Monday, 04 July

E-levy: An albatross around Akufo-Addo's neck; do we need it to survive economically?

Feature Article
Professor Anthony Mawuli Sallar

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity”. William Butler Yeats (1865 -1939)

The first four lines of the poem is what meet the reader when he/she opens Chinua Achebe’s

“Things Fall Apart is”, one of the greatest novels ever written on the continent, if not in the English-speaking world.

It is that which exposed thousands if not millions of African literature readers who may otherwise may not have heard of WB Yeats, a literature noble prize-winning Irish poet in 1923 “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”.

So it is to Ghana 99 years later !!!!! Two years after the NPP-led government of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was installed in 2017 the government took actions that started driving this country down the path WB Yeats described in his “Second Coming”.

This article is not devoted to actions that were militating against our democracy but restricted to the ignominious E-levy that the government is trying to push down our throats.

These are making ‘things fall apart’, with the centre unable to hold, and the ceremony of innocence is drowned while the worst are full of passionate intensity in my country Ghana.

In this piece, I make recommendations that the Nana Akufo-Addo government can take and get back to running the affairs of state without the passage of the E-levy after discussions of the missteps of the government.

I do not want to list the litany of woes and economic deprivation meeting the Ghanaian who until this “Second Coming” in 2021 used to at least eke subsistence living.

Now they cannot get the proverbial ‘two square’ meals a day.

Unemployment is rife especially in the teeming youth population whether college-educated or not. Uncertainty is fully in the air, fuel cost is not only unbearable but has shot through the roof, and nothing seems to work.

Even the vaunted free SHS is just a mirage that undeniably has more negatives than positives. In fact, there has never been a time like this in Ghana!!!!

Ordinarily, citizens pay taxes when they see what governments use their taxes for. In a country like USA citizens who own houses pay property taxes.

They can see prompt snow removal from the streets, police security, roads construction and prompt repairs on their neighborhood roads, fire departments responding to fire even in the event of motor vehicle accidents.

In most western democracies there are checks and balances and the President of the Republic is hardly the richest person in the country.

A few months into the election of December 2016, the then-candidate Nana Akufo-Addo sold Ghanaians on platitudes as if within 2 years of his coming into office it was going to be so rosy like a road to paradise and the streets of Ghana would have been paved with diamond and “all work and happiness” would permeate the motherland.

In that campaign President John Mahama was vilified and called unprintable names and the NPP Choir Master, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, leading the group, introduced into the Ghanaian lexicon words and phrases like “incompetent”, or “if the fundamentals are weak the exchange rate will expose you” (2016).

But voila, in 2016 the exchange rate was GHS 4.20 = $1 and as of today $1 = 7.3 GHS.

It is safe to say that under the Bawumia-led economic team, the fundamentals have fallen and the economy has collapsed even though we have mortgaged our country by borrowing $27 billion US.

As a believer in “evidence-based decision making” let me subject some other utterances by the then candidates in 2016 to what is currently happening in Ghana.

i. “Bawumia asks Amissah-Arthur for answers to 170 statements” (22nd September 2016)

ii. Candidate Akufo-Addo in a video at a rally said Dr. Bawumia helped President Kufour to develop a strong cedi against the dollar and hence brought him on as his running mate.

Can he still say so five years after ruling Ghana?

iii. “Mahama is “useless” and incompetent” (Samira Bawumia). Spouses should restrict themselves to policy issues on the campaign trail and not engage in polemics and insults else they become fair games to the communicators of the opposing party.

iv. Candidate Nana Akufo-Addo tweeted “The current depreciation of the Ghana Cedis against the US Dollar is because of BAD leadership.

We should not be where we are today to buy dollar for 3.72.

Vote For Change “ (8:51 pm 04 May 2016).

In 5 years it is 7.3 GHS.

May I ask what leadership is this, “BAD” or “INCOMPETENT”? v. In addressing chiefs in the Upper East Region in 2020 Vice President Dr, Bawumia bragged that in only 4 years the NPP government had increased the economic fortunes and management of the country.

He cited the arrest of dumsor, restoring teachers, Arabic instructors and nursing training allowances, restored payments for health insurance, hired 100,000 NABCO graduates and in the free SHS system free uniforms, free food, and free textbooks The last

(v) was only said less than 2 years ago so I begin to wonder if the center can hold with these after only 2 years?

