Random thoughts of a rural farmer with Francis OWUSU-ACHAMPONG (FCIB): Sharing the costs of adjustments equitably


Social media was agog with the alleged salary and emoluments of the Commissioner General of the GRA. Expectedly, all manner of discussions  arose on social media as a result of the perceived “ridiculous emoluments”. I do not believe in absolute equality of workers’ incentives. I find it totally utopian, against the principles of motivation and a disincentive to economic growth.

Even in heaven, not all angels are equal. There are both angels and arch angels with presumably different levels of power (closeness to the Supreme Being) and incentives. Fair compensations are possible but equal pay for distinctively different jobs requiring different skills sets or exposure to different risks, does not promote growth in any meaningful form.

Many, like me, have no problem with a few public officials  and private executives earning above average incentives, provided they deliver on their mandates and the results inure to the benefit of the rest of the populace through availability of motorable feeder roads, quality health care and educational systems that do not consign majority of the populace to be hewers of wood and sharing drinking water sources with cattle.

What many find disgusting and unacceptable is rather the opulent lifestyles some state officials exhibit as we look on helplessly inundated with growth retardant taxes. I watched a clip on WhatsApp which showed a convoy of fifty-one (51) cars returning from a public function. Among this were over forty (40) Toyota V8 Landcruiser vehicles, and other equally expensive vehicles.

Considering that the V8 vehicles cost an average of USD.GHS.150,000.00 (GHS. 1,800,000)  each, that amounts to a colossal figure if one assumes that at any point in time, there will be not  less than two hundred of these vehicles in use in the public sector.

No private sector establishment will spend such gargantuan amounts on fixed assets that do not generate incremental revenues, at the expense of their core mandate to increase returns for their capital providers.

It is expected therefore, that our elected officials will  be more considerate of  the dire  economic straits we are all grappling  and stop flaunting their ostentatious lifestyle before our weary eyes.

This is even before we consider the cost of fuel and maintenance. Such display of profligacy in the government machinery is irksome to a people who can barely survive on monthly incomes.

We still have critical issues to contend with like the eradication of the phenomenon  of children studying under trees, the pent up anger of commuters on the highly deplorable Odoben- Brakwa and Fosuansa- Amanfopong roads, malfunctioning of common traffic lights, absence of road markings on city streets, vehicles breaking down on deplorable roads, precious lives lost to avoidable accidents  and major hospitals denied of dialysis machines and other vital components of an effective health delivery system  in this age.

In the face of the belt tightening arising from the IMF bail- out, one would expect some conscious cost cutting initiatives that would assuage the pains of a populace finding it difficult to make ends meet and wondering whether constitutional rule has met their aspirations over three decades of hopeless experimentation.

Can we not for once get the Chief of Staff to instruct officials in the government machinery  to cut down on their excess  recurrent expenditures?  That could be considered a demonstration of the government’s commitment to share the burden arising from the economic crunch we find ourselves in, and perhaps elicit some public sympathy for a government caught between the devil and the deep blue sea over economic stress.

Even if this directive  turns out to be cosmetic, at least, some would believe that the government is sincere in sharing the bitter costs of adjustments now coming in the form of increased electricity charges and a myriad of other suffocating, growth retardant taxes.

The taxpayers’ burden becomes even more irksome when one considers that irrespective of whether the incumbent government wins the next elections or the opposition wins, most of these expensive vehicles would be sold at ridiculous prices to members of the current  government, as has been the practice over the years.

Likewise, if the opposition wins, they will suddenly find nice excuses to replace existing fleet of government vehicles, damn the state of the national coffers at any point in time.

Compare this scenario to practices in the countries which have traditionally provided donor support for our budgets over the years. In these countries, top government officials, including parliamentarians patronize the railway and other cost- effective transportation systems that benefit majority of the people.

Against this background, one does not need any fake prophet to explain the sudden reluctance of our creditors to agree to our current debt re-scheduling schemes. We must simply bite the bullet and stop behaving as if we have turned the corner as we are made to believe grudgingly.

Election year and red bands signifying labour agitations

Election years have become seasons of public sector strikes and uncontrollable agitations for wage increases and the payment of legitimate and sometimes ridiculous allowances. Suddenly, Specialist Strike Agitators spring up in various state organisations to engage in legal and sometimes illegal strikes.

Union leaders shout their tsooboi with utmost dexterity and become instant heroes to their union members ready to exact their pound of flesh from a government that has exhausted its excuses over unfulfilled promises to make their citizens’ lives better. Fearing potential loss of votes, incumbent governments become quite vulnerable under the barrage of warnings over impending strikes.

