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Opinions of Sunday, 26 October 2008

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

For the Economy, Akufo-Addo at the Castle

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

You are a Ghanaian trying to figure out who to vote for in the December 7, 2008 general elections. In recent days, there have been row between the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) over their manifestoes as blue prints for development.

As the campaigns go, the economy is coming in the forefront. The NPP said the NDC, which ruled for eight years, mismanaged the economy, with ex-President Jerry Rawlings and his associates behaving like children let loose in a candy shop and scattering the treasury. The result, argued the NPP that pride itself as better economic managers, is that when the NDC left office in 2001, the economy was a US$4 billion Gross Domestic Product but now at US$16 billion Gross Domestic Product. The NPP again charges that when the NDC left office in 2001 the minimum wage of workers was US$0.50 cents but now at US$2.25. The NPP further makes the case that when the NDC left office in 2001, inflation was around 42 percent but now down to 18 percent.

The NDC, on its part, argues that the NPP has been “glorifying corruption,” “chopping the kitty waa, waa, waa,” used the international media to exaggerate its merger economic successes, and that despite the shinning statistics they quote to support their better economic management, Ghanaians are suffering and poverty is widespread.

In the run up to the December 2008 general elections, the political fever rising, other political parties have joined the economic debates. Paa Kwesi Nduom, flagbearer of the minority Convention Peoples Party (CPP), accuses the NDC angrily of mismanaging and selling state enterprises established by CPP’s late founder and first President Kwame Nkrumah without transparency and accountability. Edward Mahama, the presidential candidate of the marginal People’s National Convention (PNC), attacks the NPP for “our people are suffering under the harsh property owing democracy policies of the ruling New Patriotic Party, Ghanaians need solutions to their economic problems not empty promises.”

Consequently, how do the presidential candidates demonstrate to Ghanaians who should be put at the wheels of the state as Ghana heads into the December 2008 elections: Who would be the best candidate at the Osu Castle to grow the economy in the face of global financial meltdown, rising food crisis and increases in oil prices?

As a Ghana development watcher, I have followed the utterances and activities of the top presidential candidates against the background of their parties’ manifestoes. Here is my personal appraisal of their abilities for strong economic leadership against the backdrop that Ghana is among the last 35 poorest countries in the world where life expectancy is at mere 59.1 years.

Edward Mahama: Unpromising. With his socialist streak and despite his dedication to his cause, Mahama, a medical doctor, has limited economic sense that’s unsustainable in the current national and international economic climate. Real-world economics isn’t Mahama’s diet and there is no clear sense how Mahama will use his socialist credentials for economic development.

Paa Kwesi Nduom: Well meaning on his mixture of socialism and social democracy program. Nduom is trained (with PHD) in business studies. Business planning is his forte and has been a successful business consultant over the years. But in Nduom, how to marry a legitimate social democracy commitment to real economic development with precondition for strong economy in the Ghanaian case is fuzzy.

John Evans Atta-Mills: While both the NDC and the CPP are social democrats, there are philosophical differences in relation to the PNC’s socialism. Atta-Mills is trained business lawyer and former income tax commissioner. As the offshoot of Rawlings’ military PNDC that ruled for almost 12 years and believed to have destroyed a lot of businesses, the NDC is seen as anti-business, anti-investment, and has outmoded sense of how to tackle the economy. This means the NDC still hasn’t shown any remarkable strength and new ideas of how to deal with the economy despite ruling for eight years. Atta-Mills is seen as the dummy of Rawlings, who has iron grip on the NDC, and who will interfere in Atta-Mills economic programs negatively.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo: Since the December 2008 campaigns resumed Akufo-Addo has shown more detail in tackling Ghana’s economic challenges. Akufo-Addo has degrees in economics and law, and has practiced in France in oil/energy matters. For over 30 years, Akufo-Addo has tied freedoms and democracy to economic development. Current new researches prove him right. In his campaign speeches, Akufo-Addo has demonstrated brilliant grasp of Ghana’s economic challenges, floating ideas to engage myriad economic tests. A striking example is the US$1bn Northern Development Fund that seeks to engage the dare development challenges of the northern regions. And since Akufo-Addo was elected as NPP’s presidential candidate, he has proved that when it comes to having a background, a basis and grasp of economic issues in all their confusing intricacies, surely it must be acknowledged that Akufo-Addo surpasses any other presidential candidate. No doubt, Akufo-Addo is convinced that based on NPP’s record, his party will transform Ghana to the “first successful “African Lion,” fit to rival any of the “Asian Tigers.””

If the biggest challenges facing your country are economic development, who should you put in control?