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A ‘nowhere cool’ era, but a reader has a different view!

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

MY column of las tSaturday, July 23, “A matter of ‘a quadruple whammy’, a carpenter and burden sharing”, drew the following, immediate response by email, from a reader:

Dear Ms Yeboah-Afari, I have just read your article titled “A matter of a ‘quadruple whammy’ ...”. It is an interesting read but I sincerely hope that the Minister for Finance and the Vice-President - should they read your article - DO NOT feel vindicated by your
conclusion. If they refuse responsibility for their INABILITY to address and resolve the economic crisis because obviously, the triggers were beyond their control and their best option was to turn to the IMF, then they are just ordinary and have not demonstrated any extraordinary capabilities to merit the positions they occupy.

In other words, anybody could have done this. I thought we had in Mr. Ofori-Atta and Dr Bawumia some of the “finest brains” in finance, economics and banking. Exceptional leadership should provide INNOVATIVE solutions to unforeseen crisis that is their raison d’etre, not STANDARD solutions.

Take a look across the Atlantic Ocean, to Europe, and see how they are managing the self-same crisis that confronts Ghana. If I tell you that the governments of Germany and the UK, to name just two, have taken extraordinary measures to alleviate in some form the hardships that Covid-19 and, since February 2022, the Russia-Ukraine war have brought to bear on their economies, you would understand what it means to be innovative and to be responsible for the people one governs. It is time for us to demand better from our leadership.
Best regards, Francis Osei-Boakye,
Elmina, Central Region
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MY RESPONSE:
Dear Mr Osei-Boakye, Thanks very much for your mail. It’s always encouraging to get a reaction from a reader because such communication is the main proof that one’s articles are
being read. Equally important, it is proof that an article was not only read, but was
stimulating enough to generate an opinion which the reader takes the trouble to put
in writing and send. I agree with you that Ghana needs “exceptional leadership”.

However,
unlike you, I believe that it is that kind of leadership that President Nana Akufo- Addo and his team are providing. It’s interesting that your examples of governments managing better are taken from Europe. I wonder why you don’t compare how Ghana is managing the
crisis with how other West-African, or African, countries are doing. Anyway, to put the situation in context, firstly, the following is a snippet from a BBC news item about Nigeria earlier this week, on Monday, July 25: “Nigeria’s airline operators on Friday warned passengers against travelling due to a shortage of aviation fuel.

The spokesperson, Professor Boora Okonkwo, says passengers should expect flight cancellations. Aviation fuel prices have risen by about 400% since December 2021.” I’m surprised youdidn’t give examples from “across the Atlantic”of the “extraordinary measures” introduced there, to illustrate what the German and United Kingdom governments are doing that you clearly find so impressive. Nevertheless, regarding “extraordinary measures”, I recall some initiatives implemented by the Akufo-Addo administration which to me fall in that category, including: hot meals and food packages for the vulnerable during thepartial lockdown in Accra, Tema, Kasoa, and Kumasi; free water for six months nationwide to the customers of the Ghana Water Company, as well as subsidised electricity supply for ‘lifeline customers’. Furthermore, the Government gave loans to some companies to manufacture locally the critical personal protective equipment which were in short supply internationally. Then there is the ‘Covid-19 National Trust Fund; all of these part of the Government’s Coronavirus Alleviation Programme. I also think that an example of an “INNOVATIVE solution” is the

Electronic Transfer Levy (E-Levy), meant to spread the tax net, a critical need. But perhaps to you these initiatives were not innovative enough. Anyhow, regardless of how admirably in your view “governments across the Atlantic Ocean” are performing, it appears that their citizens, too, are complaining, in the same way that Ghanaians are complaining about the soaring cost of living!

The following, is a second news snippet, from Reuters, about the UK, also dated July 25, which lends credence to the saying ‘nowhere cool’, as the popular witticism puts it; the hardship affliction is global! “LONDON, July 25, 2022 – One fifth of British households had ‘negative disposable income’ last month, with a shortfall between what they earned and what they needed to spend on essentials, UK supermarket group Asda said on Monday.

“Confi dence levels among Britain’s consumers are at record lows as they struggle with the accelerating cost of living. Wages are failing to keep pace with inflation that hit a 40-year high of 9.4% in June and is heading for double digits.” So, despite the “extraordinary measures” the UK Government has initiated, according to you, “Confidence levels among Britain’s consumers are at record lows asthey struggle with the accelerating cost of living....”

More than 80 countries have reportedly sought assistance from the IMF. By your argument, the governments of those countries, too, are “just ordinary” – simply because they are desperate to ease the unprecedented economic woes of their population! Evidently, many Ghanaians arereally struggling to survive, but to give the impression that the Akufo-Addo Government has not initiated very pragmatic programmes to alleviate the suffering related to the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war is, in my view, very unfair – and even misleading.

Moreover, as the Finance Ministerreminded us on Monday, July 25, during his presentation in Parliament, of the Mid-Year Budget Review: “Not a single public sector employee was laid off as a result of the pandemic. “Employees received their full salaries, with front line health workers receiving additional incentives .... (and the) Government continues to pay salaries of all public sector employees on Government payroll.” Perhaps governments across the Atlantic have been able to introduce “extraordinary measures” because their economies are on stronger foundations, which I believe is what the Akufo-Addo Government is trying to build for Ghana.

And although I have never met them, I think I can say that Dr Bawumia and Mr Ofori-Atta would want to maintain the high opinion you, and others, held of them pre-Covid as two “of the finest brains in finance, economics and banking”. That, I am sure of! Thus I’m confident that they are determined to regain that status..Thanks again for writing, Mr Osei- Boakye.
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