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Feature Article of Saturday, 8 December 2012

Columnist: Ayittey, George

Five tasks for Ghana's incoming president

As the first round of Ghana's elections begin on 7 December, Franklin Cudjoe, executive director of Ghana's IMANI Centre for Policy and Education, sets out five key priorities for the next administration. The second round of Ghana's national elections end on 28 December, bringing in a government that must manage record revenue from the oil and gas sector and try to meet the rising demands of the population

Ghanaians choose a new president in late December, and the new leader – whether it is incumbent President John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) or challenger Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) – faces a series of policy choices. As government revenue rises to record levels due to oil and gas production, politicians will have more resources to devote to pumping water into neighbourhoods and building roads. What follows is a list of areas where the new government must focus its attention in order to avoid the mistakes of the past and to develop robust management systems to ensure the country’s social and economic development.

Risk Analysis on all Government Projects

The presidency should not become the strategic hub for policy planning from a financial and technical point of view. Political accountability resides in the executive, and that is enough. We concede that for most strategic projects the requisite expertise may be spread across multiple ministries, departments and agencies. The Cabinet Office can be strengthened and given powers that allow it to coordinate expertise across the civil service.

We have centres of expertise that could be asked to help government create a kind of ‘administrator general’ role in the cabinet to vet all proposed projects. It goes without saying that such a move can only succeed if it follows a strengthening of the Cabinet Office to ensure coordination across the technical, financial and political accountability functions of the executive.

Reform the Pension Sector

Potentially, income from pension contributions is more sustainable than oil. For as long as people continue to work, there will continue to be pension contributions. Scheme trustees can invest funds in the private sector, real estate, listed equities and government treasuries. Pension sector reforms planned three-and-a-half years ago are only now being implemented. But there are serious questions to be asked about the operations of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), which seems to have become a cash cow for politicians. SSNIT has invested in loss-making government enterprises and has very shady reporting methods that can only be responsible for the teeming number of public sector workers who retire on $35 a month after contributing to the scheme for 30 years.

Determine an optimal level of taxation

What level of public spending is desirable for a developing country such as Ghana? Should the government spend one-tenth, one-third or half of the national income? The size of government expenditure is naturally associated with the ideal level ?of tax revenue.

Taxes are a necessary evil, but a generally accepted view is that they should not be a disincentive for profitable economic activity. In Ghana, however, a lot of industry captains and the labour force complain about the tax rates. The perception in the formal sector is that it bears too much of the tax burden to achieve the government’s revenue targets.

?Avoid wasteful projects

Even though we all applauded the decision to go biometric in this election, every objective observer knew we have already collected biometric details of citizens for the following purposes: national passports, the e-Zwich payments platform and the national identification system. It has been proposed that we do the same for voters’ ID cards, drivers’ licences and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards. A harmonised system means you may even be able to use one card for multiple systems.

Even ignoring the inconveniences and inefficiencies, the monetary costs of deploying parallel infrastructure is no small matter. Let us assume the cost of the Electoral Commission system is the benchmark. A crude estimate ?of the total cost is a whopping $400m. We believe we can cut $250m off this figure through harmonisation.

Review the single spine salary structure for the civil service

Government’s attempt to quadruple the salaries of public sector workers through the single spine salary scheme has been a drawback to strengthening the private sector as an innovator. The single spine scheme may appear to bring relative peace on the labour front, but for how long? Simply, single spine is a diversionary tactic embraced first by the NPP and implemented by the NDC to sidestep critical issues since the structural adjustment period.

The fundamental logic of single spine is crooked. Wage harmonisation in the public sector betrays an arrogance of central planning rarely encountered in our tepid age of policymaking. There is no credible science that can, without descending into farce, establish equivalences between different job roles in different settings

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Ghana poll tests Africa's "model democracy"

Wed, Dec 5 2012

By Kwasi Kpodo

ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghana's cliff-hanger presidential election on Friday will test the country's reputation as a bulwark for democracy and economic growth in Africa's so-called coup-belt. The stakes are high with rivals jousting for a chance to oversee a boom in oil revenues that has brought hopes of increased development in a country where the average person makes less than $4 a day. "Ghana getting it right again will provide real mentorship and a signal for others," Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, director of Accra-based consultancy Centre for Democratic Development, said. Ghana is expected to keep up growth of about 8 percent next year and is increasingly cited by investment bankers and fund managers as an example of Africa's rise in contrast to the woes of Europe and the United States. President John Dramani Mahama - who replaced the late John Atta Mills after his death from an illness in July - will face top opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), and six others. Opinion polls point to a tight race between the two main candidates, raising the prospect of a repeat of the near deadlock in 2008 elections, in which Mills defeated Akufo-Addo with a margin of fewer than 100,000 votes. U.S. President Barack Obama called Ghana a "model of democracy in Africa" for stepping back from the brink during those polls, when others might have tipped into conflict. A disputed election in neighboring Ivory Coast in 2010 triggered a civil war. Other regional neighbors Mali and Guinea Bissau have been thrown into chaos by military coups. Ghana, by contrast, has seen five constitutional transfers of power since its last coup in 1981. The years of peace - along with its rich natural resources - have made it a darling for international investors.

