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…With Our Publisher

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”- Eleanor Roosevelt


Has Oliver Barker-Vormawor been granted bail? I do not know. As of the writing of this article, over the immediately preceding weekend, he was still in custody on the orders of a Court. He was presented before Court on or about 14th February, 2022, and remanded for two weeks, so I guess his next court appearance is just about today or yesterday, or somewhere this week. By the time this article appears in print, we would know. Ergo, he is still in custody as I put my pen to paper.

Barker-Vormawor has been charged before court for inciting people to allegedly stage a coup. I do not know enough to comment on the evidential veracity of what the police intend to prosecute him with, and in any case, it is likely that his docket would be sent to the Attorney-General’s Department for advice on whether to prosecute or not. His current charge may be an indictable offence, which means that the Court where he is currently presented, a Magistrate’s Court, is only for the purposes of indictment.

One of the reasons behind his arrest, I surmise, was his post on Facebook to the effect that if the E-Levy is passed, ‘he would organize the coup d’etat himself’.

Well, it seems that there is too much heat in this town. The atmosphere is too politically charged, and even the people who pretend to be totally apolitical, may themselves be deeply partisan. So partisan, in fact, that they have lost all sense of objectivity. Sometimes, when one is so partisan, one begins to lose sight to the necessary objectivity, to assume totally partisan positions on matters that need to be studied objectively.

Indeed, recently, a photographer taught me a lesson that, on hindsight, I believe I sorely needed.

To begin with, let me state that from the point of view of principle, like Barker-Vormawor, I am opposed to the E-Levy. I believe, that all effort must be made to ensure that as much money remains in the general economy of the people as possible, so that they can turn over these monies, generate a profit, create employment and generally create greater revenue for the government, as possible. Unlike Oliver Barker-Vormawor, however, I would not threaten a coup. In fact, I think that outside of bitter partisanship, such talk is absolutely overboard. It is not necessary, and only people who did not live under Rawlings for three months in 1979 and under the same Rawlings from 1982 to the year 2000, would speak lightly of coups. Overthrowing the current democratic dispensation, is not a choice, except for the crazies, and we are not about to give in to them. Even if the democracy has huge, blinding warts. Even a democracy as wasteful and spend-drift as our current dispensation. Democracy still trumps a dictatorship of one man and his family and friends.

Whilst being opposed to the E-Levy in principle, I must also say that I remain open-minded about it. If we, as a government and as a people, can put in place the appropriate measures to cut out waste and profligacy, raising additional revenue is not necessarily a bad idea, if the revenue would be put to adequate use. And if, in the process of raising that revenue, we do not strangle the chicken that lays the golden eggs.

However, even if the revenue would not be put to adequate use, it is still much better than resorting to the so-called international monetary agencies for financial assistance. It is a path that is laughable. We should be prepared to do anything, but that. And if one of those things is to add the additional imposition of the E-Levy, then so be it. The international financing organizations are the worse evil, compared to the E-Levy.

Maybe, like the famous Kweku Ananse, we are too wise.

That is the lesson that this photographer friend of mine taught me, that is, whether the E-Levy would lead do the strangulation of the chicken that lays the eggs.

His lesson brought a Ghanaian folk story to my mind. It is the story of local legend Kweku Ananse. One day, the story is told that Kweku Ananse gathered all the wisdom in the world and decided that he would put it far up atop a tall tree, so that he alone would be the wisest person on the face of the earth. He achieved the objective of gathering the wisdom, and set off to climb up the tree. But he had difficulty climbing, because he carried the pot between himself and the tree he was climbing, which hampered his efforts. Suddenly, however, he heard the voice of his son, Ntikuma, under the tree, advising him that it would be easier if he carried the gourd containing the wisdom of the world on his back, instead of between himself and the tree. Ananse suddenly became aware that he had failed in his task to gather all the wisdom in the world in one place, and that wise people still remained on earth, including, of course, his son. In consternation, he let the gourd fall, thus scattering the wisdom back across the face of the earth.

