Ghana’s day of shame: Shortage of bentoa!
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Ghana’s day of shame: Shortage of bentoa!

For any employer, the value of the employee’s job is determined, first and foremost, by the market for the company’s goods or services.

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So why are Ghanaians paying premium remuneration to its ‘democracy elite’ if all that democracy produces are talkers? What relative economic and social benefit is there in paying Article 71 office holders the amounts of money we put in their pockets every month — in addition, for instance, to GH¢300,000 ex-gratia each for three years of work at the Council of State, when Ghana cannot produce even ‘bentoa’?

Don’t talk to me about debates. What is debate if it does not result in producing the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the materials for the houses we build etc? O yes, it is exciting to hear the revelations that come up at sittings of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament at which public/civil servants are exposed for corruption. But of what use is exposure when it stops there: exposure?  

Read also: Shortage of 'bentoa' hits Accra Central Market

Have you heard the latest?

The Mirror newspaper reported last Saturday that a shortage of bentoa had hit the Accra Central Market in the last three months. By way of definition, the product we call bentoa is the enema bulb syringe with which liquid herbal preparations are squeezed down the anus.

Our grandmothers didn’t have to sit in a university lecture hall for four years to come up with the bentoa concept. Of course, theirs (produced more than 100 years ago), had a light wooden bulb with a little hole at the base into which they blew air from their mouth to force down the liquid herbal preparation into the anus of the sick person.

It was later replaced with the imported type which has a rubber bulb. Today, there is a shortage of imported bentoa in a country that was so technologically advanced in the first five years of the 1960s that we were producing nails, matches and glass! We had Atomic Energy!!

Measured

That, for me, is how quality of governance is, or should be measured. Kwame Nkrumah used to sit with the scientists and challenge them to come up with technology for industrial use.

Since his overthrow this country has faced an acute shortage of leadership in the Executive and Legislature. So acute is the shortage that ever since the first importation of the first modern bentoa with the rubber bulb, our BSc and HND universities and polytechnics have been unable to replicate same locally.

Yet, I can bet my bottom cedi, knowing the quality of students in our universities and other tertiary institutions of learning; knowing the mental capacity of our scientists at CSIR and other research institutions, that attempts have been made – even prototypes produced. 

Challenge

The challenge, often, is how to link research with industry. This, I humbly submit, is the role of policy. Policy, I further submit, has everything to do with quality leadership. In an era when Parliament is debating the necessity of granting a total of US$335,000 tax exemptions to a number of IDIF factories, who among our Parliamentarians or Ministers have made noise about research-industry linkage in a Parliament that chased an MP for bolting with ballot papers for electing a Speaker.

Proposals have been made for the increase of funding for science technology and innovation (STI). The immediate past minister promised an increase to one per cent of GDP.

What has become of it? Yet, very soon, salary increases for MPs will be tabled. Call me a fool if the following does not happen: there will be no opposition or delay. At the Accra central market where the bentoa shortage has been reported, the women revealed that the sources for the imports are China, Germany and Holland.

Do you know that Ghana produced its first car (Boafo) before either China or South Korea? What drove me crazier was a revelation by a panellist during one of the radio discussions on this subject this week, that there was a powerful woman who possessed import licence for bentua! Import licence?

For bentua? Please, Bank of Ghana, tell us this is not true. Even if it is not true, what cannot be denied is that we haven’t produced enough brainy economists in the public service and legislators in Parliament with ideas and laws that should make it impossible for traders to qualify to change cedis into dollars at forex bureau to import (what?) bentoa, of all products on earth!

And we claim we do not know why the cedi is selling at an unprecedented GH¢15 to the dollar!!! Surely, if the commodity is as popular and “fast moving” as is being claimed, isn’t it surprising that not a single entrepreneur has applied to set up a factory, under IDIF, to manufacture and fill the market with bentoa?

And, what happened to the “taxation to production” promise? Beware of mantras? We cannot produce even bentoa!

The writer is Executive Director,
Centre for Communication and Culture.
E-mail: [email protected]

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