THE SMELL OF MONEY

This election has been colored by hopes of greater prosperity as output rises from Tullow Oil's offshore Jubilee field, where production began less than two years ago. Rival billboards in Ghana's sprawling capital, Accra, boil down the campaigns: Nana Akufo-Addo is "The man to trust with Ghana's money". Mahama, meanwhile, is "trusted, decisive and action-driven towards a better Ghana".

"The elections in 2008 were about the smell of oil - now in 2012, it is about the reality of oil," Gyimah-Boadi said.

Tullow's production is expected to rise to 120,000 barrels per day in 2013 from between 60,000 and 90,000 bpd this year while more big deposits have been found. Akufo-Addo says he would use the oil wealth to pay for free primary and secondary education.

"We are calling for a change now, a change that will take Ghana into economic transformation through value addition and no more excessive borrowing and donor dependence," he told cheering supporters at a rally on Wednesday, the last day of campaigning. Mahama, meanwhile, says he aims to put Ghana on the path to becoming a middle-income country with a per capita income of $2,300 by 2017 - double that in 2009. He dismisses criticism that the oil industry has created few jobs for Ghanaians. "We believe we have done our bit in the last four years in bringing economic development to our people," he told thousands at a rally in Accra's seaside Labadi suburb on Wednesday.

"We are confident of winning another four years in order to consolidate the achievements," he said.

On Friday, voters will also elect 275 legislators. There are 45 more seats in parliament than at the 2008 election, in which Mahama's National Democratic Congress (NDC) won a small majority. The World Bank is upbeat on Ghana, expecting growth to be driven by investment in resources, infrastructure and agriculture in a country that also produces cocoa and gold.

ETHNIC LINES

But in a country where campaign messages rarely influence voting choices, many believe more than half of the 14 million voters will cast their ballot based on ethnic and social affiliation, or regionalism.

Twenty-seven year old Jacob Djaba, a car-wash attendant in the Osu suburb of Accra, said he and friends would vote for Mahama, "our kinsman". Mahama is from northern Ghana while his party has also traditionally done well in parts of the east. "He is our own and our thumbs belong to him," Djaba said, to cheers from three colleagues nearby. Papa Nkansah, a coconut vendor, said he normally voted for the NPP, whose heartland of support is among the Ashanti people with roots in the ancient kingdom of the same name.

"I like Mahama ... but again something tells me I must keep to the Ashanti tradition," Nkansah, 31, said as he rammed a sharp cutlass through a coconut pod at a construction site in Accra's Ridge neighborhood.

In an effort to smooth over ethnic tensions that have bubbled over into scuffles in recent weeks, presidential candidates signed a peace pact last week. Mass prayers have been organized in churches and mosques. "There is no doubt Ghana is an icon of political stability on the continent, but there is need to put in place early warning signs against potential electoral violence," head of the national peace council Emmanuel Asante said. (Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Jon Hemming)

Opinion: What Ghana can teach the rest of Africa about democracy By George Ayittey , Special to CNN December 6, 2012 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT) CNN.com

Supporters of Ghanaian opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party, in Kasoa, December 1, 2012.

Editor's note: George Ayittey is a native of Ghana and president of the Free Africa Foundation, based in Washington, DC. He is the author of "Defeating Dictators." (CNN) -- Unlike their Western counterparts, Africans take elections very seriously -- rising up early to queue patiently in line for hours under the hot sun and cast their ballots. Any misguided attempt to nullify or steal their votes will evoke a strong reaction from them. In fact, it explains why the destruction of an African country often begins with a dispute over the electoral process or transfer of power. In recent years, allegations of electoral fraud have stirred political violence and civil war, causing death and destruction in Ethiopia (2005), Kenya (2007), Zimbabwe (2008), DR Congo (2011), among others.

The adamant refusal of their respective leaders to relinquish or share power damaged or destroyed these African countries: Liberia (1990), Somalia (1991), Rwanda (1994), Zaire, now Congo DR, (1993), Sierra Leone (1998), Ivory Coast (2000, 2011), Egypt (2011), Libya (2011). This largely motivated Mo Ibrahim, the telecoms billionaire mogul, to offer a $5 million prize to any African leader who shows "excellent leadership" and who steps down peacefully when his term expires or loses an election. This year -- and for the third time since the inception of the prize in 2006 -- he found no eligible recipient. Read related: Can Ghana's economy prosper against the odds?

Though none of its leaders has won the prize, Ghana has successfully held elections and transferred power on five occasions since 1992 without imploding -- unlike its Western neighbor, Ivory Coast.

