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Opinions of Sunday, 19 August 2018

Columnist: Kofi Annor

A nation’s obsession with Private sector! Private sector! Private sector!

Baffling, confusion and lack of clarity is what bedevils me anytime I attempt to make some sense in why most political parties in Ghana especially the current two main parties i.e. NPP NDC continue to believe that the only way to develop a country like Ghana is through some calculated charmed enigmatic ways of infusing the private sector with some doses of “National Vision” to take over the aspirations of the citizens.

It is difficult to subject this way of thinking to any form of serious thought without critically examining any possible historical connection which might have influenced why we see the world the way to do as Ghanaians and as Africans for that matter. The cold war begun almost immediately after Second World War had ended.

The cold war which was simply a geographical tension between the Eastern Block led by the Soviet USSR and Western Block led by the United States and its European allies.

The West, worried that Soviet Expansionism may spread to Africa and other colonial territories they occupy in other parts of the world, led by the Americans waged a massive war of propaganda against communism/socialism with the view that Africans would hate and reject anything proposed or offered from or by USSR or Russia and they succeeded to a large extent.

As a result, most Africans especially the “elites” rejected socialism as an ideological alternative in any form without even understanding what it really means and its power to unit and build together.

Even though socialism fits more into the socio-cultural structure of the African society especially the natural predisposition to be each other’s keeper, and also the fact that instilling nationalism into citizens works best under a socialist government, most Africans sometimes with pressure from the West shunned anything to do with socialism and rather embraced the idea of capitalism propelled by the private sector.

This idea totally puts the private man at the forefront of national development and any government involvement in a direct creation of industries is discouraged.

The irony however, was that, at the time when the West were busy encouraging Africans to focus mainly on private sector, the British government was heavily involved in building new factories and heavy industries after returning from the second world war.

Sadly, the elite Africans who had earlier been trained by the colonial powers to run the administration of the colonies eventually took political power and since they lacked ideological clarity even in the so called capitalism which they embraced, simply conformed with the rules and principles set by the West with the apparent reason of emulating its economic model.

After several years of studying successful emerging economies in Asia and the Mekong region including China, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea etc., none of these countries have emerged successful as a result of putting the destinies of their countries in the hands of the private man.
Based on my six month study to examine the economic history of 10 successful economies around the world since the year 2000, none of the countries had achieved what they had achieved through a total reliance on the private sector as the engine of growth as we continuously hear from our politicians here in Ghana say.

In Malaysia and South Korea for example, the central government systematically built the industries before it was slowly released into private hands. Under such strategy, the government did not wait for the private sector to come and build anything since profit is the primary objective of the private man; it is fundamentally unwise to expect him to create what he cannot see to be profitable however needful it may be to the nation.

Agriculture

Even though it was already known that the agricultural industry in Malaysia was completely developed in the 60s by the Malaysian government, it was shocking to discover that the several large palm plantations measuring thousands of hectors in Ghana were actually setup by the government through an institution we once had in Ghana called State Farms. This also reminded me about several large palm plantations different parts of the Ghana including Mpoho in the Western Region as well as Mbemu in the Brong Ahafo Region. The fundamental mistake which continue to hunt us as a nation is how we use the possibility of corruption to kill great ideas instead of actually killing the corruption itself.

Taking into consideration how much we have continuously failed as a nation with respect to our lack of understanding in the general philosophy of developing a nation, one would’ve thought that there is now sufficient evidence suggesting that this current approach will not work and therefore some purposive and dynamic strategy is required but obviously that’s not the case. It is immeasurable the scale of frustration that imbues into my body immediately that statement (the private sector is the engine of growth) is made by politicians in Ghana.

Is it a putative fact though that what inspires such way of thinking is the surficial looks of the economic systems in some part of the Western world which without any serious scrutiny may suggest that everything had been created or initiated by the private man even though shoe factories and departmental stores in France and Britain had previously been established and run by these States in Europe.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this fallacious private sector oriented model is that it seeks to promote stupidity and laziness leaving the country prematurely in a state of “laissez faire” and the politician in a state of a national liability.

