Mills' Air Planes And The Ten Percent Thing

If only all 25 million of us without any exception whatsoever were card-toting members of a political party called the NDC or NPP, and the words �dissenting opinion� did not exist, and all and sundry walked that one-track highway of thought which only bleating sheep in single file are wont to trek..., ...and all 25 million of us voted for that one party on election day, and I stopped writing such weird, convoluted prose with bizarre punctuation marks, what a dandy republic devoid of strife Ghana would be! If all that apart, we all accepted that it is perfectly alright for all in active politics to consistently put arrogance, all-knowing self-conceit, open insults, and condescending attitudes on grand display in their interactions with their political opponents, and the Kofi Jacks of this world like me kept our stupid opinions about the concepts of development and social progress to ourselves, what long strides we would have made in our pursuit of democracy. Unfortunately Kofi Jack always has an opinion no matter how subjective, and so have I, Jomo: I have one regarding national priorities and how successive governments have constanly stood them on their heads at the expense of improvements in our quality of living. Which sensible man will buy a Cadillac when his children are starving or sick and in need of medical care? In development vocabulary, prestige projects refer to those multi-million dollar projects undertaken with public money which could have been dispensed of at least temporarily, in favour of more pressing and urgent community and national needs. Public suspicion that many prestige projects may be linked to the ten percent phenomenon, has been lent possible credibility by the constant accusations and counter accusations between ruling and previous governments that each had been recipients of such kickbacks. In the obscure language of graft, �ten percent: refers to ten percent of a project sum payable to public officials who approve such projects. While we are about the subject, Jomo, you may also note how from Nkrumah to Mills, every successive government has typically been a corrupt, thieving and inept one given to persecuting its opponents, while the opposition at any given time, has always been a disciplined one comprising a bunch of saintly individuals of integrity and sincerity committed to the public good and not just the pursuit of their own group or personal interests! When a national election brings the opposition to power and sends the government into political opposition, politicians on both sides miraculously swap the tags of �the good guys� {the previous opposition} and the �bad guys� {the previous government}! How could that be, Jomo? The problem we face with the expenditure of tax payers� money on prestige projects is compounded by another difficulty: The employment of political propaganda to pass off necessary projects as prestige ones, in order to paint pictures of reckless government spending. While the water and sanitation needs of a community whose residents drink muddy water from swamps and defecate in the open are obvious, national security needs for instance, may not be so obvious to the general public. It is probably no coincidence that last week, floods occurred at a time when a heated debate was raging on in parliament over moves by the Mills administration to spend US$ 250 million on the purchase of five aircraft for presidential use and for the military. My honest opinion is that a presidential jet does not rank among the most urgent national priorities at the moment. The same cannot be said about the planes Mills wants to buy for the military: Just when we thought the weather man was about to pack up his sky-gazing accoutrements, close seasonal shop and signal the farmer to begin gathering the annual crop, the skies opened up with a vengeance over the Eastern region, with flood waters marooning whole communities in the Atiwa and Fanteakwa Districts and wreaking the usual havoc on life and property. The Minority in Parliament and the opposition have criticized the intended purchase of the planes as wasteful, coming at a time when the nation�s socio-economic infrastructure is so badly ran down and poverty levels are so high. The government has explained if rather very late in the day, that the planes for the military will be used for territorial surveillance, especially now that we are producing oil and could be a target for pirates. The aircraft will also be used for gaining access to remote areas for rescue and emergency medical operations as well as for the delivery of relief items during disasters like the one that saw President Mills riding in a military boat over flood waters this week. A huge army of armed robbers have besieged the country robbing, killing and hiding away in bushy terrain across the republic. The planes will help track their movements. The NDC as you can see, is suffering from a kind of political naivety that defies definition: The party has left a huge, gaping communication void which an apparently delighted opposition has used as a propaganda dumping site and which party in hot pursuit of political power would not? Talk of an airplane hanger for example and the average person takes it you are referring to a parking shed for planes. So in a country whose public accounting system is replete with tales of theft of public money using dubious public procurement and supply procedures, everyone was scandalized to learn that Mills was going to spend $17 million on building a hanger to house the planes. The hanger in question incorporates facilities for the maintenance and repair of aircraft and these facilities do not come cheap but it took the uproar in Parliament to get the government to explain this to the public. This strange game has been going on for a long time, Jomo: It is the reign of Jerry John Rawlings and he fancies a Gulf Stream Jet for presidential use and buys one amid protests from the opposition. President J.A. Kufour defeats Rawlings in the next presidential election and on assuming office, declares that the purchase of the US$ 16 million by Rawlings amounted to wasteful and frivolous spending, if I righty recall his choice of vocabulary. Kufuor refuses to fly the jet. He says it was old when it was bought, under what he adds, were dubious circumstances requiring an investigation. Eventually, Kufuor�s administration sells off the Gulf Stream and then goes to Parliament to seek approval for the purchase of a Falcon 900 craft for presidential use and an airbus for the military. {He later buys four Chinese-manufactured helicopters for the military amid protests from the NDC.} Rawlings�s NDC, now in opposition, charges vehemently that this is wasteful spending at a time when a severe water crisis threatens the republic. Then Mills defeats Kufuor in the subsequent election and describes Kufuor�s order for the planes as profligate spending. He then proceeds to cancel the purchase of the airbus but takes delivery of the Falcon. This week it was pay back time all over again, tat for tit and tit for tat: The opposition and the minority in Parliament gave the game away when in criticizing the intended purchase of the five planes; it reminded the NDC that the party made the purchase of aircraft by the NPP administration an election issue in the 2008. I have the ultimate solution to the problems of distorted and misguided government spending, Jomo: All we need is a National Projects Board of sorts made up of experts who will analyze government spending choices and make appropriate recommendations for the fixing of national priorities. If I had my way and it were possible, members of such a board would be non-partisan individuals conversant with the ways of God�s kingdom on earth, who take religion far beyond the walls of church buildings and mosques.