The current political leadership of Ghana is behaving like the typical Kweku Kwatrekwa (K.K.) that you can find in all our villages and towns. Kweku has a few square metres of cassava and other crops though, but he hardly ever plans his finances. He’s always broke. As a result of this any little challenge that comes his way, he has to look for a loan to wriggle his way through. His other name is ‘Kweku Bosia.’
Kweku Kwatrekwa’s mother-in-law dies and he has to look for a loan before he can attend the funeral to do what is customarily required of him; when his son accidentally breaks his arm as a result of a fall, Kweku goes a-begging in the village for money to take his son to the hospital; when his wife is in labour and calls in the village birth-attendant to deliver the woman of his baby, Kweku doesn’t have enough to pay the fee charged by the village attendant and puts the payment to a later date. A week after his wife has given birth, Kweku has to do naming ceremony at which he has to kill a fowl and provide drinks for the occasion.
Kweku goes to his neighbor and takes the fowl on credit after which he also goes to Auntie Dede the akpeteshie seller to buy a few bottles of the stuff on credit, hoping that he might get enough by way of donation at the ceremony to defray the expenses incurred.
You will thus notice that Kweku Kwatrekwa’s way of handling issues is to depend on others and not on his own sweat and this is not good enough. A man like this will be in perpetual debt till he dies.
I’m afraid, Ghana, as a country at this point in time, is behaving like Kweku Kwatrekwa (K.K.) and is taking any loan at all provided it is dangled before the eyes of the leadership. Loans as little as $5m, $10m, $15m have been taken up by this government without thinking of the repercussions this will have for the nation. Every Ghanaian knows that our loan portfolio is ballooning and yet government doesn’t seem to budge a wee bit when it comes to loans.
Any businessman or woman knows the difference between what may be termed ‘consumption loan’ and ‘loan for capital.’ A good businessman needs a loan to expand his business, make profit and pay back the loan at an agreed date. In the same vein countries that have big projects in hand that are capital intensive, go for loans to do these projects and pay back the loan within a specific period.
A typical example is the Hydro-Electric Dam at Akosombo for which the USA graciously gave Ghana loan to build and pay back later from proceeds accruing out of the sale of the power so generated. Loans are also taken for capital intensive projects like asphalt roads, harbours and ports, etc., etc.
But for a businessman to go for a loan to buy household items like furniture, fridge, toilet rolls and food which will not generate money for the loan to be repaid, is asking for trouble. This is a typical example of what I call ‘consumption loan.’
There has been a controversy over a loan recently taken by the government to build and refurbish schools part of which will be used in buying sanitary pads for girls, etc, etc.
The problem people have with the ‘sanitary pad loan’ is not because buying sanitary pads for girls in deprived communities is a bad idea. But getting a loan to buy consumption items like sanitary pads, pens, pencils erasers, shoes, for school children is not value for money.
These are items that on our own we should be able to provide for our children from our resources and not ask for loan from the international community to do that.
So, let me ask: What do we do with the revenue we collect ourselves if we can’t buy sanitary pads for girls, pens, pencils and erasers, etc, etc, for our children in school? Who should look after our own children for us? It’s ridiculous to shift this burden onto the world community. By so doing, we open ourselves to scorn and reduce our self-esteem and dignity as a nation: we are saying that we cannot look after our own children! We have collectively become ‘Kweku Kwatrekwa’ not knowing what to do when our children are in want unless we go in for a loan.
No one can convince me that using a loan to buy consumables for our school children is prudent use of money; it’s not because it’s not sustainable. What happens after the grace period of five years when the loan dries up? From which quarters will the girls then get their sanitary pads free of charge? Look, let us do the right thing and be free, ah!ah!
I make bold to state categorically that we have more than enough to develop this country but we are not managing our resources well. Why do we conscientize our minds to go in for a loan from abroad first before thinking of any developmental project in this country?
Don’t we feel embarrassed or ashamed when we go abroad cup in hand begging for little sums of money, sometimes as low as $5m, or $10m for projects, when an individual Ghanaian businessman or woman can put their hand into their pocket and bring out such amounts as already stated above?
