Fetish Priests to Face the Taxman

Published on 6th February 2007

The “directive from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies to tax fetish priests in their respective areas” may seem ordinary, but it reveals the emerging development thinking that real progress starts from within - the core Ghanaian indigenous values first, and any other second.

For almost 50 years, Ghanaian elites are yet to map out their country’s progress from within their values first. This has been due to the suppression of Ghanaian values by colonial powers and post-independent Ghanaian elites’ inability to think holistically. The elites have not thought holistically in terms of opening the huge rich cultural values – economic, medicinal/pharmaceutical, social, spiritual, communal, environmental, political, institutions and agricultural.  

Much of Ghana’s indigenous products are increasingly being appropriated and exploited for economic gains abroad.Locally, Ghanaian elites have not made the local people to understand or know how rich most of their indigenous values are, not only in the national economic scene but also in the international development landscape. For instance, the bath soap, the hand wash soap, and body cream I use are all made from Ghanaian/West African shea butter. The beauty cream my fiancé uses is also made from Ghanaian/West African shea butter. The manufacturer, both in the United States and Canada, tout how healthy West African shea butter is. I used to have a dry skin and itching after taking bath, but now, the dryness and the itching have gone after using the various shea butter skin products. This use of shea butter from West Africa has solved the problem.

The Local government’s instruction also reveals that Ghanaian elites are emerging from the cocoon of years of slumbering as directors of progress. For almost 50 years, there have not been any credible attempts by Ghanaian elites to correct the development distortions emanating from colonialism. Distortions have de-linked Ghanaian values from colonial and Western values. One of the tricks Ghanaian elites can learn from the Japanese is how they were able to tie their indigenous values with Western ones, especially after the United States occupation. Already, Health Minister Courage Quashigah’s ministry is understudying how the Indians were able to tie their traditional medicine to that of the Western ones and have opened remarkable exports.

“The decision to tax the fetish priests stemmed from the ministry’s conviction that their professions were businesses,” therefore opens new interesting vistas in Ghana’s development process which other Ministries should follow.

As a teenager, I used to follow my grandfather to a fetish priest in the Brong Ahafo Region for health reasons. I was impressed with the amount of wealth I saw in the man who does not pay taxes to the very state that protects him. The wealthy fetish priests reflect a large number of Ghanaians who do not pay taxes. In fact, most people in remote corners of Ghana do not know what taxation is.

This situation has come about because Ghanaian elites have been weak as directors of progress. As the Local Government Ministry has shown, national policies minted from the centre – that’s Accra – should be tailored down to respective locals informed by the values of the locals in order to move the development process in a holistic manner.

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