Thursday, 22 August 2013

Preparations Before And After Supreme Court Verdict

Preparations being made by the Security Agencies to enforce peace in the country before and after the supreme court verdict on the December 2012 election petition are in order. Last week, the National Security Coordinator, Lt. Colonel Larry Gbevlo Lartey, met the hierarchy of the two leading political parties embroiled in the Supreme Court challenge. The meeting focused on how to curb troubles at potential flash points and the parties’ collaboration with the security agencies in envisaged challenges. The IGP, Mohammed Ahmed Alhassan has over the past three weeks been touring the regions to assess their preparedness for any eventuality after the verdict. Not only that, the Ghana Armed Forces and other Security Services recently went on route marches in Accra and the Regions as part of their routine training to enhance operational readiness, foster inter-service cooperation and espirit-de-corps as well as maintaining physical fitness. The Police hierarchy recently met with the youth wings of the New Patriotic Party, NPP, and National Democratic Congress, NDC, during which it announced that it has designated a hundred metres radius around the supreme court as a ‘no-go-area’ on the day the court will give verdict in the election petition. These are quite laudable, given utterances by some party activists and events in some communities which are not quite desirable.

Simply put, the political temperature in the country is not the best. People are seeing the supreme court verdict as a make or break affair which should not be the case. A lot have been said on the need for Ghanaians to give peace a chance and we need not harp on this further but given recent developments in other African countries such as Egypt, Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire, we need to put our acts together else, we are overtaken by events. It is said if you see your neighbour's beard on fire, you water your own. It is good the two major players in the political drama have pledged their commitment to peace but we need not be complacent, after all, a similar commitment was given in Kumasi by some political leaders prior to the December elections but what did we see. We have a lot to do to prepare the minds of the people to accept the verdict of the supreme court in good faith no matter which direction it goes. Peace is the life blood of any democracy. Others have toyed with theirs and have gone down the abyss. Cote d'Ivore used to be a very peaceful and progressive country yet it went down in fire due to an electoral conflict. We are definitely not better than countries which have gone down in flames over an electoral dispute. We agree, the stakes are high in the supreme court petition but that needs not throw the country into turmoil. Ghana's democracy is touted to be one of the best in Africa. We therefore cannot afford to disappoint our admirers.

The Security Agencies must be reminded of the duty to protect the integrity of the state and the peace and stability the country is currently enjoying. Without peace no development can take place and we only risk self-destruction in the event of any social upheaval. The security personnel must know that their loyalty is first to the state and not political parties. They must therefore be seen to be fair and they must enforce the peace without fear or favour. Ghana is sandwiched between French speaking countries and in case of any disturbances, we have nowhere to go. We cannot be refugees in these countries, so as one of the Supreme Court Judges lamented, let those with their passport already stamped with visas spare us the ordeal. As Ghanaians, we are one people with a common destiny. We cannot compromise on that.


Friday, 16 August 2013

Supreme Court Judgment and Lessons After

August 29 is Ghana's Political Judgement Day. And as uncertainty swirls around who eventually carries the day, it is certain that the effects of the sentence imposed on the two NPP strongmen will ripple far and wide in the country's political square. The party's General Secretary, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, popularly called Sir John was yesterday convicted by the Supreme Court of criminal contempt and fined five thousand Ghana cedis. He was also bonded to be of good behaviour for six months and to retract and apologise for his contemptuous words on Oman FM. Hopeson Adorye, a member of NPP's Communications Team was also convicted of criminal contempt for a similar offence and fined two thousand Ghana cedis and bonded to be of good behaviour for three months or in default face three months imprisonment. 

The spectacle in the Supreme Court was as serious as dramatic. The Supreme Court President, Justice William Atuguba unleashed the full force of his legal Sledge-hammer  to flatten the culprits and wondered why the state should become anaemic to people like them. True, it was Sir John and Adorye who tasted the bitterest fury of the Presiding Judge. In reality however, politicians of all partisan stripes, supporters of all personality traits and elements of all ignoble proportions elsewhere met their match over their blood curdling rhetoric and dish watery utterances which cause shackles to rise and tensions to grow beyond tolerable level. 

