Sat, May

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Written by Elizabeth Ohene - I recall being skeptical about the claim made by the President that there had been more strikes in the first two years of this current administration than there had ever been.

It was this dubious claim that led the President to think and say that things could not possibly get any worse on the labour front.

It was at this stage that he brought in his unfortunate “dead goat” theory.

He was already dead and could not be frightened by someone pulling out a knife on him.

If the aim of the President was to pick a fight with those comments, he has obviously got one and more on his hands now. It would have been interesting to watch him squirm and wait for one of his quotes but unfortunately, the strikes affect all of us and we shall all have our say.

If the President and his cheerleaders would stop approaching the problem as a test of wills between the President and various groups of public officials, it would be useful. In much the same way, if they would stop seeing every critic as a political opponent that is trying to get them out of power, it would be even more useful.

Even though on reflection the President must surely accept that seeing that he has brought this on himself and dragged the rest of us into the mire with him, people are entitled to want to get them out of power and with as much noise as possible.

But since he still has 16 more months to serve, most people, and I certainly am included in this group, would much rather he made a success of the remaining period before he leaves.

It is in this spirit that I offer my unsolicited uncoordinated thoughts on the royal mess we are in.

It does not seem to be the done thing in Ghana to own up to how much you are paid.

I am not sure if it is simply to avoid paying the relevant taxes but most people would understate their earnings routinely, even to those people they are normally candid with.

It gets a little more complicated when you realise that in this country, even employers also understate how much they spend on remuneration for those they employ.

Every once in a while there is a major upheaval of public pay restructuring; consolidation or Single Spine or whatever the nomenclature, the idea seems to be to try and simplify the pay structure.

A few months later, it all creeps back and we start all over again with every inventive allowance possible and the rigmarole starts all over again.

Coup allowance

The most jaw-dropping allowance I have encountered was the “Coup Allowance” that was to be paid to those who worked at the State Broadcasting Corporation. Many first-time voters in this country would obviously not know that coup d’etats used to be part of our regular lives and the first stop for soldiers trying to stage coups was the broadcasting house.

I know that some young people don’t even understand the concept of broadcasting house denoting a single place for broadcasting activity, as they only know about multiple radio stations.

Anyway, I digress; people who had endured years of trauma working at broadcasting house had negotiated a “Coup Allowance” into their salary structure to make up for the risk of working during coups.

I wondered if the existence of such an allowance could be interpreted as an acceptance of the inevitability of coups even in our much-vaunted growing democracy.

Whatever names we give to the allowances and whichever imaginative ways we find to hide the remuneration without calling it wages and salaries, everybody seems to want whatever they think or hear other groups have got.

Those who come under Article 70 conditions of service seem to be the benchmark that everybody wants to be measured by.

It does not help matters to keep the details of the pay and conditions of service of these people secret; everybody simply imagines the worst.

Keeping these matters secret gives the impression they cannot be defended because they are deemed unfair.

There is no reason to keep the remuneration of ministers secret, or that of the President and Members of Parliament for that matter.

There certainly is no reason to keep the pay and conditions of the judiciary secret.

For example, I wonder if our Supreme Court judges are still entitled to paid holidays abroad during the Northern hemisphere summer months.

This used to be part of the conditions when the judges were all British and they used to go back home for the long holidays.

Justifying allowances

If we cannot justify a particular allowance, it means we should stop it or find another name for it that can be openly admitted.

There is a lot of speculation about the conditions of service that the police have currently got.

The details should be published and an explanation given for the rationale for what have been awarded to the police.

I remember when there was a general consensus in this country that part of the reason there was such widespread corruption in the Police Service was their abysmal low pay. If they are better paid now, the public should not be left to guess and it will be interesting to learn if there has been a lowering of corruption levels with the better conditions.

An increasing number of people in the public service seem to be retiring on their salaries. Seeing as pensions are at such pathetically low levels, we should know those who retire on their salaries.

And when all these things are made public, the noise level will go down. But if the President is expecting the peace of the cemetery that a dead goat can expect, he can be sure it won’t happen, not in this economic mess.


Written by Elizabeth Ohene, sourced from graphic.com.gh

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