Public scrutinise Bawumia’s vision
There have been varied reactions to Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia’s vision to lead the country should he be voted into office as President, with many expressing disagreements over views that tend to depart from the position of the government he currently serves in.
Areas where the Vice-President and flag bearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) wants to depart from the ruling government in policy include the abolition of the Electronic Payments Levy (E-Levy); making National Service a voluntary exercise as opposed to its mandatory status; the review of the Free Senior High School policy; the abolition of VAT on electricity, excise duties on betting and the use of digitalisation to ensure tax compliance and check corruption.
The long list of people who have disagreed with the Vice-President include the Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson; the Communications Officer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Sammy Gyamfi; civil society and extractive industry advocate, Dr Steve Manteaw; President of IMANI Africa, a policy think tank, Franklin Cudjoe; Professor of Finance and Dean of the University of Cape Coast Business School, Prof. John Gatsi; a former Director of Communications of the NPP, Buabeng Asamoa, and Political Science Lecturer, Prof. Ransford Gyampo.
The reporters who sampled the views are Chris Nunoo, Nana Konadu Agyeman, Kester Aburam Korankye and Maclean Kwofi.
Come to Parliament
Speaking to a section of the press in Parliament House yesterday, the Minority Leader challenged Vice-President Bawumia to bring a bill to Parliament to have the tax and others removed immediately if he really means to abolish the E-Levy.
He said as the second in command to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s Cabinet, Dr Bawumia had all the power it took to effect the removal of every inimical tax causing hardship to Ghanaians and stifling the growth of businesses.
“And now that the NPP is in office and the Vice-President is indeed the chairman of the Economic Management Team and also the leader of the NPP, he has whatever it takes to bring the bill to Parliament, if he so desires,” Dr Forson said.
But the communication teams of the NPP and the Office of the Vice-President have defended every proposal of Dr Bawumia in his vision outlined last Wednesday evening.
A member of the team, Eric Amoako Twum, said the flag bearer believed in the collective ideological orientation of the NPP, but he had a set of mindset he had cultivated over the period.
He explained that everybody had a personal vision and what they believed in.
Mr Twum, a former Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), sharing his thoughts on Dr Bawumia’s vision launch, said being part of a team he would definitely go by what the majority would prescribe, but if he was given the power as President with an absolute responsibility to make those decisions, Dr Bawumia would stick to those principles.
He said there was nothing wrong with the NPP flag bearer having his personal view and urged Ghanaians to interrogate the issues instead of merely criticising them.
Walk your talk
That notwithstanding, Dr Forson said the Vice-President, in the absence of the President, chaired the deliberations of all economic policies.
“So, all these economic policies that President Akufo-Addo has implemented since 2017 were actually supervised by our Vice-President and his position has further been strengthened because he is now the leader and flag bearer of the governing NPP,” he said.
Dr Forson said the flag bearer of the NDC, former President John Mahama, had stated that when given the power, he would remove such taxes, and therefore accused Dr Bawumia of only “copying our flag bearer”.
In the view of the Minority Leader, the E-levy and other taxes were first presented to Parliament when the Vice-President was sitting in the chamber.
He stated that Dr Bawumia was in Parliament with the Minister of Finance to impose the E-Levy and could therefore not turn around and come back to tell Ghanaians that he was not part of it.
“In fact, this shows the Vice-President has no credibility for him to say suddenly that the Economic Management Team is only advisory,” Dr Forson said.
“I have never witnessed such a terrible mate in my life and I urge him that if this is his nature, then the President must drop his mate immediately.
If your driver or your boss is driving us into a ditch and you have superior knowledge and you failed to give this superior knowledge and allowed your boss to drive about 33 million Ghanaians into a ditch, what a wicked mate that person is,” the MP for Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam added.
Can’t exonerate yourself
The Dean of the School of Business of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) stated that the Vice-President was part of the government and could not exonerate himself from the current difficulties that had engulfed the country’s economy.
“I think Dr Bawumia as the flag bearer of the NPP is taking advantage of the system to create an impression in the minds of Ghanaians that he is not part of the people who created the problem but that cannot be true, especially the decision to reduce ministers.
“I also do not agree with the Vice-President on his policy”, Prof. Gatsi said, adding that it would be a recipe for disaster should any government try to vary the national service scheme because there were no jobs to engage the many people who came out of the country’s tertiary institutions every year.
