Full-text: What Prof Atuguba said and it is causing controversy

Full-text: What Prof Atuguba said and it is causing controversy

There have been several calls on the national security to invite the Dean of University Ghana law school, Prof. Raymond Atuguba to answer questions over his coup comments. The latest to add his voice to such calls is Member of Parliament for Adansi Asokwa, Kobinna Tahir Hammond also known as KT Hammond.
But what exactly did the Dean of Law faculty say?

Here is the full lecture by Prof. Raymond Atuguba on a reviewed 1992 Constitution and its impact on the economy.
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A reviewed 1992 Constitution and its impact on the economy by Prof. Raymond Akongburo ATUGUBA
Dean, University of Ghana School of Law.

A Public Lecture Delivered at Erata Hotel, Accra
Under the Auspices of SOLIDAIRE Ghana MONDAY, 28th February 2022.

SALUTATIONS
Chairperson;
Members of the Diplomatic Community present; Members of Parliament present; Chair, Executive Council, Fellows, and Members of Solidaire Ghana; Panelists:

My Big Sister, Ms. Josephine Nkrumah, Chair of the National Commission for Civic Education; My Junior Brother, Dean of University of Professional Studies’ Law Faculty, Professor Ernest Kofi Abotsi; Another Junior Brother and Colleague at the University of Ghana School of Law, and former Dean of the University of Cape Coast’s Law Faculty, Pee Peter Atudiwe Atupare; Invited Guests; Media Operatives; National Security Operatives, who I can see well distributed within the Hall-I used to work with you guys, so you cannot hide;

Ladies and Gentlemen.


DEDICATION


This lecture is dedicated to Mawuse Oliver Barker-Vormawor, another junior brother of mine, for all his work in trying to #FixtheCountry and to reform our constitution.

It is also dedicated to my big brother Akoto Ampaw and Justice Srem-Sai-another junior brother of mine, and all the other lawyers and activists who are working around the clock to secure his release from unlawful detention.

I visited Mawuse in jail some two weeks ago, and the conditions under which he was being held are not fit even for your worse enemy.

But for this lecture, I would have joined the legal team in court today. It is no coincidence that his first court visit was on the 14th of February, Valentine’s Day, and his next court day, today, is the Anniversary of the 28th February 1948 shooting.

We live in a spiritual world. Like the Psalmist says, “the fool sayeth unto himself, ‘there is no God’”. Sometimes, God speaks to us by timing events, rolling the cosmos and the elements and our actions to coincide with particular times and seasons, in order to give us a message. Those who have spiritual ears, let them hear.

Let me end this part of my speech here, before I am arrested or before they send the tax authorities to come and find fault with my law firm “by force”.

INTRODUCTION


When I am introduced as the Dean of the University of Ghana School of Law, it makes it extremely difficult for me to speak the naked truth.

As you all know, we all live a lie. No one speaks the truth. We all say what we are permitted to say or what we deem fit to say at each point in time and depending on our circumstances.

So right now, what constrains me are my membership of the General Legal Council and my Deanship of the University of Ghana School of Law.

And so I will like to respectfully demand of you to imagine what I would have said, if these two constraints were not upon my shoulders.

I love my Vice Chancellor very much, and the last thing I would like is for her to call me in the early morning, and ask: “Dean, what have you gone to say?”.

Worse still, am dreading the words of my dear wife, when I get home today and she says: “Akonbi, what have you gone to say again”. “Akonbi”, a shortened version of my local, authentic, spiritual name, is what she calls me when I am in trouble. I am sure the men here can relate.

My Uncle Sam Jonah said recently: “It appears to me that in recent times in our Fourth Republican dispensation, the courage to stand up for the truth and the determination to uphold the common good is lost. In our dark moments as a nation, it is concerning that the voices of the intellectuals are receding into oblivion. Sadly, it is a consequence of the deep partisan polarisation of our country such that everything is seen through the lenses of politics.”

“It appears to me that the culture of silence has returned. This time not enforced by legal and military power but through convenience, parochialism, hypocrisy, and a lack of conviction. Where are our Adu Boahens and PV Ansahs?”

