ANALYSIS: Bawumia opens the hornet’s nest and….. by Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor
In his first major appearance on a politically motivated event to engage the major concern of Ghanaians (the state of the country’s economy), the NPP’s Mahamudu Bawumia presented a catalogue of critiques that the NPP activists have described as a “brilliant” analysis but which the official response from the Ministry of Finance and government spokesmen trashed as “intellectual dishonesty.”

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Instantaneously, Bawumia has thrust himself into a political dust-storm. Let’s see how he will emerge when the dust settles. By taking on the government this way, he seems to have demonstrated enough courage and should seize the opportunity to prove that he is indeed an “economic guru.” The barrage of criticisms and rebuttal of his claims has already begun being unleashed. The hornets are coming for him.

Bawumia took the centre-stage at the 5th Ferdinand Ayim Memorial Lectures on May 2 when he delivered what one considers as the NPP’s most elaborate assessment of the Mills governments’ performance in the economic sector over the past three-and-a-half years.

His lecture covered almost all aspects of the national economy that the NPP chose to focus on to help it prosecute its agenda against the incumbent government.

To some of us who are not fixated on raw statistics/figures and mathematical equations, all that Bawumia’s analysis brought home to us is that under the Mills-led government, the country’s economy is in tatters. From Bawumia’s constant reference to the achievements made by the Kufuor government and his lamentation that the trend had been reversed by the Mills government, one needs no statistical analysis to comprehend matters.

Bawumia was quick to find fault with every aspect of the national economy to the extent as to heap tons of blame on the Mills government for not doing enough to uplift the economy. His speech has been published in its entirety for all to read. I took the trouble to read it; but as I have already indicated, it’s all about blaming, blaming, blaming.

As is characteristic of a Ghanaian political opposition, that speech didn’t single out any achievement to praise, which makes it too lopsided for comfort. We are all witnesses to the Mills government’s successes and failures; but in the NPP’s estimation, there is only one side to the economic coin, which is writ large as FAILURE.
Has life in Ghana ground to a halt under the Mills government? If the economy is as deplorable as Bawumia’s lecture portrayed it, would anything be going on in the country as robustly as the situation is?

I understand that it is a political game of hide-and-seek being played by these two political camps; but what harm will a genuine appreciation of the situation cause any political party seeking to undo the incumbent?

I have already said that I am no fan of statistics, especially when the figures come from politicians. As my old-time good friend, Kwasi Pratt, told Dr. Kwesi Botchway, in the mid-1980s, all the statistics he was quoting in the national budget and other official government documents on the economic situation “don’t mean anything to the ordinary Ghanaian unless they translate into an enhanced living situation.”

True, that’s how the ordinary Ghanaian feels. And that is why when politicians begin quoting figures glibly to support their rhetorical agenda, they raise eyebrows and draw public disdain.
For Bawumia, the figures meant that the government was under-performing. He has received a resounding approbation from the NPP camp but that is not the end of the story.

In a quick rebuttal of his claims, the Ministry of Finance released a 33-point counter-lecture, which I read at MyjoyOnline. I didn’t know whether to say I was baffled, dazzled, or overwhelmed by the time I finished reading this rejoinder.

One glaring thing I discovered was that the government’s explanation doesn’t only puncture holes in Bawumia’s lecture, but it also impugned his integrity and opened him up to scorn (against the background of his being touted by the NPP as an economic guru and a former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana whose presence in the team would ensure Ghana’s economic redemption).
Almost every point raised by Bawumia has been deflated and the challenge thrown to him to be intellectually honest.

A statement signed by Abdul Hakim Ahmed, Media Liaison Officer at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, accused Bawumia of churning out many “inaccuracies and distortions,” and selectively using only data that would help him cast the government in a bad light.

Rather strangely, Bawumia also excluded cocoa in his analysis of the crop subsector, we are told. Who will analyze the performance of Ghana’s economy without factoring in cocoa, anyway? 
Among others, the Ministry’s rejoinder dismissed Bawumia outright as deliberately concealing facts, which undermines his integrity. Not only that. Bawumia was portrayed as lacking the requisite economic sense to know how to draw the line between the parameters he relied on for his analysis and the reality on the ground. In effect, he used the wrong economic principles to do the analysis. Phew!!

The Ministry’s verdict on Bawumia is clear: “This is unbecoming of a person touted by the NPP as an economic guru.”

Here we are! With this rebuttal, one expects Bawumia and the NPP to bounce back to either refute the Ministry’s claims or to provide additional information so that the conversation can continue till Ghanaians become well informed on issues.

I don’t expect the NPP to recoil or that Bawumia will fail to seize this opportunity to advance arguments on issues that one may qualify as falling within his purview. I am no economist and need viewpoints from those who claim to be such so that I can understand clearly what is happening.

This challenge doesn’t call for head-butting, name-calling, or an intensification of the politics of insults. It calls for level-headedness and the adducing of cogent arguments, backed by irrefutable evidence. It is a call for ideas to be bounced off each other for Ghanaians to know the reality of the economy.
For far too long, our politicians have bandied statistics about and gone away with their foolhardiness. This time, they won’t be spared.

Now that the NPP has released its major statement on the economic situation under President Mills and the government’s official response has been given by the Ministry of Finance debunking it, we need more clarifications and arguments from both sides to enlighten us so we can make good electoral decisions.

This Ferdinand Ayim Memorial Lecture and what Bawumia used it to do has given us a golden moment to see how the government and its opponents will engage in reasonable arguments to tell us how the economy is faring.

I am happy that this lecture and counter-lecture episode has just begun. It should set the stage for debates. We shouldn’t wait to have only a so-called “Presidential Debate” before knowing how the tide flows.

Let us see how the NPP side will prove its case and how the government will pull through with its counter-evidence. That’s the beauty of democracy: give-and-take in a civic engagement.
But we must remember that the international (donor) community and all other institutions monitoring Ghana’s economy have their own reports about the situation. Having described Ghana’s economy under President Mills as the “fastest growing in the world,” I wonder how anybody will attempt to tell Ghanaians otherwise and hope to get away with it.

But we need to know that not until the “fastest growing economy” can serve the needs of the people, it will remain a pipe dream. That may be the main reason why the Ghanaian voter will hesitate to agree with those assessing the Ghanaian economy as such. The IMF is the worst liar in this guise.

Perhaps, Bawumia and his NPP may be seeing things from a different angle, using statistics from sources other than what is available to the government. In a prolonged debate about Bawumia’s lecture, we should be helped to know better than we do now.

Anything short of that will make our politicians remain what we’ve known them to be all this while. We don’t any longer want to be manipulated and bamboozled with statistics for its own sake.
We already know who is playing what political game with these economic issues. But we still need the debates to expose the hidden truths.

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