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Opinions of Saturday, 23 August 2008

Columnist: Abdul-Mumin, Abdulai

Has Dr. Bawumyah Promised Ghanaians a 'New Ghana'?

I seize this opportunity to give Dr Mahammadu Bawumyah a tap on his shoulder for having been chosen to partner the flag bearer of NPP for the forthcoming general elections. Dr. Bawumyah is reported to have said in Sekonde that he hoped to help create a “new Ghana” when given the mandate. Obviously, there is nothing awkward about the word “new”, as new things most often attract much attention. However, ‘’new Ghana’’ in the sense of spatial dimension, in all probability, may not be what Dr. Bawumyah is alluding to, because the manipulation of the geographical position of Ghana is far from any political mechanization. Again, our country then Gold Coast got a new name ‘Ghana’, which had remained Ghana since independence. With the “new Ghana,” Dr. Bawumyah might be making reference to development, which basically concerns policy thrust. And that is where the bone of contention inheres.

The development history of Ghana is replete with bitter stories of leaders’ ambitious attempts to build Ghana anew with all too new development policies. Such stories will be cited in the course of this article. Historical facts remain and cannot be wished away. In fact, the good aspect of history is inherent in its ability to guide the present into the future, and the people, who fail to learn from their history are bound to repeat the same painful mistakes. The notion of new in the development literature entails grafting development hand-outs, techniques or policies from the developed economies onto the developing economies. Grafting, for your information Dr. has never worked and would never work for the developing countries like ours. Grafting works only extremely well on plants (in agriculture), but not on human societies. The truth of this matter is increasingly becoming glaring, and our development partners in the so-called advanced economies have too often been proved wrong by what I refer to as “developmental grafting.”

I urge whoever wins the mantle of leadership in Ghana to tone down on the overly ambitious development policies that little emphasize transformational approach to socio-economic development. Transforming the existing structures and building upon the available expertise with some technological injections revamp domestic demand and revitalize the socio-economic development of many countries of which Malaysia is an example. New Ghana should not necessarily mean turning our dear country into social laboratory for all manners of policy experimentations.

Turning to historical facts about the disastrous stories accompanying new development policy hand-outs meant for experimentation and mostly designed by the Breton wood/ Washington Institutions one of which Dr. Bawumyah has ever worked for. In the 1980s, the development structures of our dear nation and few other countries in the sub-region were ear-marked for adjustments. (Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP). The outcome was a disaster, because this new development policy appeared largely to be adjusting structures it did not in the first help to build; thereby making SAP entirely new and alien to the development requirements of Ghana.

No wonder it caused Ghanaians such unprecedented misery, as the vast majority of the populace were made vulnerable to extreme poverty and deprivations, including the author, who was then in secondary school surviving on gari, ha ha ha. Then came the so-called programme action to mitigate social cost of adjustment (PAMSCAD), as it were, to appease the development failures incurred in SAP. Undoubtedly, we are still grappling not only with the social cost, but also with the political and environmental costs, as most of the political upheavals in the sub-region in the late 1980s and early 90s could be blamed largely upon such new fangled development policy prescriptions that did not factor in any peculiarities. Environmentally, the majority of the retrenched Ghanaians over-exploited the ecosystem in their bid to sustain their livelihoods.

Another classical example has been the abrogation of Malaysia’s telecom contract, which was most probably motivated by a search for something new and extraordinary. The Norwegians came in and the story turned from bad to worse. The most troubling issue has been the fact that Ghana was dragged to the international court in the Hague for breach of contract, and we are still paying the Malaysians by instalments; an amount that translates to more 200% of the capital they initially invested in Ghana Telecom. This propensity to do something anew has largely been influenced by political expediency to dazzle the largely ill-informed electorate. Such tendencies saw many a project that failed to go beyond the drawing board. Many developmental projects have been abandoned all over Ghana by incoming governments with the sole aim of creating “New Ghana.” I pray the “new Ghana” of Dr Bawumyah would be a complete departure from the usual experimental and grafting. All too often, new development policy prescriptions are implemented on clean slate and the cost (monetary, human and time factors) can be astronomical. However, transforming existing expertise and resources on an incremental basis beats down development coast; as such development policy thrust emphasises starting from somewhere.

My message to all the aspiring leaders is simply; Ghana, at the dawn of the 21st century, is yearning for leaders with foresight not those with “four sight” because the number four is limited and once such leaders attain four years in office and are into the fifth year they utterly run out of sight, ha ha ha. And then they become hysterical running around the world seeking what? I do not know; thereby preparing Ghana for such ‘’killing’’ developmental experimentations.

In my humble opinion, if we had the right calibre of leaders, Ghana would be poised to becoming a developed economy. One thing that ceases not to amaze me has been the act of the leaders turning a blind eye and allowing the industrial potential of Kumasi Magazine to lie waste or fallow, I should, for far too long. If Ghana had transformational-minded leaders after Nkrumah, ‘’Magazine’’ would long have propelled the economy into an industrial giant of Africa; believe you me! Ghana would have built her own automobiles long before Malaysia. It is not too late though, we can still make it if we become circumspect of what our development partners; especially the Washington institutions push down our throat. After all, Malaysia does not flirt with such institutions, yet the economy has been on sound footing for the past three decades. The Malaysian example has recently influenced the development policies of President Chavez of Venezuela. GHANA MUST GO THE GHANAIAN WAY, PERIOD.

Long Live Mother GHANA, long Live the African Continent, and short-live diabolical developmental hand-outs.

The author is currently pursuing a PhD programme in Environment & Development at the National University of Malaysia (UKM). Email: mumins2003@yahoo.com.

Abdul-Mumin, Abdulai