The above tale is just that, a fictional tale, but could it be, that all or many of us are too ‘wise’ to see the all the angles of the E-Levy? I am not speaking about the benefits, but about the angles to the proposal.

I ask this question in great humility, because all of us, who have the opportunity to speak in public, may not be seeing all the angles to the issue, and like Kweku Ananse, we would need to have some education from the Ntikumass of our society.

Recently I met one such ‘Ntikuma’. I needed to have my passport picture snapped professionally, and I went to a shop. While taking the picture, the photographer asked me a question which has hounded me since then. He asked me how long the MTN Momo facility has been operating in Ghana, and I replied that it could be for as long as fifteen years. He then posed the further question, “And MTN, which is purely private and foreign owned, has been taking the commission of two cedis for every hundred delivered, and you people have not complained?”

I answered in the affirmative.

“And every time you send Momo, this commission is taken on each transaction, no matter how many times you forward that same money?”

Yes, I answered again.

“And now you people are threatening coups and all manner of mayhem because your government wants to add a little more on top of Momo transfers to build your roads? Who do you want to take your money, the owners of MTN in South Africa, who build no roads, and your government, that builds roads, provides hospitals and builds schools?” he asked.

And there I sat, ruminating over this Ntikuma of a cameraman. He had just posed rather valid questions. The owners of MTN indeed build no roads, or are not mandated to provide schools as a rule, or provide hospitals; but they have been taking the commission on Momo for ten to fifteen years. Do we prefer that, to taking a bit off the top of the pie for our own development development? After all, it is our money, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be better that we took it, instead of some capitalists from South Africa?

Thinking, I asked myself why the telcos immediately came out in protest against the introduction of the E-Levy, and the only conclusion that I arrived at, was that they feared that the introduction of the E-Levy would force people off the money transfer circuit, thus limiting their profits.

It also gave me pause, thinking about the diehard opposition of the opposition NDC party to the E-Levy; raising the issue of the motivation of that party to the introduction of this tax policy.

The NDC certainly admits that the central government of Ghana has a revenue mobilization problem. The NDC has proffered no solution on how this revenue shortfall may be bridged. Absolutely none that is feasible, and that this nation can embrace with pride. That party has not even put forth proposals on cutting down certain expenditures.

They have certainly not done that. Indeed, one of its leaders, Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, is even, in the face of the cash crunch, blowing hundreds of thousands of Ghanaian dollars on personal joyrides with his family and I heard that one of the daughters of former President John Mahama was spotted in Paris or in some international capital shopping for goodies. Yes, the same John Mahama who went to IMF and World Bank for ‘policy credibility’ and would like to pledge the trillion dollar economy of Ghana in exchange of a few hundred million dollars from the Bretton Woods institutions. Yes, that Mahama.

Why are cash-chomping devils like John Mahama and Alban Bagbin opposed to the E-Levy, the potential cash cow that can fund their fatuous lifestyles?

When I pose this question, the only answer that comes to mind, is that Mahama, Bagbin and NDC are opposed to the E-Levy because it is a convenient political rung by which they can incite people back to power. They are not interested in an impartial debate on the matter. They would rather incite misguided young men like Barker-Vormawor and others to sacrifice themselves making unnecessary incendiary polemics to create popular disaffection for the ruling party, which, admittedly, has made itself out to be an easy target due to wasteful and questionable financial ways.

It is the only reason why the NDC opposes the E-Levy. It is not because of any purported hardship or inconvenience that that tax would impose on Ghanaians. If the E-Levy were to be passed today, and were the NDC to come to power tomorrow, the NDC would very much keep the E-Levy on.

So that they can keep Alban Bagbin up to speed on international joyrides.

(The Daily Searchlight appears every day on the newsstands and for sale 24 hours every day and all week on www.ghananewstand.com. Visit www.ghananewstand.com for a wide variety of newspapers published in Ghana and from across the world.)

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