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Opinions of Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Are Ghanaians Learning Anything From The Greeks

The Pathology Of Greeks’ Ugly Economic Austerity: Unrealistic Expectations And Toxic -Loans.

Voice Of Reason:

Are Ghanaians Learning Anything From The Greeks’ Economic Tragedy And Humiliation?

THE CORNRNER’S REPORT left no doubt as to the causes of the death of the Greek economy: Over –consumption of Toxic loans, unrealistic expectations and living recklessly like there was no tomorrow (like most Ghanaians do). That was the conclusion of the Greek financial autopsy.

By many indicators Greece is devolving into some kind of socio-economic coma, perhaps unprecedented in modern Western experience--- despite all the effort of the ECE and IMF; to keep the life support fund running. A quarter of all Greek companies have gone out of business and half of all small businesses can’t meet their payroll. Nearly half of the population under 25 is unemployed and about twenty-five thousand Greeks a month are on the verge of emigrating to Australia and other part of Europe. The news report says it’s not uncommon to see decently dressed Greeks discreetly rummaging through garbage bins for food. A barter economy has sprung up like mushrooms—thanks to mismanagement, over- consumption of toxic foreign loans and getting –something- for –nothing mentality.

Now, forgive me in advance for being a messenger of doom but, I’m a little unease about the recent development in Greece. It’s not a kind of news that should go unnoticed by Ghanaians because the Greeks’ lifestyles and economic mismanagement mimic that of Ghanaians—oops!.

With that in mind ,I wonder if our greedy Ghanaians and their do-nothing politicians can avoid the carbon- copy of the Greeks’ economic austerity in Ghana. Our obsession with foreign loans is going to be morphed into some serious economic catastrophe. But, I wonder if our policy makers really know the Do’s and Don’ts of today’s world.

Excuse me if I sound cynical ,but I hope I aren’t the only soul who sees that the Ghanaian economy is hemorrhaging profoundly and surviving on life support system.

Every so often it’s worth peeking into history’s mirror to re-exam pivotal events that have shaped our times. In every situation there is either a blessing or lesson .So what is our take on the Greeks’ situation? Let’s remember that some of the life’s most enduring lessons can also be the most painful ones but, we can’t afford not to pay attention to the Greeks’ situation.

Now let’s take a moment to reflect on our country’s unlimited capacity not to learn any lesson from others’ mistakes. How will history judge Ghanaians if we failed to learn something from the Greeks’ ugly austerity?

Nonetheless, I’d to digress; this was supposed to be a piece exclusively about the Greeks’ economy and their iniquities. But, that will be a disservice to my witting readers if I failed to point out some of the attitudes and attributes that got them into the economic mess; those things are also common among Ghanaians.

I’m not easily be discouraged because I’m naturally optimistic ,but looking at how Ghanaians’ lifestyles ,the governments’ over the years borrowing and spending habits---as if there is no tomorrow---the huge youth unemployment and our college graduates underemployment rates, I’m beginning to have some sleepless nights over the future of Ghana and its ability to handle any major economic tsunami . If our current borrowing and spending trends continue, Ghana will sink to Greece’s level and no one will bail us out.

Presently, the Ghanaian youths account for a majority of the unemployment rate and they also form the major part of self-appointed pot-holes and road maintenance crew on our road network. But, our politicians and policy makers have no qualms about it. This foolishness is gradually killing the future of our nation and ultimately causes our bright and young people to flee to foreign lands, as soon as they are able to do so. Yet our politicians are busily attempting to find every excuse hook to hang their collective hat on without a shame.

When are we going to put the plight of our youth and the elderly onto the radar screen of the nation? It’s true that we live in a country where there is no national comprehensive agenda for our children, teenagers, young people and the elderly. By the way, speaking of road, is the Eastern region part of Ghana when it comes to national development? I whimper every time I use our road network in the eastern region; particularly,Anyinam, Abomosu, Asuom to Asamankese road.

After decades of political and economic down-turns Ghana has waited for the right moment to take itself serious and prevent its offspring from being Globe-trotters; so as to be on the socioeconomic Promised Land. But, that moment might be slipping away gradually; with increasingly gigantic wastage of state resources.

Ghana has discovered oil. Great news, right?

Sorry for a little rain on your parade!

Today, Ghana stands in the spotlight of Africa: Strong climate, strong fertile landscape, strong minds and strong destines are gathering to sweep the nation into new directions, new actions and new possibilities. In other words, opportunities abound. But, the world waits to see what we can do with those opportunities and all the zillion tons of mineral and other resources that have escaped our grasp for so many years.

From the way things are going we are going to need a wake-up whack on our heads and a serious economic reform to avoid a disaster like the one the Greeks are experiencing.

