From my Rooftop: People’s representatives indeed
Our country is well known for its forest resources, including timber which we have plundered over the years. The creative talents of our wood workers, including carpenters, have never been in doubt.
That is why it is strange that the Parliamentary Service Board found it convenient to bypass local furniture producers and pay GH¢20 million into the pockets of Chinese carpenters.
This decision has not only made our furniture producers poorer. It has also made nonsense of government claims that it wants to promote local products and stem capital flight.
I have heard some weak arguments that local furniture producers could not deliver on time. What is the urgency about the provision of furniture for the refurbished State House?
The renovation of what is popularly known by many Ghanaians as Job 600, which took a Ghanaian firm to construct, has been going on over the last 10 years. So when did it occur to our honourable politicians who were elected to defend the interests of Ghanaians, including carpenters, that after the renovation there would be the need to change the furniture?
We believe that if our elected representatives were imbued with a sense of nationalism as is expected of them, no matter the circumstances, they would not have looked for any excuse to divert such a basic project from our own companies.
The question is: If we cannot provide furniture for use by our elected representatives, what in that chamber can come from Ghana?
In 2007, under President John Agyekum Kufuor, we used a similar excuse to purchase a big chunk of the fabrics designed for the celebration of Ghana's independence anniversary from Chinese firms.
At a time our textile firms were struggling and continue to struggle for survival because of piracy and other unfair practices, the state failed to use that opportunity to shore up local manufacturers and to give meaning to our 50 years of nationhood.
The excuse as usual was that because of the large volume of the fabrics and the short notice, local textile firms could not meet the supply deadline. Malaysia, which celebrated its 50th anniversary the same year, took five years to prepare for good reasons. If our own independence anniversary could take us by surprise, is it any wonder that as you read this, there is no national monument we can be proud of when we celebrate another 50 years from now.
Is it not better to find out how the Chinese are able to deliver even at an hour's notice and to do the same rather than running to them at the so-called short notice each time.
I cannot speak for all Ghanaian business persons. But I believe, generally, they also know the culture of business and the norms of the game. This idea of putting state funds into foreign hands at the least opportunity is not only poor but backward as well.
Those who are making progress and whose doors we are always knocking for assistance do not do things this way. Except in extreme situations when there can be no local substitute, state funds should just not be expended in this reckless manner.
The furniture transaction has made the Chinese economy richer by GH¢20 million. Are we surprised that tomorrow we shall be in China looking for a loan? Maybe this transaction is also a consequence of a Chinese loan.
They say he who pays the piper calls the tune. Since we have failed to assert our independence and pursue a vigorous self reliance policy, we shall continue to export our rich timber species cheaply on the world market and turn to China and other countries for furniture.