The dumbest way to lose power and annoy God as a leader is to disregard admonition from religious leaders and traditional rulers. Intriguingly, the political leader or such animal would be the first to appreciate that the Christian clergy and Muslim cleric deserve to have the ear of our political class. That is because Church, State, Cleric watch over and help mend the souls, hearts, minds and spirits of the citizen.

First, these people – our traditional rulers and religious leaders – have a certain constituency that trust them than voters and our loony delegates would trust the politician.

Second, our traditional rulers own the land on which we have our natural resources that we use frameworks, laws and policies to harness to create structures and infrastructures that help improve lives and livelihoods.

Finally, these our traditional and religious have far longer tenures than even the autocrat can manoeuvre through avarice, greed, intrigue and coercion.

That is why fighting a traditional ruler or a religious leader may be the craziest thing a politician would do or encourage his followers to do. It is dumb, crazy, unwise and, even,  stupid and counterproductive.

Kwame Nkrumah, Kutu Acheampong

Examples of leaders who fought traditional rulers and religious communities are Dr Kwame Nkrumah and Kutu Acheampong. No political heads of Ghana had been that inveterate and insensitive to advice than the two. There are those that cite Jerry Rawlings as being like the two. That cannot be true, if we know the level of spirituality that kept the controversial Provisional National Defence Council( PNDC) in power for that long…Forget claims that voodoo was rife…What we cannot ignore is that there was a spiritual Mummy behind Jerry Rawlings that ensured that he survived his divinely-approved transition tenure Thank God, encouraging numbers of politicians are now coming to the realisation that power belongs to God.

That is why I am enthused that, above all the Manifesto teasers that flagbearer Mahamudu Bawumia has dropped, his message on “incentivising churches” to be part of the national development agenda is an ace and clincher that triggers hope for Ghana. He says he is doing that in recognition of their contribution to the development of the country, if he is elected President.

Being an ardent student of our national development paradigm and role the churches have played over the years, the Vice President pointed out some interventions and contributions the church had made post independence to justify his pledge.

Fitting platform

That is why it is important for political leaders to be finding quality time to arrange exclusive meetings with religious heads, including the Catholic Bishops Conference, Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches. It is in this regard that Dr Bawumia’s meeting with the clergy as part of his Bono regional tour was a deft move, just like he does wherever he goes.

At the gathering, the flagbearer of the governing New Patriotic Party said: “If you look at the work the church has done, we should rather be paying them rather than them paying us. Unless you don’t understand the work the church has done”.

Dr Bawumia further explained that “if you look at the building, the way they’re trying to keep the society together, the universities, the hospitals, the schools, it’s just massive. Many churches have hundreds of schools so I don’t see and I will not have a situation where we’re taxing the churches. We rather want to give churches incentives to support what government is doing.”

The flagbearer likened the church to development partners, and proclaimed how his administration will draw them closer to the state.

“I want us to be partners in the way that development partners are with us. You are our domestic development partners and we’ll give you incentives to do more.”

Taxing churches?

Again, the dumbest argument a politician can make is to agitate for churches to pay tax. My singular argument against our tax system is our nagging inability to develop structures for formalising the massive – and still burgeoning – the informal economy.

With so many economic actors outside markets and floating or even moving in out of our markets at odd hours, some vigorous digitisation is not only the way to go, but also more PPPs in market infrastructure and farm gate transaction structures in targeting actors effectively these floating economic actors making good monies and paying virtually nothing in terms of tax.

I was excited by the conversation about the ILO Report that riled SSNIT for not having built over the years enough fiscal resilience to sustain its programmes. The simple truth is that the ILO Report is flawed because it didn’t take into account an ongoing programme by the SSNIT to move out to neighbourhoods and markets register economic actors under the new national digitisation programme.

But I believe the ILO Report may have been largely fed by unionist who are fighting government over the matured bonds benefits and similar schemes that may have been affected by the global financial dynamics created by COVID-19 and the still raging Russia-Ukraine conflict.

But I know as a researcher in the food policy sector that key actors on our markets and others in the cross border trade are being engaged by SSNIT in strengthening the social protection sector, but also helping those outside the SSNIT umbrella to join a family of social protection giants that truly deliver hope under the new SSNIT Informal Sector Scheme.

The good news is that the state entity is targeting associations that are accomplished in terms of achievement and civil society niche, including the Ghana National Tomato Traders and Transporters Association GNTTTA. As do this piece, I know that before the brouhaha and the subsequent press conference that SSNIT held, a team had toured markets across the Middle Belt. And these are in the dozens of thousands with Ghana Cards that facilitate enrolment onto the Scheme.

Such deep programmes touch the grounds and truly make impact in optimally reducing the size the informal economy in facilitating and accelerating revenue mobilisation and strengthening sector. Indirectly, too, that enhances delivery of the banking sector because it minuses risks in the banking sector to reach out to the underserved segments of the population.

I also know that some work is being done by the Royal Netherlands Embassy aimed at holistically developing the fruit and vegetable chain that ultimately includes social protection for the teeming actors on farm gates, neighbourhood markets and even those along the streets.

Strengthening Church-State partnership 

With our churches now in insurance, education and health as well as development of infrastructure, there is no way any responsible state and government and for that matter, politician, can afford to ignore their contribution. Most seminaries owned by churches are now teacher training facilities. It is the same with support they are giving in enrolling more SHS graduates into private universities owned by these array of denominations.

The volume of the contribution is not only reason to support them morally to deliver more, but also assist them with funding to expand their horizons into job creation, including trade and banking; or agribusiness and skills training.

If that is the message the flagbearer of the NPP or even the NDC is advocating, it is heathy political talk that must be translated into policy and down onto the grounds in implementation. As we would appreciate as a people, churches have massive resources and strong succession plans that make them resilient to risks that come with banking and funding as well as Reporting Systems that ensure competence, effective delivery of project goals and accountability.

Of equal importance to me is the fact that this vision chocks the crazy argument about taxing churches some of which we should be supporting and encouraging to run credit schemes under controlled systems in creating wealth and reducing poverty, aside the traditional programmes in providing relief to the poor.

By Abena Bawuaah