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Opinions of Saturday, 4 March 2006

Columnist: Aning, Alfred Kwadwo Afodour

Beyond ROPAB: Productivity and Corruption

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time for us to move beyond Ropab and tackle the real problems facing our dear nation We will all survive Ropab with either bloated egos or slightly bruised egos.The so called revolutionaries will always believe only revolution will save the Republic. They had their chance for a greater part of our political sojourn and failed miserably. We need to debate the economic, social and political future of our country. Ghana like most African countries is at the crossroads. We are the last frontier for political and economic experiment. It is my humble opinion that two of the key national challenges are Productivity and corruption.It is very simple. When a society does not produce much but few priveleged or opportunistic few steal the little produced the result is disaster.

PRODUCTIVITY

High productivity is an engine of growth and economic prosperity. Technology plays major part in high productivity, however, in a developing country with scarce capital like Ghana strong work ethic is very critical. The Asian economic boom is a mixture of technology transfer and strong work ethic. If we work with the same fury and fervor as we demonstrate against Ropab we will move our economy ahead. We cannot ask for higher minimum wage when most of us are not even working for the low minimum wage. The government is the biggest employer and the government employees are the least productive. The result is a cycle of low productivity and poverty. You visit the ministries and you find scores of people on the veranda jaw jiving and the few serious ones inside ready to shake you down for a bribe. That is not productivity.We fed ourselves before the' White Man Came' because we went to the farm at sunrise and worked until sundown. Why can't we pass this simple example to the next generation? The answer is very simple. The father or mother most often is not working for what he or she brings home. The politician is out there railing against the government for the plight of the ordinary worker instead of preaching individual responsibility and hard work. That is the only way jobs can be created and higher wages earned and not given.

Some of us are nostalgic about Nkrumah era. The plain truth is that this was the beginning of the erosion of our strong work ethic as a nation. Our attempt at Sate capitalism and collectivized farming was a failure. Do you remember the Workers Brigade and Work and happiness. I do. The workers did not produce much, stole the little they produced, the tractors were broken and never serviced and our dream of happiness was never realized. Does this sound familiar? The results were massive debts which has taken a painful HIPC and debt forgiveness to get rid off and legacy of laziness and corruption.

Our way forward is for the government to divest itself rapidly from most its state holdings. The government only needs to be involved in strategic assets. Our cumulative productivity is low because of the public sector. Our private sector is responding very well. The government should be preoccupied with public policy. The government should not be in the business of creating jobs. It should provide the infrastructure for the private sector to create jobs.We need this balance to able to create a climate of sustained growth and development.

Reform our civil service to be as efficient as our private sector.Set achievable goals and hold managers responsible. Institute measurable merit system into our civil institutions. Reward successful managers and employees.

Reduce our bloated civil institution payroll. Create a seamless private sector to public sector and vice versa enviroroment for workers and managers.

CORRUPTION:

We can say without any hesitation that corruption was born in Ghana during the CPP administration of the first republic, grew under the corrupt military governments, flourished under PNDC and NDC and is aging under the NPP. President Kuffour made a statement to the effect that corruption was a cancer which will always be there. He was crucified. But he was right. We always want our politicians to lie to us and when they do we cry. Former President Rawlings rails about the corrupt NPP administration. May be he is angry because they are stealing more now than they did under his administration. As a young National Service man at a district council in 1976 i was outraged to see the level of corruption. From the messenger all the way to DCE everybody stole. This means in Ghana when there is a cry of corruption it is not about stealing but stealing too much. We need to tackle it as a social and national problem and not a political problem. I believe President Kuffour honestly wanted zero tolerance for corruption, however, it is practically impossible at this stage of our national development .Corruption and low productivity rate are critical factors we need to address if we want our nation to join the ranks of developed countries. When you have a work force which is lazy, collects bribe to push papers and falsifies contractor papers; the result is disaster and economic stagnation. Our civil service and quasi government institutions have always been corrupt. We need to cleanse it.

President Kuffour and former President Rawlings should lead this effort and stop politicizing it. Rawlings populist government was anti corruption however in the end the pure revolutionaries were even stealing from the thieves.Why do Ghanaians from the messenger to the Minister collect bribes and steal from our National purse? That is million dollar question.Is it greed? Yes. Is it the extended family system and its attendant responsibilities? May be. Is it the extra money needed to keep extra girlfriends and wives? Sometimes. Is it seen as the only way to keep up with the Joneses? True in some cases. Whatever the myriad reasons are, we have a problem we need to control. Political grandstanding is not going to solve the problem.

I live in a city where civil servants are being hauled to jail almost every month. It is not Ghana but the US. Yes, the very people who tell us our biggest obstacle to our development is corruption. The difference is they are going to jail whiles our thieves are buying stools with their ill gotten wealth to become chiefs and paying expensive tuition and boarding to send their children to foreign institutions. We need to create an independent and strong law enforcement and judiciary. We are moving in the right direction but slowly.

If we are able to clean up our civil institutions to a point where corruption is not the norm but an exception, we will then be able to curb political corruption. That is where we have a clean clerk who is angry at the Minister for stealing not because he is stealing more than him or her.



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