Uncle, receive the below as a feeble attempt at partial redemption of “academia”. We wait for the Clergy, CSOs, the Media, Labour Unions, and others who were so vociferous in condemning the past regime, to redeem themselves.

DOWN MEMORY LANE

I was conceived in a village called Nalerigu, near Gambaga, some 35 miles from Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia’s hometown. At that time we still retained in Ghana the traditional home science and knowledge with which to determine exactly when a prospective mother would bear the child.

The science of traditional birth attending was fast being eroded, so, a few days to the birth, my mother travelled to Bolgatanga, where her brother was a nurse, in order to receive higher than average medical attention during the birth.

Soon after my birth, we returned to Nalerigu, where I lived the first several years of my childhood.

I was born on the 1st of April, April Fool’s Day, so forgive me when I say some foolish things during this lecture; it’s the April Fool’s thing working.

Somehow, I carry very distinct memories of my complicated childhood. One of such memories is the regular visitations of the military mowags and trucks in the immediate aftermath of the 1979 coup.

In the village, there were mechanisms of communication that appeared more effective than the mobile phone in speed and reach. And so, we will hear that the soldiers were on the way, well before they got to our home.

My mother sold everything. One of the distinct memories I have is when she was arrested for selling pencils, I believe, above control price. By this time, my father had been transferred from Nalerigu to Bawku, and then to Damongo, the village where President John Dramani Mahama was born.

Back to Nalerigu, near Vice President Bawumia’s hometown. We always had a predug deep trench at the back of our home, and when word reached us that the soldiers were on their way, we will drape large sheets of plastic or cloth over the trench, fill it up with all my mother’s wares, cover them up with the ends of the plastic or cloth that stretched over the top of the trench, and cover the trench with earth and then with anything that would obscure it. When there was time, we would then sweep the whole compound, including over the trench, so that it all looked evenly swept and undetectable, and so that the many footprints of the hiders of the wares will be erased, leaving only the even footprints of the sweepers,
across the entire patched earth of the compound.

Many times, my mother would meet the soldiers across the compound before they walked up to our home, or sometimes before they got out of their vehicles. Often, she would succeed in turning them away with a combination of native wisdom, wit, and humor.

Sometimes it helped that she was the wife of the first headmaster of the new secondary school in the village. Sometimes it attracted undue attention, suspicion, targeting, hatred and reprisals. In those days, anyone with “post” was guilty until proven innocent. And the names of the offences were hilarious: “economic sabotage”, “engaging in acts calculated to cause disaffection for the Revolution”; “government indiscipline”.

A few years later, when we lived in Bawku, and after the 1981 coup, our family was targeted in this way. I still recall the morning our home was attacked and ransacked. Everything was carried away. We moved to stay with a distant relative farther from town. My father was put before a public tribunal and charged with offences whose names I am unable to recall now.

Throughout the period of his trial, he was without a job, without a salary, and in constant fear for his life and the lives of members of his family. When we relocated at night on various occasions, he carried a sharpened cutlass with him.

The entire family had to live on the back of my heavily pregnant mother, and subsequently nursing mother, throughout this period.

I have recounted before how my father was made to account for his stewardship of the school he headed; how he accounted for all of it but one shovel, one pickaxe and 4 pesewas; how the shovel and pickaxe were later retrieved at a building site; how he refused to plead guilty to misappropriating 4 pesewas; and how the receipts for the 4 pesewas were later found.

After he was found not guilty, he was restored to his post, paid his emoluments and promoted.

Others were not that lucky. Many Ghanaians who were not able to beat the system the way my mother did, or successfully fight the system the way my father did, were mistreated, beaten, even killed.

We do not want a coup in this country. Yet I fear that if we do not act quickly, we may have one in our hands very soon.

A former colleague doctoral student at Harvard wrote his dissertation also on Ghana. He now teaches at a War College in the U.S. Imagine the name of the College-War College. Whilst my topic was on the Ghana Police, his topic was on the Ghana Military. Naturally, our paths intersected and we have remained friends since.

