Friday, 25 July 2014

Nationwide Demonstration By Organised Labour

Ghana's democracy and indeed government's tolerance passed the test when thousands of workers poured out onto the streets across the country to protest the dwindling economic fortunes of the country without any mishap. The demonstration which took place simultaneously throughout the country was to draw government's attention to the ever - spiralling inflation causing the cedi to fluctuate making the cost of doing business in Ghana extremely high. Indeed every Ghanaian heaved a sigh of relief when the demonstration passed off peacefully given past experiences like the Kume Preko demonstration which claimed some lives.  

Government itself acknowledges the challenges facing the economy so much so that, the Finance Minister had to go before Parliament with a mid- year review budget statement and economic policy,  and to request for more money.  There are a number of factors militating against Ghana's economic growth critical among which are the continuing shortfall in tax and non-tax revenue,  the depreciation of the  cedi, high public expenditure and other macro-economic variables.  Equally adversarial are declining gold and cocoa prices, power sector disruptions arising from the year-long shortage in gas supply from the West African Gas Pipeline and a lot more;  but suffice it to say pragmatic measures need to be taken to reduce  the impact of these challenges on industry and for that matter the livelihood of the people.  

Currently over 20 industries in Tema are threatening to shut down, which could throw a lot of people out of job.  All over the country, workers are being laid off and prices of foodstuffs and other commodities keep shooting up, beyond the pocket of the ordinary man. The Single Spine Pay Policy has been rendered useless with the adoption of the Automatic Adjustment formula for utility prices.   The paradox of the situation is that though utility prices get adjusted, workers salaries  are hardly reviewed.  The recent cost of living allowance given to workers to cushion them against the harsh living conditions have been consumed by taxes.  It is like government gives with one hand and takes it back through the other.  It is in this regard that we see the demonstration by organised labour as opportune.  It is said, if you desist from complaining about meat, you are given hard bones.  

The demonstration must be a wake-up call to government to work assiduously to ease the frustration of workers.  The numerous strikes and agitations are sending wrong signals to the investor community.  Nobody will be prepared to invest in an economy which is riddled by industrial disharmony.  It is unfortunate that the strike by organised labour had to coincide with the second anniversary of the death of Ghana's economic savvy President, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills who is generally acknowledged as a peace maker.  It is obvious the strike took a lot of shine from activities marking his remembrance.  

Whatever it is, time is not on the side of government.  With a year and half to general election, it would have no excuse if things continue the way they are.  Luckily,  the Senchi consensus document has been presented to leadership.  Recommendations made at the forum must be implemented to the letter to avert the looming economic crisis.  It is not a hopeless situation yet. Let us think outside the box to fix the ailing economy.  Collectively we must resolve to give up all negative altitudes that tend to draw the economy back.  We must work hard to increase productivity.  We need to end our craze  for imported items.  Let us grow what we eat and eat what we grow.  

Lateness to work must cease  forthwith.  Those of us who often  malinger  must rethink our actions.  We are part of the problem and must be part of the solution.  State monies that have found their way into individual pocket must be retrieved immediately.  We know government is doing all it can to halt the steep decline in the value of the cedi.  Indeed no father will live in a family whose demands he cannot meet.  The father is happy when the children and other family members are joyful.  

Government should  therefore continue dialoguing with organised labour to address their concerns. The strikes and agitations in the country are one too many and the earlier government keeps its fingers on the pulse of the nation, the better.


2nd Anniversary of Late President John Evans Atta Mills

This country was given the shock of its tortuous history in the death, the first, of a reigning president Prof John Atta Mills, two years to the day today; and for once in a long agonizng while, the jolt united a politically split down the middle country over par on football. It was just the man Atta Mills.

Thus the sobriety accompanying his remembrance as scheduled. The harmful threatening trip wire against that is the trade unions'walk off work which gives nothing back to the economy to justify pay rise at the end of the interruption.

The same though would also ask questions about the relevance of organised labour in any economy today for as long as strike-mania militancy stays central in their core value-themes, having ostracised in other continents.

Up to date not much thought appears to have gone into why Prof Atta Mills and the few of his likes were thrust into politics by successive military and civilian leaders of the country from the past.

