Random thoughts of a rural farmer ( three)

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Photo: A maize farmer in Kenya surveys his degraded land. Photo by David Bathgate/Corbis via Getty Images

Twisted logic

Before I could wait to get responses to my article with the same heading that was published last week, I read Alhaji Muntaka’s apology on social media. It was conspicuously pregnant with insincerity.

The attempt to make amends for bruising the reputation of the judiciary and possibly the legislature fell flat. The mere reference to the phrase,” letting sleeping dogs lie” convinced any mature mind that the honourable MP wrote that piece under duress to appease some invisible hands that were pestering him to redeem their image.

That brought me back to my appeal to all educated persons to be honest and truthful in their dealings with others. The world is anxiously looking for politicians, academics and leaders of integrity. That should not be a utopian aspiration.

If that apology of an apology had been written in French, I would probably not have bothered to respond since my knowledge of French is so poor.  I would have taken cold comfort from my lack of understanding of the beautiful French language.

To write such a convoluted apology for public consumption betrayed the pressures mounted on him to do some public relations stunt, which I believe, failed to achieve its intended purpose in the elite community.

Political parties are not made up of saints. My candid view, though, is that the US Democratic Party won massive votes from anguished voters in their by-elections simply to punish the Republican Party for turning blind eyes to the atrocious lies of former President Trump.

Irreparable damage has been done to the Republican Party for endorsing the glaring abuse of democratic principles by a leader only few in their camp chose to disagree with, even when truth begged for recognition from educated minds.

That has given birth to a new generation of voters thirsting for truth and responsibility in national political discourse. It also lends credence to the saying that “you cannot fool all the people all the time”. Sadly, otherwise fine brains are gasping for breath to redeem their respective shattered reputation from dabbling in lies.

So much for educated people to refrain from glaring untruths and unsubstantiated allegations at the expense of their core functions. Before you spew untruths, remember that this is the 21st century blessed with more educated persons in an information age.

Economic challenges and Build -Operate and Transfer schemes.

It is crystal clear to any keen observer of our economic landscape that the government’s capacity for further borrowing has come under severe strain. With a debt to GDP ratio now hovering in the 70 % bracket, and economic growth projected to be just around 4% for 2021, we simply must brace ourselves for tougher times ahead, having inflicted upon ourselves crunching national debt, with a high external component for which we have little to show.

The quantum of the debt, per se, is not the source of worry provided we have improved the enabling environment significantly to spur further growth. With our roads, ports and other critical infrastructure and human capital lacking the capacity for accelerated growth, debt sustainability must concern everyone, especially as covid continues to wreak havoc with unplanned expenditure in the public and private sectors.

Our internal revenue generation can hardly match expenditure because we have used much of previous debts to pay public sector wages and interest without significantly improving productive revenue generation capacities. The trend does not appear to be changing anytime soon.

The need for expanding the tax net has been trumpeted for so long without much visible success in view of the huge informal sector. Here, artisans and other professionals in the entertainment industry, among others, earn incomes that make a banking consultant green with envy but the former pay so little in taxes, if any.

Paradoxically, these are the same people whose understanding of the constitution begins and ends with the right to demonstrate, and unapologetically threaten to take the law into their own hands at the least provocation.

Those of us in the formal sector are left with carrying all the tax burden, with no opportunity to evade withholding taxes from our not so lucrative assignments, researching to prepare lecture notes, training materials and marking examination scripts with withholding taxes, teasing us at every point.

Whenever I am stuck in avoidable traffic even on the highways, I ask myself why the Accra to Takoradi, Accra to Kumasi, Accra to Aflao and Kumasi to Sunyani roads, for instance cannot be dualized with private funding under the Build, Operate and Transfer scheme with private investors.

Will some experts explain to some of us who are probably naïve in this area why we cannot avail ourselves of this public -private partnership? Why can we not escape the drudgery of commuting on these poorly maintained single lane roads with anger swelling in our heads against the needless and incessant time and fuel wasting?

