Irrespective of how every Ghanaian was feeling prior to the President’s speech, every concerned citizen had an iota of expectation. An expectation of hope considering the torrid period we have been experiencing for some months now. The speech seemed more like a campaign message or manifesto than a message of hope to the Ghanaian. The President as usual started by going back to 2020 to set for himself a springboard on which he could sing praises to himself and his government for their universally acclaimed performance on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not to downplay that performance, but that is in the past and the times we face now are worse than the pandemic faced in 2020.
References to past growth rates are irrelevant to the times we are in. We looked forward to more policies and government decisions that will take us out of this pit. He went as far back as to mention the free water and electricity tariff cuts during the period. Why did he not mention that part of the reasons for the current hardship is because quotas for these same tariffs have shot up in the name of trying to recover what was lost during the pandemic. Not only that, but also the imposition of the COVID-19 recovery levy on lots of services and goods and as to how long we are going to be levied with that, we cannot trust the government on that.
The Blame Game
The president went further to point a finger at the Russian invasion of Ukraine as another factor causing this hardship. The main theme or motto which was echoed through the ears of Ghanaians leading to the 2016 elections was Ghana beyond Aid. If there is a single lesson I personally think the COVID-19 pandemic and The Russian Invasion of Ukraine have taught the world, I believe it is how nations need to be self reliant to an extent. With reference to Ghana beyond aid preached by the president for years, it’s quite interesting how these two world issues have been able to totally derail Ghana off course. Is this an indication of the absolute failure on the part of government to practise what it preached for years?
Weak Fundamentals Cause Noise
In paraphrasing the trending comment by the president that money doesn’t like noise and talking down its value will make the value go down, as part of the reasons the cedi has depreciated is absurd. It only shows us how fragile or volatile the economy is in responding to economic situations. I thought the people in government once said that if the fundamentals are weak the exchange rate will expose you. Is it safe to say that the fundamentals are totally worn out? Mr. President, percentages are not numbers. During your campaign you said the cedi to dollar had moved from GHC1 to GH4 per dollar which signifies 400% depreciation within the 8years of the NDC. Ghanaians did not pay attention to the fact that moving from 1 to 4 is easier than moving from 4 to 8 which may seem like just 100% but more drastic. How much more allowing it to jump all the way to GH16 to a dollar.
Milking the cow
All fingers pointed at different directions but the president refused to tell us how the notorious E-Levy bill passed has brought about hardship. This is not a listening government. You have outlined policies to be effective till 2028 which is not bad but in the next 2years of your governance, how exactly are you expecting the average Ghanaian to survive? Majority of us have salaries unchanged or slightly increased yet the imposition of levies and increase in bills, utilities, taxes, goods and services have reduced real incomes to a meagre amount.
The speech outlined the outrageous increase in prices of goods. The Ghanaian, no doubt has an appetite for making abnormal profits but how does the genuine business person protect and prevent their capital from eroding considering the price hikes practically every hour? How does the government intend to increase tax-revenue to GDP ratio from 13% to 18-20%? I hope it is not by introducing more taxes especially at a time where the economic woes are bringing about an increase in the cost of operations or expenditure of businesses.
The decision to start the process of discouraging the importation of rice, poultry, vegetable oil and fruits amongst others has been long overdue. However, I am glad it is finally here. Encouraging it is not enough. Some must be strictly banned. Through the central bank, the government can give a directive to commercial banks to direct 10% or more of its deposit mobilization to agricultural loans. This will in turn provide funds for people to venture into agriculture. Animal farming can produce manure for crop farming. Once production increases we can proceed further to ban the importation of some goods mostly cereals, vegetables, fruits and meat. The overreliance on foreign products we can produce here is causing the depreciation of the cedi.
It will also do us some good if taxes on petroleum goods can be reduced. The high cost of petroleum products affects every aspect of production. Why do we have a non-functioning oil refinery with paid workers? Why didn’t the president mention anything about galamsey? Or we believe it doesn’t affect the current state of the economy? Or we really just have not had a look at how its ripple effects are affecting us at the moment?
The president tore down the La General Hospital with a promise to build several hospitals to provide health care. In his speech he mentioned his desire to bridge infrastructure gap to improve the health care system. Why then did he tear down a functioning hospital when measures to quickly rebuild new ones were not ready?
More Pay cuts
The government has decided to reduce the salaries of the president, vice president, ministers and other government officials by 30% to reduce the government expenditure. This is simply not enough as the expenditure is totally bloated. The size of the government is large with no efficiency. The fuel spent on the ministers a month alone can go a long way to help some sectors of the economy. African governance exhibits how money is thrown about for nothing. The gender ministry has had its minister away for over year. I have waited years to see if any minister from there will fight for the removal of taxes on menstrual products but what can we say about a ministry whose head is not even available. Times are hard and it will not hurt to understand that menstruation is not a choice. We can do something for the ladies so that those in remote and deprived communities can afford it. The efficiency of the various ministries must be felt and seen.
The universe, faith or higher power is teaching us how to be self reliant. The clues have been clear since 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fact that it has rained all year for the first time since I was born in the 80s. What if there is a drought the whole of next year and we couldn’t prepare for it?
No Change in Value
Former president Mahama is the only president to have been kicked out after his first term in office, implying he performed terribly during his time in office but the abysmal performance of the current government has made him look like a saint. 30 years of the NDC and NPP keep convincing me that these two parties have nothing to offer Ghanaians. We need a different force to move the nation forward.
We die and leave with nothing. Let’s come up with decisions, policies and measures to favour us and generations to come.
God bless our homeland Ghana