A plea for the voiceless

Public Administration guru, Prof. S N Wood of the University of Ghana, always begun his introduction to public administration course with a story of a King and his son who was to succeed him. Even after several years of passing through his class, this story remained with all would be administrators and leaders.  He told the story this way, a King was preparing his Prince to become the new ruler after him. To qualify as the future new ruler, the king asked his son to go into the forest and listen to every voice and keep a record of them and come and report to him (the King) of every voice he heard.

The Prince went for several days and was sure he had gathered all the voices that were in the forest. He came home to impress the King with his listening ability and skills. But to his surprise and chagrin, the King said there was still a voice he had not heard. So he was to go back and listen a bit more. The prince obliged. For without proper recognition of this voice, he will never ascend the throne. After several days, the Prince returned again and was sure the additional voices he had heard will impress the King but this was not to be. After going into the forest several times, the prince finally identified the voice… he knew this was the voice the King wanted him to hear. It was a difficult voice to hear because it utters no sounds….voice of the voiceless. After revealing this to the King he was made the successor to the throne. The King stressed, my son, to be successful as a leader, you must listen to the voiceless.

After the iconic Public Administration Professor told this story, he added, to be successful as a public administrator one must listen to the voiceless.  It is so critical to listen to the voiceless because there are stronger voices which will compete for your attention as a public administrator but the voiceless can easily be ignored.

Following the liquidation of insolvent banks in the country, there have been various challenges faced by different groups. These groups includes: Debtors, Creditors, Bank of Ghana, Government of Ghana, staff and dependents of the banks involved. Almost everyone in these interest groups have some power and influence to exert but same cannot be said of the staff and their dependents. They are now dispersed and have become voiceless and miserable.

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Ever since the collapse happened, this voiceless group has gone through various pains and trials in all forms. The challenges faced by these staffs are easy to predict in an economy without enough social welfare schemes and also for coming out of an industry-financial services, whose growth in the past two years has been declining.

 

To begin with, their average years of working with both UT and Capital are small because these Banks were relatively new. So their savings in terms of provident fund is small. Despite the meagerness of the amounts involved, the tax authorities taxed their provident fund at 15% because it failed to meet the minimum savings period of 10 years savings to enjoy tax free withdrawal as stipulated by the law. All attempts by the group to have this tax waived proved unsuccessful as the tax commissioners said it will only take parliament to grant such a waiver. In addition to the tax burden of redundant staff, the remaining balance of their provident fund was used to offset loans they had taken from their various Banks.

Ghana has no unemployment benefits for its citizens as has already been indicated in this article, and since the collapse more than a year ago, these staffs have depended on relatives and their small provident funds(in case some remained after loan deductions) to survive. But as the day goes by, the agony increases and ability to make ends meet is becoming ever unbearable.

In sharing the pain with one of the staff, she said, I take care of my late brother’s children, I also have other dependents, but as we speak she is on the verge of withdrawing them from school until situation improves. Others have found it difficult to meet up with their medical bills and payment of rents and other essentials of life.

Making ends meets is simply impossible is another example of a couple who were working in the two Banks that collapsed. So, as it is now, no income is coming to the house. Daily meal is no longer a daily basic right in their home but rather a luxury. Each day, for their kids to go to school, they have had to fall on friends for their snacks! The tales can go on and on of the hardships that these voiceless staff are going through each day.

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The number of the voiceless individuals going through the untold hardship brought by redundancy as a result of the collapse of the two banks is more than the 1200 workers directly involved. It is a known fact that every worker in Ghana feeds four mouths or individuals on the average. A simple multiplication thus tells us that there are approximately 5000 Ghanaians suffering silently and going through excruciating pain.

This pain has already resulted in deaths, diseases in the form of strokes and mental derailment. We must not watch 5000 or more Ghanaians die silently because they have no voice or anyone to hear them.

However, as things stands, it seems that is where they are heading because as these individuals are going through pain in addition to public ridicule and psychological trauma, there is no one listening to their cry. Because they are voiceless. Each night of theirs has become dreaded because it is always bound to be a sleepless one!

They have little or no resources to influence public discourse in their favor. Their professional disposition has hindered their wish to embark on demonstrations! All pleas to respected members of society have fallen on death ears and have not even received acknowledgment.

Here is therefore a plea to the governor, Minister of Employment, Minister of Finance, The President of the land to listen to this voiceless group. Please hasten the payment of their severance and also kindly arrange some mitigation programs to alleviate their pain. It is the little you all can do as public administrators who have implemented measures to clean the financial services sector. These fallouts are not intended but they have happened and we must also address the challenges it has brought up. One day in the not distant future, you will recall that you listened to the voiceless when it mattered most!

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