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Blunt Thoughts: Of unrestrained unemployment, a massive housing deficit and a debt stock crippling the nation: how we got here!

Dear friends and fellow citizens of our land, I wish our leaders weren’t so petty this often – but they are! Sometime in 2014, then-candidate Akufo-Addo posted this right here:…

Blunt Thoughts: Of unrestrained unemployment, a massive housing deficit and a debt stock crippling the nation: how we got here!

What you wish upon others, you see, will, someday, find you too! Let’s be wary of that!

Our Black Stars lost yesterday, contrary to our prayerful wishes. While there are many negatives we can glean from the game, there are positives too: We scored Africa’s first 2 goals at the tournament; we didn’t suffer a whitewashing – even while facing the world’s 9th-best team; we saved face for our continent! That said, we have a mountain of work to do to stay put in Qatar. I hope and pray we’re able to cross that bridge and make Ghana proud! We need such an upliftment of our spirits – especially in these scarily menacing times!

Now, while what happens to our Black Stars in faraway Qatar affects our national pride, the soft power we could wield by way of international reputation, and the recall we could trigger in the minds of people across the world in terms of whatever mark we may make in Qatar – whether for the good or for the bad, there are, however, even bigger matters of concern right here, at home – burning issues that impact every Ama, Kwadwo and Yaa. I’m talking of the basic bread-and-butter issues, including our debt pileup, the housing debacle our leaders have spawned – and the insipidness of the 2023 budget.

Ghanafu), Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, told us recently that our debt stock had risen to GHS 450 billion! of that amount, this NPP administration alone has borrowed a staggering GHS 330-plus billion all by itself – eclipsing all the borrowing by all previous governments put together.

In defence of such borrowing, Ken Ofori-Atta told us we had to look at what the money had been used for – rather than how much had been borrowed. One oft-touted example is the One District, One Factory policy.

Quite recently, Nana Akomea, an NPP stalwart, looked us all in the face and told us that 1D1F had been a raving success – even while it has not taken a shred off our import burden – a fact horribly exposed by our recent currency shortfalls – and the President’s calls for import substitution. Sad to say, though, many of Nana Akomea’s assertions did not check out.

In Walewale, he claimed there was a watermelon processing factory producing watermelon juice and employing some 300 people. When media teams went there, the fittings on the building, whose ceiling had not even been installed, were not done – and there was not even a ghost there to scare anybody away! He again claimed that in Savelugu, there was a rice factory in place employing some 118 people.

Once more, media people went there to investigate the matter. We found an abandoned, uncompleted building and no more. No rice! No workers! Just rodents and lizards. I do not know whether these animals are the ones that will produce the rice. Maybe Nana Akomea can explain to us all better! Why do we do this to ourselves?

In Ghana today, over 1.2 million children are not in school! And in spite of all this, Ken Ofori-Atta, the Finance Minister, still holding on to an untenable position, has the gall – the temerity – to tell us building a national cathedral on which we have so far expended over GHS 339 Million – with practically nothing to show – is a necessity and that it is for the nation? Which nation, I ask? The masses who have rejected that farce of a cathedral? Please, Mr. Finance Minister! Find something better to say!

In the midst of all this unmitigated chaos, the 2023 budget, to make matters worse, has brought the ordinary Ghanaian and the business community absolutely no relief! If anything, it has only exacerbated our plight! Our governments, time and again, have burnt the poor, making them suffer the consequences of their ineptitude and mismanagement! Look at the E-levy situation, for example.

You lower the rate by only 0.5% – and then withdraw the GHS 100 threshold altogether; then you slap on a 2.5 percentage point increment on VAT which is unavoidable! How cruel can we be to the have-nots? How insensitive can we possibly be? Are we content with robbing Peter to pay Paul? Are we? And don’t we all suffer the consequences in the end?

But it doesn’t end there! It gets even worse! After the presentation of the budget statement yesterday and interacting with Deputy Finance Minister, John Kumah, he explained that government was set to suspend interest payments for domestic bondholders and impose a 30% haircut on foreign bonds.

Now, under this debt restructuring arrangement, as we know it, domestic bondholders will receive no interest for 2023. In 2024, they will receive only 5% interest and a further 10% interest in 2025. Domestic bondholders, per what he divulged to us, can only expect to start receiving their full interest in 2026! That’s a good 4 years from now. They will be paying for some incompetent people’s sins for 4 unbearable years!

Why is this such a gargantuan problem? It is egregiously insensitive to many vulnerable people trying to keep body and soul together – crucial among them, pensioners, for whom these coupon payments constitute their main source of regular income.

