Kwesi Yankah writes: Giving me a haircut in my absence

Prof Kwesi Yankah explores the government debt restructuring programme and its impact on investments such as pension funds

Since last week, I have been so excited heading towards Christmas in a somewhat happy mood.

A cedi in coma has jumped to its feet, to earn some respect from a bullying dollar. Plantain and other food crops have been displayed in abundance, spilling over in markets and the banks of huge trucks.

A diligent Minister for Agric sporting a pot belly, retails a bunch for only 10 cedis; plantain and kelewele eaters lick their lips in praise of their Maker: God is good. Gas pumps have started responding to the falling price of crude oil, with driver and passenger beaming with smiles ahead of Christmas.

All said and done, we have begun seeing the aesthetic gap in Ghana’s front teeth: smiling with a dimple at the small ray of light at the end of the tunnel.

My headline has indeed been ready to convey the glad tidings in Bethlehem, with Baby Jesus being born to a social media headline: Anokwa, Kurom aye de.

But I have also been weighing this against joining a ‘hair cut’ debate, which I suddenly realize is a metaphor, that moves Ghanaian barbers to the center stage of development economics.

In other words, barbers now become managers of our economy, needing to manage with care every little swing of the scissors.

My personal experiences with barbers make it a nightmare discussing this. That morning, my two office assistants looked nervous.

Mary, the administrator at the office of Dean of Students, would stick her head in and out my door, then disappear. In the next minute, Vickie on national service, would follow, and repeat the routine: stick her head in out and retreat giggling. I was Dean of Students at Ghana’s premier university.

There was something the ladies had seen but were too timid to say. I got worried and made bold to call Aunty Mary Osae and ask.

“Mary, please come over, what’s wrong, what’s happening?” Auntie Mary called her colleague Vickie Hansen Nortey, and came in together with her.

“Prof,” Mary whispered, timidly “your haircut.”

The two ladies were visibly worried about a lousy haircut I had brought that Monday morning to the office. It was partly my fault, I was trying out an anonymous barber working at Legon Hall Annex A, in the absence of my regular barber, Eddie Murphy, who was nowhere to be found.

My unusual looks that day, had created a virtual drama in my little office facing the Legon post office. In the next few days, I was compelled to camouflage my looks, wearing a cap disguise, until a few tufts of hair germinated in sympathy, to reverse my vulture looks.

Putting my ears to the ground, I squirm hearing the word pensioner, pensioner pensioner, as a possible target for a haircut haircut haircut. What is all this haircut about? I kept wondering until I realized the entire debate in the past week or two is about the little returns of that thin man in the bank queue, wearing a fanciless hat and brittle grey hair.

When it is his turn to see the cashier, he hobbles his way up, and simply asks to withdraw 85 cedis, which he squeezes and shoves in his breast pocket. He then wobbles his way back helped on by his grandson.

It is this man’s returns that we have decided to earmark, to restructure our national debts? No ooo! It was even worse when I woke up from my dream to realize I was probably in the bracket myself.

We are all called the retired, worse still ‘pensioner’ which could be intensified with a double ‘e’ ‘pensioneer,’ to sharpen the gravity of your misery. In other jurisdictions, such nationals are given extra social protection, free discount rates and waivers on bus rides, at hotels, etc. In the absence of such amenities, the little drops in our bowls are not taken away to expedite our departure, unless this is an emerging agitation by the youth.

But of course, labour unions, this is not the time to flex muscles and threaten indefinite strikes, which could worsen the economy and worsen the little drops in the pensioneer’s bowl. Insist on dialog, dialog, dialog. That is the whole essence of our sage’s advice, “If u do not speak up, you are given an ugly haircut.” Keep conveying the plight of the vulnerable pensioner. And let the policy makers look elsewhere for cuts, and not from the empty bowl of the poor pensioner.

It is of course worse if on the birth of Christ, as the crowd surges to see the new born babe, you realize the aged cannot join, because of an ugly haircut given in their absence. A real anticlimax for Ghana’s Christmas, never before in history.


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