Monday, April 14, 2008

Ghana Government buys luxury jets, and the aid money keeps coming

A friend sent me an e-mail this morning that sent me into such a rant, she had to call me afterwards to inquire as to my state of mental health and general emotional stability. I am just fine I had to assure her, just as I re-iterate here. The thing is that she touched on such a delicate subject. A subject that once opened, like a scab that does not heal, can ooze an ugly trail of true stories and tales, until it simply tires of spewing the pus of truth, that it closes up once again.

She asked me to advise on a charity organization in Ghana to donate money. More money, hard earned by westerners, just dumped into the bottomless pit of African aid. No! No, no no. Do not send money.



How could I advise on this? I have never been more dead set against a concept in my life. After all I’ve seen firsthand, I could not advise on this with a clear conscience.

The friend had the most noble of intentions. She runs an annual cultural trip to Ghana, and this year she thought she would offer the participants a chance to pay for their carbon emissions, by calculating the carbon footprint of their flights and giving it a monetary value. The idea was then to give this money to a trustworthy and viable organization in Ghana which replenishes resources. All a great idea until the execution. Who to trust? Who cares enough about the people? Who doesn’t take every buck they can get for personal gain, flagrantly displaying this without shame or guilt? What type of culture is this? What role models do they have?

It’s not that there aren’t people who need assistance. People who spend their days toiling the land, or helping those who do. It’s just that these people are few and far between. The poor are many but the projects that actually make a difference are non-existent. The agendas are many for these organizations, but actually changing the future of the poor is rarely the aim or outcome.
And the absolute irony of this request from my well intentioned friend was highlighted this morning of all mornings – being a Monday - and I had just heard some news about the two new Presidential jets being purchased by the government of Ghana. To a tune of multi-millions of dollars.

Apparently they received a loan from ‘an unknown source’ and feel the jets are necessary for the President’s many travels and for the image of the country. This statement just sits on my tongue. Will not be swallowed. It feels a bit like my reaction to the national dish of Ghana – fufu –which is a glutinous starchy blob the texture of chewing gum and the size of a grapefruit, and is torn off in balls to be swallowed whole with a coating of soup. I just can’t get a bite of that down my throat.

How is it that the government is concerned with their image and the people cannot get clean water, if any at all. No electricity, no planning, no concern for the dying dirt poor that make up the majority of the population?!!!! How is it that minimum wage in Ghana is less than $2 per day, yet petrol costs over $1 per litre?!

Where did the loan come from anyway? Another donation no doubt from some foreign government. All turning their blind eye to the corruption that rules this continent, and the culture that perpetuates it on every level.

Why should young hopeful hard working students from other continents be concerned about women’s cooperatives in Ghana? Why does Ghana’s president not step off the show room floors of the luxury jet designers in Europe, and take a look himself at his people. Why doesn’t he care that there are no industries in Ghana providing jobs? That Ghana rates among the most corrupt nations in the world (along with every other Africa country) – according to transparency International?



How can he face the people of this country after making such a purchase, leaving such debt, such a disgraceful legacy? How can the people allow him to do all this?

Maybe it’s just me who sees the absurdity in it all. Maybe that is why I am incredulous then, when foreigners keep believing their dollars, time, sweat and tears will make a difference here.
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