In all electoral battles, the tongue can go ballistic once in a while. But in our context nothing can rationalize the indecency with which political rivals swap insults and the frequency with which they talk slovenly in public. Indeed, Justice Atuguba spoke for all peace-loving and well meaning Ghanaians when he attacked the goofy side of a few illegal political miners who hold 24 million others hostage by their styles of politicking which endanger national stability and imperil national security. 

By so doing, he won the overwhelming approval of the punitive response, of the Supreme Court to deal surgically and ruthlessly with all such offenders before they plunge the nation unto destruction. Strangely, the political hierarchy of these offenders sometimes react at best with furrowed brows. Other times, they defend the indefensible, all in the name of party solidarity, this practice must end. Leaders of offending political parties must weigh the possible backlash within their ranks against  the overall implications of their misdeeds on the entire and act with swiftness and firmness to discipline their own. 

The two culprits before the Supreme Court had never lacked the verbal arsenals to face their opponents any time, anywhere. But for the first time in their career, they lost the temperamental where withal to hit back. In the admission of Sir John, he was humbled by the baptism of fire yesterday. Immediately after the hellish but humbling experience, Sir John spoke to party supporters in a manner which reflected a man drained of every pint of contemptuous blood in him and emptied of every acidic words in his mouth.  

A  political born-again indeed. Politicians of all sides of the political spectrum and people of all social strata must eat a similar humble pie and demonstrate their new birth in politics. Never again should our political discourse be characterised by curses and noises but arguments and sentiments within the bounds of reasonableness to win the hearts and souls of the discerning public. Sections of the media which amplify and multiply unguarded statements by certain politicians must also purge themselves of all acts of professional irresponsibility and ethical misconduct. 

Rather, they must scale up their role in peace building and political tolerance. As the Supreme Court prepares to pronounce its supreme verdict on August 29, we all have a responsibility imposed by destiny to help matriculate Ghana into a new nation built on the supremacy of the law, respect for divergent views and adherence to the values of democracy.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Sustainability Of The Single Spine Pay Policy

Perhaps the greatest news that emerged from the National  Forum on the sustainability of the Single Spine Pay Policy in Ho was the fact that government had no intention to scrap the policy which to all intent and purposes had brought some sanity in the administration of public sector pay.  President Mahama who gave the keynote address at the opening of the two day forum made it emphatic that government intends to go along with the policy and therefore charged the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission and the Management Development and Productivity Institute to collaborate with stakeholders to undertake a market survey for effective implementation of the nagging issue of market premium.  

The Single Spine Pay Policy was initiated by the erstwhile Kufuor Administration  to help minimise disparities and distortions that might have hitherto bedeviled the Public Service Salary administration system.  In effect the policy was meant to attract, retain and motivate public sector workers to enhance effectiveness in service delivery for improved productivity.  In recent times however, implementation of the policy has encountered some challenges including labour unrests.  

Salaries and wages have sky-rocketed thereby spiralling the National Wage Bill.  In the 2013 Budget it was projected that the country's GDP base will expand and therefore the Public Sector Wage Bill as a component of GDP will decline serving as a balancing act.  While that argument remains true, all things being equal, the first quarter of  2013 was hit by severe energy crisis which have adversely impacted on GDP growth.  

Recently the IMF cautioned that Ghana's growing wage bill if untamed will increase the country's debt to levels that pose a risk to its transformation agenda.  According to the IMF, Ghana's wage bill rose by 47 percent last year following the implementation of the Single Spine which have seen some salaries being doubled.  It is good government has introduced some new taxes and expanded the tax net to raise more revenue to pay recurrent expenditure and for development.  Also subsidies on petroleum products are being removed whilst adjustments are being made in the tariffs of basic utilities to help shore up government finances.  The TUC in its contribution at the National Forum in Ho urged government to take steps to reduce what it described as inefficiencies, wastage and corruption in the public sector payment regime.  According to the Secretary General, the phenomenon of ghost names continues to plague the payroll system despite attempts to bio-metrically verify and capture workers and pensioners.  