Transport

Since we mistakenly adopted the World Bank/IMF programme called Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in the 80s and our subsequent embracement of the 1992 constitution, the government of Ghana completely ignored the transport industry as it believes same should be in the hands of the private sector. As a result, the citizens of Ghana watched while our rail system collapsed before us. Perhaps the devastating part of the road transport which was put in the hands of individual vehicles owners under an umbrella union called GPRTU.

This in my opinion is the most damaging aspect of the entire concept of our blind obsession with the role of the private sector in development. The State Transport Corporation (STC) which was established back in the 60s to provide safe quality travelling experience for Ghanaians was marginalized and rather a profit oriented private individuals were brought in to control the movement of people in a country with very little or no effective traffic regulations.

This as a result has led to several thousands of accidents and deaths across the country every year. It is terribly sickening the number of deaths on our roads across the country every month and it’s even worse why nobody is held responsible for it. Why would a country like Ghana surrender its citizens to such a mass scale of human life destruction never seize to baffle me. Given that, a profit oriented road transport system in the hands of the private sector in a country like Ghana where everybody is left to fend for himself, how could anybody not expect such large scale of human slaughtering on our roads?

The Mercedes Sprinter bus which was built for the purpose of transporting goods and providing services in Europe is the number one human carrier vehicle here in Ghana. Even though our politicians know these vehicles were not designed to carry human beings and therefore are not safe for carrying passengers, our crazy politicians continue to ignore this at the detriment of the innocent Ghanaians for the sake of saving some private sector transport industry. Despite all these, the Sprinter has killed and continues to kill many at least every month across the country and nobody seem to care anymore.

Construction

Just like all other sensible developing counties around the world back in the 1960s, the construction industry was entirely taken over by the state as a pragmatic means of establishing quality and standards in the construction industry. China, Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore established their own state owned construction companies which operated alongside with well-known multinational construction firms just like how our own State Construction Company (SCC) was supposed to work.

Even with the most rudimentary common sense, it is an established fact that most foreign loans contracted for construction purposes are given back to foreign construction firms and the funds ultimately ends back to its original place leaving the African man yet unfulfilled through self-consented exploitation. Instead of today’s politician to think deep about finding deep seated solution to tackle our failed economic problems, his solution still fundamentally rest on the exact same idea which has broken the very foundation of his economy.

Failed decolonization

I spent years trying to understand why the Americans find is so important to decolonize the country and the mind of its people after independence from the British. It is a putative fact that one of the most difficult things to do in the world is to attempt to fully comprehend the effect of colonialism on a nation and its people especially when there has never been a systematic effort to decolonize the destructive psychological residue of imperialism which for about a century formed the basis of the subconscious in the people.

There is also sufficient evidence in human history which suggests that one achieves greater heights or can only become relevant when he or she’s characteristics are considered to be original. The aspirations of the minds of colonial subjects are mostly that of the colonialists and therefore unless there is a systematic effort to psychologically cleanse elements deposited for over a century such as the lack of the following; self-confidence, creativity, cultural degradation, security, honesty, moral uprightness etc.

Crime

It is said that “Capitalism is the root of all evil” this saying is actually even most common in the Western world. It is also amazing how none of our politicians are able to inquire deep into the scientific real to discover why crime has shot up in Ghana over the last few decades and how it is linked with our current political and economic policy system. Even without a thorough enquiry into the deleterious neo-sociocultural settings now in Ghana, it is obvious that when you leave everybody to fend for themselves and survive regardless, without any proper structured social net to protect the vulnerable and the underprivileged, crime is bound to soar.

Like I always say, “It is the failure or the inability of the black man to propose an alternative way of reasoning based on his perspective on the true meaning of life which have left him so confused that Justice, Truth, Reasoning and Originality he must always rely on what may appear to be beautiful (promise of goodness) in the eyes of the West”.

Kofi Annor/kofiannor121@gmail.com