My friend’s PhD dissertation was on the topic: “Why certain coups succeed and why others fail”. His case study was Ghana. My current assessment that Ghana may be ripe for a coup partly springs from the knowledge I gained from accompanying my friend through part of his doctoral research on this topic. It does not help matters if we consider Samuel Huntington’s thesis on the snowballing effect of coups in the subregion, and the closeness of recent coups to home. I urge my good friend the Minister for National Security, Hon. Kan Dapaah, to have a conversation with my friend at the War College.

THE ECONOMY OF GHANA TODAY


A big part of why certain coups succeed and others fail is the Economy. What is the state of our economy today?

The Minister for Finance, and other government officials adds that, soon Ghana will not be able to fund the Free-SHS Scheme; pay the District Assemblies Common Fund; pay the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL); pay the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND); pay the salaries of government workers; pay lecturers in the public universities and end the debilitating strike action by them; pay the arrears owed various contractors; build roads and other infrastructure; and create
jobs for the youth.

The Finance Minister finally says that government may have to generate monies from fuel prices hikes-which are already taking place, and leading to increases in transport fares.

Costs are rising in Ghana: Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and other Fuels at 28.7%; as well as Transport at 17.4%; pushed the rate of inflation for January 2022 to 13.9%, according to the Ghana Statistical Service; which also revealed that food inflation recorded a rate of 13.7%, having risen from 12.8% in the previous month and from an average 10.4% in the previous several months before that. Non-food inflation also went up in January 2022 to 14.1%, compared with the 12.5% recorded
in December 2021.

In the words of President Mahama, “Time is ticking for the crisis-ridden Ghanaian economy…There is no dispute that the Ghanaian economy is in deep crisis, a crisis marked by huge budget deficits, an unsustainable public debt, rising inflation, a rapidly depreciating currency, ever rising cost of living and a loss of confidence by both domestic and international investor communities…The effects of these have
been severe hardships and suffering for the people of Ghana, especially those within vulnerable groups. As a result of the horrendous low point we have now reached, it is very clear that urgent intervention is required to avert a total collapse of the economy.”

Ghana’s Cedi has performed abysmally since the beginning of 2022, despite the efforts of the Bank of Ghana to artificially hold it down. The Ghana cedi ranked 2nd worst among 15 top-performing currencies in Africa recently. In the last few months, the cedi has depreciated heavily against the major currencies, moving from 5 point something cedis to 7 point something cedis against the dollar; in just a few months. When President Mahama handed over power, the cedi was 4 point something to the dollar. Today it is seven point something in the Forex Bureaux. This morning, Joy Business, drawing from international business news, reported that the Ghana Cedi is now the worst performing African currency, having
depreciated by 7.6% in January and February 2022 alone. And I hope we all now know that: “if the fundamentals [of the economy are weak], the exchange rate will expose you”.

Let us remember that the financial crisis is a direct by-product of crises in the Real Sector of the economy. For example, Cocoa production in Ghana dropped significantly last year, according to figures from the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO). While Ivory Coast recorded a drop of just 4%, Ghana
somehow recorded a staggering drop of 54%. The International Cocoa Organisation is still surprised that “purchases of graded and sealed cocoa beans for the 2021/22 cocoa year as at 6 January 2022 were reported at 263,000 tonnes, down from 570,000 tonnes recorded a year earlier.”

Our President himself has weighed in on the economy and is reported to be: “upset and anxious about cedi depreciation”. “I’m aware of the anxiety there is in business circles and throughout the population about the recent depreciation of the Cedi. I’m extremely upset and anxious about it too”, he says.

What our President and other government officials are saying about our economy is consistent with what the international financial community has said. Last month, Bloomberg, Reuters and Fitch all agreed that Ghana’s debt has moved into deeper distress, at over 80% of GDP. The Ghana Statistical Service puts it at almost 85%, rising from 31.4% just a decade ago when President Mills handed over power. As a
footnote, it was 55.94% when President Mahama handed over power in 2016. The rating agencies add that Ghana is at risk of a debt crunch, with Interest Payments alone absorbing about half of government revenues – the second highest ratio in the world of some 200 countries.