I am convinced commuters will be prepared to pay higher road tools if they find value in the time saving that will come from dualized, efficiently maintained road infrastructure, particularly  on the major highways. It should be possible to use two hours to reach Kumasi from Accra and still maintain some safety standards. The government can then concentrate on the minor roads with its diminishing income streams.

It is now evident that this and successive governments will have a hard time meeting the yawning infrastructure gaps across most of the sectors. Why should we deny ourselves some comfort and potential growth spurt when global capital is looking for sensible investments on a win-win basis?

Our top government officials have the luxury of meandering their way through traffic and are therefore spared the frustrations the rest of us go through. We must remember, though, that public frustration can swell to uncontrollable levels when commuters become fed up with the unending trauma as to even affect our mental balance.

Our frustration is compounded, when in the same vein, policemen are busily and needlessly adding to our woes with the inspection of road worthiness certificates, aggravating the traffic situation and annoyingly making us ask whether the roads are themselves worthy of our cars.

While we examine the feasibility of these build -operate- and transfer schemes, can we not automate the existing road tolling system with prepaid cards to alleviate the suffering at the toll booths? I believe many of these modern Fintech companies can easily handle that.

Back to ethics in business

Business ethics enjoin citizens to accept morality as central when they become part of the commercial landscape. In the commercial setting, issues of right and wrong must be addressed as core to the sustenance of a business. There is an inextricable connection between business and ethics which must not be broken for the sake of profit. Contemporary emphasis on economic and social risk management attests to this.

Indeed, the sustainability of any business cannot be assured when a business operator consciously jettisons morality in the quest for profit. The moment consumers become aware of a business’s unethical practices, the business’s market share comes under siege and may ultimately cause a collapse.

The place of morality is central to any religion. This is where I find it inexcusable to hear that over seventy percent of Ghanaians claim to be Christians. A large proportion also claim to be Muslims and adherents of other faiths with whom we share common moral values. Who then, are responsible for the crimes, thievery and corruption that have engulfed this country and stifling our growth.?

Each time I observe the frenzy associated with church services and the sanctimonious manner in which we Christians accept communion, I tell myself that if all of us could live promoting the love of neighbour as Paul expounded in 1 Corinthians 13, what a wonderful world we shall have!  Sadly, my wishes evaporate at the same speed as my thoughts for a morally sound society emerges.

Within the same church compound, I buy adulterated honey from supposedly born- again Christians who know very well that they are selling a bad product to me. I then ask myself if the same Christian brother will join a prayer session where noisy prayer warriors will pray in tongues for my healing if (God forbid) I am diagnosed with cancer apparently caused by the carcinogenic materials they add to the honey they callously and recklessly sold to me to make more profit.

The role of Regulators cannot be left out. If a business person consciously ignores ethical standards to produce and sell harmful products, one would expect the appropriate regulatory agency to keep them in check for the general good. But alas, if your conscience pricks you to report the unethical practices, you suddenly become a victim when you are exposed to the villainous producer, against the accusation  that you are attempting to ruin his business. For the sake of national reputation and cohesion, I refuse to mention which regulatory agency has disappointed me to the point of writing this piece.

My caution to all business operators is that in the same way as they are producing and selling products injurious to the health of their neighbours, other persons will also produce drugs and other essentials that will be equally injurious to their health and well- being.

A deficit of ethical morality that puts individual interests above the collective will ruin our civilization, if we continue to make religion appear so abstract and only fit for reciting quotations.

Let us allow our religious principles to permeate our business activities, even in the absence of legislation and effective law enforcement. Integrity, please fly back to us from your hibernation before we all perish from our collective hypocritical lifestyles.

The writer is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, an adjunct Lecturer at the National Banking College, a farmer and the author of “Risk Management in Banking” textbook.

Email; [email protected]  Tel. 0244 324181 / /0576436414

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SOURCEFrancis OWUSU-ACHAMPONG
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