What are the secrets to Ghana's democratic success or maturity that other African countries can learn from?

Four factors account for this. The first is the existence of a free media; in particular, print and broadcast media. Ghana in mourning after president dies In Africa, radio is the life and death of information transmission and the proliferation of FM radio stations in Ghana provided an invaluable tool to expose problems, hold government accountable and ensure transparent elections. In the 2000 elections, for example, FM Radio stations sent their reporters to every polling station. Anything suspicious or unseemly was immediately reported on the air, leading electoral officers and observers to rush to the scene and fix the problem on the spot.

Watch: Media's role in Ghanaian politics

They did not have to wait months for a voluminous report to expose the problem, by which time it would have been too late. Thus, the FM Radio stations ensured a level of transparency seldom seen in African elections. So impressed was New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, that he wrote: "Let's stop sending Africa lectures on democracy. Let's instead make all aid, all IMF-World Bank loans, all debt relief conditional on African governments permitting free FM radio stations. Africans will do the rest," he wrote. Sadly, Africans have not been able to do the rest because, currently, only 10 of the 54 African countries have a free media. In Ethiopia, for example, there is only one government-controlled television network for 83 million people. The second factor has been the existence of vibrant and vigilant civil society groups and NGOs -- all made possible by freedom of association, of expression and movement, as well as improvements in communication technology such as cell phones and text messaging. There are hordes of NGOs -- promoting a diverse range of issues such as good governance combating corruption, among others. Some have been formed specifically to oversee the December 7 elections.

One with impressive credentials is the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which organized the presidential debates. The IEA also facilitated the crafting of a "Political Parties Code of Conduct" and the setting up of a National Enforcement Body to enforce the code. Eight parties have signed on. The code ensures that the political parties behave responsibly and can be held liable for any unlawful or unethical acts they commit. Nearly all civil society groups, including religious leaders have been preaching peaceful elections. Even former president Jerry Rawlings, the architect of "macho-men" violence in the past, is now campaigning -- not for any political party candidate -- but for peace.

Read related: Ghana farmers lose out in gold mining boom To this group may be added Ghanaians in the diaspora, who have a passionate interest in the affairs of their home country. Last year, they reportedly sent more than $14.5 billion in remittances. They can shape and influence political opinion, as well as support various political candidates. With access to the foreign media, governments and institutions, they can raise a stink over electoral shenanigans in Ghana. In most other African countries, the space for civic activism is severely restricted. In Ethiopia, journalists critical of the government have been branded "terrorists" and jailed. There is no privately-owned news media left in Eritrea, the "North Korea" of Africa, and one can be jailed in Zimbabwe for insulting the president. By contrast, Ghanaian presidents expect to be insulted. The third important factor has been the maturing of political leaders, which was stupendously displayed in the 2008 elections, which the ruling NDC party won by a mere 40,000-vote margin. Elsewhere on the continent, an election that close would have spelled trouble -- angry calls for a recount and descent into violence. But Nana Akuffo-Addo, the losing candidate and now a contender, graciously conceded defeat.

Having hosted refugees fleeing political violence and mayhem in neighboring countries, Ghanaian politicians and the people are now well aware of the destructive consequences an irresponsible political decision may cause. Political maturity was also on full display following the death of former president John Atta-Mills in July. Not only was the transition to a new president extraordinarily smooth but Ghanaians of all shades and stripes, buried their differences and came together to grieve over their departed president. A violent and chaotic election this week would dishonor his memory. A nod should also be given to regional leaders, in particular those of Ghana's neighbors. Borders are porous in Africa and violence in one country can send refugees streaming across the border.

Ghana has hosted refugees from civil wars in Liberia and Ivory Coast. In the past, regional leaders have also helped ensure free, fair and transparent elections in Ghana. For example, for the 2000 elections, the former and late president of Togo, Gnassingbe Eyadema, closed the Ghana/Togo border to prevent some of his citizens from crossing it to vote illegally in Ghana's elections. The fourth factor has been sheer luck. Ghana was fortunate to have one of its sons, Kofi Annan, serve as the United Nations Secretary-General (1997-2006) and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. During his tenure, he hop-scotched around the world, trying to end conflicts, douse political flames. He is the first on call when a country implodes to broker a peace deal -- Kenya (2007), Syria (2011), etc. Imagine Annan telling combatants in Kenya and Syria to bury their differences when his own country is on fire with politicians at each other's throat. Kofi Annan has an NGO in Accra and plays an important role in ensuring peaceful elections in Ghana.

Though other African countries may not have a "Kofi Annan," the other three factors are still potent in ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections.

Alarm bells have been sounded over the possibility of massive fraud in the December 7 elections. But, given the current atmosphere in Ghana, it would be foolhardy for any politician to even dream of committing fraud in Friday's elections -- unless he wants to commit political suicide.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of George Ayittey.

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