When the N1, officially called George Walker Bush Highway was commissioned, a few omissions were detected. For instance it isn’t user-friendly to the disabled; the foot-bridges are also too few and far between. This was brought to the attention of the minister of roads then and his answer to this was that the government was sourcing a loan from Austria to be used in building more foot-bridges across the new road that would be user-friendly to persons with disability.
I chuckled to myself on hearing this response George Walker Bush has been benevolent enough to give us money obtained from the taxpayers of America to build the road. An omission has been detected; we haven’t included the needs of the disabled and this has to be effected. Can’t we do this with our own internally generated money? Do we have to go to Austria with a cup in hand before we can effect this change for the disabled in our own country? Why, can’t we stand on our feet and do this?
What is the population of Austria? What are the resources of Austria from which they obtain so much cash that they can dole some to us as loans or grants for our developmental projects? To tell you the truth, Austria doesn’t have half of the resources Ghana has and yet we go to them for financial help. Isn’t it ironic or paradoxical and shameful?
What are we sitting down for? What is the government doing for us to stand on our feet and not behave like Kweku Kwatrekwa? At the moment, it looks like we collect taxes and blow everything on ourselves leaving very little or nothing to use for development as a result of which we go abroad cup in hand begging.
Cut down expenditure
We should be able to cut down on expenditure and make savings for our own development. This is the sore area for this government. There is too much wastage and thievery of state funds and nobody seems to care.
Every ministry you go; every government agency you go; every metropolitan, municipal or district assembly you visit, you will see scores of government vehicles in use. The head of the institution has a vehicle or two at his disposal, fuelled by the state and driven by drivers paid by the state. The deputy head of the institution has an official car at his disposal fuelled and driven by a state-employed driver. The co-ordinating director of the agency uses a state vehicle 24/7. The finance officer, the director of works and indeed, all the top brass officials use state vehicles not only for their work but for their personal use as well.
Many analysts believe that public officials will take greater care of their personal cars than using state vehicles put at their disposal. Drivers of state vehicles, it has been observed, never take good care of the vehicles they handle. Sometimes, they siphon the fuel and sell to mechanics and friends of theirs. They sometimes also connive with mechanics to inflate cost of repair work thereby short-changing the people of Ghana
Some government appointees even use official cars to learn how to drive and in the process crash the vehicles. There are countless instances of this. So, if we can all agree that it will be cheaper to give loans to individual state appointees to buy their own vehicles and not rely on what the state provides, we will save so much in that regard. In Europe and America ministers of state and other government appointees use their personal cars for work and the state saves a lot thereby. If countries which give us loans and grants do this to put money by why can’t we follow that path?
Many people believe that the way we go the extra mile to house every minister or deputy minister of state; every chief director, every co-ordinating director; in other words every big man or woman in government is a huge drain on our purse. A lot of government appointees have their own accommodation in Accra and they should be made to live in them when appointed. Naturally, those who come from outside Accra who have no property here have a case. Renovating and painting a residence for a new government occupant cost so much and one wonders why we undertake such expenditure every so often.
Take the VRA for instance: it is understood that when a retiring CEO is departing he literally sweeps the official residence clean. He takes away the curtains; he takes away the crockery; he takes away the furniture in the sitting room and all the other rooms of the residence; he takes away the fridge, the freezer and the cooker; worst of all he takes away the official car at a give-away price. This, for all you know, may not be an isolated case peculiar to VRA and that it cuts across all government departments and agencies the country.
Where is this done in the developed world from where we collect loans and grants? We need to get our act together and make sure this country moves ahead and not get bogged down because we blow all our money on ourselves leaving very little for development.
It is possible that we can develop this country from our own resources and efforts. At least, recent events show. We’ve been able to pay huge judgment debts to all manner of persons and organizations particularly since 2012 and this has been done not from loans or grants but from internally generated funds.
So, what is our problem? Don’t we have any self-esteem as a nation? Come on, President Mahama, let’s get our act together and stop this bunkum of going for loans at every corner we turn. Going for loan to buy consumables for our children is a shame really. It’s a thing government should not be proud of. Haba!