It is unrealistic to ask that the budget be recast at this stage. But Parliament should spare itself much of the usual lengthy debate and ask for a few fundamental changes in the budget.
The changes should reflect the present national mood following the threat to withdraw aid if Ghana maintained its sovereign and democratic rights to maintain its laws.
The outrage has been expressed in many telling ways in the media and commentaries by proud Ghanaians. I will restrict myself to the editorial of the Spectator on November 11, the day we pay homage to peace.
The Spectator sees the recent donor�s threat �as a call to us to wake up from our slumber and put our acts together and think seriously about how TOGETHER we can build a self-reliant and truly� independent country.
It suggests that �until we wean ourselves off the international financial institutions we will continue to be bombarded� by threats of withdrawal of aid. The paper reminds us that Malaysia, India and Singapore have done it and suggests that we can also do it.
It is further suggested that �with determination and the collective efforts of every Kofi, Ama and Haruna we should be able to raise our development funds locally and stop begging such nations for aid to support our budgets�
During the first Republic we paid levies from our modest salaries for development. It made the thoughtful self-reliant and concerned about waste of funds earmarked for development. Despite the present economic hardships bold leadership will enable the people to accept such contribution.
Ghanaians are not children who must be promised the moon to vote for party. They know that we must sacrifice for the future. They know that living beyond ones means leads to trouble.
In my youth we did not think much of men whose budget exceeded their income and therefore gave their wives insufficient �chop money� to cook for the family.
I remember the story about a wife who got very friendly with an elderly man of the church. Rumour had it that this man supported the �chop money� budget of the wife following a loan whose payment was always in default. She visited the church elder quite frequently when the husband was at work.
When the husband got to know of the visits he questioned the wife, who explained that the man had a back problem and found her daily massage soothing and relieving. We should rid ourselves of the soothing effect of balancing our budget by donor aid. Our budget should be balanced by our own resources. Very few countries have resources for all they wish to do.
If we do not have enough to do what we want to do we should do what is necessary now and plan to do the rest later. If necessary we should persuade the people to accept the imposition of development levies inspite of the hard times.
Those who do not think much of this suggestion should consider the amount of money made by the mobile phone operators. Even the unemployed have mobile telephones and I believe the operators make handsome profits and send considerable profits out of the country regularly.
There is a lot we can do ourselves and our leaders should lead us to do what should be done. Our media too should help. There is too much news about aid to Ghana. We are made to feel good if some one comes to Ghana with a few dollars or pounds as aid and praises our practice of democracy.
The media should dwell more on what we do to help ourselves and ignore the incessant appeal for aid funds to start or finish projects.
As the Spectator editorial put it �It is now time for us to think seriously about how to use our resources such as gold, timber, bauxite and oil. Every pesewa from these resources must be well used to lift us from poverty. It is pathetic how with these resources we �go globe-trotting for assistance elsewhere�
Do we have control of our gold for example? The resource should help the economy. Diverting attention to royalties and social responsibility like building schools and support to institutions does not help.
Those who invest should make money but the state should ensure that appropriate taxes are paid and some of the money stays in the country. We should not count on the generosity of investors. We should make conditions good for them to operate and they should pay their bit according to law.
In this regard the media has a role to play so far as the mental attitude of the people is concerned. For example the Daily Graphic of November 7, features an article on how �Tullow Ghana builds kindergarten for Ayensudo� It is a good article which enhances the image of Tullow Ghana.
The good image should not however lead to reluctance to scrutinise the operations of the company. Moreover many such extensive reports focus public attention on the assistance given by the company.
This promotes the dependency mindset. The press should consider the effect of extensive coverage of such events. Advantage may be taken of the event to review the work of the company, the profit it makes and taxes paid.
We should wake up from our slumber and realise that the development of the country depends on us. The budget should indicate how we want to use our resources to create more wealth.
We should not refuse foreign assistance but the assistance should go where we direct. The trouble is that there is so much to do and we try to do so much that what we do is not integrated to achieve a development purpose.
The budget describes what we want to do and the cost. In preparing it we may decide to postpone the building of say a hospital to the year 2013.
If a donor wants to build the hospital for us in the year 2012 and we can find the resources to run it in 2012 we should welcome the assistance. Aid should not dictate to us what we should do. It should not impose unnecessary strains on development or the economy.
We should avoid the confusion between aid and investment. I find it pathetic when some of our leaders applaud investors for coming over to help the country. Of cause the right investment helps development. But the investor brings money into the country to make more money; that is earn profits. We should realise this and make it possible for the investor to make profits while the country benefits.
We should therefore ensure that conditions are appropriate for profits where we wish to attract investors. In this regard institutional impediments which encourage bribery and corruption should be swept away ruthlessly. One of the papers recently carried an article in which an airline operator praised Ghana�s policies with regard to air facilities.
I was surprised because I know of a Ghanaian who is engaged in the flying business in Kenya and wanted to operate in Ghana. It was talks and talks. Eventually he called it quits.
The other day I met Ghanaians who were trying to participate in the haulage business created by oil. The state of their office told me the story. They were frustrated by the powers that be.
Meanwhile foreign business interests enter the trade easily. I wondered. Do the foreigners pay more bribe and pay fairly quickly? These are questions we should pose as together we wake up determined to see our country make progress by our own efforts.
Ghana is not a poor country. Selfishness, corruption and servant mentality have made us poor. Foreign companies make money selling mobile phones even to the unemployed. And yet we assume we cannot raise more funds for development and must rely so much on foreign aid.
Parliament should ask for a revision of the budget. Subject to reasonable deficits the budget should be balanced. The many uncompleted projects throughout the country represent monies we have buried in to the ground. We should abandon this stupid habit and use the resources available to complete projects which would enable other projects to be established. Thus will the quality of life be improved.
Over reliance on aid will lead not to progress but to a dependency status. We should not accept a colonial status adorned with the trappings of democracy.
Source: K. B. Asante
|Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of Peacefmonline.com. Peacefmonline.com accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.|