Either Dr. Bawumia likes to ‘cook the books’ or does not know the ‘fake from the real’.

In less than 2 years, here is the evidence Vice President Dr. Bawumia is ignoring

i. NABCO ‘recruits’ have not been paid for 4 months and even went on demonstration.

ii. Youth in afforestation program not paid in 4 months

iii. Contractors not paid 8 billion GHC?

iv. School feeding caterers not paid for the 3rd term

v. NHIA is 10 months in arrears

vi. With free SHS, CHASS has been complaining about delays in food supply to feed students

vii. “School feeding programme is suspended indefinitely” (Hon Cecilia Dapaah, Adom News 2/3/2022) So Dr. Bawumia where is the beef?

I can’t see it !!!!

Dr Bawumia where do you stand on E-levy after saying ‘MoMo tax will discourage digitization, affect the poor” (Bawumia 8/26/2020).

Please lead your economic team and speak against the E-Levy else people begin to see you as a flip-flopper. E-LEVY Sadly, this government has all the characteristics of ‘patapa’ governance.

How can you rule people whose resources you are using to lead your never thought luxurious life without any modicum of respect?

You take our income taxes, tax us when we buy fuel, stay in a hotel, import from overseas, buy food from restaurants, buy alcoholic beverages including water but have zero regard towards our sensibilities.

You have removed the building blocks of democracy through your acts and omissions.

You have made people wonder why Auditor General Dormelevo was removed.

The Finance Minister without any modicum of ethics makes his private company- Data Bank rakes in millions of dollars from loans that are contracted.

It is said, “what goes around comes around”.

Well, this time around Ghanaians say they won’t pay and listen to them and stop the “patapa”.

We watch with trepidation the disturbing practice of this government with its penchant and propensity to either push its policy agenda using the tyranny of the majority (2017 to 2020) or other non-compromising through threat and intimidations.

All of a sudden, the E-levy has become a call girl who has the magic wand to satisfy all social proclivities and fantasies of men.

Here is a sample of some of the unfortunate comments made by NPP political leadership and party apparatchiks should E-LEVY not pass Ghana’s parliament which bothers on the preposterous to the ridiculous. Can’t these politicians give Ghanaians some intelligence?

1.Without the obnoxious e-levy there will be no free SHS, no subsidy on fertilizers, no water, no electricity and no pension payments

2. “Ghana is literally broke that’s why we need the e-levy” (Ken Ofori Atta)

3. E-Levy: “You want roads and infrastructure but where is the money coming from“ (Kennedy Agyapong)

4 “Accept e-levy for pay raise “ (Ken Ofori-.Atta)

5. “We need e-levy to invest in security due to the turmoil in Africa” (Ambrose Dery)

6. Pass E-levy and Ghanaians will be evacuated from Ukraine (Afenyo Markin)

7. Salaries cannot be paid

8. There will be no school feeding programs etc, If this is not political chicanery or blackmail what is it then? Then add that gross show of insensitivity when E-levy cake was ordered by NPP and celebrated when the Ghanaian is already worried about the economic downturns of the NPP.

Some years ago, there was a Value Added Tax that led to the Kume Preko demonstration.

This massive demo was led by the current President when he was an opposition leader.

The NDC government to its credit withdrew the bill and reintroduced it after stakeholder consultations.

Can’t the NPP learn from this?

The other day the President said “I’m extremely upset and anxious about cedi depreciation” Seriously, Mr. President the fundamentals are weak and the exchange rate is exposing you big time.

I need not tell you that?

On March 1, 2022 the honorable MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa (NDC-North Tongu) posited that your government charted Gulfstream G-550 registered HB-Joe to bring to Ghana honorable Adwoa Safo last time around to vote for E-Levy.

The cost was estimated at $140,000 US (about 948,500 GHS).

“The West should bow its head in shame,” said Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta.

When you cannot account for $430 million dollars COVID19 fund and you said this to your benefactors?

The days of free money left, right, and center are gone.

Just in case you forget there is something we were taught in Secondary Form 3 Economics called “Production Possibility Frontier” aka “Guns versus butter”.

Assuming I have 120,000 GHS I can use it to buy one car or a car costing 50,000 GHS and use the rest for food, clothing, jewelry, pay school fees etc.

