I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature; and that power, whether vested in many or a few, is ever grasping, and, like the grave, cries “Give, give!” – Abigail Smith Adams
I thought that over 85% of Ghana’s working population is found in the informal economy. Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, however, asserts it is actually more – up to 90%. That correction from the Finance Minister buttresses my point for this piece.
That fact, I therefore believe, ought to provide some basis for those tasked with putting in place important structures on the ground that have to do with collection and application of national data to achieve set national goals, including planning and development. And, very relevant in that regard are the Electoral Commission and the National Identification Authority (NIA).
First, I cannot understand on the basis of that same informality how the NIA, for instance, can run its programmes like we citizens live in Pennsylvania State or West London; or Malaysia and Japan, where such societies are already highly digitized.
As these public officials and appointees themselves would admit, this is Ghana, where we have Chorkor, situated in the very capital, Accra, with a population of more than 150,000; and Teshie, as equally populated as Ashaiman and Tema New Town.
Accra additionally husbands communities like Nima, Mamobi, Accra New Town and Nii Lante Vanderpuye’s Bukom – all, again, with swarming informality.
Economic players you and I can find here are commercial bus and taxi drivers, private lotto agents, masons, hwe so ma me boys and girls, carpenters, steel benders, shoe shine boys, prostitutes etc.
Then, we have the boys and the girls from the north and northern Volta in porter and scavenger jobs; hawkers, foodstuff sellers at the various markets and in the neighbourhoods. Additionaly, we have the plantain, yam, tomato, pepper etc sellers as well the Abbosey vocal Okai and Katamanto boys and girls.
Finally, we have the Tema Station Oburoni Wawo Association at Makola and scrap dealers association at Agbogbloshie – all hugely populous actors. All this heterogeneous mix is apart from the indigenous caterers you find on markets and in the neighbourhoods frying yam and tsofi or selling waakye and jollof rice; kokonte and banku. And, nearly all of these are Ghanaians who wake up very early in the morning and arrive home late, just to keep body and soul together.
The rest may be those who leave home to Derma, Navrongo, Akumadan, Ejura, Kpandu/Yeji/Afram Plains, Bimbilla or even Burkina Faso for days, just to bring smoked fish from the Volta or yam from Salaga and Kpasa to distribute to retailers. A couple of days later, you find them returning to farm gates pronto, taking their showers at odd times and behind cargo trucks, sometimes, with voyeur driver’s mates taking sumptuous peeks at her…
So, when our very accomplished Finance Minister cites the informal economy, that’s the picture I expect our state institutions in charge of data collection like the EC to appreciate, so that, in constructing a programme, they go beyond the books and think outside the box in truly achieving goals. And this means we have about 90% of these people to capture. Simple, Naa Adukwei and Nana Attafuah!
That is why we cannot understand why the two institutions which are eager for the best results for Ghana still cannot find it convenient to chase the people with their gadgets and systems, rather than compelling the people to chase them.
So, we are tempted to ask who the beneficiaries in this game are, save the ordinary people and the two institutions in mutually terms.
For those of us who critically monitored the NIA exercise, our verdict is that it has been nothing to write home about, except the here-today-there-tomorrow picture of desperate citizens, including aged persons, being compelled to be on red alert over where the next train would arrive. Common, let’s be serious.
This story about citizens, including elderly people queuing and using stones and concrete blocks, housemaids and local boys to show presence is wicked. For some of us, it reminds us of the PDC era when we had to queue to buy kenkey.
People waking up midnight to manage a place and informal economy workers being compelled by the processes to choose between being registered and missing a day or week’s wages to get registered and another day or days to pick a card does not tell a good story about a state institution ready to formalize a largely informal economy conveniently.
It is as if those public officials and those institutions were doing us a favour – when, in fact, it is government which will be benefiting largely from a formalized economy by way of taxes or planning projects, among other ingredients for development.
And, yet, it is most of these educated experts who seem to know everything who are in charge of these strategic institutions and who have road map for anything who foist on us these programmes, without any inclusive spirit getting into matters of implementation. Little wonder, that the NIA still have so many several thousands of citizens not registered in communities, even in Greater Accra, myself included, though I, Papavi Yaovi, am GPS registered.
No cash? Look for it
The excuse about judicious spending that produces no result does not really tell, in the long run, the effectiveness of a programme, when the objective is all about judicious use of resources, without looking at the objective and goals in the light of development and impact on the economy. And, yet this is the similar disease that I, Papavi Yaovi, believe is afflicting the Electoral Commission.
So, we ask: aren’t there directors at the EC and NIA who know the terrain enough to share those practical how-tos with the new political supermen and women who talk daily, without hitting the ground with those constitutionally-approved programmes like we have had it since 2000.
Ghosts of Special Voting
When John Mahama went out of his way to decide and direct the EC not to allow the Special Voting to inconvenience the system, the results were clear: returning officers took advantage of the situation to steal the verdict and the nation wasted huge resources litigating, instead of working.
Additionally, there were the political fallouts, including propaganda that benefitted the opposition New Patriotic Party and eventually culminated in the NPP – with good reason – picking up majority seats and a sweet victory.
I thought that the best practices governance style the world over now is getting organizations and institutions working effectively in inclusivity and mutual partnerships, among others. The current arguments coming forth from the state actors therefore in defending their pussyfooting, in my opinion, is defeatist and provides tons and tons of weapons for political opponents to rain hell on an otherwise performing government.
That is why somebody must wake up and save us this lingering insanity of having citizens chasing NIA or the EC to be registered to vote for a Sammy Gyamfi to be Minister.
The government, no doubt, has achieved so much since it took over the reins of government from “the incompetent, corrupt and directionless” John Mahama administration. From the exiting of the IMF Programme, banking reforms, through creation of jobs and restoration of nurses and teachers allowances to agro initiatives, Free SHS and then to re-igniting the National Health Insurance Scheme, Ghana has scored brilliantly. That fact has been acknowledged among global development agencies and businesses.
Today, every parent in the several thousand and one vulnerable communities, particularly in the northern regions, laud this government for the fact that the school dropout phenomenon which afflicts them and breeds irresponsible teenagers as well as these kids turning porters in scavengers in Accra and Kumasi; Takoradi and Tema, will be hugely minimized.
That, they believe, is a major ingredient in building responsible kids who will pick basic skills to help build the Ghana they aspire to see. Again, that as a consequence, will reduce the scramble to hustle and find money to travel abroad just to make it.
Plugging the holes
That is why any propaganda that has the potential to negatively affect government is analyzed by serious security experts, who love the nation more than other considerations to ensure that it doesn’t fester to a ruling government’s political disadvantage.
So, we ask the EC: Finally, what are your strategies for rolling out the 2020 elections with minimum controversy, having in mind the balancing of the fact of a COVID-19 advisory in detail, equipment status, timelines, monitoring, involvement of IPAC and the convenience of the electorate, without the NIA experience? I presume that is what governance and responsibility, competence and patriotism are all about.
So, if you agree with me Papavi Yaovi and what the oracle says, then the earlier we open up to ourselves and start something transparent, the better. And, if we listen, Insha Allahu, the more credible and peaceful the elections of December 2020 would be.
The history of delivering in government and still being jittery over the lawful exercise of power must be overcome once and for all. A just Ghana is in the interest of the NPP first and NDC last.