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Opinions of Sunday, 3 February 2008

Columnist: Agbodza, Kwami

Eliminate Free Market for an Enabling Society for All

Free Marketers claim that the ?market economy is more flexible, competitive, innovative and more capable to handle today's global economy than an administered economy. But they forget to tell us that all market economies are also administered economies. It is the decision of economic management whether to eliminate it or internalise it. Surely, the only economy Ghanaians must want is one that solves the problems of Ghanaians, not some of them but all of them. The problem for free market economy is that it only solves problems of the few.

Free Markers also claim that with free market there will be political stability in Ghana to enable viable, achievable economic policies. What they forget to tell us is that a free market economy goes with political instability as a perennial part of it. In economics it is called "disequilibrium"; and the free market economy in the real world is always in disequilibrium because the conditions for equilibrium never hold in the real world. They also forget to tell us that the reason instability is held in check is because the ruling classes are able to use the security services to oppress dissenters to keep them in their place.

Free marketers also claim that in the absence of the free market economy, the state will create state monopolies, which have no exposure to competition, naturally lack innovation and impede national development. Again they forget to tell us that it is the private sector that do not want competition. It is the private sector who hates competitors. Take any industry in the world and it is filled with private monopolies and oligopolies: transnationals, multinational companies and cartels. What we have in reality are not free markets rather they are imperfect markets. No perfect markets exist and by extension, no free markets exist anywhere in the world. Free market is a global deception.

The Free marketers are quick to tell us that they are concerned with our national development and that is why they advocate free market. They also claim that is why direct foreign investment is crucial. What they forget to tell us is that the evidence shows that foreign direct investors will never develop Ghana for Ghanaians. And because they will never do it, we need to take control of it ourselves. And if any foreign investor must invest in Ghana it must be on Ghanaian terms towards a just and free society. 100% profit repatriation and tax holidays for foreign investors do nothing to develop Ghana. And if they are good for foreigners, they are also good for Ghanaians. But development cannot on a national scale go on with all private sector players enjoying tax holidays. What did not happen when we privatised the lottery business? The private sector foreign or private must pay their fair share of the costs of maintaining the social environment.

Free Marketers also claim to say that Ghanaians are getting poorer is too simplistic. Well, we have news for them. It may be simplistic. But that is the truth. More free market means more poverty at least in Ghana. They also claim that if only we have more free market all shall be well. Even Nana Akuffo-Addo wants us all to have our small business when he becomes President. But no country in the world developed with free market, so someone is misleading Ghanaians.

Then Free Marketers claim that despite poverty, there are also strong visible signs of a growing middle class in Ghana; that Ghana is doing well. Presumably, that is okay. If the rest of us are getting poor and a minority and privileged few are getting richer and richer, that is okay. This is the argument of the free market? So clearly they have shown where their loyalties lie - with the liberal minority and the privileged conservatives. In short free marketers are either liberals or conservatives. They are on the side of the liberal minority and the conservative few. The majority of Ghanaians is getting poorer and wants progressive democrats to champion their interests.

The free marketers do not care about the suffering majority. Their callousness is clear for all to see. They tell us that the majority of Ghanaians are backward, largely uneducated, villagers, small time farmers and fishermen who are pouring into the cities in search of work that do not exist. But they forgot to tell us these people own Ghana and it is they for whom policy must be fashioned. It is for them that policy must be directed to enable them to assert their right to life and human happiness.

The free marketers forget to tell us that it is the private sector who like children are clamouring for state handouts in terms of tax holidays, allowances, subsidies and so on and so forth. In the UK recently, ?50 billion, not million, billion! is being used to bail out just one private sector firm called "Northern Rock". So for free marketers it is wrong to create an enabling environment for the ?backward?, the ?uneducated?, ?villagers?, farmers and fishermen.

And yet FREEDOM AND JUSTICE is the motto of our beloved nation Ghana. The directive policies of state policy in Ghana according to our 1992 Constitution is the creation of a just and free society - see Chapter 6:34(1).

They forgot to tell us that the private sector is not the only Ghanaian. If we must create policies and the environment, it must be for all our people. I do not see why one section of our society must be singled out for more favourable treatment. The children who sell ice water and dog chains on our streets and the 'kayayei' girls who carry loads on the streets of Accra also deserve the right policies and environment to enable them develop to their highest potential. It is Nkrumah's policies for free education for the Northern peoples of Ghana that has created the doctors and lawyers from there. Under Nkrumah, the son or daughter of a kenkey seller can also be a lawyer or a doctor or a commissioner. There must be freedom for all Ghanaians, not just foreign direct investors, a liberal minority and a privileged few.

Why must we have a society in which a few gets all the wealth and the rest of society remain poor? Surely Ghanaians must want a level playing field for all our people, an economic system in which there is wealth for all. It is called FREEDOM and JUSTICE.