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Opinions of Friday, 27 July 2007

Columnist: Aboagye, Abdulai

Is Ghana Ready For Accerelated Dev't Takeoff?

I once told a friend that politics is the ability to let people see what is not there. Explaining, I told him that a good politician is one who can let people look into the future with smiles while they starve today. For politicians to do this they need to come up with words and phrases which can capture the imagination of the people. Sometimes some of these words and phrases are carried over to the next government. One of such phrases which was used by former President Rawlings and is also being used by President Kufour today is "ACCERELATED DEVELOPMENT TAKEOFF"-ADT. 'Ghana is ready for accelerated development takeoff ', they will say. I do not know the exact etymology of the phrase in Ghana but I first heard it from former President Rawlings in the early 1990's. Exactly what is the meaning of ADT? ADT simply means that Ghana is ready to quicken the pace of our economic development. In other words Ghana's economy is ready for a faster rate of development. In fact what our politicians are telling us is that they have put in place the right laws, infrastructure, security etc. and that Ghana is ready for rapid agricultural, industrial etc growth. What ADT entails for us the ordinary folks is that there will be enough good paying jobs for us and therfore there will be money in our pockets. The GDP which is hovering around 4 to 6 percent per annum will shoot to between 10 and 15 percent per annum like the so-called Asian tigers. Government revenue will increase and the government will have enough money to finance it's projects without probably going to our "development partners". If the above is ADT then it is a good status that we have to strive for. So one is tempted to ask that if we have been ready for ADT all these years why have we not taken off? It is like a little kid telling the mother that he/she can walk and continue to sit for years. Or a man telling the wife and the kids that he has the ability to build his own house and continue to rent a one bedroom apartment. The obvious question in both scenarios will be why then? In the case of Ghana it seems the answer lies in one or more of the following.

The first reason that comes to mind is wrong priorities. It seems over the years the country has had wrong priorities when it comes to our development agenda. For example, our politicians keep telling us that agriculture is the bedrock of our economy. Yet no concrete efforts have been made over the years to develop that sector into a more competitive sector that can compete in the so called global village.