To understand the Greek economic mess we have to understand how they lived and behaved before the crisis. For example, in Greece a business owner‘s taxation often works like this: Instead of paying a tax bill of say $100. He will pay $40 to the government, pay a $20 bribe to the tax collector, and keep $40. They also had a lot of political ‘connections’ which also undermined competiveness. In Ghana, contracts are awarded based on party connection; not competitive bidding. So one shouldn’t be surprised when government’s projects; like school buildings or roads are usually done shabbily with inflated price tags.

Just as most major media outlets in Ghana are owned and operated by politicians, in Greece the upper echelons of the media were one way or another intertwined with the political structure which prevented reporting of financial mismanagement of the country.

Just as we have in Ghana, in Greece corruption, inefficiency and a system in which the rule of laws are being optional are very common. Traffic rules and regulations don’t seem to matter .If you’re blocked by a one-way street you barrel through in the wrong direction. Stop signs are only suggestive. And No-Passing markers and blind turns mean: ‘pass -anyway’ and- pray to your angels in heaven .In short, when the entire economy operates without rules and regulations it has the potential to crash.

Ghanaians believe rules or laws are meant to be bent or broken--- even the Heavenly ones. Paradoxically, in Ghana the only law that we obey is unwritten one. It’s prohibited for the opposite sex- gender to use each other’s public toilets. It’s the only law; although unwritten law, no Ghanaian will deliberately break it.

Regrettably, we have developed a built-in compulsion for breaking the laws of the land, with impunity. As a result almost everybody (including the Mps and Police Personnel) breaks the law or turns the blind eye when the law is been broken---fantastic, huh? No shame left in Ghana!

Interestingly, we have also effectively, acquired a sense of unrealistic expectations of getting- something- for- nothing and the syndrome of expecting lousy performances from our politicians, service providers and public officials.

Now, add our politicians shying away from their responsibilities, constant power cuts, water shortages, poor infrastructures, inefficiencies in the market place and the destruction of our water bodies by the mining companies to the list, then you need not to look far to know all about our twisted and turned national priorities and where we are heading as a nation--- aye butu, butu, but no one is doing a damn thing!

Right now, there is another major issue to deal with in Ghana: A clash between traditions and modernity, inflated –expectations, the importation of foreign dreams and culture. But, how we settle them can affect our lives and the socio-economic well-being of the nation. Trust me; our souls depend on this single issue.

Yes, I know the pitiful state of our political system can be directly attributed to the fact that many bright men and women got into politics, not through any inborn desire to make a difference or to establish an identity or any legacy but, because it’s a lucrative and cash-cow profession. It’s also true that in Ghana most people get into politics because they believe it’s a secure profession .I think the biggest crime against Ghana is the society steering of its young bright people towards careers only for money.

But, as a fully participating member of any good and vibrant society, an individual must have a purpose and feeling that what he does has some enduring value well beyond the limits of his own personal interests. In other words, to achieve any contentment in life, one must derive genuine satisfaction and sense of accomplishment from his work. Trust me; these things are important as the size of one’s bank account. But, that is not what we have in Ghana.

The good news is that we will soon have a choice to change things around with ‘politricks’ .The not- so- good news is that until a better system is invented or emerged we’re in for turmoil. Yes, the election season is around the corner and news commentator of every ilk and stripe, headliners and innumerable journalists , politicians and bloggers are going to recycle the news and perhaps fan the flames of the fears and indignations of millions of unemployed, underemployed, freak-ups and over-spent middle- class citizens.

It’s hard to fathom the heights of hypocrisy currently being scaled by the foaming-in-the mouth political crazies who are leading the foot soldiers to dish out this year’s political innuendos. Cut it out, please! Can anyone explain to me the rationale behind the government’s refusal to occupy the Jubilee House? Another loan goes wasted just to score some few political points?

Nonetheless, I’m completely aware of the Tip O’Neil quote:”All politics are local”. Yes, you can’t escape them, or their effect on your life and well-being. Of course, you can refuse to participate, but you do so at your own peril. If you failed to participate that means you’ve forfeited and lost by default.

I know you won’t agree with me. But, where one stands on issues depends on where one sits right now.

Unfortunately, Africa has always been a place associated with calamities. And, the world’s history is littered with the wreckage of failed governments which took the aspirations and the expectations of their citizens for granted for too long. Does the Arabs Spring ring a bell?

And, for the dunderheads who proclaim” I don’t give a damn as long as I make my money” Please keep this in mind: if Ghana continues to engage in a major league borrow- and- spend mentality even the Greeks’ ugly economy will be enviously desired by every Ghanaian.

What are we doing for our Google, Iphone and IPod generation, which has no time to wait? True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence because the flipside of Freedom is Responsibility. One thing is certain if we screwed up like the Greeks: We are all going to bear the scars permanently if things begin to fall apart in our neighborhood.

Say what? I bet I caught you off guard, huh?

Plea-ze, stop shrugging your shoulders!

Until we meet again, stay strong, be blessed and be educated.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (Voice Of Reason)


*The author is a social commentator and the founder of the Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment foundation for the Disadvantaged youth of Asuom, E/R.