six months on, the economy is in tatters, and things are getting worse. Government is no longer in denial. There is now consensus that the economy is in bad shape.”

On the day when the NPP issued its bombshell, Transparency International issued its annual report stating that corruption in Ghana was on the increase under the Mahama administration. In its Global Corruption Report for 2013, 54 percent of the 2,000 Ghanaians sampled said corruption was on the increase in the Mahama regime. Only 20 percent of the respondents said corruption was on the decrease.

While the government communicators were trying rather hard to disabuse people’s minds on the poor performance of the government on the economy, the International Monetary Fund, which was invited back after the National Democratic Congress returned to power in 2008, issued an official report, claiming that the national economy was under-performing.

It traced the stunted growth to three major factors. The continuing decline in many emerging economies, reflecting, to a large extent, on infrastructural bottlenecks, slower external and other capacity constraints, slower external demand growth, lower commodity prices, financial stability concerns, and, in some cases, weaker policy support.

With the power outages biting harder, many callers on the airwaves have never forgiven the government for promising a Better Ghana, and delivering what many refer to as a Bitter Ghana. In all these, the only positive outcome from the government’s point of view is the codification of ethical guidelines for ministers and other public workers.

Even the fact that many in the executive have failed to declare their assets seven months into this administration seems to confirm the fears of many that, at best, President Mahama and his aides might merely be clutching at straws, while the boat of state is clearly sinking.
Source: Ebo Quansah/The Chronicle

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