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Opinions of Thursday, 10 March 2022

Columnist: Kofi Tonto

Coup D’etat not an option: Kofi Tonto’s response to Dr Arthur Kennedy

Kofi Tonto Kofi Tonto

You can liken Ghana’s fledgling democracy to a young man. Let’s call him Kwame. Although he has made some progress in life, he still depends largely on his parents for survival. At the age of 30, he is still behind in a lot of things compared to his peers.

While Kwame struggles to feed himself, one of his classmates has finished his PhD degree in Engineering, and is currently working for a top multinational company. Even though Kwame is determined to make it, he can’t abstain from the challenges that continue to weigh him down.

His expenditure far outstrips his income and he’s unable to fully harness his potential as a means of improving his income. Could Kwame, a young man full of potential make it? Should his parents throw their hands up in despair and give up on him?

A similar comparison can be made between Ghana and Singapore. While Ghana is struggling to asphalt all of its 78,000 kilometers road network, Singapore has built a modern city-state that can rival any advanced country in the world.

There is no denial that, as of today, Ghana’s macroeconomic indicators remain relatively vulnerable. Even though this government has reduced the rate of borrowing, interest rates remain high. Same phenomenon is true about the inflation rate.

Disruption in the global supply chain has heightened demand for dollars. Increase in interest rates in the US has forced capital flight as investors prefer investing in a more stable market. These two realities are having a devastating toll on the cedi. Corruption is still evident in our public sector. The private sector has not been spared either.

Dilapidated roads abound. If not for the sound management of COVID-19, our fragile healthcare system would have collapsed. Reports from the Auditor General point to irregularities that continue to hamper efficiency in our public sector.

Singapore, a nation that had a similar income per capita as Ghana, can now boast of income per capita of $64,103 compared to $2,374 for Ghana. South Korea has built an industrialized economy that is producing high value products like phones, appliances, cars and many more high-end products.

A report by the Brookings Institute grades Ghana's manufacturing complexity level as low because our productions are mainly in natural resources and agricultural products. We have not yet developed a manufacturing sector that can produce complex and sophisticated products.

I have enumerated the above issues to highlight some of the grave challenges our country faces. I have also cited countries that were in similar economic situations like Ghana some 50 years ago and their current economic standings to show that indeed Ghana lags far behind its peers in terms of economic independence. But just as the young man Kwame, Ghana is still a country with great potential.

Although a pale shadow of what the Chaebols have achieved in South Korea, Ghana has committed to re-engineering its industrialization strategy to add value to her raw materials. Today, some 170 green and brown companies are operational providing about 120,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Additionally, five car manufacturing companies including Toyota, VW, Sinotruk and Kantanka have set up assembly plants in Ghana. Ghana is now home to the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Can Ghana pursue a rigorous industrialization strategy and ultimately become the tech and automotive giant in West Africa? Can we add value to our raw materials, produce sophisticated products and also develop new inventions for the global market? Can we pursue prudent autarky policies or smart protectionist policies to grow our domestic market? Like President Obama’s campaign slogan; “Yes, we can!”.

The Free SHS program has made it possible for millions to acquire education and stands to be a formidable source of talent for our industrialization drive in the next few years. Today, the government is building 16 model secondary schools that can rival that of advanced countries. Construction of STEM and creative arts schools aimed at reimagining our academic frontier has started. TVET education has been revamped to suit our needs. Can the government pursue a research strategy that invests at least $1billion per year in advanced research? Can the government pursue building a research city that brings the best and brightest together? Can a true and sustainable connection between academia and industry be established and incentivised? Yes, we can!

President Mahama’s commencement of Terminal 3 and President Akufo-Addo’s resolve to make Ghana the aviation hub in the sub region gives hope that the country is making strides in the aviation industry. Can the government re-establish the country’s airline undergirded by sound management and progressive yet innovative policies to restore hope in our aviation industry? Yes, we can!

The government’s digitalization drive, led by the Vice President, Dr. Bawumia, is another indicator of progress. Fifteen million Ghanaians have been registered onto the government’s identification database. Efforts are being made to integrate all government databases to ensure harmony. Can Ghana harness these opportunities to expand the tax net, improve transparency, enhance efficiency in the public sector and help build credit report platforms to promote internal borrowing at lower interest rates? Yes, we can!

Ghana is set to launch its first gold refinery as part of the government's efforts to promote value addition of our mineral resources. Can the government explore obsolescing bargains to renegotiate contracts with multinationals that are mining and exploiting our natural resources? Can the government invest in additional gold refineries and other value addition initiatives? Can the government reinvigorate Tema Oil Refinery to boost its natural resource value addition objectives? Yes, we can!

In the last five (5) years, the government built about 4,000 kilometers of road. This is an unprecedented achievement when it comes to the history of road construction in Ghana. But China built 126,000 kilometers of road averaging 6,300 kilometers per year. The fact is that 70% of our total road network still remains unpaved. Can we relook at how road construction is done in Ghana and come up with a better model that scales quality road construction at a faster rate? Yes, we can!

Access to electricity is now at 83%, one of the highest on the continent. Can the government aggressively liberalize its energy policies to ensure efficiency and at the same time achieve stable and reliable energy at 100% accessibility? Yes, we can!

Performance analysis of Ghana’s socioeconomic and governance indicators conducted by iRIS Research shows that the country is making progress in several areas. In addition to improved access to electricity, youth literacy rate is at 93% and overall literacy at 79%, life expectancy has increased from 57 years to 64 years, unemployment is declining, among other things.

But for COVID, the economy was growing at an average rate of 7% from 2017 to 2019. These development indicators are further testament that our country is on the ascendancy albeit slow-paced. But can we find innovative ways to even accelerate growth of these socioeconomic indicators? Yes, we can!

As a renowned physician, I don't have to remind you about the complex procedures and the great lengths you have to go to save just one life. Ghana may be sick, but it does not deserve to die. Our democracy may be fraught with its own challenges, as with all democracies across the world, but it does not in any way justify a truncation of our statehood built on sound principles of democracy and the rule of law.

Dear Dr. Arthur Kennedy, just as you will not give up on any of your patients, and just as parents do not give up on their children like Kwame, we have a patriotic duty not to give up on Ghana. As found by the Afrobarometer survey, Ghanaians are mostly at peace with our democratic approach to governance. They just want democracy to deliver more than political goods. They want our democracy to address our bread and butter issues. A very legitimate expectation which we must all work together to achieve.

Let us ground our democracy in statute. Let us put our wheels to the shoulders and work assiduously to resolve the myriad of challenges facing our democracy. Let us reinvigorate our can-do spirit imbued in us by our first President. Let us prove to the world that we are a country that can rise up to any adversity and succeed. And Yes, we definitely can!

Coup D'etat is not and should never be an option!