A few can be recalled: Nana Sir Tsibu Darko IX, Nana Nketsia II, Sir Edward Asafo Adjaye, Kojo Mercer, Prof Evans Anfom, F. L. Batels, J.E. Attafuah, Roman Catholic Archbishop John Kojo Amissah despite being stumped by the Church and B.A, Bentum.

The sense has always been to infect politics from dirty-tricks to the gentle man's game "respecticks" that it is. In retrospect, the scheming has either not grafted well or impacted much on the fabric of the country and politics which remains and gets nastier in recent years.

In that respect to evaluate the late President Atta Mills, a close parallel may lie in William Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar after the funeral oration comes the question: "whence comes such another?".

The answer is: "never! never!" By inference what is the legacy of Prof Atta Mills? Many would say his striving for peace and unity of the country.

Both were unfinished when death struck in the manner it did and every tribute across the political divide, plus prelates and opinion leaders promised to continue or pursue them not perhaps for his sake merely but the country in real terms.

However, there is no denying the pledges seem to be a myth presently. Finding explanations is a waste
because the evidence is too plain.

Besides, there is a growing and independent disappointment today that the rather greater legacy of Prof Atta Mills which was that he brought into public life and country leadership a remarkable refreshing decorum, is frustrated and even ditched by reports of pervasive corruption. Marking Prof Mills' second respectful anniversary against that background injects or should inject two ideas: a determined perhaps last chance opportunity for self-national introspection on what has gone wrong and secondly a penitent's specific re-think by this nation's people collectively to relocate and define where it wants to go, each bearing in mind that it
is going to be harder than now rough journey.

The recipe is each supporting the other in partnership to find Ghana because everyone is to blame without detailing or apportioning that culpability once that as not being recognised as significant but of better importance is the confession of being in error and moving forward carrying corrections along.

An intriguing or positive insight about the formula would be gained through whether some would boycott the celebration ceremonies on their own or on the usual political spurious excuse.

The familiar language for a reminder has always been either "we were not invited" or the "invitation came late and delivered to the wrong address".

Whatever happens, to remember him, Professor Atta Mills will at the worst remain respected for preaching peace and not the 'mind
your own business taunt'- "dzi wo fie asem" in other words- not a bad advice after all but poignantly the better for the country today.

By Prof Nana Essilfie-Conduah

Political Polarisation And Its Impact On Development

This year 2014, marks 21 years since constitutional rule was restored in Ghana.

During this period, the country has held six successful competitive multi-party elections. Although these elections have been adjudged to be generally peaceful and relatively credible, multi-party  politics in Ghana continues to be plagued by challenges such as incumbency abuse, bitter and highly acrimonious governance and policy making, among others.

The party in government and its counterparts in opposition are  constantly engaged in brinkmanship, which often compromise unity, peace and national development.

Countries in West Africa have, in  fact, undergone several political transitions; from multi-party  democracy, through one- party rule and military dictatorship, and then back to multi-party democracy. Ghana as a country has undoubtedly attracted the admiration of the global community as a result of the gains made in her constitutional democratic evolution since 1992.

This was further exemplified in the Supreme Court Election Petition, which was considered by many as not only a test case but an important leap in Ghana’s democratic dispensation.

However, given the recent  trend of political polarization and the winner takes all syndrome, the country has two dominant political parties with roughly equal popularity, which provides a potential recipe for disaster;
particularly when one of the two major political parties becomes intransigent and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opponent.

So when one party moves this far from the center of Ghanaian politics, it is difficult to enact policies responsive to the country’s most pressing challenges and this affects the development, and popular grass root participation in governance.

Government after government over the years have preached the need for an all-inclusiveness as a panacea and mechanism by which the political polarization could be ventilated, with none actually demonstrating the needed political will and commitment to this course after assumption
of power.

The situation is seemingly getting more compounded as the phenomenon of political polarization is gradually taking tribal and ethnic dimensions in Ghana’s body politics resulting in a systemic shift from issue- based politics to personality attacks and deliberate character assassination.

It is therefore not surprising to see the mounting tension, accusation and counter accusation during every parliamentary and presidential election in Ghana.

This is borne out of the winner- gains and the loser-loses attitude and mentality of the “modern” Ghanaian politician, which has resulted in the creation of artificial political seasons in Ghana, that run concurrently;-dry season for the opposition and wet season for the political party in power.

