Tuesday, March 18, 2008

As Ghana mulls purchasing presidential jet, priorities are questioned

Debate has broken out in Ghana over a proposal to purchase a $37 million 12-seat aircraft that will serve as a presidential jet. As with any (minor) political scandal, it's not so much about the jet, but a question of priorities.

From writer Godwin Yaw Agboka in Accra’s Public Agenda.

When a JOY FM reporter allegedly asked [Press Secretary Mr. Andrew] Awuni why the country would spend over $20 million to celebrate Ghana@50, $60 million to build a presidential palace, and now $37 million on a presidential jet, he asked the reporter: "how will you explain to Ghanaians that we are spending $600 million building the Bui Dam when we don't have water?" He added that Ghanaians should move away, from what he termed, the 'poverty mentality.' He argued further that if Ghanaians questioned the purchase of the jet, "then we should stop building the roads, because we don't have water, we should stop building the Bui Dam because we don't have water." "Is that what we are saying?" was his rhetorical question.

Such answers from Mr. Awuni made me want to puke! In fact, his demeanor and unbridled, headstrong approach to responding to the reporter's questions just reminded me of the last days of the NDC, when the likes of Dr. Tony Aidoo and some individuals within the NDC had become so arrogant and near larger-than-life, until Ghanaians proved to them that they did not send themselves to power. It was Ghanaians that did! Who does Mr. Awuni think he is addressing, here? Some uneducated Ghanaians? Some people who have lost touch with what is happening lately in the country? Some unwavering loyalists, who will keep mute even when they are starving to death?

The problem is not about the purchase of a Presidential Jet or building a Presidential Palace. I believe every well-meaning Ghanaian would love to see the President live in a structure and an environment that befit his status as the President of the Republic of Ghana. After all, he is the one who has spearheaded all these many debt-relief processes for the country, in addition to doing some wonderful work on the economy that has seen so much macro-economic stability, since his government took over. It will be ridiculous for anyone to think that the safety of the President is no one's concern, especially so when the jet would serve the interests of future presidents.

The questions hinge on priority and timing. What baffles me about this decision and the passion with which government officials are moving from media house to media house defending this decision is the blind eye they have turned to the basic needs that most Ghanaians are struggling, daily to access. The last time I heard Ghana had only one Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) equipment for undertaking scans, and even when a player of the senior national team needed an MRI done on him, during the just-ended African Nation's Cup, he had to be sent to Nigeria. Just recently, the new CEO of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital was crying badly for some equipment that needed replacement at the hospital. How does Mr. Awuni justify the need for a Presidential Jet-and arrogantly so-when materials and equipment needed in our nation's hospitals, that will benefit the majority of Ghanaians are ignored?

No comments: