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Opinions of Monday, 17 December 2007

Columnist: Ayisi, Gabriel A.

Hackman Stands Out From The Crowd

It is time to take a critical look at the NPP presidential aspirants in terms of what they stand for and will do to take Ghana into the next millennium to a pivotal stage in the global economy. Some of them are running on popularity made easy by heritage, others are running on perceived personal marketability and giving away cash to buy votes indirectly, while some of them are playing the tribal card.

Nonetheless, of all the leading front runners, it is only Hackman Owusu-Agyemang who is pragmatic and proven enough and has been able to detail how he intends to move the country forward in achieving its stated objective of a middle income economy. All others have just been politically rhetorical and hollow in their pronouncements.

Where others are arrogant and self-serving, and sometimes na?ve, Mr. Owusu-Agyemang exudes a countenance of calm confidence and modesty. He grew up from humble beginnings. The son of a poor goldsmith, he has gone on to become a respected career diplomat, an astute politician with impeccable family values. He comes with a long and very impressive record of public service, both nationally and internationally. Hackman is also not a Johnny come lately. He has been in the thick of things since the conception and birth of the NPP. He was one of the three founding officers of NPP as the national treasurer, with Mr. Bernard Da Rocha and Mr. Joseph Agyenim Boateng as the leader/chairman and secretary respectively. The genesis of the NPP was the Friday Club formed in opposition to PNDC. Together with others, he organized the Friday Club, which eventually became the Think-Tank and Fundraiser for the Busia-Danquah club and eventually the NPP. Such was the level of his commitment and contribution to the cause that he, at one point, had to sell his house to support the birth of NPP.

He is the only candidate who promises to take decentralization seriously in an attempt to make every Ghanaian feel an improvement in his or her life. ?The fundamental principle involves re-examining the role of central government in society and the pursuit of rigorous decentralization to ensure availability and fair distribution of resources?, he said. He strongly believes that decentralization would empower citizens by delegating authority when local governments are adequately resourced and mandated to govern without bureaucracy from the state or central government. To do this, he intends to make regional administration more autonomous and have the regions micro-managed from the regional capitals instead of being macro-managed from Accra. He would make sure the regions are adequately resourced to undertake their development projects and promote healthy developmental competition among the regions. He intends to encourage the private sector to invest and establish businesses in the regions instead of concentrating these in the Greater Accra region. Hackman intends to give tax incentives for this purpose as well as providing quality, reliable and adequate infrastructure throughout the regions to support development. As an example of his conviction, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang sees the expansiveness of the Northern region as the cause of its underdevelopment and intends to break it up to make its management and development more feasible and accelerated. Under his administration every village and town will experience some form of improvement in its quality of life. During his administration, no Ghanaian would be left behind. He intends to bring health care to the people, especially, to our farmers in the rural areas by establishing new major hospitals in the regional capitals supported by clinics in each district capital. He would make sure that development across the nation mirrors its population growth.

?Why should Accra, for instance, boast of three major hospitals when its population was about 500,000 and still boasts of the same number of hospitals while its population has ballooned to about two million??, he questioned. The same goes for all the regions and around the country. ?Why have we not added to the railway system bequeathed to us by our colonial masters after 50 plus years of independence? Why have we failed to build new first class roads?? he lamented. Ghana?s development has not been matching our quantum population growth and needs to be corrected. For this to be accomplished, Ghana needs a visionary and pragmatic leader like Hackman Owusu-Agyemang. ?My administration will monitor and match the country?s natural growth by concurrently increasing infrastructure to keep pace with our population growth?, he opined.

In fostering the much needed development, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang would promote developmentally appropriate curriculum that is relevant to the country?s economy in our schools, especially at the tertiary level. He would make sure that government and private sector manpower needs are met through purposeful development of our human resources and capital. In this regard, he hopes to encourage higher education and private sector linkages. He intends to stem the brain drain by encouraging entrepreneurship and developing a can do attitude among Ghanaians. He is convinced that Ghana needs to retain and utilize its intellectual and human capital it develops, through massive job creation by the private sector, for Ghana?s development, instead of losing these to the developed world of the West.