Closely following the above is our proverbial lack of vision and our inability to do things the modern way. It is quite obvious that our development planners do not plan beyond the next harvest season. And so we keep working on the same problems year in year out. The energy crisis for instance, has been with us for years. We have heard so many big words about this problem and still the problem is there. Over the years we did not make any concrete effort to solve this problem once and for all. All we did were some little alterations here and there and wait until the problem resurrects again. The same thing goes with our roads,education health etc. Anybody who follows the road sector for example, closely can tell that we keep borrowing money to service almost the same roads every year. Another problem that nobody seem to care about is official ostentation. This is the situation where the little gains we make are invested in the comfort of officials. Here it is not just government officials but it permeates every organization, institution, association, church etc. For example, in 2000, at the Commonwealth Hall of the University of Ghana, whereas the Hall library could not boast of any recently published book, the Hall accountants office was stuffed with the most modern living room furniture money can buy. KNUST is also not left out. The school which probably has the worst accommodation problem in Ghana has the most guests houses in the world. These guest houses are only there to serve the school officials, their friends, cohorts and girlfriends while the students struggle to find accommodation. It is not just our schools who are at fault. Look at our sports especially soccer. One would have expected that the GFA and GHALCA would invest in the hen that lay the eggs; the teams, the schools, the coaches etc. that produce the Abedis and the Essiens, so that they can recruit and retain players but what do we see? When GHALCA got a windfall from organizing top 4 matches, the first thing they did was to build an office complex ! As for the GFA the least said about them the better. These are basic examples but they are a microcosm of a larger national headache.
Add the foregoing to our proverbial corruption, nepotism, inefficiency etc. and you will see the what problems we face. So it could be that these are the problems that are hindering us from reaching ADT. It could also be that our officials are trusting the wrong people to help us develop. The over decade long globe trotting for foreign investors seems to have yielded little results. Or it could also be that our leaders simply don't know what to do to get us to the promise land of ADT. Whatever the reasons I believe that if the following are given consideration, we may quicken our march towards ADT.
LEAN MEAN GOVERNMENT- If we want to accerelate the pace of our development, then we need to trim our government. There should be top to bottom review of all ministries and commissions and other groups that receive money from national coffers. Some of these organizations can be merged. Some can be scaled down and yet some can simply be abolished. Also there should be review of all the perks and incentives that go with public office. There seem to be too much official this, official that in our system. It is about time public officials sacrifice a little for the nation. In short the situation where 53% of our GDP is used to pay government workers cannot be tolerated. The time is ripe for us as a nation to have a serious debate about what the tax payers money is being used to finance. I think it is about time for us to ask ourselves some of these basic questions. Do we want to continue to pay chiefs? Do we need to maintain a Council of State? Do we need a National Procurement Agency when all the other departments have their own procurement agencies? Do we need 230 Paliamentarians or we can make do with a smaller size? Do we need a department of Parks and Gardens while we continue to employ foreign contractors to grass our stadia? These and other questions can start a national discourse about how the tax payers money is spent and probably spur the government into action.
SERIOUS FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION- It is an open secret that corruption is one of the biggest problems of Ghana. Yet while everybody seems to be aware of it nobody has taken any concrete step to fight corruption in Ghana. All we have got over the years are eye catching phrases like "Probity and Accountability", "Zero Torrelance Against Corruption"etc. whose results have been nothing to write home about. At best every government has used fighting corruption as a means of political grandstanding. Oppossition parties, mediocre journalists and quack NGO'S on the other hand have also used corruption as a means of gaining popularity or as a lever to gain power. If we are serious about ADT, then we should change our attitude towards fighting corruption. First, we should acknowlegde the problem and treat everybody as liable to be corrupted. Secondly we should not see corruption as that which pertains to only ministers and office holders but a desease of the nation. Having acknowledged the problem we can then take steps to incorperate the subject in our educational system. It is the view of this writer that fighting corruption should be an important part of the social studies course in our schools. Our religious leaders should also treat corruption as an important part of liturgy. Beyond the above we should ensure that institutions set up to fight corruption are trully independent and well resourced.We should examine their formation and make up to ensure that they are trully independendent. For example, instead of CHRAG and SFO whose members are appointed by the exercutive, we should try a Corruption Czar who will be elceted and will have the mandate of fighting corruption from the electorate. I acknowledge that such a person colud use the office as a political platform but I am sure that such details could be worked out in paliament before such a bill is passed into law.

DO THINGS WITH MODERN EYE- One of the areas where we as a nation have not given serious attention is our development planning. It seems that Ghana's development plans are still based on Sir Gordon Guggisburg's development plan of the 1920's. Though successive governments have touted their development plans, there is nothing to show that they are any different from Guggisburg's plan. For instance, till today there is no official road from Kumasi to Secondi-Takoradi because our developent plan says that Kumasi and Takoradi should be linked with a railroad. Silmilar thinking dictates that it is only water transportation that can link Kete- Krachi and beyond to the rest of the nation. And the same Guggisburgic thinking is pushing us to build a hydro dam at Bui at this time only to put it again at the mercy of the elements. I think it is about time we fine tune our development planning to the modern level. Instead of always borrowing money to desilt the volta lake for pantoons to travel to Kete-Krachi and beyond, we could borrow money and build a bridge on the river. This will be a one time investment which will give us peace at least for the next fifty years as Adomi bridge as shown. The world has moved forward since Guggisberg and the sooner we upgrade our thinking the better.

PUT OUR BEST FOOT FORWARD: The world is a global village as our politicians would want us to believe. Yet we fail to understand that for us to survive and compete effectively in this village, we should know where our strengths are and take advantage of them. If we are acknowledged as the most peaceful country in West Africa then we should take advantage of it and cash in on it. We could use that to become the Switzerland of Africa by encouraging foreign banks to set up branches in Ghana. Our banking laws should be made in such a way that when such banks come in they will invest in our economy. We can also take advantage of our education which is the envy of most African countries. The point here is that we should not only see cocoa and gold and other natural resources as the only means of earning foreign income but we should look at modern ways of devloping our economy based on our advantages within our region and the world.