Resultantly, Ghana was downgraded to B- with a negative outlook, and then to C. And Bloomberg has added Ghana to the “‘Fragile Five Indebted Africa Nations”, who are at “risk” and on a “precipice”. We can no longer borrow on the international financial markets, except at horrendous interest rates, and our only
hope, some say, is to go back to the IMF.

After pretending to recant a little later, Fitch concludes: “General government debt reached an estimated 83% of GDP at end-2021, including approximately 2% of GDP in debt held through the Energy Sector Levy Act special purpose vehicle. We forecast government debt to remain on an upward path through 2025, but expect debt to grow at a slower pace as the primary deficit narrows in 2022 and 2023. Debt affordability metrics will remain weak. Ghana’s debt constitutes 539% of government revenue, compared with the ‘B’ median of 325%. Interest payments were 44.6% of revenue in 2020 and the ratio is likely to continue rising through 2023, assuming a rising share of domestic debt in total debt in the absence of external financing options.”

What amazes me is that when things were not one-tenth as bad under the Mahama regime, Occupy Ghana marched on the Office of the President, at the then Flagstaff House, now called Jubilee House, on 1st July 2014. Many leaders, clergy, intellectuals, lawyers, journalists, many Ghanaians, urged them on as they raided the premises of the Office of the President, insulted the then President to high heavens, by the minute, hour, and day, embolden by a correct interpretation of the law to the effect that: it is not a crime to insult the President.

President Mahama asked that the security forces not react negatively and that no one should be hurt. I am talking from personal experience, because I was inside Flagstaff House then.

Marching on the Office of the President, a National Security Zone, is not a crime. Saying that you will do the coup, using the definite article, a reference to the coup that the market women in Kumasi already say they will do, is a heinous crime.

Some months after the march on flagstaff house in 2014, I told the President I was returning to Legon to continue my job as a pupil-teacher. I explained, in part, that I was no longer able to align my lifelong activism with the state of things then. By 2019, I had sought out President Mahama and told him that he was a far better President.

In 2016, the price of a litre of petrol was GHC 3.75. Today it has broken the 8, and is selling at almost GHC 8 a litre. I used to fill my tank with GHC 400 in 2016. Today, I fill it with 1000 Ghana cedis when it is empty. I ball of kenkey was 70 pesewas in 2016, today it is GHC 2 at my last visit and seems to have shrunk in size at my last visit. Trotro fare from Circle to Adenta was GHC 3.70 in 2016, it is GHC 7 today. And yet, income levels have remained virtually the same, with only the usual nominal increases in government wages over the period.

And so, Mr. Kwame Pianim, a renowned New Patriotic Party (NPP) politician and economist is reported to have said that: “It’s a shame Ghana’s Yale-trained finance minister has been a historic disaster”

Today, things are 10 times worse, and all we hear is loud silence. As Adangba has said in his song “Animal Farm”: “The country wey I come from, the truth is an irony, just like Animal Farm, justice mean inequity. So, who go say the truth, who go say the truth. Christian Council, silence; Islamic leaders, silence; Kings and Queens, silence; Traditional leaders, silence oooh. Who go say the truth, truth, truth, for justice…..TUC, silence; even journalists, silence ooooh; then who go say the truth… Eyansafuo muwohine-a”. Then he tells the story of Nana Yenkamaasem, who kills and imprisons anyone who speaks against him…“everybody is afraid…Nana o sei yeman,.. but everybody is afraid…Right is right, wrong is wrong, no matter how you justify…You say you wanna get rid of corruption, someone want to help you, now the person become your target.”

It is sad that we have had to get here. For me, what is sadder is what the running down of our enviable economy has done to families and to people’s lives. Recently, a band of armed robbers robbed some Kumasi-bound travelers in a V.I.P bus from Takoradi, whilst saying to them: “Pray for us, the system has made us so”. In the words of a passenger in the bus: “After the robbery, they asked us to pray for them because it was not their will to stop vehicles on the highway and rob passengers of their belongings but the system has compelled them to do so…”

After a friend of ours was robbed at gunpoint recently, witness the following WhatsApp chat we engaged in on our platform:

“This is getting serious.”