For an accelerated, concrete, incremental, and sustained development, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang would embark on a massive industrialization process to protect the country?s economy from the shocks of the volatile commodity market. His administration would target the local and export markets, specifically, the sub-regional Ecowas market. He would make sure that value is added through vertical integration to most of our basic produce before they are marketed on the Global market. This, he believes, will lead to positive ripple effect in employment and lead to potential increases in individual income levels. He intends to give tax breaks for new investments and reduce import duty on most machinery and equipment. His tax system will be end-loaded instead of front-loaded to encourage more business start-ups and increase corporate tax revenue in the long run. Hackman promises to make Ghana the industrial hub of Africa. To make this plausible, his administration would encourage the establishment of science and industrial parks fashioned after Silicon Valley in the United States to support the country?s technological development. Under his watch, he will reduce the percentage contribution of agriculture to the Gross Domestic Product by increasing the percentage contribution of private industry and manufacturing. With Agriculture, he will encourage research into higher yielding crops and boost the sector by encouraging the establishment of agro-based industries in the regions to add value to our agricultural produce. The same would be done to the country?s mining industry. His administration will put in place sound regulatory procedures for growth of business by removing all bottlenecks that stifle the growth of business. His administration would research and implement alternate sources of energy to ensure adequate and uninterrupted flow of electricity and water. Hackman knows the importance of communication and IT systems to business and would make sure that this area is well developed in addition to a robust banking sector to assist Ghana?s economy to take off. New roads, especially, inter-regional highways will be built in addition to the maintenance of the existing ones, which are mediocre to some extent. He will support the extension of the railway system to the northern regions trough Brong Ahafo and bring all our ports to international standard.

When it comes to the formulation and implementation of the country?s development policies, Hackman wants to take the collaborative approach of inclusion and pursue a shared vision approach to governance that would foster commitment to the objectives of national development goals by all.

?The collaborative approach of inclusion would ensure the continuity of economic development policies, international agreements, and on-going development projects irrespective of changes in the country?s political leadership?, he stated.

In a bid to accelerate the country?s development Mr. Owusu-Agyemang reiterated his intention to form an all inclusive National Development Think-Tank group (NDTT) that would generate feasible and results-oriented ideas to facilitate the development process. He explained that the NDTT would be formed with individuals drawn from private industry, academia, civil society, youth, trade unions, and across the political divide. He stated, ?The NDTT should be a public policy think-tank involved in idea generation with links to universities, polytechnics, and other research organizations around the country. It will be responsible to sponsor research on specific national problems and encourage the discovery of solutions to those problems and facilitate their implementation?.

Hackman intends to institute military service as part of the national service and orientation schemes to foster discipline among the youth. He also vows to improve the performance of our security apparel and the Ghana Police service by fully resourcing them to protect the nation and also to combat armed robbery aggressively. When it comes to discipline, his government will make sure that town and country planning is done according to laid down rules and drawn plans. His administration will vehemently deter citizens from building haphazardly outside of city and town planning guidelines and regulations. These regulations and guidelines will and must be enforced without fear or favor. Hackman feels that if this is done, it will drastically cut down traffic jams/congestion and pollution which cost the country millions of Ghana cedis on a daily basis. Imagine the gallons of gas/petrol burned needlessly during traffic jams, reduced productivity because of trapped manpower (workers stuck in traffic for hours on end), unnecessary wear and tear of vehicles, etc. The enforcement would also make it easier for emergency personnel (police and ambulatory services) to respond to emergencies in a timely manner. It is a shame that despite the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange development, East Legon, Ashale Botwe, Madina, and the Akwapim ridge can only reach Central Accra through one main egress ? a recipe for disaster. This is just but an example of the chaotic situations around the country. A solution would be a highway around the city of Accra with convenient exists to various parts of the city and Hackman promises to look into this.

Since tourism has become a major foreign exchange earner for the country, Hackman feels that Ghana should become a world class tourist destination by developing Ghana?s coastline to take advantage of our warm and sandy beaches. To be globally competitive, he is of the conviction that our coastline should be dotted with Las Vegas or French Riviera style five-star hotels. The development of first class hotels must also be extended to the regions. Ghana needs to develop more tourist sites around the country if it wants to increase the contribution of tourism to the national treasury.

Hackman is the only presidential aspirants who has proven himself as a doer with bold initiatives and will keep his promise. Hackman is poised for action. This is the man the delegates must ELECT.

By Dr. Gabriel A. Ayisi (New York) Email: