Prof Gatsi writes: Covid-19, politics and stimulus package

Prof John Gatsi lectures at the University of Cape Coast

Politics is the word frequently misapplied in a democracy even by politicians. In Ancient Greece, politics was about all activities put in place to promote or make decisions about the cities to make such cities and their citizens better off.

From the ordinary man’s perspective, politics is about all actions, activities, policies and strategies to improve society. Politics is therefore about nation building and in a multi party democracy, no one actor engages in nation building. Even in dictatorial regimes politics is not carried out by one or only one group of persons but shared.

The democratic architecture of Ghana recognizes political parties as public organizations because their ideological stand points and programs are tools to improve livelihoods and better serve citizens.

Politics maybe undertaken by people belonging to groups called political parties but political parties are not politics. Politics is different from political parties. This may be a century old debate among political scientists. I am not one and therefore not motivated to discuss political theories and schools of thoughts.

In dealing with matters concerning the cities as the Greeks put it, an elected government may lead the way with complementary activities by other players as individuals, civil society organizations(CSOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), political parties, traditional leaders, labor unions among others. It is a fact that there are areas that only the government can deal with.

In the fight against covid-19, the lead group in fighting the pandemic (government or political party in power) maybe thinking there is no space for others to occupy to protect Ghanaians, support the vulnerable and educate the public on precautionary measures and safety protocols. The ban on political party gathering is not a ban on politics because politics is about doing good to humanity.

Praising the government and criticizing the government are all meant to improve the “cities” therefore integral part of politics. If the government presents Personal Protective Equipment to health workers and an individual, corporate body or political party also does same they are all doing politics. So the management of covid-19 is all about politics and individuals, CSOs and political parties must participate in this politics actively.

Perhaps what others refer to as politics is the usual pull-him-down, lies, tricks, hypocrisy and monopoly of the opportunity frontier created by the pandemic.

Recently the head of the NBSSI announced that about two hundred thousand businesses will benefit from a Ghc600M stimulus package to revive businesses. This amount was approved by parliament from the Stabilization fund which is public fund. It is therefore the state supporting businesses. Is the government doing politics through the stimulus package? Yes. Why? Because it is helping businesses.

It is, however, a fact that there exists negative politics which expresses itself in lies, tricks, undue advantages and playing the “monopolist “ to displace others. Article 34 of the1992 Constitution, encourages individuals, political parties, government,….. and parliament to support nation building (do politics) by following the blue print and roadmap enshrined in the Directive principle of State policy.

Fairness, equity and bridging the gap of socioeconomic inequality are some cardinal pillars of the Directive principle of State policy. If for example the Ghc600M stimulus package is distributed through organs align to the ruling party and the beneficiaries are chosen on partisan considerations or it is projected as though the money is from the party in power then the cardinal principles are missing and unhealthy politics has taken over from politics.

There maybe the temptation to disburse the stimulus package by overlooking the cardinal principles. The result is that beneficiaries will consider whatever they receive as their share of political propaganda and will not repay. The policy as announced is very clear that this money is not free money. If it is difficult for government to boldly state the amount will be repaid then government is not doing desirable politics but unhealthy politics.

When politicians are concerned about the participation of other political parties and want to be seen and heard alone when the reality is that in managing a pandemic there is space for all to occupy, then unproductive politics sets in.

From the above journey into politics, concluding that managing the covid-19 pandemic is politics and no attempt should be made to truncate the benefits of politics that hospitals, frontline health workers and Ghanaians are receiving from all actors is fair.

There should not be debate about whether or not political parties who are active in the fight against covid-19 are key stakeholders. Therefore any appreciation of stakeholders without inclusion of some these key stakeholders undermines politics.

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