Take that away and you’re basically telling them to go hungry! And this is what we’re constantly told is a caring government? Interestingly, all this comes at a time when, in the United Kingdom, regardless of their own economic turbulence, the Bank of England took action, just a few weeks ago, to protect and preserve pensioners’ incomes. Here, our government is doing the exact opposite!

That’s not all! Just contemplate that if you’re earning a GHS 1,000 – whether as a worker or a pensioner, with 40.4% inflation, it basically means GHS 404 has been shaved off! This, alternatively, implies that while you earn GHS 1,000, your money is only actually worth GHS 596 in real purchasing power terms.

Today, as Ghana Statistical Service data reveals, 1.1 million males aged 15 years and above lost their employed status between the first and second quarters of 2022. In the Upper East Region alone, seven out of every ten (69.0%) males employed in the first quarter were no longer employed in the second quarter.

That is the highest rate in the country distantly followed by the North East Region with 43.9% or 4.4, or, to strike an average, 4 out of 10 – do not have work! National Security Minister, Albert Kan Dapaah himself, at a recent Information Ministry Interaction, confirmed that some 2 million Ghanaian youth are unemployed. 2 million! And that is even what our data captures. How about those we don’t know of – those who add to that teeming, unwholesome inactive bulge every day?

That same Ghana Statistical Service data also reveals the mean hourly earnings for males in the second quarter were GH¢9.9, falling slightly from GH¢11.0 in the first quarter. We’ve raised the minimum wage marginally, compared to inflation – yet people are earning far lower than the GHS 13.53 – even per the 2022 minimum wage!

That tells you the times are desperately hard – and that rather than go hungry, people would scrape and eke out a living, seeing that something, at least, is better than nothing! But we could have avoided being here. Ofori-Atta tells us, Ghanaians, that after they started the “)pipipiipii” challenge of always castigating borrowing, borrowing is, in fact, a good thing – depending on what you use the money for. Fair point.

But that brings me to my point, precisely: what, essentially, has this government used the GHS 330 Billion that Ken Ofori-Atta himself confirms has been borrowed so far for? Have we been finessed as a nation by crooked politicians we voted into power to steer our nation into prosperity? Is this what we get? Have we been hoodwinked?

Blunt Thoughts: Of unrestrained unemployment, a massive housing deficit and a debt stock crippling the nation: how we got here!
Blunt Thoughts: Of unrestrained unemployment, a massive housing deficit and a debt stock crippling the nation: how we got here!
Blunt Thoughts: Of unrestrained unemployment, a massive housing deficit and a debt stock crippling the nation: how we got here!
Blunt Thoughts: Of unrestrained unemployment, a massive housing deficit and a debt stock crippling the nation: how we got here!

The original cost of the bread here is GHS 14.21; adding tax components will work out to GHS 2.74, which will raise the payable amount to GHS 16.95. If you decide to purchase 5 loaves for your household, it means you will be paying GHS13.70 as taxes on that alone! Consumers, ordinarily, do not pay much attention to such invisible tax handles on the products we buy, but the hard truth is that we are paying far too much for basic necessities without realising it – even in the midst of an economic crisis.

Blunt Thoughts: Of unrestrained unemployment, a massive housing deficit and a debt stock crippling the nation: how we got here!
Blunt Thoughts: Of unrestrained unemployment, a massive housing deficit and a debt stock crippling the nation: how we got here!
Blunt Thoughts: Of unrestrained unemployment, a massive housing deficit and a debt stock crippling the nation: how we got here!
Blunt Thoughts: Of unrestrained unemployment, a massive housing deficit and a debt stock crippling the nation: how we got here!
Blunt Thoughts: Of unrestrained unemployment, a massive housing deficit and a debt stock crippling the nation: how we got here!

There is a saying that the one who beats a path does not know the portion behind him is crooked; it is onlookers who will tell him.

Mr. President, the national path you are beating has gone horribly askew! These are terrible times for your people! Unfortunately, you and your team, instead of giving us some succour – some respite – keep heaping heavy burdens on us.

The latest budget is testament to that. What else can I say? Since you and your team have stubbornly chosen the path of ignominy, I can only wish you the best and hope that something turns out well for us all. I am telling you, Mr. President, that you and your team are losing your grip (if you’ve not already lost it, that is) on the people. If this penury and misery continue, you will have no one to blame but yourselves – if any worse ills befalls us.

My name remains Benjamin Akakpo. I say all these because I am extremely passionate about Ama Ghana and what her future, intricately tied to ours, holds. These are my Blunt Thoughts for you served raw, hot, unedited and undiluted.

God richly bless our Motherland and make her great and strong!

Source: Ghana News

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