“The National service lady in the office just told me she was robbed at gun
point last week.”

“A friend was robbed around trassaco estate at gunpoint yesterday at 9 a.m

“Hmmmm”

“Wow. Country hot oh. 4 more to do more.”

“If you mind your business, you get robbed. I’m leaving this country”

“If you complain, you get arrested”

“No one is safe”

“Hmmmmm, things are getting out of hands ooo”

We must remember that our President has always been worried about scenarios such as the above. Speaking at the Ebenezer Hall, Presbyterian Church, Osu-Accra on 29th May 2009, he said: “I am very concerned that sooner or later, militants on our side convinced that the state cannot or will not protect them, may take measures to protect their interests, themselves and their loved ones. Events will then be out of control, driving all of us towards a point of no return”.

WHERE ARE WE NOW AND HOW DID WE GET HERE?


We all know that the episodic spectacularisation of our economy by government as strong, contrasts starkly with the reality. Reckless election expenditure in 2020, undermined the economy greatly, as government had to reeve up spending to match the opposition party that met it boot-for-boot in the elections and claimed so many parliamentary seats from it.

Of all the monies that we have borrowed from the Bond Markets in the last decade, 71% of it was borrowed by the current government. Over their entire 4-year tenure, the Mahama regime borrowed less than 3 billion dollars from the bond market. In 2021 alone, the current government borrowed more than 3 billion dollars. In 2018 they borrowed 2 billion dollars, in 2019, 3 billion dollars, in 2020, they borrowed 3 billion again and in 2021 they borrowed more than 3 billion dollars. And this is from the bond market alone. The amount Mahama borrowed in 4 years, this government has borrowed more than that amount in just one year.

Aside borrowing huge amounts of money, not for production, but mostly for consumption, the government consistently moved the country steadily away from growth inducing investments and into consumption: many new ministries that would not qualify for administrative units in a viable country; a bloated Cabinet-the largest we have had since independence; Free SHS; creation of 6 new regions-the last time we created a region in Ghana prior to this was in 1983; creation of 44 new districts, bringing the number to 261 in one tiny, unitary micro-state; adding hundreds of thousands of names of party faithful to the public wage bill.

You cannot consume when you have not created. That is the problem.

FUTURE OUTLOOK-GHANA NOW AND IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS


I had a party in our home some years ago. As usual, someone came with a gallon of Akpeteshie. Real Local Content. Now the red and black labels and cognacs are merely for display on the table. The Akpeteshie, in a white gallon, was placed under the table. I do not know why we do that.

And the Akpeteshie got exhausted quickly. Not so the exotic drinks. They go quarter way down, are returned to the cabinet and await another party. The way we treat the Akpeteshie is the way we treat the real state of our economy. We hide it. In real African tradition, we believe that an good economy, and certainly money, doesn’t like Noise.

So, forgive me when I say publicly that Ghana is darn broke. There is no other way to say it. We are not suffering passing illiquidity; we are not experiencing temporary financial distress; we have accumulated debt stock that is crippling the economy. Unless we allow the reality of this current state of our economy to sink in, so that we can with cool heads, calm hearts and steady hands, pull ourselves, in the words of Kwesi Botchwey, “back from the precipice”, we are economically doomed. And as you know, “it is the economy, stupid”.

The sad news is this: we are not just broke. Unless we do something about it immediately, we are going to be in economic and financial ruins for the next 12 years.

In the next 3 years, we all know that the government is capable of doing only one thing: borrow more, domestically and internationally, in order to pay the public sector wage bill; barely keep up with interest payments on loans (the principal will remain intact); depend on donor funds for most goods and services; and borrow even more to start some infrastructure projects, just for show.

Domestic borrowing with starve the economy of needed capital to grow, completely suffocating it. Increasing cost of living will fuel labour unrest, and government will empty all local coffers, mopping up any available excess liquidity, and borrowing more internationally to pay up. Then, having laden us with even more crippling debt, and securing an economy on life-support, and amidst fanfare, they will gladly handover to a new administration on 7th January 2025.

