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Opinions of Monday, 1 November 2004

Columnist: Adu-Asare, Yaw

Kufuor Administration Scores Just above Average in Political Governance

Discussions of outcomes and effects of public policies executed by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, led by President John Agyekum Kufuor, in the political sphere of Ghana, conclude that the Administration scored just above average in performance during the first half (January 2001 to December 2002) of its maiden term.

It is the position of this writer that the quality and nature of governance in any society become understood better by assessing outcomes of public policies as a measure of efficient performance. In that sense, quality of governance of Ghana was seen as the measurement of effectiveness of the national leadership of NPP, indicated by taking inventory of its identified strengths and weaknesses in the execution of public policies during the designated two years. The taking of inventory and assessment of performance in the execution of public policies should result as a matter of inefficiency or efficiency as in efficient governance, rather than the subjective approach that ends in badness or goodness, as in ?good governance.?

In NPP 2000 Manifesto, Agenda for Positive Change, the party made wide ranging promises to meet the economic, political, social, cultural and other challenges it expected to inherit from the incumbent government of National Democratic Congress (NDC) it sought to replace.

NPP promised to provide ?training and re-training to produce the technical experts, specialists, technologists and other human resources required for the effective execution of government policies and programs at all levels.? It promised to work towards ?accelerating the decentralization process,? and above all, see to ?preserving the independence and freedom of the press and electronic media,? as a means for ensuring ?good governance? in Ghana.

In addition, the NPP chose to prioritize attention on ?adherence to the rule of law and absence of human rights abuses, ?effective participation and communication [in government] as well as ?autonomy of the media, the TUC and NGOs.? NPP promised also to eschew ?patronage? implying ?where the governors act in the interest of the governed, where efficiency and humanity prevail, where contracts are awarded on merit and where the best man or woman is appointed to the job.?

In view of the promises made by the NPP, it was appropriate to evaluate outcomes of policy actions initiated or executed by the Kufuor administration according to the standards stated in the Manifesto. In that regard, efficiency in the Administration?s performance was indicated by demonstrable positive outcomes of policy actions directed towards ensuring ?good governance.?

NPP?s promise to ?defend liberal democracy? and free enterprise had been a significant guideline for evaluating outcomes and effects of public policies executed by the Kufuor administration. In a society dominated by liberal democracy, such as the NPP government would want to characterize Ghana, dispensation of economic rights to the citizenry by the state has to be as equally important as the political. This is because whereas dynamics in the economic structure of society affect conditions in the political sphere, it is in the latter that significant economic decisions are made that affect all other activities.

Unlike the NDC government that protected its power base through near-fascist tendencies, the NPP government demonstrated propensity to use the court system it controlled tenaciously during the first two years of its tenure, as a means of protecting its hold on the power of the state. Whereas the NDC anchored its political power base through party-statism, the NPP showed inclination to harness its political support through state-sponsored capitalism.

The fact that the NPP government continued to exercise the constitutional right to appoint people to the positions of District Chief Executive (DCE) and a segment of District Assembly members, made a mockery of the promise to enhance the decentralization process in the administration of Ghana. The process of deepening decentralization in Ghana can take place when, and only when, the central government relinquished direct and overbearing control over political governance of the Districts. A truly decentralized administration of Ghana would materialize if resident voters in the Districts elected directly all the people who govern them at the local level. The NPP government should have initiated a process towards constitutional amendment to reflect the party?s promise to improve the decentralization of administration in Ghana.

By comparison, the NPP government deserves excellent grade for advancing the course of press freedom in Ghana evidenced by repeal of criminal libel law that pre-dated the country?s independence. All governments of Ghana, since colonial days, had used the criminal libel provision to stifle press freedom when it suited their political advantage. When the NDC government left office in January 2001, there were 60 criminal libel cases against journalists pending in Ghana?s courts system. However, NPP?s idea of ?media autonomy? fell far short of reality precisely because of the continuing state ownership and control of the largest newspapers, the only Television outlet and the biggest radio operation in Ghana.

It was ironic also that under the administration of a pro-free enterprise government the state of Ghana continued to be the owner and controller of the most significant agency for the production and sale of news in the country ?Ghana News Agency (GNA). In addition, during most of the first two-year period of the NPP government, there had been persistent but unsuccessful attempts by the Kufuor administration, working through the ministry of information, to co-opt a section of the Ghanaian press after some journalists had accepted high profile political patronage appointments.

Whereas the NPP government can boast of superior record of adherence to the rule of law compared to its predecessor, the Kufuor administration chose to be selective with the issues it pursued. The Administration observed the rule of law assiduously when pursuing high profile cases involving political opponents but demurred woefully when it came to matters of significant national importance but with less political advantage typified by failure to prosecute violators of environmental laws and regulations.

The Kufuor administration scored low marks for its record in the public communications area characterized by delivery of contradicting messages of national import from different sources of governmental authority. That deficiency had been an indication and evidence of weakness in the internal communications process of the Administration?s structure itself. Effective transmission of information from the governors to the governed constitutes one of the essential hallmarks of liberal democracy where the communications process becomes the umbilical chord connecting all segments of society.

Contrary to the promise to observe independence of organized labor the Kufuor administration maintained a corporatist relationship with leaders of Ghana Trade Union Congress (TUC). In corporatist labor relations the state and employers decide on the wage rates to be offered workers, only to be negotiated down or up in the Boardroom instead of the shop floor or workplaces.

Because of the corporatist labor relations, it is no wonder that at the beginning of the 21st century workers in Ghana continue to fight for increase in daily minimum wage as opposed to hourly wages. When workers in a capitalist democracy are paid low wages the whole of society loses precisely because of the limited capacity for the wage earners to participate sufficiently enough in consumption of what is produced thereby stymieing productive capacity, development and progress.

To some active Ghanaians, it seemed President Kufuor had given a new meaning and twist to NPP?s promise to eschew patronage by appointing the best man or woman to the job. The president shamelessly appointed several of his familial relatives with some education to responsible public positions. For that reason as well as all the other avoidable negatives in policy decision-making and execution that characterized the first two years of the NPP government, it is fair for one to conclude that the Kufuor administration squandered a sizable portion of the political goodwill showered on the party in January 2001.

Yaw Adu-Asare
DALE CITY, Virginia

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