Swans Commentary » swans.com August 23, 2010  



The Cost Of Living Is Killing Me


by Femi Akomolafe





"And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions."

—1 kings 12:11


(Swans - August 23, 2010)   A paraphrase: And now, whereas the New Patriotic Party (NPP) laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. The NPP imposed hardship on you, but I will make your life miserable with heavy taxes.

Professor Adebayo Adedeji once said, "Any economy policy that marginalizes people is doomed to failure."

It is looking increasingly clear that the Mills administration does not believe in the saying that you cannot de-feather a bald chicken.

The slew of price increases and taxes imposed by the government makes false the claims by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) that Mills is a social democrat who has the interests of hoi polloi at heart.

In his eternal wisdom, our president, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, recently justified the recent hikes in utility prices by asserting that they were necessary evils. In the interview, carried by the BBC, the president claimed, falsely, that: "Over the past five years or so, there has been no increase; the cost have [sic] gone up," he said (http://news.myjoyonline.com/business/201006/47172.asp).

That is not so, Mr. President. A simple check will tell you that hardly a year passes without an increase in the prices we pay for most services and goods -- without a corresponding increase in the quality, I should add. When the utilities were being privatized we were told that it would improve the quality of services. No one clued us about the empirical data that shows that private companies have any comparative advantages over public ones.

We now have the situation whereby our state's assets have been sold (to our former enslavers and colonial masters) at thieving prices, but we still remain mired in debt and the quality of services are still as poor as ever.

Under a heavy cloud of hanky-panky, our water corporation was sold to a Dutch concern, which laughed all the way to the bank knowing that they had gotten us for the proverbial song. Water supplies remain as erratic as they ever were, and the promised investment that will transform our water supplies has yet to materialize. Water is one of life's basics and whatever the color of the government in power, it [water] ought to be provided to us at prices we can easily afford.

The managers of our former national carrier, Ghana Airways (GA), said that they needed a helping hand (US$4 million) to remain afloat and competitive. The government in power then said no. This demand for help was not as unreasonable as it might have sounded; under the guise of "national interest," capitalist countries of the West always lend a helping hand to their corporations in distress.

GA assets were stripped and sold at fire-sales prices to political jobbers and cronies. The government then turned around to splash some good money to float another company with some dubious foreign entities in a convoluted deal that was designed to confuse the most brilliant of accountants.

Today, Ghana International Airways (or is it "Air Waste"?) is moribund with several millions of taxpayer money thrown down the drain. The current government is refusing to support the struggling airline.

In the meantime, Turkish Airline has launched its operation, thus becoming the 18th -- yes, the 18th! -- airline operating in our blessed nation.

What exactly is wrong with us? Airlines are not charity organisations, so it must be profitable, very profitable, for eighteen of them to be operating in our country.

Yet, we cannot get our act together to be one of them! And we all did not see this as a source of national shame!

If we take the rough estimate of one million of our compatriots living outside and calculate on serving just five to ten percent of them with air (passenger and cargo) services that would still be some good money.

We fold our arms, close our eyes, and allow foreigners to corner the lucrative airline business and we pretend not to know why we remain a Highly Indebted and Poor Country (HIPC), and why foreigners continue to treat us like dirt!

The truth is that things are getting really hard in today's Ghana with money scarcer than the proverbial hen's teeth. Of course, things have always been hard, but it's difficult to remember when life was this tough. It might make good noise in the ears of those at the top to talk of "prudent fiscal policies," and "lower inflation rate," but as what sense is there is having a robust macroeconomic indices when at the micro level, people are suffering in great suffering -- as the Rastas are wont to say? Or as the quotation from Professor Adedeji above said: "Any economy policy that marginalizes people is doomed to failure."

President Mills came into office with great expectations from the populace. His party, the NDC, was marooned in opposition for eight years. People naturally believe it when the party appeared truly chagrined by its experience in the opposition wilderness.

The sad truth is that almost halfway to its four-year term, the NDC is not meeting the aspirations of the people. It has, in fact, betrayed the hopes of the common people who invested so much hope in the party.

Of course, these are unpalatable truth that's bound to irk those in the corridor of power and I expect some of them to engage in their usual verbal diarrhea. But the truth, however bitter, must be told. It is only to be hoped that our leaders will listen up and not dismiss every criticism out of hand as the evil machinations of opposition party hacks.

Psychologists have long deduced that the human body is an amazing machine with the brain being the most wondrous of all the organs. The human brain is such a clever machine that it helps the body develop what we can call "shock absorbers" that help to guard against doing grievous damage to ourselves by unpleasant news or occurrences.

One of the shock absorbers I have developed is never to take a politician seriously. Yours truly would have long lost his beautiful dreadlocks were he to allow himself to be stressed out by the antics of politicians.

Take our own president as an example.

