Is Mahama Taken Us On Another Suicide Mission With This ‘YES’ Thing?

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President John Mahama
President John Mahama
President John Mahama
President John Mahama

In the middle of the confusion over how to curb the Ebola outbreak worldwide, Cholera cases in Ghana, the famous Pastor Mensah Otabil tape, and how come NPP devotees were trying the fortune of arms, the launch of ?YES? Fund reared its head in the media circles. Inasmuch as I remain optimistic and agree with our elders that ?No one knows what the man of fame was like when he was a child?, I insist that Ghanaians will be shortchanged anytime soon.

Youth Enterprise Support (YES) is a ten million Ghana Cedi (GH?10,000,000.00) seed fund and one of the NDC government?s many youth empowerment programmes aimed at assisting young Ghanaians who have innovative business plans to achieve their full potential. All that is big but impressive grammar.

In a lecture on African Entrepreneurship delivered at the London School of Economics on April 5, 2014, President Mahama is noted to have cited “the Skills Development Fund, the Microfinance and Small-scale Loans Centre (MASLOC), the Local Enterprises and Skills Development Programme (LESDEP), the Integrated Community Centres for Employable Skills (ICCES), the National Board for Small-Scale Industries (NBSSI),the Rural Enterprises Programme (REP) and the Export Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund,? as among the facilities the NDC government has created so far (Daily Graphic, 2014).

 

Going by President Mahama?s statement that the afore-mentioned programmes have promoted entrepreneurship, especially among the youth, one would want to know why the same Mahama-led administration still launched the YES Fund. Then again, I asked myself ?so what became or becomes of the existing projects, funds, department and institutions created to address the seemingly unsolvable needs of the growing youth population of Ghana?. I believe this gargantuan Fund brings with it more questions than answers.

 

As I was preparing for this article, I chanced upon materials on Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) which confirmed my earlier suspicion that the launch of another youth fund is as solid as a mirage. MASLOC was established in 2006 as a microfinance body responsible for implementing the Government of Ghana?s microfinance programmes targeted at reducing poverty, creating jobs and wealth. By May 2012, MASLOC had contracted UT Collections Limited (UTCL) to retrieve its GH 49.5 million loans in debt. As if the bad loan wasn?t enough bad news, the company?s CEO, Bertha Ansah-Djan (Bertha Sogah) in April 2013 admitted taking GH 500,000 from the accounts of MASLOC and handing it over to a private company owned by her husband. At the end of the day, the only purpose MASLOC served was creating wealth for Bertha Sogah and the many loan defaulters who robbed Ghanaians of their collective sweat called taxes. Hmmmmmmmm!

 

After the expiration of MASLOC, the same government setup The Local Enterprise and Skills Development Programme (LESDEP) to train individuals from various district assemblies free of charge, and give them specialized trade machines and a start-up capital which they were to pay within a six-month to a two-year period. The government also helped the LESDEP beneficiaries by awarding them contracts for the Free School Uniforms project and that too didn?t end well; under the close watch of the Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development, Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, and other agencies including National Youth Council, etc., LESDEP workers at the Labone office went on a wild demonstration over unpaid allowances while salaries of School Feeding Programme caterers were unpaid for countless months.

 

From the historical accounts given on the failed projects so far, I don?t want to go any further into the chronicles of Youth Enterprise & Skills Development (YESDEC) and Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA). So knowing all what I know about ministries which oversee youth funds, I?m not the least positive about how the office of the President and key agencies including National Board for Small Scale Industries, National Youth Authority, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Trade and Ministry of Finance will (this time around) guard YES from failing like the others.

 

Reviewing the official website of YES, I read a section where President John Mahama admits that ?While YES is not a full answer to our job creation issues, it does reflect my commitment to the future of the Ghanaian youth…? On that score, let me give the devil his due. But on the same website, I found another serious anomaly which warrants my spelling doom for YES. Take for example a question like ?Will I be expected to pay back financial assistance received from YES?, the administrator of the site wrote ?Repayment of assistance obtained from YES comes in the form of taxation (paying the appropriate tax to government) and employment creation by the business entities assisted. Any business that receives financial assistance from YES that seeks immediate tax relief will, however, be expected to repay the financial assistance with interest on terms agreed with YES?. This is the shady detail of the fund where I honestly think the government is taking Ghanaians for a ride. I really can?t understand how this could happen in a country called Ghana; unless, of course, YES is some philanthropy act. It?s disappointing and heart breaking to hear that every individual Ghanaian?s tax is invested in businesses of individuals who won?t pay any substantial amount to grow the same fund that supported them; I think the government should come clear on the fund?s sustainability. (www.yes.gov.gh/faq.php)

Going forward, the Mahama led administration ought to do itself a favour by restructuring a comprehensive plan to seal the loopholes on how and when the money in the fund will be replenished, or any other salient details tax payers may want to know about. Otherwise, critics of the YES ideology will simply say to the NDCs ?We Told You So?. After all is said and done, I seriously pray Ghana and YES collectively work.

 

God bless our homeland Ghana.

 

By Paa Kwesi Forson

cbforson@gmail.com

 

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