Feature Article of Sunday, 8 September 2013
Columnist: Asamoah, Amofah A.
This article is Part II of my previous article “Politics in Ghana-Is Corruption a Priority” Part I (See Ghana web May 17, 2013).
Fifty six years ago Ghana became the first African country south of the Sahara to obtain political independence from British rule. But after all these years the socio –economic transformation of the country is still below the desirable mark hence, many Ghanaians today cannot respond in the affirmative when asked whether they can make ends meet. One cannot be silent but question why there has not been rapid socio-economic transformation in the country since the first Republic. Rather instead of progressing the country is retrogressing. Yet, the nation is blessed with natural resources that are a source of major income to our economy.
Ghana is the second leading producer of Gold in Africa, and number eight in the world.It is the second largest producer of cocoa in the world. Ghana exports diamond, manganese, bauxite, timber and recently oil. Some hard working farmers export fruits like oranges, pineapples, mangoes and other produce like yams, palm oil, corn, and millet, et cetera. In spite of these resources Ghana still depend on foreign aid to sustain our budget. Our leaders have been negotiating and contracting billions of dollars in loans from China, World Bank, and other Foreign Financial Institutions with “fewer” or no projects to show. Why?
Several factors have contributed to the slow socio-economic development but the major issue is on the direction where our leaders and politicians set their priorities rather than on intentional development of the country. Undoubtedly many years of military rule set the nation back, and consequently affected the pace of development. But it has been twenty one years since the start of the fourth Republic in Ghana. In spite of this majority of the nationals are still wallowing in abject poverty whilst our leaders, politicians, and civil servants are focusing on corruption as a priority to the detriment of our socio-economic development.
Thank God, finally President Mahama has raised the issue for the Attorney-General and the Minister of Justice to prosecute those who have been found to engage in corruption and financial misappropriation by the Auditor General. Hopefully it will be backed by action. (See “Mahama orders A-G; Prosecute those who misappropriated funds”, Ghana Web, 6 August, 2013).
Let me talk about some of the major issues confronting the country that are fixable if our leaders and politicians consider those issues as priorities and begin to think about the welfare of the citizens of the country before I also offer some suggestions.
It is saddened to see that after fifty six of independence, Ghana still experience intermittent supply of electricity, water shortages, and some school children still study under trees. This is ridiculous! We must think and act faster when it comes to providing basic amenities like these for our people. We should also think and plan ahead. The lack of visionary leadership and sustainable strategic planning leads to a level of mediocrity in production and consequently slow development. The inadequate supply of basic amenities, like water, electricity and decent classrooms for school children who study under trees are pathetic and unacceptable!
For the past fifty six years during independent celebration, our leaders have given many promises at the Independence Square to Ghanaians and also for the past twenty one years during The State of The Nations address in Parliament, but always they are not able to deliver the promises made. From now onwards Ghanaians need action not empty promises. We are tired of mere rhetoric from our leaders year after year. Yet the national debt keeps on increasing. I would suggest that whoever is declared the winner of the election petition should make these basic amenities a priority on his strategic plan and development agenda for the nation.
One issue that should require the attention of the Central Government, City and Town Planning Boards is the need for planned storm water or drainage system, as well as sewer system in our cities, towns, and villages where waste water could be recycled. For example, the annual flooding in Accra is due to lack of planned storm water, or drainage system. Also, since there is no planned sewer where human waste is recycled, many homes in Ghana have their human waste storage in their compound. What makes it worse is that most of these homes use their own well water supply drilled in the same compound. This may pose serious environmental issues and health challenges in future since liquid human waste stored in septic tanks may eventually find its way or leak into the well water supply. What is the Environmental Protection Agency doing about this serious issue? The issue is bigger than we think. It is about the direction where the leaders, politicians, and opinion leaders focus their priorities and how we think about the future of our children and grand children. This is a national concern that needs to be solved. (Readers can Google “Ecological Cycle Management at valley View University in Accra, Ghana”) The Government, City and Town Planning Boards can look into this technology and adopt it.
Again, there is the need for the government to accelerate infrastructural development in the country if we want to attract foreign investors to do business in Ghana. To reinforce my point, the reader may notice that for several years now the Accra-Kumasi road has not been completed even though it is a major link to the second largest city in the country. Though previous administrations started and advanced the project but did not finish it; the immediate past government did not do anything about it; and the present administration does not see it as a priority on its agenda to continue or get it done. What major projects did the immediate past government and the current administration use the billions of dollars that increased our national debt from $8 billion to $19 billion or GNc39.1 billion for? (See- “Ghana’s debt now GHc39.1 billion”-Ghana Web, 5 August, 2013. Also “Ghana’s economy is in tatters”-Osarfo Marfo, Ghana Web, July 9, 2013).
