Mr. President, How Much & By When?
Feature Article of Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Columnist: Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi
Many Presidents stand at risk of being distracted from the core job of bringing development to our lives. In the case of President John Mahama, this risk is slightly nuanced or even reversed. Here, we the good people are at some risk of being distracted by His Excellency himself from focusing on our bread and butter issues.
Look at it this way. The President is too smooth an operator!
While others were running the campaigns of their lives in the 2012 Presidential election, what was John Mahama doing? All I can remember is a relatively youngish candidate in a customized slim- fitting designer T shirt twisting his mouth across the nation: e dey bee keke! Talk of his state of the nation address and all people remember is his teleprompter. Mention his inaugural and on Facebook, it is his resort to a funky IPAD that trends. Many Presidents want to be remembered by their full names like Barack Hussein Obama and Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga, and this post-independence Show Boy all but tricks us into calling him “JM!”
My argument is that if we are not careful, JM will distract us with his charisma and make us forget in the process that we are still hungry, not having eaten for three days!
What good intention didn’t JM express during his inaugural address? — ‘I will do my best, I intend to fulfill my promises, and national development will take our collective efforts’ and so on and so forth. All well and good but we are certainly going to need more than good intentions.
Anyone embarking on a quality improvement project is advised to define a measurable goal within a specified timeline. To this extent, it has been clichéd that, some is not a number and hope is not a plan. It is no longer enough to aspire towards a Better Ghana. Mr. President ought to define for us in concrete measurable terms what we would see and feel when the Better Ghana is attained as captured in the executive summary of the NDC’s 2012 manifesto.
When the government promises “decent facilities for all rural schools” what exactly will “decent” constitute?; a modern ICT centre or ten toilets per school? Will these be water closets, KVIPS, pan latrines? Or maybe a modern gymnasium? It is crucial to agree on an operational definition of “decent” in order to prevent the situation where come 2016, Mr. President says he has fulfilled this promise because he managed to “supply each rural school, one catapult as a decent modern tool for calculating the angle of elevation” when one flies a stone!
Of the 200 new community day secondary high schools and ten new Colleges of Education intending to be built, how many does government plan to build in 2013 and onwards in each year? And here, remember that we will be looking out for the introduction of a “one-year specialized programme in the Colleges of Education to train Teachers in early childhood care and development;” And while we are at it, do not forget the new public University to be established in the Eastern region. The President is however silent on the extent to which he intends to expand academic and residential facilities on existing campuses –10%, 20%, 60%? Does existing campuses mean all universities, all polytechnics, all training colleges, all secondary schools or various combinations of these? Failure to do this will simply mean that the President could build one hostel on Legon campus and commission it with loads of fanfare when he has only scratched the surface of the problem.
The promise to establish a GH¢10 million Jobs and Enterprise Development Fund is easily done. Deposit the money in the bank! Or? What we must therefore look out for would be how many young people have become supported to “become successful entrepreneurs” sustainably. How about “Job and Enterprise Centres in ALL regions?” and by when?
I love the measurable goal of reserving “5% of admissions to Senior High Schools for talented sports and other creative students, to support the development of athletics and other lesser-known sports.” After each year’s admissions, we shall simply look for the total number of students admitted, find out the number of students in that year on sports scholarships and determine if it is greater or equal to 5%. Since government simply intends to reserve, there shouldn’t be any long tales about this.
The government has introduced further ambiguity by talking, not about establishing “an integrated petroleum industry based on bauxite, a petrochemical industry based on salt and natural gas, a fertilizer industry, an integrated iron and steel industry based on the iron ore deposits at Oppon Manso in the Western region” but by emphasizing “laying a foundation” for the establishment of the above. What does “laying a foundation” mean and how can we measure how much of a foundation has been laid each year? In which year is government hoping to fully revive the “ Volta Aluminium Company, Textile industries, Ceramics, brick and tile, Glass factories and Steel mills?”
The promise to establish a nationwide railway network is fantastic. On the Western Line, the emphasis is on “modernized” which I interpret to mean no chuku-chaka business. I am looking at high speed trains with neat cabins. Further, when will the rehabilitation of the Accra-Tema, Kumasi-Ejisu, Accra-Nsawam and Takoradi-Kojokrom rail networks start? Which will be done by which time? And while we are on transport we might as well pin His Excellency down to clarify the matter of a second international airport after Kotoka. While the government pledges to upgrade Tamale Airport into “Ghana’s second international Airport”, there is another pledge to “commence”, (just commence ooo, not finish!”) feasibility studies into establishing an alternative airport. Some clarification is due. Is Tamale that second airport or are we commencing feasibility studies for a third international airport?
I see that the President likes adjectives like “accelerated” which is how he described his Social Housing Scheme under a so called rural Housing and Urban Renewal Programmes. We have a current national housing deficit in excess of one million. What proportion of this deficit does the government intend to reduce? I could under aim and proclaim 20% but since we are going for the “accelerated” option, I will opt for solving 80% of the housing problem. In monitoring this promise, we stand at risk of subterfuge from government communicators who may bamboozle us with counts instead of dabbling in proportions which would be more meaningful to the extent that proportions better inform us about the magnitude of the problem solved and by extension, what remains unsolved. So on this housing problem, we might well hear government touting building an “impressive” count of 30, 000 individual houses without conceding that this count constitutes only 3% of the problem being solved. Our journalists need to probe a little deeper beyond the politicians proclivity for superficial tinkering knowing that 30,000 houses sounds much better than 3% of the problem solved.
On building the Eastern and Western Corridors and Central Spine! I am interested in knowing the total length of these roads needing to be done and what proportion government intends to build. All of it or 40%?
I love the energy promises: “increase power generation from 2,443 megawatts to 5,000 megawatts by 2016” and “universal access to electricity by 2016.” In other words, by 2016, Mother Ghana will be 100% fully powered. No ifs and buts- very specific! As for the pledge to elect District Chief Executives directly, yate aaa abre! Make the promise while seeking power and refrain from executing same once you savor its sweetness. We shall see what JM will do when the DCEs’ tenure expires!
At the end of the day, we the good people – the focus of the NDC’s Social Democratic agenda- will have but few questions: do we feel safer, do we have better access to quality healthcare and educational facilities, are we less hungry, have we stopped competing with cattle for rights to potable drinking water, do I have reliable electricity, am I decently housed without having to sacrifice an arm and a leg in advance rent payment?
JM is on a clock and if he falters, no amount of mouth twisting and Teleprompters will redeem him!
17th January, 2013