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Opinions of Friday, 14 February 2014

Columnist: Richard Annerquaye Abbey

A ship on troubled waters ...but it is all we have

Over the past few months, you have literally felt the economy sink its teeth into your flesh—biting so hard. The situation may not be much better the world over, but the Ghanaian situation points to a state of hopelessness that we are being driven into by our leaders.

I’m not too sure whether ours is a problem of incompetent leadership or leadership bereft of ideas. Either way, we are at a crossroads that could determine the country’s destiny—that is, if you believe in destinies.

There are no jobs for university graduates, not to talk about the high number of people who are not able to make it to the tertiary level. Research has shown that at least 80 percent of people who start basic school are not able to make it to the tertiary level—very alarming figures, if you asked me.

Right behind our backyard we are breeding monsters that will soon turn on us. A few days ago, a friend who graduated nearly four years ago told me of her difficulties in securing a decent job. “It is easier to find water on the Sahara desert than to find a job in this country,” she said.

So how has she been able to manage all these troubling years? Indeed, everybody does have a limit to which they can withstand temptations. Yes, we all do. Surely, three years of not being employed can dislocate a person’s conscience. In such a situation, anything goes, more or less. Our basic survival instinct sets in.

Sadly, many people have gone beyond that tipping point; the result is their indulgence in all sorts of vices. Illegal mining has become so rampant that if not checked it could drive this country into a serious famine as farms and river are destroyed in search of gold but no one seems to care.

Away from that, I remember hearing President Mahama at the World Economic Forum saying mine workers risk being laid-off should government go ahead to implement the windfall tax in the sector. Is that how worse our situation has become?

It is particularly sad that we have not even done a diagnosis of the ailment we are suffering from as a country. Our attempts at fixing the unemployment conundrum have always ended in a mess.

The old adage says: “more haste, less speed”. Some efforts to solve the problem such as the infamous Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA), formerly National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), have been fraught with allegations of financial malfeasance by officials.

The woes of GYEEDA are an endemic problem and show the systemic rot we have in our society. Rather than benefiting from the success of the system, some people choose to benefit at the expense of it.

Definitely we cannot build a country like in this manner. People cannot continue to reap where they have not sown, particularly in the form of kickbacks. How do we expect contractors to execute projects using the appropriate materials when huge monies have been used in bribing officials?

Sometimes I believe the various political leaders we have had, have no sense of shame. Comparing the level of our infrastructure development to that of the countries they visit, how do they feel? Even among their peers, how do they feel about the developments here?

Indeed, the country must wake up from its slumber. If we continue on this path we are doomed. We need to work on the mindset of the people—and the surest way we can do this is to work on the educational system.

Each year the literacy level keeps rising, yet the filth and indiscipline multiply in equal measure. In Japan for instance, in pre-tertiary schools, there are no janitors and students are made to work in lavatories just to instil in them a sense of responsibility.

Try this in Ghana and you will be dragged before the Human Rights Court. I am not calling for the same approach, but we should also be creative in dealing with our problems. This brings me back to the problem I mentioned earlier.

Our greatest bane however is democracy or partisan politics. Unfortunately, we have no other alternative to this. Until we figure a way around it, our lot in life may remain unchanged for a long time to come.

Last time I had a chat with UT Bank boss, Prince Kofi Amoabeng, he put it succinctly, “one man, one vote won’t lead us anywhere.” And he’s right. We can’t thrust such a key decision of who manages the fortunes of our country into the hands of someone who doesn’t value what’s at stake.

Going back to the drawing board, we should analyse all our options for making our democracy fully participatory, functional and all-inclusive. No group of people should be sitting on the fence waiting or praying for a fault. We can’t toy with this country.

I believe in Ghana and I expect it to work again. The last time I checked, it was the only place I could call home. When all is said and done, a big part of the responsibility rests on me, as well as you.

Whether the cedi is taking a nosedive or gone scuba diving, it is the only currency we have. And as citizens who are always at the receiving end, it is not in our best interest to always tow the line of politicians who predict doom for their opponents.

In a way, we are all captains of the ship Ghana, and we cannot afford to abandon it in these troubled times.

God bless our homeland Ghana! I’m out.