In their short-sightedness and fixation on winning upcoming elections at all costs, the incumbent government tends to capitulate to pressures to agree to measures never afore thought over.  Once a section of organized labour’s grievances are met, it triggers a spiralling effect on other workers and hostility and obstinacy become rife on the labour front.

This escalates the wage bill, lead to increased budget deficits, higher inflation, more borrowing, deteriorating debt/GDP ratios and a disillusioned populace in a cyclical format.

Produce Buying Company in Debt Crises?

News about the potential seizure of the assets of the PBC by some six banks to cover debts owed to them by the firm came to some of us with a huge dose of incredulity.

How can small Licensed Cocoa Buying Companies continue to remain vibrant while a whole PBC with unparallel economies of scale drown under a debt scourge?

It is like a wife who has tried her hands unsuccessfully to engage in petty trading of all kinds and even succumbing to making losses with selling porridge (koko). If this wife needs deliverance or lectures on how to succeed in petty trading, one wonders what forms of salvaging tutorials management of PBC and other struggling state organisations  need to  be taken through.

Then the sad state of Tema Oil Refinery comes up and leads one to question whether we can ever raise viable state institutions. GCB Bank PLC, thank you for being a welcome exception!

Weighed down by extreme exasperation, this writer is pushed to ask what at all is wrong with state enterprises that cannot be fixed with all the accountability institutions that presumably  oversee their operations?

Absa (formerly Barclays Bank Ghana Ltd) has been operating in Ghana for over a century. Nestle Ghana Ltd, MTN, SCB Plc and other multinationals have been here for several decades and have been managed by Ghanaians within sub-cultures that promote continuity and growth.

Stanbic Bank Ghana Ltd started operating in this country with only one branch some 24 years ago, with Ghanaian executives trained in the same educational institutions and living within the same economic, technological and socio- cultural milieu. In spite of this, it has made gigantic strides, competing as a Tier 1 bank with the best in Ghanaian banking.

How come these institutions succeed in sustaining organizational cultures that promote growth with the same sets of Ghanaian executives and other staff but other state enterprises flounder repeatedly?

One hopes and prays for the day when union leaders will be re-oriented to strategise beyond immediate gratification and rather focus on sustainability of their respective institutions.

They must begin to envisage the creation of opportunities for growth that will pave way for the recruitment of their children into the same firms even before they themselves retire. That appears to be a nobler objective than just being hailed for how many strikes or disruptions a union leader caused.

Grappling with workers’ attitudes

Is it not a shame that the GUTA president, out of extreme frustration, laments publicly that most Ghanaian workers are thieves?  That coming from an entrepreneur who is apparently overwhelmed with so many cases of pilferage orchestrated by the same workers paid to oversee the growth of their respective organisations casts a sad commentary.

It may sound harsh to say this publicly but it is true of most Ghanaian workers and is a serious indictment – a negative attitude that has to be exorcised. Regrettably, this permeates both public and private entities in different degrees.

Perhaps the religious leaders must resolve to take this up as a challenge to turn their pulpits and mosques into advisory centres to help in the collective effort to uproot this canker among some Ghanaian workers to promote growth.

This call requires immediate reception as the same Ghanaians tend to observe right behaviours when they find themselves working abroad or operating in local multinational companies under strict organizational cultures.

Local governments’ approach to property tax collection

This writer notes with dismay the passive approach to collecting property taxes which potentially could solve most of the developmental challenges facing the local government machinery.

I have dutifully paid my assessed tax of GHS.400 each year until the introduction of this new system that suddenly raised my bill to GHS. 4800 for the same depreciated property, without any additions, that is if my projection is right.

The new scheme requires one to log unto a website that is so difficult to access, to locate one’s residential property and to check how much is payable in property tax.

Even for a reasonably educated person, I found it hard to locate my own property when the system opened the map in my New Bortianor  neighbourhood  after several attempts. I wonder how the software provider and the assembly could presume that every household has cartographers who could easily locate their properties in that system to find the amount payable as property rate.

Yet, instead of going round to assist property owners to identify their houses and issuing the requisite bills, they remain glued to their desks and complain about low revenues for development. Go to their offices voluntarily and the reception will make you wonder whether you want to win an award in a patriotism contest.

Another critical factor worth considering is why the authorities could step up the rate so significantly if what I presume is my current assessment is true. How could they move from GHS.400, per annum to a staggering GHS.4800.00 in an area they themselves admit has not benefitted from any state sponsored road and other critical infrastructure?

Could the authorities not have staggered the valuations gradually, beginning from GHS.400 plus X amount over say three years annually, such that this GHS.4800 could be reached at the end of the third or fourth year rather than the sudden increment that diminishes the degree of voluntary compliance?

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

Email; [email protected]  Tel. 0244 324181

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