An Ashanti regional investigative journalist Mr. Justice K. Aniah Baba who reports for Otec FM’s afternoon social flagship program “AS3M B3ba DABI” has angrily described Ghanaian politicians as lazy and corrupt for sitting down and allowing citizens die from poor roads.
Speaking to students at Family in Christ International school in the Kwabre East District of the Ashanti region, on Friday 22 March, 2019, as part of the world water celebration day and how to keep our environment and water clean before drinking, he explained;
“Let me explain. Our provision of public goods is unfortunately biased against access by the poor. In a number of states, ration shops do not supply what is due, even if one has a ration card – and too many amongst the poor do not have a ration card or a BPL card; Teachers do not show up at schools to teach; The police do not register crimes, or encroachments, especially if committed by the rich and powerful; Public hospitals are not adequately staffed and ostensibly free medicines are not available at the dispensary; I can go on, but you know the all-too-familiar picture.
Look, upon all how many past and present ministers of state have been jailed to deterrent to others? “. He urged the students especially the final years who are preparing to write their exams on June 10th to study hard in order to prepare for the future but they shouldn’t think government is responsible for providing jobs for them after completing tertiary.
This is where the crooked but savvy politician fits in. While the poor do not have the money to “purchase” public services that are their right, they have a vote that the politician wants. The politician does a little bit to make life a little more tolerable for his poor constituents – a government job here, an FIR registered there, a land right honoured somewhere else. For this, he gets the gratitude of his voters, and more important, their vote. Of course, there are many politicians who are honest and genuinely want to improve the lot of their voters. But perhaps the system tolerates corruption because the street smart politician is better at making the wheels of the bureaucracy creak, however slowly, in favour of his constituents.
And such a system is self-sustaining. An idealist who is unwilling to “work” the system can promise to reform it, but the voters know there is little one person can do. Moreover, who will provide the patronage while the idealist is fighting the system? So why not stay with the fixer you know even if it means the reformist loses his deposit?
So the circle is complete. The poor and the under-privileged need the politician to help them get jobs and public services. The crooked politician needs the businessman to provide the funds that allow him to supply patronage to the poor and fight elections. The corrupt businessman needs the crooked politician to get public resources and contracts cheaply. And the politician needs the votes of the poor and the underprivileged. Every constituency is tied to the other in a cycle of dependence, which ensures that the status quo prevails.
Well-meaning political leaders and governments have tried, and are trying, to break this vicious cycle. How do we get more politicians to move from “fixing” the system to reforming the system? The obvious answer is to either improve the quality of public services or reduce the public’s dependence on them. Both approaches are necessary. But then how does one improve the quality of public services?
The typical answer has been to increase the resources devoted to the service, and to change how it is managed. A number of worthwhile efforts are underway to improve the quality of public education and healthcare. But if resources leak or public servants are not motivated, which is likely in the worst governed states, then the quality of public service will not be improved.