The Dean of the UCC Business School said he did not believe Dr Bawumia would be able to abolish any taxes immediately even when voted into office in 2025.
That was because the taxes were introduced to help the government to generate revenue under an International Monetary Fund (IMF) backed programme and the taxes could be abolished only when the IMF programme had ended.
The Co-Chair of the Ghana Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (GHEITI) stated that the Vice-President touched on policy initiatives that could help salvage the country from its current difficulties.
“Dr Bawumia spoke about all the nicest things Ghanaians want to hear which I believe can help take the country out of its present challenges or difficulties.
“However, I think the 2024 general election would be determined by who can be trusted and so it is not a mere rhetoric of policies to be implemented,” he said.
Dr Manteaw said it was disappointing not hearing anything on measures being instituted to prosecute current and past government officials that had engaged themselves in corrupt activities.
He explained that if Dr Bawumia was committed to the fight against corruption, it should be possible for his administration to design mechanisms that could deal with people that had benefited from proceeds of corruption.
“Given that the Vice-President is part of the government, I have my doubts whether he will have the courage to pursue and return some of these stolen monies to the state.
“And so, if the government which he has been part of since 2017 has refused to take advice from these rich policies the Vice-President announced in the lecture, why must Ghanaians take him seriously,” Dr Manteaw asked.
The National Communications Officer of the NDC told the Daily Graphic that the 73-page speech was just a compilation of “his usual lies, ridiculous excuses for his destruction of the economy and deceptive promises calculated for votes and nothing more”.
Mr Gyamfi recalled that while in opposition, Dr Bawumia held several lectures at which he propounded many lofty textbook economic theories.
He added that the Vice-President created a impression that he had the answers to all the problems facing Ghanaians with those lectures.
“It was on the basis of these promises that many voted for the NPP thinking that their lives will be transformed.
However, today, all that had turned out to be false,” Mr Gyamfi said.
“Almost all the lofty promises Bawumia gave Ghanaians remain unfulfilled,” he stated.
Mr Gyamfi said attempts by the Vice-President to dissociate himself from the failings of the government were ridiculous.
He stated that Dr Bawumia had been the Chairman of the Economic Management Team since 2017 and could, therefore, not disassociate himself from the failure of the government to manage the economy.
“It is an incontrovertible fact that Dr Bawumia is responsible for the unprecedented economic mess Ghanaians are currently faced with,” Mr Gyamfi stated.
But Mr Twum stated that there was a whole concept of responsibility when it came to government and so the position of the Vice-President could happen because circumstances change.
In that sense, he said some of the remedies prescribed 30 years ago could not be the same today.
“In one breath, people are accusing Dr Bawumia of being an extension of an existing government and then he spelt out his vision and suddenly, he is being asked why he is expressing a different view.
That cannot be a principled position,” Mr Twum stressed.
He said Dr Bawumia had considered the achievements and what the government had done while admitting the challenges.
That, he said, required that the Vice-President relook at the issues and reposition them to ensure that whatever was done was with efficient application of resources.
Touching on his new policy to make national service voluntary, the former Deputy CEO of the GEPA said initially, everybody was expected to undergo national service after tertiary education.
He said by the law, people who had not undertaken the mandatory national service could not secure jobs.
“If you think about the times that we find ourselves in now, we have moved past that stage and so he is of the view that in terms of following best practices, we should have global giants or companies going to university campuses to recruit students.
“You cannot encumber them with national service, so making it voluntary would also ease some of the pressure on government to find that number of graduates,” Mr Twum explained.
He described Dr Bawumia’s proposal as being in the right direction because the current national service system was not a very perfect system after over 40 years of practice.
On the abolition of taxes and reduction of the number of ministers, Mr Twum said: “the Vice-President is preoccupied with efficiency and the synergy was what would create the impact and engender the development we want.”
He said most ministries were working in silos when in reality if they put their energies together, it would propel a proper outcome.
Mr Twum further gave examples such as merging the Transport, Aviation and Railway, as well as Science, Technology and Communication, saying it may not make sense about 40 years ago but in the advent of technology, it was the order to serve the people.
On the E-levy and emission taxes, he said, with the efficiency levels and the fiscal discipline that Dr Bawumia would engender it would not necessitate looking for revenue in those spaces.