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Opinions of Sunday, 20 January 2008

Columnist: Agbodza, Kwami

Anti-Democratic Free Market Banking?

The Free Market Management of Ghana’s economy is doing such wonders that it is deemed necessary to praise one of its technical managers Mr Paul Acquah.
This is all the more strange since the one being praised is neither a politician nor an elected representative of the people of Ghana in any aspect of Ghana’s political economy.
And since the majority of Ghanaians remain poor and Ghanaian workers do not earn living wages one must ask for whom such economic wonders by Paul Acquah, Governor of the Bank of Ghana, has been carried out and in whose organised interest has Paul Acquah really been working.
According to the release, “Ghana's economy has been transformed by dint of the efforts of Paul Acquah, the governor of the central bank. When he took over six years ago, the country was on the brink of disaster. Today it is the envy of all Africa with a solid and reliable growth rate, inflation under control and a substantial internal economy.” (Let set aside the laughable suggestion that one man can do this all by himself.)
These achievements may be so, except that the growth rate, under-control inflation and substantial internal economy have failed to lift the majority of the people of Ghana out of poverty onto a progressive increasing standard of life.
The release said that “the basis of Mr Acquah's success has been tough discipline and a commitment to the sound and unflinching implementation of monetary policy.” When did the people of Ghana give Paul Acquah the mandate to do these things at the cost of the social and economic rights of the majority of Ghanaians?
It is clear that he got it from the IMF whose officials have never been elected by Ghanaians, but who wield anti-democratic power over Ghana’s economic policy choices and work against our democratic good governance and sustainable development.
Without any democratic mandate foreign officials and consultants within Ghana’s Ministry of Finance have continued to work with Paul Acquah to oversee a home-grown reform programme that has failed for the last six years to improve the lives of Ghanaians and continue to keep the majority of Ghanaians in poverty. But we are told this has enhanced the government’s credibility.
This IMF Liberal-Conservative Free Market Economic Agenda known by several different names continues, first, to be promoted across Africa to continue, second, to tap into Ghana’s image as the fount of inspiration on the African Continent and beyond. Any credibility of the Government of Ghana that has been nurtured is not for the people of Ghana but the foreign unelected technical managers of the IMF and World Bank they report to and their political masters in turn.
We are told that the $750m bond was a stunning audacity. How such bonds will lift Ghanaians out of poverty we are not told since the Government has no intention of intervening in the economy of Ghana for the benefit of the majority of Ghanaians. And Paul Acquah is not either. It remains to be seen whether an audacious and progressive tax on the Free Market by a future Central Banker in Ghana will also be hailed in such glowing terms.
For all his raised standards of management at Ghana’s Central Bank created in the early days of Ghana’s new history, Ghana’s Central Banker has failed to implement the democratic proposal that the purpose of a Central Bank is to make decisions in the interest of the people who own the country and that are Ghanaians.
Ghana’s banking system is independent and competent we are told. But surely a banking system like anywhere in the world, must be answerable to someone. So since Ghana’s banking system is so independent, can Paul Acquah tell us who he reports to? Does he report to the elected President of Ghana? And if he does, do the monetary policies he pursues advance the hopes and aspirations of Ghanaians who own the Central Bank? Are we being told that Mr Acquah’s achievements of a stabilised banking sector and institutions of significant capital base cannot be achieved unless the Central Bank is independent?
If so, is it not clear that there is something inherently wrong with Free Market Banking that can only support policies that impoverish the majority of the people? And yet “He believes a strong and independent banking system should be at the "heart of the government's growth strategy".” We were told this by the same IMF he worked for as far back as 1982. Whatever the liberal or conservative growth strategy, the majority of Ghanaians are not enjoying the fruits of Dr Paul Acquah’s Central Bank backed growth policies.
Progressives for whom a Central Bank in Ghana must advance the indigenous capitalist interests of Ghanaians and not foreign capitalist interests will therefore not be in jubilation over Paul Acquah’s achievement as “Banker of the Year for Africa”. And as long as Africa’s economy remains balkanised and not integrated the idea of a Banker for Africa remains a Free Market Fraud. So we shall not be opening the champagne bottles, if we can even afford it, because of his drive for full capital account convertibility directed at stimulating inward investment into Ghana. And we shall not be dancing ‘kpalogo’ or ‘agbadza’ or ‘adowa’ because Ghana’s Central Banker of Africa is more interested in “ultimately greater global trade” than Ghana’s balanced democratised trade for say rice and poultry and the standard of life of Ghanaians.
So Mr Acquah may be a “central bank governor with a large vision and the will and ability to deliver it”, but no Ghanaians mandated that ‘large vision’ or the Government of Ghana to work for the Free Market promoted by the IMF. So however large the vision and the will and ability to deliver it, it remains unelected and anti-democratic.

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