I remember candidate Mills trekking from house to house canvassing for votes. Candidate Mills told us that he had heard our cries under the yoke of unbearable economic regime imposed by the then NPP administration. He told us that he knew that things were hard and he would ensure that they become easier. He promised to reduce the price of petrol (within 100 days in office) and other taxes to make sure that the long-suffering masses may be relieved. Candidate Mills was a picture of humility and candour; he was truly believable. "I care," Mr. Mills told us.

By a combination of factors, candidate Mills got elected as president of our dear republic. Within a spate of one year, the Mills government slapped us with a slew of taxes that left the masses reeling.

President Mills's countenance is still humble; he is still very believable. What has changed? What has happened to transform the candidate into a president who could look us straight in the face and tell us that he didn't promise to put money in our pockets?

When did President Mills realise that petrol prices must obey some immutable laws of the market?

I am not a spin-doctor but I recognize a fudge when I see one. How does President Mills expect us to enjoy the good life without money in our pockets? While it could be true that it is not the job of presidents to, literally, put money into people's pockets, it is their duty to create the enabling environment that will allow the people to earn a decent pay for honest toil.

In our parts of the world citizens do not hanker for welfare handouts. They just clamor for the enabling environment in which to toil honestly and earn enough to keep body and soul together, put food on the family table, pay the children's school fees, pay the bills, and, occasionally "dash" the policeman something.

I have always maintained that economics is not my forte, so pardon me if I appear daft when I talk about the subject.

It was the great American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt who said that economic laws were not laws of nature, that they were made by men, and should serve the interest of men. FDR found it nonsensical that whilst economists prattle about economic laws, people are starving.

I totally agree with the great president who inherited a depressed economy and discarded all known economic theories, initiating several programmes to rebuild the American economy to an unprecedented level of prosperity.

FDR inherited an economy that had been devastated by the Great Depression, but he didn't bemoan his fate or keep harping on his predecessors' faults. He came prepared for the high office. He had clear-cut ideas and visions about what he wanted to accomplish in office. Every facet of American life felt FDR's gigantic efforts. FDR vastly improved upon the mess he had met when entering office; he left American in better shape than he met it.

If FDR's case was far too long in the memory lane for us to remember, Emperor Brother Obama is also showing what is possible for a determined leader. Like FDR, Obama inherited a bankrupt economy.

The Great Financial Meltdown also contributed to make life hard for Americans. Obama came like a biblical prophet dispensing confidence and hope to the people. Brother Obama mentions his predecessors' shortcomings only in passing; their faults are not the focus of his attention. He has better use of his time than to waste it on useless laments about Bush's failures. Obama also jettisoned all orthodox economic theories and practice. In some instances, the policies of the leader of the country that preaches "free market" appear more socialist that what the Communists did in Eastern Europe. His republican opponents are painting him as a die-in-the-wood socialist. Obama nationalized companies where they needed to be nationalized; he printed money (the $700bn economic stimulus package) where that would help his cause. Brother Obama managed to pass the Health Care Reform bill, which had defeated every other president since the Second World War. What Obama did not do was to add to the burden of his compatriots. Obama did not promise to put money into the pockets of Americans, but his policies are ensuring that more and more of his compatriots are finding jobs and earning money.

Okay, okay, Brother Obama's country is unique and has capacities like no other country, but without the quintessential leadership qualities he brought into the job, the situation could have worsened. It is the leader's job to give hope to the people.

Oh, sorry, President Mills didn't promise to put money in my pocket.


Bookmark and Share


· · · · · ·


A voice from Africa worth hearing... Please consider a donation

· · · · · ·



Feel free to insert a link to this work on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, DO NOT steal, scavenge, or repost this work on the Web or any electronic media. Inlining, mirroring, and framing are expressly prohibited. Pulp re-publishing is welcome -- please contact the publisher. This material is copyrighted, © Femi Akomolafe 2010. All rights reserved.


Have your say

Do you wish to share your opinion? We invite your comments. E-mail the Editor. Please include your full name, address and phone number (the city, state/country where you reside is paramount information). When/if we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country.


About the Author

Femi Akomolafe (see his profile on Swans) is a computer consultant, a writer and social commentator, an avid reader, and a passionate Pan-Africanist who lives in Kasoa, Ghana. Femi is known to hold strong opinions and to express them in the strongest terms possible. As he likes to remind his readers: "As my Yoruba people say: Oju orun teye fo, lai fara gbara. It means that the sky is big enough for all the birds to fly without touching wings." Femi Akomolafe's views, opinions, and thoughts can be accessed on the blog he maintains: http://ekitiparapo.blogspot.com/.   (back)


· · · · · ·


Internal Resources


Patterns which Connect

· · · · · ·


This edition's other articles

Check the front page, where all current articles are listed.



Check our past editions, where the past remains very present.

· · · · · ·


[About]-[Past Issues]-[Archives]-[Resources]-[Copyright]



Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art16/femia42.html
Published August 23, 2010