The processes for doing the above will not be smooth sailing, especially with a hung Parliament, unless some minority MPs are locked up in jail or forcefully kicked off their seats through civil suits, in ccordance with the plans to these ends that are now underway. There will be stiff opposition to government’s quest for approvals for loans and critical initiatives by the minority caucus in Parliament, leading to increased transaction costs, higher kickbacks, and poorer deals, all of which are ultimately for “we the people” to carry as our financial burden.

The next administration-I pity our next President and Administration-will immediately face the following:

A huge election bill to service, as the coming election will be expensive given the third forces that are emerging; Huge interest and principal payments for the previous 8 years, some due in 2025, just weeks after they take over office, and stretching into 2026; Angry and hungry supporters who have been kicked out of the public sector and financially emasculated for 8 years, at rates and to extends never
experienced in the last 30 years-and who laid down their lives, limbs and near empty pockets for the win; and An economy on its death bed. If we allow the above scenario to unfold, the next Administration will have no choice but to run to the IMF. And we all know that the IMF does one thing and one thing only: it does not take a Do Not Resuscitate order, and so with the two electric shock pads in hand, the IMF will shock our economy back to life. We will, however, remain on the sick bed and in the sick bay as long as the IMF is with us. Once they get in, they will not leave until after the 4 years of that Administration are over.

It is only in the next 3 to 4 years that the same or another Administration will begin to draw us back completely from the precipice. That will be 11 to 12 long years lost to the Ghanaian economy. Most of us here, young and strong, would all have retired by then.

We cannot allow this to happen.

WHAT SHOULD WE NOT DO?


There is only one thing to do now, prevent a Coup in Ghana, since the climate and the environment, national and immediate international, are conducive for one.

Preventing a coup in Ghana today is not very difficult. In fact, it is pretty easy, if we put poly-tricks and male egos aside. It is an easy 3 step process. However, before we get to what we must do and the 3-step process, let us consider what we must not do.

First, we must compel the government to acknowledge the current economic mess they mostly, and previous governments to a lesser extent, have driven us into. Denialism should not be allowed. I am glad that the government and the Minister for Finance, my friend Ken Ofori-Atta, has acknowledged our dire economic situation.

Second, we must not accept the lie that the current economic crisis is due to COVID. The injection of cash into the economy from various financial institutions during COVID, and the forced import substitution economy, could have actually improved our economy if they were better managed, and especially as we took such a comparatively light hit from COVID. Ghana’s economic problems started before Covid-19.

On balance, Covid 19 was a good thing for Africa and Ghana. Not many people died, and yet huge opportunities opened up in import substitution and reduction of the import bill, and even in the digital economy, from whence E-Levy, ironically cometh.

The current administration in 2020-21 received very large bailouts of a $1 billion concessional facility from the IMF; another $1 billion in SDR allocation, also from the IMF; and $430 million from the World Bank. Additionally, Ghana took $250 million from the Stabilization Fund; and GHC 10 billion from the Central Bank. The total is well over GHC 30 billion Ghana cedis.

The conclusion of the Joint World Bank-IMF Debt Sustainability Analysis on Ghana in December 2019, months before COVID hit Ghana had this to say: “…. Ghana is at high risk of external public debt distress with thresholds breached on the Present Value of external debt to GDP ratio, the debt service-to-exports ratio, and the external debt service-to-revenues ratio, with the latter exceeding the threshold
throughout the forecast horizon.”

Third, we must compel the current government to fix its own economic mess-carry your own shit; we will not be your night soil carriers in the future. At the end of June 2020, Ghana’s debt stock was pproximately GHS 258.4 billion, an increase of 118% in just four years. Aba!

Fourth, we must ensure that the government does not run to the IMF for a bailout. Like Minister for Finance Ken Ofori-Atta has said, “Whatever we do we are not going to the IMF…The consequences are dire. We are a proud nation. We have the resources. We have the capacity. We are not people of short sight.” Whilst I do not agree with his mode of managing our economy, I agree with the Minister for Finance when he says we should not go to the IMF. The IMF shocks economies back to life. It was not setup and has no success stories for making economies flourish and thrive. And we do not want to have merely a bedridden economy.

