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Opinions of Tuesday, 8 March 2005

Columnist: Appiah-Danquah, Kufuor

Emirates to fly twice to Ghana Symptoms of a Continent in free fall-

?Emirates, the fast growing Dubai-based international airline has announced that it will fly two-non stop flights each week to Accra starting from 27th March 2005. The reason and I quote Mr. Ibn Kherbash, Ghana and Dubai enjoy strong trade relations, with the non-oil trade between the two amounting to nearly US$42million in 2003?

What are we to make of this? Should Ghanaians in particular our ?economy? jump up with delight or is it a reflection of how African economies have failed miserably to adapt, change and innovate to met the challenges of the twenty first century.

First, I am fully aware of the gross injustices and unfairness of the world trading system- the inequitable tariffs imposed against primary products; unacceptable high level of subsidies paid to developed economy farmers; increased capital flight from poor to rich countries; migration of skilled labour from the North to South and the huge and unserviceable debt burden of least developed countries.
Second, I am also au fait on how the European Union, United States and other developed world are failing miserably in its obligations to reduce poverty and make poverty history in the developing world by not achieving its own stated goal of giving 0.7 of Gross National Income (GNI) in aid to developing countries.
Last week I chaired a seminar in Luxembourg where I had the opportunity to shame some delegates from the European Union. (EU). EU is one of the worlds? richest and powerful trading block but I can report here that despite al its noises, gestures, and drum banging only 4 members (Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Sweden) have reached the EU goal of giving 0.7% of GNI in aid.
Folks, I am from a HIPIC country and I must admit I have no pride left. I do not need to remind readers of how our beloved continent is perceived in the west. The developed world with its huge scientific/research & development capabilities treat us with contempt, outsmart us and give us crumbs What about the Emirate saga?

The Dubai factor

48 years ago (1957) year of Ghana?s independence Dubai was a desert the then King had to hide his wealth under a bed. The country had a crude feudal system of government and had been untouched by anything ?modern? till oil became the ?black gold?. Folks, I applaud the rise of the tiny kingdom and the foresight of its former rulers in working tirelessly to transform their feudal Bedouin country into a ?hub of western civilization?.
I admire the way in which the tiny kingdom has used its oil reserves in improving the lot of its people. Good Luck to the citizens of Dubai and all those who fly the Emirates.
I have no fight or quarrel to pick with the economic guru who advised the kingdom to turn their airport into a duty free hub. I salute the people of Dubai.
My fight is with my own ? my people ? my continent. Did any of your readers spot the ?shame?? Eh! as for my people ? shame is not part of our language. As a continent we have been stamped upon, humiliated, insulted, ridiculed and tormented for so long that we have lost the simple ?art of shame ?.
It was suggested that the sale of the Emirates stopover packages from Ghana increase by 39% compared to the same period last year. The report also stated that ?Ghanaian produce such as fruits, vegetables, handicrafts and local food items a re being exported to Dubai?. What the report failed to mention was that: q Ghanaians were exchanging primary products for manufactured goods in a non ? manufacturing country.
  • Hard earned Ghanaian currency was ?flying ? to Dubai to buy junk duty free goods to Ghana.
  • Ghana and Nigeria had turned Dubai into the new ?manufacturing zone?
  • Most of the luxury goods on the Ghanaian market came from Dubai
Awurade boa me na hu me membo (God help me and have Mercy on me)! That is where my continent has come to? What next- Afghanistan? Chechyna?

Unacceptable

You see, it would have been okay if Dubai were manufacturing the goods themselves. The simple truth is Dubai do not produce a ?pin/kobo?. Their economy is like our economy dependent upon the primary product called ?black ? gold-oil?. We depend on the ?golden tree?- cocoa.

Why should Ghana allow the ?Dubai factor? ?to destroy our infant and domestic industries? Why must we import our jobs to Dubai? As a country we have gone backwards. It is totally unacceptable for Ghana to trade with Dubai on the same terms as Ghana and UK? It is the economics of the jungle. When or when?
Ghana exporting oranges, fruits to Dubai and bringing back white goods? Classic comparative advantage? (Good 1st year economics stuff). I had it drummed it into my head by renowned Professors/ Lecturers/Teachers in Manchester and Keele that I had it tied round my neck. Anytime, I complained in the lecture room on the inequitable terms of trade, I was reminded on the ?Theory of Comparative Advantage?. Only this time Adam Smith will be shaking in his boots. Dubai has oil and we have cocoa.

WHAT SHOULD GHANA DO ?

Simple: create the same environment /conditions that has turned that tiny kingdom into a ?duty free hub?. You do not need me to answer this question. My aunties at Nkawie can give a perfect answer. Any country can create a duty free enclave ? IT IS HIGH TIME GHANA CREATES A DUTY FREE ENCLAVE. If you cannot beat them join them.
It can be done and it must be done ? We have stooped so low, so low that we now see Dubai as the manufacturing center of sub-Sahara Africa. If it can be dumped in Dubai let us dumped it in Tamale/Koforidua or Kumasi. At least it will create jobs and scarce foreign currency will be retained in Ghana.
Please, I am aware that our continent has no shame but in relation to Dubai give us a bit of dignity. As a nation we spend so much of our talents, energies and skills on poverty reduction/alleviation strategies.
It is high time we create a properly resourced ?think- tank ? not the ?- ?tank- thinks? that have mushroomed in Ghana masquerading as serious intellectual hotbeds. It is high time we come up with radical solutions to our cancerous problems.
No one can stop us from developing a duty free hub- Let us go for it
God Bless


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