And Have No Sympathy For The Poor

There is a justifiable public outcry against the over 150% increase in salaries for the Executive and the Legislative branches of government as published in the Ghanaian media. Coincidentally, just at the same time this outrageous salaries increases were announced, there was a report in the news (which was later denied) that Ghana Education Service employees have had their salaries cut. On the average, the Ghanaian civil servant got a pay rise of 18% after a marathon negotiations and threats of strike. Why not give members of the Executive and the Legislature the same percentage increase? I mean if 18% salary increase is good enough for the teacher, why does the MP or even the President thinks he deserves more than 18% increase?

 

The work of the teacher, the nurse, the Ghana Water Co. guy are equally as important as that of the MP or the Minister. Our intellectuals who chair these bogus committees to make such outrageous recommendations are bringing the name of the erudite profession into disrepute. Kuffour set up a committee chaired by a so called academic to make undeserved recommendations for a hefty retirement benefits for himself, and now here we are again with another committee?s??outrageous recommendation unfortunately chaired by another so called academic . Have our academics become partners in the rapacious greed that?s ailing our politics and destroying our economy?

 

The Wikileaks reports says in some parts : Corruption in Ghana

WIKILEAKS ON CORRUPTION IN GHANA

35. Canadian High Commissioner Bobiash criticized the international community for hobnobbing almost exclusively with the Ghanaian elite, based primarily in Accra. He commented that this elite group, comprised of well-off and highly educated people is out of touch with the other 95% of Ghanaians. The elite have little understanding of or sympathy for the difficult conditions under which most Ghanaians live, and Bobiash argued they lack a sense of urgency to do much about it.

36. The American Ambassador expressed concerns about perception of rising corruption. British High Commissioner Wetherell agreed with the Ambassador that there is corruption in Ghana and that some politicians are using corrupt means to get rich while they are still in power, including some officials in the Castle……………………?..#WIKILEAKS

37. According to French Ambassador Jacquemot. Ghanaian elites are isolated and do not understand the scope of poverty in their country. Jacquemot conceded that corruption is a problem…………………..?..#WIKILEAKS

The Wikileaks report goes on to detail some specific instances of corruption and even names a host of politicians in the former NPP government for being notoriously corrupt but all these people are now walking free with their booty stolen from the poor Ghanaian. While the masses suffer in a desert deprived of good drinking water and other basic need necessities, the Ghanaian politician lives in an oasis of privileges and undeserved comforts yet they still continue to steal from the poor Ghanaian tax payer.

It would be nice if our politicians will park their government allocated cars a few days a month and take tro-tro to work. My political friends roll their eyes when I make what they consider outlandish suggestions. A few, thinking I might be serious, point out no African politician will behave in such a humble way. Political power makes all of them arrogant and greedy in an undignified way.

I think some way has to be found to get our political leaders out of their privileged cocoons. It troubles me that those we elect rapidly become lords over us and isolated from the concerns of ordinary Ghanaians. Their primary objective becomes stealing from the national coffers to amass wealth and acquire properties. They start putting up multiple houses in a year, acquiring hotels in the name of their children, depositing billions of cedis in their personal accounts in a matter of months, transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars from Ghana Airways to their fiancees abroad, drawing various sums of dollars for per diem on their numerous useless foreign trips which brings the nation no tangible benefits.

They are driven around in convoys sometimes running over and killing our children without any sense of remorse, they are whisked past poor neighbourhoods with a retinue of guards to keep strangers at bay. They behave like animals chasing Legon girls, under aged SSS girls, and even married women as if they live in the jungle with the law of the jungle in operation.

Those in government react with angry disbelief when accused by the people that their greed is hurting the poor. They think they have to increase the price of petrol to recoup the cost but they themselves continue to draw free petrol everyday of the week. They use government vehicles for private purposes and they see absolutely nothing wrong with that. They live in government houses rent free while they rent their own houses to foreigners for hard currency (US $).

They don’t pay for utilities, they enjoy free electricity, free water, free gas, and free telephone services. If you care to check their phone bills and the numbers they call in a month, you will be shocked to find the percentage of the cost and the calls that have nothing to do with transacting government business. It will amaze you to find the number of calls they made to girl friends, and to friends abroad all for the poor Ghanaian tax payer to pay. Why is it that it is only in Africa that the richest men in any country are Politicians?

Elsewhere, people leave politics to go into business because they believe they can earn more there but in Africa and particularly in Ghana people leave business to go into politics, because they can steal. If we don’t disabuse our minds from the mistaken notion that politics equal easy money and is the shortest route to riches, we cannot attract our children to train as doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, farmers, etc these are all equally important and noble professions vital for our economic development as a nation.

So our politicians enjoy free housing, free car with free petrol, free electricity, free water, free telephone service etc, so you are tempted to ask what do they use their salaries for? The rest of us work for a living by paying for these items mentioned above from our salaries but our politicians don’t have to pay for these. They enjoy them free but that isn’t enough for them. They are greedy enough to dip their hands into state coffers to steal from the poorest of the poor. Our politicians are far removed from the daily struggles of the ordinary people. They have no idea how it feels to miss a rent payment or comb through the Help Wanted ads.

No wonder the people have become disenchanted with the politicians. It is important for political leaders to get out among the people, experience their daily life struggles and their aspirations and incorporate that into policy. Politicians seem to have no problem visiting the rural folks at election time when they need their votes but once elected they forget about them. I do not agree with those commentators who argue that political life at the top is so rigidly structured that a leader can not control his or her own agenda. Our political leaders find time to play golf and to chase girls all over the place throwing caution to the winds, so why can?t they break out of their comfortable bubble to organize the people and join them in cleaning the filth that is engulfing our cities and posing a public health threat? It is partly a question of will.

Apparently, our politicians have gotten the message that we are satisfied with their incompetence, mediocrity and arm chair leadership. We are not. If we don’t demonstrate our displeasure with the level of incompetence, greed, arrogance, and corruption in government they will assume we approve of such gross leadership failures. In a modern democracy in its infant stages like ours, rulers are expected to leave their palaces, their offices, their castles, every so often, and share the struggles and frustrations of their people. They must demonstrate that they care about the poor. In that way they bring government near to the people, as things are now, government is far alienated from the people.

Ben Ofosu-Appiah.

Tokyo ? JAPAN.

 

The writer is a senior social, political and economic analyst and policy strategist based in Tokyo, Japan. He welcomes your comments;?[email protected]

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