INVEST IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY- Since I have not seen any country that has develop without science and technology I think it very crucial that we pay the needed attention to science and technology. First our schools should be well equipped to train our young ones. We should move from the chew and pour to a more practical learning. We should invest in science labs and other equipment that will help in the teaching and learninig of science. Since we do not have enough money to equip every school we can set up science centers that will serve our schools and reseachers. Like the American career centers, two or three well equiped science ccenters can serve cities like Accra, Kumasi, Secondi-Takoradi etc. I know there are science resource centers in some schools which is applaudable ,but I am talking of something far bigger than that.

Besides, our policy makers and educators should streamline the the cirricular of our technical and vocational schools. Products from such schools should be given the chance to pursue such courses as engineering, architecture and other hands on careers. The situation where Secondary schools graduates (office happy ones) are given the chance to pursue such courses at the expense of technical and vocational minded students who have got the basics at tehnical and vocational schools should simply stop.

Beyond equiping our schools and setting up research centers we can also challenge our scientific and innovative brains to come up with specific inventions that can revolutuionalize the way we do some things. For example, government, organizations, or individuals could put some money aside to help anyone who can design a better equipment to replace the cutlass and the hoe on our farms. I am sure if such challenge is thrown there will be people who can respond to the challenge and very soon we will get Ghanaians who like Bill Gates and others will come up with inventions of universal appeal. The effect such inventions will have on our economy will be phenomenal.

INCOPERATE GHANAIANS ABROAD IN OUR DEVELOPMENT PLANNING- There is no doubt that there are about six million Ghanaians abroad. There is also no doubt that these Ghanaians abroad love their country. Some of them will genuinely want to help. Some too would like to invest in Ghana. Yet over the years nobody has proposed any tangible ways to incoperate these Ghanaians in our development planning. It is about time we took concrete steps to make sure that our brothers and sisters help in our development process. First government can set a retirement scheme for Ghanaians abroad. For such a scheme to be appealing to Ghanaians abroad, it should be transparent and be internet ascesscible so that contributors can check their contributions online. There should also be transparent and simple ways of collecting contributions when they are due. The advantages of such a scheme if well executed is not far fetched. If we get two million Ghanaians to cotribute a 1000 dollars a year to such a scheme government stands to get 2 billion dollars a year from such a scheme.

Besides government can act as a liason between Ghanaians abroad who want to invest in Ghana and those at home who can manage such businesses. For years Ghanaians abroad who want to invest in Ghana would have to relocate to Ghana or reply on some family member who may not understant the ethics of business or may take the business for granted. This and the proverbial extortionist attitude of most Ghanaian civil servants have put many Ghanaians abroad off when it comes to investing in Ghana. If government can come up with a scheme that can entice these Ghanaians abroad to invest, I am sure they will respond.

CHALLENGING THE GHANAIAN INVESTOR- Over the years while we have been wandering all over the world looking for foreign investment which has been as scanty as rain and the Akosombo dam, we have failed to energize the local Ghanaian enterpreneur. The world bank report on Ghana (Feb 2007) states among other things we should "make greater use of public-private partnership agreement for large infracstrutural projects". This means that when it comes to encouragung and challenging the local investor we seem to be draggging our feet. But the truth is our march to ADT to a greater extent depends ont the Ghanaian enterpreneur and we must do everything to encourage them. Our experience with people like Kwabena Darko, Sikkens, Appiah Menka, Asoma Banda, Osei Kwame Despite etc. has shown that given given the chance the Ghanaian enterpreneur can help lift our economy.

A famous Greek philosoper remarked that "big words and idle hands bring no food". Therefore, if we are ready for ADT then let us take action, for a save secure and develop Ghana is what we all yearn and pray for. There are more things that can be done or perhaps there better things that can be done apart from those above. But it is the hope of the writer that between these suggestions and those not enumerated here lies our march to ADT.


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.