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Opinions of Tuesday, 5 April 2005

Columnist: Akyigyina, Charles

Is Ghana Ever Going To Come Out Of Poverty

I have been thinking about Ghana for sometime now trying to figure out a possible way out of the persistence decline in development and the increasing poverty level. The question I keep on asking myself is ?Is Ghana ever Going to get out of Poverty? Are we ever going to be a ?middle-income? country by 2015 or 2020? Are there any answers? Who can really help us? I hope that someone, somewhere will read this piece and come out with a possible solution or a way out of the maze in which Ghana as a nation finds herself.

How can a country be rich when she keeps her farmers unemployed by developing the taste for exotic goods? Ghana has arable land capable of producing rice and many other crops to feed the nation and even export the surplus. What do we see? The ordinary Ghanaian have the preference for American long grain, Chinese and Vietnamese rice. We eat all manner of exotic crops and fruits and there are even some Ghanaians who buy and consume imported salt, toothpick. Yes ?imported salt and toothpick?- while seawater and bamboos are in abundance in the country. Someone should tell me why Ghana as a nation in this 21st century has to import pins, toothpaste and toothpicks. Imported soap, biscuits, shoes and clothes dominate the Ghanaian market. Even Dan Lartey who preaches Domestication is hardly seen wearing made-in-Ghana cloth or sandals, and I won?t be surprised if he consumes imported salt, rice and water.

What happens when a poor developing country tries to copy the lifestyle of western developed countries like the USA and Europe? The ordinary Ghanaian looks down on everything Ghanaian and worships anything foreign. We respect people who use exotic goods. What most of us fail to realise is when we consume these foreign products we provide employment for people in the source of imports, while keeping our own people unemployed. All that the Ghanaian businessman knows about is instant profit. He hardly takes any risk and would import and sell rather than investing in direct production. Yet most of them complain about low demand for their wares, forgetting that their business activities render the potential customer unemployed, denying him of the income to boost his purchasing power. WE SHOULD BLAME UNEMPLOYMENT ON OUR LIFESTYLE. THE HIGHER OUR YASTE FOR IMPORTED PRODUCTS THE HIGHER TH RATE OF UNEMPLOYMENT. This serves as a fuel to power the vicious cycle of poverty- low demand for local goods leads to low domestic investment, which results in low capital formation, low investment, low employment and back to low demand again.Local importer should be encouraged to invest in direct production.

Until we effectively break this cycle our beloved country will continue to wallow in poverty. We need a visionary leader to lead the country out of poverty, a party with workable policies able to increase our national wealth. I think the major agenda of the NPP government was to wrestle power from what they considered a dictatorial regime, and afterwards they have concentrated all efforts on winning the next election. If they had any policy for developing Ghana, this has been inundated with the quest to retain power and how to win the next election. No serious policy has been implemented to make Ghana self-sufficient, self-sustaining and self-supporting.

The NPP government, like their predecessor, the NDC, go around the world begging investors to invest in the country. Why can?t the government encourage local businessmen to invest in the production of some of the commodities that we import into our country that put pressure on the cedi? It is the small businesses that grow into big ones. Is it possible for individuals who import into the country to put their resources together to acquire the necessary machinery to manufacture some of these products locally? What is the government policy on industrial and technological development? What do our engineers do? Our engineers should be equipped to research and produce simple industrial machines for the manufacture of some of the basic products like soap, toothpaste, toothpick, pins etc. Seriously, until we advance in technological development we will forever remain poor. The government should increase the annual budget on scientific research. We can even buy technology from some of the advancing Asian countries. We have to be very strategic.

The NDC in opposition will do Ghana a lot of good if they can go into the drawing room now that they are out of government and really do some homework and come out with concrete policy alternatives that will really help Ghana to move forward instead of raining accusations on the NPP government in the quest to recapture power. They should not just criticise the present government without suggesting alternatives or having alternatives in hand so that they will be able to move the country out of poverty should they regain power.

The only way forward for Ghanaians is to increase production and productivity. We don?t necessarily have to produce for export. We must endeavour to produce enough to feed ourselves and to meet the basic everyday need. Once local production increases the country will import less and this will increase the value of the cedi. We need a revolution, an industrial revolution and change of attitude to really move forward. This demands an intensive public education and a committed government ready to put the nation?s needs ahead of politics. The FM stations, local NGOs, Pressure groups and Civil Societies should lead this revolution if the government fails to take the initiative. Of course, the government is sometimes handicapped by international rules and conventions to take some of these very important steps and actions. The aforementioned bodies should take it upon themselves to educate Ghanaians on the need to patronise made in Ghana products, and put pressure on the government to influence and direct policy towards technological and industrial development.

I hope the answer to my question should be a BIG resounding ?YES GHANA CAN GET OUT OF POVERTY IF WE TRY HARD ENOUGH?.

?THE UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING?

By Mr Charles Akyigyina
Development Planner and Policy Analyst
Nottingham, United Kingdom


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