The trending news that the Parliamentary Service Board has approved the construction of a new, ultra-modern Parliament House for Ghana is, to us at THE NEW PUBLISHER, the most unacceptable (if not nauseating) contemplation in our political history.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, last week unveiled the design of the New Parliamentary Chamber Block (which is ready to take of later this year) during a courtesy call by a delegation from Adjaye & Associates, an architectural firm.
But in our view, the project is unnecessary for many reasons. Firstly, conditions and facilities in Parliament currently are enough for the MPs to work; and secondly, there are other pressing issues the government needs to attend to, in the better interest of the nation.
The proponents of the new chamber have talked about space for the swearing-in ceremony of a new president. They also talked about comfort for parliamentarians.
In the case of the former, the paper wonders if that was not the same reason advanced last year for the approval of the National Cathedral. And by the way, considering the number of dignitaries, special guests, ministers, MPs, and overall attendance during swearing-in inaugurations, who says that a 450-capacity chamber can accommodate attendees of such events?
In the case of space and comfort for our legislators, the least anybody talked about it, the better, as it has the propensity to ‘provoke’ many hungry and already frustrated Ghanaian voters out there.
Haven’t the proponents of the idea heard about complains of the citizenry, regarding the fat salaries, allowances, ex-gratia and other emoluments of our MPs?
At a time when many Ghanaians have on several occasions seen some of their ‘omuada’ representatives in Parliament virtually snoring (in all coziness), even in the full glare of the cameras during State of the Nation Address Sessions, one cannot convince them that their MPs need more space and comfort.
If it is a matter of a befitting place for a future Parliament, then THE NEW PUBLISHER thinks Ghanaians need similar ‘futuristic’ provisions for the universities, hospitals, police stations, military barracks, affordable housing, etc.
In fact, the newness of parliament that the good people of Ghana expect is not in an edifice. Ghanaians need a parliament whose floor is ‘not empty’ for a better part of the year. They don’t need a parliament whose attendance books are reportedly always signed to the brim, but have no legislators on the floor to match the numbers in the books. They need MPs whose attitude, in terms of lateness and absenteeism, will not often give the Speaker the concern to threaten sanctions on members. They need a parliament that will not be 95% politically polarized, whenever issues are tabled on the floor for debate.
Yes, we need a new parliament, but certainly not a new building. We have to set our priorities right. Even if the money involved here is a gift, we think there are better things to do today with $200 million than a new parliament building.