I am also afraid that an IMF programme will start with an audit of COVID expenditure, and given what has happened with such audits in other African countries, I shudder to think what will happen if we are audited for our use of the double digit billions of Ghana cedis the IFIs gave us as COVID support.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO-THREE STEPS FOR PUTTING GHANA’S ECONOMY ON A FIRM FOOTING FOR THE FUTURE


In concrete terms, we need to implement the following key steps in order to prevent a coup, and the collapse of our economy.

The first step is to pass the darn, farafucken E-Levy Bill immediately and implement it effectively. Yes, you heard me right. The E-Levy thing is both darn and a farafucker. However, to prevent the collapse of the economy and a return to the stranglehold of the IFIs, we have no choice but to pass it. As someone has noted, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, will go down in history as the “President of Public Debt” or the “President of Austerity” or, I would say, of both. E-levy is the part of the Presidency of Austerity.

The starting point for successfully passing the E-levy bill is for government to stop lying to us the citizenry: come clean; confess that you had thought the job of managing the economy was very simple, but that you now know better; abate the arrogance and highhandedness; ask the people of Ghana for forgiveness; and pray the people of Ghana that we have limited options right now-we either allow the
economy to collapse and we all suffer and get back into the grips of the neocolonial IFIs; or we use the E-levy to prevent economic recession and depression. Ghanaians are smart and empathetic and will gladly support the E-levy if this is done right.

Fellow Ghanaians, if we do not support the darn farafucken E-Levy, government will simply tax something else, such as Fuel, leading to a hike in the trotro fares. And they will additionally steal for central government operations from the District Assemblies Common Fund, the GETFUND, the National Health Insurance Levy, the Road Fund, and so on.

Just like Kwesi Botchwey discovered taxes on fuel during the Gulf War, Ken OforiAtta discovered taxes on momo during COVID. We have in Ghana over 40.5 million mobile phone subscribers and over 17.1 million active mobile money subscribers. The total value of transactions on mobile money grew by a Cumulative Average Growth Rate of 65% between 2016 and 2021. Significantly, it rose from just GHC
78.5 billion in 2016 to an estimated GHC 953.2 billion in 2021, almost 1 trillion cedis. And so the E-Levy, depending on the rate and the patronage, could rake in billions of cedis a year. And E-levy is easy to identify and cheap to collect.

The bond markets say they won’t give us money anymore, or at excessive interest rates; domestic savings have been mopped up; what do we what the government to do? We can no longer borrow on the international financial markets, except at horrendous interest rates, because our current Debt to GDP ratio of over 80% has led to investor fears of our ability to pay or sustain payment of loan interests or principal at some point. Further, increased inflation in developed economies is expected to lead to an increase in financing costs in the International Capital Market, and consequently affect interest rates. It is no surprise that government has decided to suspend borrowing from the International Capital Markets.

The farafucken E-levy, as horrible and wicked as it is, is the only way to save our economy from collapse in the near term. Fellow Ghanaians, the power is in your hands, let us embrace the farafucken e-levy, and save our economy and our nation from collapse. This is the sad reason why I have become an ardent supporter of the darn farafucken E-levy, because without it, the economy will collapse.

As Ghanaians we should, however, ask for one thing: absolute transparency every step of the way, in the way and manner the e-levy is collected and used. Occupy Ghana has called for this already. This is the place to establish a Special E-Levy Commission. “History is beautiful. And it matters”. On 1st April 1852, the Gold Coast Poll Tax Ordinance was proclaimed. It failed and I was finally scrapped by the
colonialists in 1861. The problems were:

Misapplication of proceeds
Embezzlement of tax proceeds
Weak monitoring
Poor patronage
Lack of consultation
Failure of the British to protect the coastal states from the Ashantis, in this case a possible failure to protect low-income earners The E-levy Commissioner and Commission have their job well cutout for them if they are to make the E-Levy succeed.

It is sad that we have had to get here; but it will be sadder if we do not pay the Elevy in the short run and start holding government by the throat to account for every little pesewa we pay. Citizen groups must actively audit the E-levy account as a back-up to the work of the E-Levy Commission.