The Fair Wages and Salaries Commission must do well to iron out all disagreements between it and identifiable Labour Unions and Association.  There is the need for circumspection in order not to de-motivate public sector workers.  All pay scales must be integrated to ensure uniformity and fairness.    The 18 point communique that was issued after the forum is quite reassuring and must be seriously considered if the Single Spine Pay Policy is to be sustained.  Pay must be linked to work and productivity must be the basis for compensation.  Workers owe it a responsibility to justify the huge salaries that they are earning under the Single Spine.  

As suggested, Article 71 office holders whose remuneration people are pointing fingers at must be quickly rolled on to the Single Spine to ensure equity.  It is worth noting the recommendation that the social partners adhere to the guidelines for the determination  of market premiums under the policy and that a labour sector survey start with the health and education sectors and this must be completed by the end of 2013.  Salaries from these sectors are truly impacting and must be carefully looked at.  Another suggestion tabled at the forum which can be considered is the need to wean State institutions with the capacity to be self-financing off government subvention.  

Some State institutions which have the capacity must be company structured and made profit-oriented.  Indeed the Ho Forum on Single Spine sustainability is well intentioned and similar forums must be organised to cover other areas of national interest.  Ideas and resolutions passed at the forum should be implemented with despatch and must not be allowed to suffer the fate of similar laudable national fora.  As  is said we cannot cut our nose to spite our face.


Developments In Ghana’s Fishing Industry

Fish provides a good source of high quality protein and contains many vitamins and minerals which are good for growth. Research over the past few decades has shown that the nutrients and minerals in some fish, particularly the Omega 3 fatty acids, are heart-friendly and can ensure improvement in brain development and reproduction. It is against this background that one finds recent developments in the fish industry extremely worrying, In today's edition of the Ghanaian Times newspaper, Ghanaians are being cautioned against the fish they consume because according to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Nayon Billijo, with the exception of fish from the coast of James Town in Accra, all others are contaminated with chemicals and as such not good for consumption. According to the story, a recent test by the Ghana Standards Authority on samples of fish along the fishing communities from Half Assini to Aflao found the fish except those from James Town to contain harmful chemicals which the fishermen use. Recently, a Deputy Minister in the same Ministry, Aquinas Tawiah Quansah accused some fishermen at Axim in the Nzema East Municipality of using formalin, a chemical used in embalming corpse to preserve fish - an allegation the fishermen denied. Formalin is a poisonous chemical which according to experts when consumed could cause damage to the cornea in the eyes. Last week the price of pre-mix fuel which fishermen use in fuelling their out-board motors for fishing was increased thereby impacting on the price of fish on the market. Much as we agree Ministers of State and other government appointees have the onerous responsibility to protect consumers from patronising unwholesome products, they must be circumspect in their utterances otherwise they scare people away from patronising fish or fish products entirely. That is to say they must not press the panic button so easily. On the other hand, fishermen or fish mongers who are found to have used dangerous chemicals to catch or preserve fish must be prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others.

We agree times are hard, but that however does not mean people must use the short cut to acquire wealth at the expense of people`s lives. The fishing industry indisputably is a source of employment for a large number of people thereby giving them their livelihood and that of their dependents. Any attempt to scare people away from patronising the commodity therefore must not be countenanced. Government must put mechanisms in place to verify the allegations and arrest fishermen engaged in such nefarious activities, otherwise fish coming from Ghanaian waters will be rejected by the International Community. Such information must be carefully managed otherwise they will be distorted. It is good government is procuring special metres for testing chemicals in fish for the Fisheries Enforcement Unit. Plastics have proven to be dangerous to the environment. The water sachet we litter about irresponsibly end up in the seas, rivers and lakes and when the fish consume them, they are eventually choked. The NCCE and Information Services Department must do well to intensify campaign against reckless behaviour by some of our fishermen. They must be educated on the harm the use of such dangerous chemicals pose. Life is precious and people in their inordinate quest to maximize profit must not risk other people`s life. The Food and Drugs Authority must conduct regular checks at our beaches, markets and cold stores to clamp down on people who use dangerous chemicals to ply their trade. To many people fish is more affordable as compared to meat as a source of protein. We must do all we can to preserve the integrity of our fish. We definitely have no option.