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Opinions of Sunday, 29 August 2004

Columnist: Folson, Ako

Another Blow to Our Image?What Next?

In response to the article, ?UK Bans Ghana Palm Oil?, this is yet another blow to our national image. It seems we are headed in the wrong direction as a nation. My suspicion is that, the Ghana Airways saga has caused all red flags to go up, especially with respect to Ghana, and its players on the international scene, and for the sake of consumers, locally and outside, rightfully so.

These problems are a result of weak institutions with a leadership that has no clue what the ?global village? expects of them. First of all, Ghana occasionally makes a mistake in trying to act like a ?big boy?, with ?big? western powers, when in reality, we are nothing but a poor third world country, with an economy dependent on hand outs to survive.

Whether we like it or not we are being forced to play on the global scene and for this reason, rather than try to re-write the ?law?, why not follow the ?law? and simply abide by the rules?

In our society, I am not sure if there is a phrase that captures ?sense of urgency? in any language. This could be the problem that causes us always to manage in reaction to things as opposed to being proactive with the management of the nation and economy.

It is really a shame that we do not in anyway, and at any level seem to have a grasp of what ?having a sense of urgency? means, and how to really put it into play for our benefit.

If we are in the ?golden age of business?, then our image as nation, which lends some credence to the brands we export should be protected. In doing so, we should have institutions, which function and can meet today?s challenges. We should also have policies that shape our society to fit into the ?global village?

Our organizations, especially regulatory and legal, are weak because they have a poor structure, not designed to handle our issues of the world today. They were designed years ago with a different objective in mind and have outlived their usefulness, in their present state, and are almost ineffective in today?s cotemporary world. The weakness results in inefficiency, which means waste, which in a nutshell translates to ineffectiveness.

One way to fix this problem is to attract talent for leadership roles. Find innovative ways to compete and attract visionary leadership. People who have been where we want to go as nation, and not those who have no exposure to new concepts and ideas of today and the future.

In terms of an inefficient organizational structure, I can only illustrate this inefficiency by falling back on our beloved ailing national airline, Ghana Airways. Simply look at the number of employees that are supported by three or four aircrafts? Yes, they are being supported by the aircrafts because three or four aircrafts do not need the support of thousands of employees. How many world-class airline companies today have such a structure? I would like to know.

To have an effective organization, in a situation of limited resources, Ghanaian insitutions, especially regulatory agencies, must look at their core competences and focus their resource on them. Non-core competences may be either outsourced or institutions could collaborate with others to derive the expertise or access to resources that they need but cannot afford, or do not wish to own.

Knowing how difficult our economic situation is as a nation, there are a number of resources that can be pooled together and accessed by government and regulatory agencies, on an as-needed basis, while deploying the meager resources available towards core activities.

To make an attempt to cover all grounds, amidst meager resources, by these local institutions could result in either underutilization of resources in some cases, and in other cases a total mis-application of resources, especially human and financial.

We cannot dismiss the relevance of technology in strengthening our institutions and this must be a priority for us as a nation. Of course it will lead to displacement of workers but for the most part it will redirect labor into the areas of our economy that it is needed the most.

It is high time we realized, as a nation, that today?s world is about how quickly one can learn and un-learn. We have a deficit in teaching staff and nurses across the country. I believe any individuals displaced by the restructuring and automation of our institutions, for the better, can be retrained to meet the demands and supply gaps in at least these two cited fields.

On the negative image of Ghana, it must be of concern to any pro-business minded person, and all citizens for that matter, should be concerned with respect to the overall economic well being of the country. It should be a number one priority to try and bring regulation into the forefront of government?s activities and start revamping key institutions to play their roles.

Due to a lack of proactive management of export procedures and institutions, we now have dented our image for a local industry, stemming from an integrity issue as opposed to a non-compliance issue, which affected Ghana Airways.

Now guess what happens to the overall palm oil industry in Ghana. Not only is export reduced; locally there will be a reduction in consumption because of fear. The producer will suffer and all activities in between production and delivery to market, will also take a nosedive. The economy will be affected again.

Unless as a nation, we realize that playing on the global stage requires actors of global standard, using global tools, and conforming to global guidelines, we are really ?dreaming? in terms of enhancing our GDP, in an accelerated manner, in the near future.

We need institutional restructuring and we need it now, in all our institutions, especially those of a watchdog or regulatory nature. When they play their role well, they instill confidence, which is a key driver in any consumer driven economy.

In this particular case,with this palm oil fiasco, if all produce and food for export in particular, was subjected to rigorous testing prior to export, or restricted to some certified export entities, managed by professional export companies, who have been accredited based on a specific criteria, we could have reduced, or eliminated the possibility of having ignorant people play on the global stage on behalf of all Ghanaians, thus leaving our image and economy in the hands of professional firms with integrity, as opposed to a few unscrupulous bad eggs. Let us embrace change for a better future.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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