In this current state of affairs, decency, decorum and civility in politics have been thrown to the dogs, integrity is getting extinct and the truth is sacrificed on daily basis for selfish interest.

The fundamental question is: how long in the name of democracy, can we continue to gamble with and sacrifice Ghana;-her people, resources and fragile peace on the altar of parochialism?

How long can we continue to lose the competence, expertise and invaluable contributions of the opposition to national development through this cancer of exclusivity in governance?

Ghana is bigger than any  individual person, ethnic group or political party. What she needs to grow even more is an all-inclusive celebration of a WIN- WIN situation by all parties. Long live Ghana and long live democracy.

By James Ziekye Honorable Assembly Member of the Jirapa District Assembly in the Upper West Region

Ebola Disease In the West African Sub-Region

The World Health Organization (WHO) from July 2 to 3, 2014 convened an emergency meeting in Accra after it had declared the West Africa sub-region as Ebola endemic, following the death of over 518 people from 844 recorded cases since the epidemic began in February 2014 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

At the meeting, participants, who  included health ministers and health officials, reviewed the current epidemiological situation and considered that the scale of the current Ebola epidemic was unprecedented.

Following this crucial meeting of  health ministers and experts was the reported case of an American
citizen on July 06, 2014 with symptoms suggestive of Hemorrhage fever who was transferred to the Nyaho Medical Centre by the West African  Rescue Association (WARA) for clinical observation.

Indeed specimens were taken from the patient and sent to the Noguchi Memorial Institute
for Medical Research (NMIMR) and all the four laboratory tests proved negative.

Even though the patient died whilst at the Nyaho Medical  Centre, the cause of death was not Ebola fever but of Hemorrhage  fever, an illness caused by four families of viruses. These include  the Ebola and Marburg, Lassa fever, and Yellow fever viruses.  According to health professionals, the viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs)  have common features; they affect many organs, damage the blood  vessels and affect the body’s ability to regulate itself.

It is pertinent to note that specific diseases are usually limited to areas where animals that carry them live. For example, Lassa fever is said  to be limited to rural areas of West Africa where rats and mice carry the virus.

Ebola disease- also referred to as Ebola hemorrhage fever  or Ebola fever- is a rare and often fatal illness that humans and nonhuman primates such as fruit bats, monkeys and gorillas can contract of which fruit bats are considered to be the natural host of the virus.

It is important for Ghanaians and all others living in  Ghana to note that the disease Ebola, a hemorrhage fever, has no known cure or vaccine with fatality rates of up to 90 per cent, and it is spread through direct contact with body fluids such as blood, saliva,  faeces, urine, semen or vomit of an infected animal or human.
According to the WHO, the Ebola virus can also be spread through  handling a sick or dead human or animal that has been infected.

It is also important to note that the initial symptoms of Ebola disease looks like those of a common flu infection such as fever, headache, sore throat, joint and muscle pains and weaknesses. However, as the
disease progresses, the symptoms become more severe and pronounced.

It should also be stated that in the late-stage, symptoms of Ebola  virus may include vomiting, diarrhoea, redness of the eyes, swelling of the genitals, internal and external bleeding and a bleeding rash over the entire body.

Additionally, some patients may have blood coming from their eyes, nose, mouth, ears or rectum. The WHO, the Global Alert and Response Network, and its partners are providing  guidance and support and have so far deployed teams of 150 experts to West African countries and to the organization’s African Regional Office in Brazziville, Congo.

According to Dr. Badu Sakordie, Head of Disease Surveillance of the Ghana Health Service, all eight suspected cases of the Ebola virus disease in Ghana have proved negative, but are still being monitored, to ensure that nothing is left to chance.

The Ministry of Health has also activated the National Disease  Surveillance Team to contain any possible spread of the Ebola virus in the country.

Other collaborating organizations are the Department of Public Health, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ghana Immigration Service.

As all citizens are urged to remain calm, it is important for the media in Ghana and the West African sub-region to continue to provide public education to raise awareness on the risk factors of Ebola infection, and the protective measures individuals
can take to prevent and reduce human infection and death, since Ebola virus disease is said to have no cure.

Prevention, it is said, is better than cure.

By Dan Osman Mwin, Head of the Public Relations Unit of the Ministry of Health.