Another concern that should be a priority to the Government is the National Railway system that has collapsed for years. The government could rehabilitate the once flourishing railway system and extend the rail network from Kumasi to Sunyani and Tamale to serve as inland ports to cater for the needs of the northern half of the country. This will help landlocked countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger that take delivery of their imported goods from the Tema harbor. After all the Ghana Port Authority gets revenue from the services provided to these landlocked countries. An inland port linked with railway system can even create employment, ease the burden of heavy traffic in our already bad and congested roads, minimize accidents and facilitate the transport of goods and services from the Northern part of the country to the Southern part and vice versa. I strongly believe that no single MP or Ghanaian will object to or blame any Ghanaian leader who will support such a viable economic project. Here again, it is the direction our leaders and politicians tend to lean toward when it comes to an issue of national priority such as this.
Since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1992, if our leaders had solved one major problem every year or every two years or even every four years, for their eight year term in office, for the past twenty one years, Ghana could have become the real “gateway to Africa.” By now we wouldn’t have school children studying under trees. We wouldn’t have intermittent power supply and water shortages. There would be sewer system in Accra and other regional capital cities where waste matter is recycled and sanitation would improve. The ten regional government hospitals would be equipped with modern medical machines like ultrasound, CT scan, or CAT scan, EKG and MRI machines as well as dialyses centers, et cetera.
The sad thing is that the $11 billion increase in our national debt in four and a half years bringing the total debt to $19 billion or GNc39.1 billion would be more than enough to provide most of the aforementioned projects and facilities to improve the lives of the people. The issue here is about the priorities of our leaders and politicians.
Having raised a few issues that pose a great challenge to our socio-economic development, I would like to offer the following suggestions.
1. Our leaders should readjust their priorities in the right direction to embark on intentional development of the country. In every developed country, it is the private sector that propels the engine for economic growth. But it is also true that if the existing government does not provide the necessary infrastructure needed for development, it does not attract local or foreign companies to invest in the economy. The issue is where our leaders and politicians focus their priorities. We shouldn’t just pride ourselves that our country is “The gateway to Africa.” We must try hard to earn it. The present and future governments could do better by putting the necessary framework in place to attract investors on board to grow the economy.
2. When elected into power, our leaders should embark on a consistent strategic plan approved by parliament for the country. For example three years, five years or eight years plan. a. The strategic plan should be achievable, measurable, and sustainable. b. There should be periodic assessment by our legislators whether the strategic plan is on course. c. When there is a change of government the projects started by the outgoing administration should be continued by the incoming administration. Abandoned projects are a waste of resources of our already fragile economy.
3. The government could offer incentives and lower taxes or offer tax breaks to local and foreign investors to hire more local workers. This will reduce the unemployment problem and the number of street vendors.
4. There is the need for Ghana to embark on immediate decentralization policy. This will help modernize other cities and towns, create jobs, and check the influx of people to the urban areas thereby easing congestion in our cities.
5. The government should institute strict measures to protect and control the water courses from deforestation and environmental pollution so that we can build dams for constant supply of clean water to the people and our industries.
6. There is an urgent need for our leaders to look into alternative source of energy like solar and wind to meet the growing demand for energy in Ghana.
A closer look at the nation’s development and achievements after fifty six years of independence is quite anemic. There seems to be a structure of laxity, and chronic apathy to socio-economic development in Ghana. This coupled with corruption and decades of military rule have crippled the structures for growth in all sectors of the economy. The other issue is the direction our leaders and politicians tend to lean toward when it comes to the socio-economic transformation of the country. The time has come for our leaders and politicians to focus their priorities on nation building to better the lives of Ghanaians.
Our entrusted leaders and politicians need to shift gears else Ghana, our beloved country will head toward a ditch if we are not almost there. I have said this before but I will say it again. Once again our leaders and politicians must bear in mind that when you are entrusted with leadership you are accountable not only to the people who gave you the mandate to lead but to God! If we accept these principles and put them into practice, each of us doing our honest part, eschewing corruption, managing the country’s resources well to better the lives of its people, fifty six years from now, we would leave a lasting legacy and our children, grand children, and great grand children will look back and can positively say: “our forefathers did a great job!” They can then build on the solid foundation that has been laid.
God bless our homeland Ghana, and God bless the people of Ghana!
Dr. Amofah A. Asamoah