How do you as Finance Minister expect to engage in wanton dissipation of resources, over-bloated bureaucracy loaded with party members, luxury plane rental, and still expect to have spare money?

You never or your team never studied Economics?

I recall your Euro bond sale and kenkey party you held later which many educated people consider pedestrian and amateurish for a new administration.

The Option to Go to the IMF If there has been a propitious moment to go to IMF, it is now.

Yesterday (February 28, 2022) according to Joy News, Bloomberg has classified our Cedi “as the worst spot returns of African currencies” and added that just from January 1 to February 25th this year the cedi depreciated against the dollar by 8.86%.

Why is the government avoiding a trip to IMF? After all, when JM went to IMF, Nana and his cousins mocked him and said their incompetence in managing the Ghana economy drove them to the loving arms of IMF. Today Ken Ofori Atta has dissipated all the cash and Ghana is broke.

I think financial gurus like Kwame Pianim and Dr. Osei-Assibey have asked them to also go to the IMF.

In any case, when the NPP took power in January 2017, contrary to the loud claims of shunning the IMF, they hypocritically extended the exiting date from the IMF.

The NPP reaped the windfall from the IMF extended credit facility which John Mahama and the NDC had opted for out of prudence and realism.

The NPP took advantage of the gestation of the IMF policy benefits and quickly latched onto the free access money which JM had accumulated as a result of the prudent economic policies under the IMF.

Why are they reluctant and unwilling to eat humble pie as suggested by some senior economists to go to IMF because JM would have been vindicated.

Or is it because they are scared of the effects of the expected IMF conditionalities which will restrict and hold back their hands on the national kitty?

In their desperation therefore they have to resort to any means to tax Ghanaians leading to the E- levy thing on MoMo and other E- banking operations without adequate consultation.

What can be done to survive without the E-Levy 1) Reduce the current number of Ministers, their deputies, and regional Ministers from 85 to 50 by March 31, 2022 2) Publish in the general space how much it costs the country per Minister and the total amount saved from the cut 3)

Reduce the political presidential staff from 2,000 to 800 by March 31, 2022 and how much will be saved 4) Immediately cease some of the ostentatious and profligate spendings by the President of the nation.

There should not be any rental of the jet and the President should use the current jet bought by former President Kufuor.

There is no need to sleep in $8,000 room a night during your trips abroad 5)

There must be a bipartisan group of 4 NPP, 4 NDC politicians and 2 senior advisors such as Mr. Kwame Pianim, Dr. Paul Acquah, Dr. Kwabena Duffour and Prof Kwesi Botchway who would advise and monitor how future loans are contracted 6)

The Finance Minster Mr. Ken Ofori Atta should not allow his company Data Bank to be Financial Advisers for any loan contracted 7)

Guarantee that the Agyapa Royalty and its Special Purpose Vehicles belong to the dustbin of history in Ghana’s financial sector never to resurrect again 8)

The government should provide in public a three-year recovery plan of the GHC12 billion misappropriated/lost to corruption and corruption-related acts as contained in the Auditor General’s report 9)

Reduction in the presidential convoy to a maximum of 10 with essentials only (security, medical team and two more) and not the obscene 50 to 80 V8s 10)

The government should tell Ghanaians as to who owns the Frontiers Health company that has been conducting COVID-19 tests at the airport.

How much has the company made so far? I am overly optimistic that with the show of good faith and action Ghanaians through their representatives especially the NDC supporters and independents may be willing to help the government find ways of funding without necessarily resorting to E-Levy.

After all President Nana Addo urged us all to be ‘citizens and not spectators. However, the present dispensation of profligate spending, depositing money in NPP accounts (120K of unknown currency), presidential waste and other wanton dissipation of national resources, Ghanaians will not support E-levy even if the rate is 0.001%.

It is not whether it is infinitesimal, but the principle is wrong.

You cannot

continue shooting yourself in debt and be gambling with the nation’s resources recklessly by mortgaging our children’s future and ask us to keep on paying more.

Thank you.

About the writer The writer Professor Anthony Mawuli Sallar had his PhD in Epidemiology from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. He has interests in public health, ethics, governance, and political economy.

He can be reached via email on [email protected]

Source: Anthony Mawuli Sallar