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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 December 2002

Columnist: Yeboah, Kwesi

Lessons From The IF'C' Debacle.

Rhapsodies On 'Kindness' - Verse 7

When all the expected partisan diatribes on the Kuffour governments $1billion IFC fiasco have been exhausted, the scandal, like all others in Ghana will disappear from prominence as more pressing problems of poverty and underdevelopment acquire their rightful place on center stage. For months, many have waxed furiously eloquent on 'due diligence', legality, 'sovereign guarantee', tranches and all the other semantic delights that this 'mother of all loans' has conjured up. In the end, the real meaningful lessons from this fiasco will be lost, buried in the miasma of patronage, ineptitude and the far more intriguing scandals that will emanate from the body politic.

The IFC fiasco is much more than a blatant exhibition of deception. It transcends the failure of the administration to perform the necessary due diligence. It is not just a loan that was never granted, as some of the more specious arguments from government apologi! sts would have us believe.

At the heart of this boondoggle is the wishful thinking of a woefully inept administration whose concept of development is that, 'manna' will drop from heaven and sort out the mess of election promises they made at a time when they had no idea about how to keep them. It is much like the entrepreneur whose business idea is to establish a hamburger joint but, unfortunately, has no capital. He decides his best course of action is to borrow $US1 billion to take over the Macdonald Empire and fulfill his dream of selling burgers.

Throughout the history of post-independent Ghana, the idea that access to some massive chunk of foreign exchange will be the magic wand that will catapult us into modernity has held currency with the various administrations. The Nkrumah government, equipped with about 300 million pounds-about a billion dollars in today's currency - embarked on a program of import substitution and 'infrastructure' development, base! d on imported industrial plants, raw and semi-processed materials and foreign technicians. Yet by the end of his rule, the program had come to a standstill, and the country was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Mr. Rawlings's custodianship of the state was no different. More than US$5 billions in new debt and 20 years later, Ghana has been relegated to that unenviable club of global bottom-dwellers called the "Least Developed Countries". The strategy behind Mr. Kuffour's pursuit of the IFC loan is merely a continuation of this recurring farce of history.

Central to these failures is the administrations' inability to cultivate and strengthen our local and indigenous capacities for undertaking the arduous tasks of development. Ever since Nkrumah's time, British, Russians, Chinese, Polish, Americans, Japanese, Europeans- everybody except Ghanaians themselves- have become the principal agents of our development, whilst many Ghanaian professionals, researchers, scientists, managers and academicians continue to ply their trade elsewhere. ! It has become the hallmark of our development efforts to have a "..power plant installed [that] was financed by the Japanese Bank for International Co-operation (JBLC), engineered and built by Ansaldo Energia of Italy, supervised by EPDC of Japan and executed by the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC)", as announced recently by the Minister of Energy. (Normally, the government's executive role is to mess it up after it has been in operation for a while.)

A direct result of this has been the low value of labor, leading to low savings and low government revenue from taxation, because majority of the country's productive activity just tends to service the low value added import and export economy.

Obviously, Ghana needs to restore and upgrade its infrastructure, and therefore it is easy to be sympathetic to the Kuffour administration's desperation in seeking a relatively "untied" loan to fulfill election promises, especially considering that their han! ds have been tied by the specific conditionalities of HIPC Funds for P overty Alleviation Programs. What is questionable is the administration's preoccupation with a specific definition of 'infrastructure'. For long, this has come to mean the renovation or rebuilding of the same roads that service the subsistence economy; the proliferation of the same school blocks that oftentimes fills the child with facts and turns him loose in the child job markets of Accra; the same proliferation of hospitals and clinics, whose nurses and doctors have a preference for practicing outside the country. It is to this same 'infrastructure' that, the bulk of IF'C' loan was earmarked.

It is not roads that are needed in Ghana, but an indigenous capacity for engineering, construction and efficient management of the broad spectrum of construction projects.

It is not schools that are needed in Ghana, but our capacity to link education and national development goals.

It is not hospitals and clinics that are needed in Ghana, but a standard of living! that allows our people to avoid the many diseases of poverty and underdevelopment that, seem to feed this wish list for more hospitals and clinics.

It is not factories that are needed to add value to our agricultural produce but an indigenous capacity to industrialize. A country's infrastructure is, generally, only as good as its industrial capability. And for all this we need our scientists, engineers, managers and planners and educated work force, who can develop our natural resources into useful products for national consumption. And for export, of course!

Ghanaians have been asked to sacrifice and tighten their belts for so long, all in the vain hope of good times to come. In patient expectation, mixed, for some, with a few mouth-watering crumbs from the table of patronage, our people have hoped for an administration that will lead a meaningful transformation of the society, and create a new national vision. Present false promises and the bleak prospects ! of more in the future - for Botchwey and Mills seem to be the only alt ernatives-must wake Ghanaians up to demand more from their elected representatives.

For starters, let us demand a National Industrialization Plan from every political party before elections. Each plan must clearly state its sources of financing and its program to nurture and utilize Ghanaian talent. Each plan must show how it intends to utilize Ghana's national resources like iron ore, bauxite and manganese to build heavy industry and create employment. Each plan must address the question of land reform and commercial agriculture.

It is only when we hold our politicians to such high levels of accountability that the likes of Osaafo-Maafo will not insult our intelligence by telling us that, the government withdrew voluntarily from seeking US$1 billion.


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


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