After we pay the farafucken e-levy, we need to immediately begin the process of redeeming our economy and our Nation. This brings us to the second major economic step we need to take. That step is to exploit COVID-19 to shore up domestic production and import substitution; saving the cedi from its endless run at Usain Bolt speed against the major currencies and create the needed decent jobs to keep the youth busy.

This process will include rationalization of the huge tax exemptions we offer in this country, and re-order them to support domestic production. Our President, in his 2019 State of the Nation Address painted a dire picture of the tax exemptions regime, calling it “a growing threat to fiscal stability and revenue generation”.

Again, using the rapid COVID-induced digitization of the economy, we can easily reduce the cost of doing business and general transaction costs, even the cost of goods and services generally, using technological developments and innovations spawned and spurred by COVID.

Rough as it may sound, the second step may also involve auctioning our bauxite or other mineral reserves, to the Chinese, for example, for many billions of dollars that would be used exclusively for rebuilding and extending our roads, railways, irrigations fields, power plants for export to the West African Power Pool and beyond, and so on. The production from these investments will then pay off our loans and have change to lend to other countries.

The third and last step is to constitutionalise our development. We should be ashamed as a nation that my private firms plan for 4 to 10 years, whilst our entire nation has functional plans and budgets for only 1 year. The longest we plan for is 4 years as a country. Are we alright? This is why we need to constitutionalise our development, so that the broad strokes of our development are contained in the Directive Principles of State Policy as enforceable provisions, with a constitutional directive for an independent National Development Planning Commission to detail
out a 40 to 50-year plan.

All I have just said are contained in the recommendations of the Constitution
Review Commission set-up by President Mills and in the 40-year Development Plan that President Mahama commissioned and completed, titled BLACK STAR RISINGLong-term National Development Plan of Ghana (2018-2057). Kudos also in this last respect to Dr. Nii Moi Thompson, one of Africa’s veritable economists, and to Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, who were Director-General and Chair respectively of the National Development Planning Commission that spearheaded the 40-year Development Plan. Professor Fiadjoe, the Chair of the Constitution Review Commission, under whom I worked as Executive Secretary to the Commission, and the members of the Commission, which included the New Patriotic Party stalwart, Akenten Appiah Menka, also deserve mention. The same proposals are contained in the agenda for constitutional reform spearheaded by Dr. Abu Sakara Forster’s National Interest Movement (NIM).

As Vice President Mike Pence stated recently; if we lose faith in our Constitution, we will lose our country. The constitutionalisation of our development will make is compulsory for each successive government to implement the plan, taking off from where the predecessor government left-off. Our constitution is largely a political document, it is necessary to amend it to meet our developmental needs and objectives; moving it from a Political to a Developmental document. A comprehensive, long-term, strategic, multi-year and binding national development plan, covering the hard and soft aspects of governance, and flexible enough for each Administration to determine the methodologies for implementing the Plan, but not the core Objectives and Targets of the Plan, is well overdue.

CONCLUSION


We are living in a really fucked up world today. A third world war is imminent over Ukraine, of all places. A COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the world. Repressive regimes are now the majority the world over, most exploiting COVID to expand their powers and oppress their citizenry. Canada of all places is clamping down on citizen demonstrations, and the United States experienced their first attempted coup d’état in centuries in January last year. As for Africa, literally every government is being toppled or sitting on tenterhooks.

The world cannot continue like this and Ghana, always the pacesetter, must show the way.

Like I said many months ago from this very platform and paraphrasing Rev. Fr. Stephen Kofi Sakpaku, who gave the opening prayer that day:

May it not be said, that we live by a stream of water and yet are thirsty;

May it not be said that we live in a land of milk and honey and yet go hungry.

This is the reason Solidaire Ghana was formed. May she continue to use her joint intellectual resources, to ensure that all Ghanaians drink from the streams of milk and eat of the honey that Odumankuma has given us, and which Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah retained and maintained for us.

And may our government always remember the final words of Adangba in his song “Animal Farm”: Jobless no dey mean senseless, poverty no dey mean useless, one day they go resist”.

I thank you for your attention. And May God Bless our Homeland Ghana and make our Nation great and strong.

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