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Opinions of Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Columnist: Sarpong, Justice

It's An Insult To Compare Mahama To Nkrumah,

Agbenyo, Stop It

President Mahama a Visionary leader? Depends on what definition of visionary you want to apply.If you meant a person of unusually keen foresight, then Mahama is not but if you meant a person who is given to audacious, highly speculative, or impractical ideas or schemes; then he is your man as the desiderium Fred Agbenyo, a communications team member of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) wants us to believe? I am not a fan or disciple of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah but to compare Mahama to him on their visionary intelligent quotient is an insult. On what basis is Fred Agbenyo making this comparison? Because President Mahama has secured a loan of $35 million from India and added $1.5 million government contribution to reopen the Komenda Sugar factory.

On the basis of how many jobs this factory will create and saving Ghana more than $350 million we use to import sugar this is a good project but like the SSSS policy, its implementation and how it is going to be managed will result to another government boondoggle project that will shut down again. Government has no business running factories anywhere on God's green Earth and such projects have failed from Russia to China.

What the government should have done on this project is to have secured this lone on behalf of a Private enterprise to revive the Komenda Sugar factory to make it a profitable Enterprise. There is a reason why almost all Kwame Nkrumah established factories collapsed.

Government by its nature anywhere whether Capitalist country or Communist one are not made to operate factories which sole aim is to make profits compared to governments which sole aim is to win elections and that is why all governments factories always have more Employees than those factories need.

When Soviet Union collapsed, it was found out that all the government Enterprises have overbloated employees with some companies having more than three people doing a job one person should be doing and some of them having as many as five people doing one person's job. The same evidence came up when East Germany joined West Germany to form the present Germany. All the factories in East Germany were found to have too many workers than they need.

We have a good example to learn from in Ghana. When Ghana Telecom was sold to Vodafone, it had 6500 Employees and was losing $50 million a year. Vodafone found out that Ghana Telecom has more employees than it needed and trimmed the workforce by sending 4200 unproductive workers out. Now this company is working with 2300 employees and making profits.

Another Good Example is Ghana Airways that failed. Whilst paying flyers were left at its terminals, Politicians families including their girlfriends and boyfriends had seats flying for free on weekly basis and that is why even Mr Mpiani said this with Mahama's idea of bringing Ghana Airways back; if Ghana wants to own an airline for the sake of pride, then she can go ahead and do so. For pride, fine. If it’s for business [for us] to make money out of it. That is the reality of modern day business. Government should not be operating factories and industries.

Why do we always have too many employees on every government agency than it is needed? Political interference. For a government to keep on hanging on to power, it has to satisfy its supporters and employing these supporters are some of the political rewards voters demand as a payback for its support and all administrations are forced to employ more people necessary and these factories become conduits where unproductive workers are packed drawing salaries and doing nothing.

In Ghana for instance, government agencies and factories have no time clock where these workers record their times, when they came to work, the time they went on break, what time they came back and when they left the job. In a company with at least 100 people, how can the Managers and Supervisors know who came to work and who didn't? People come to work and start working on Lotto, Banker to banker.

Those that come to work report late, leave early for lunch breaks with long lunch breaks like two hours. Some even go on a break and don't return. Those that are charged to check this tidiness are doing the same so there is no supervisions at these companies.

You might be wondering why these workers are not terminated and the answer is because the government is afraid to antagonize its supporters.

The Komenda Sugar factory is a good project but it is even estimated that it will need $90 million to start operating and this might turn out to be another sod cutting projects that will end up being a waste of our scarce resource. Since the early 70s, several feasibility studies have been carried out, notably by the World Bank, and the expert consensus is that it will take about $90m minimum to do a good job of bringing the factory and plantation/out-grower scheme up to scratch.

This project is a good one since the 125-tonne capacity factory – which is expected to process some 1,250 sugarcanes regularly – is projected to create about 1,300 direct jobs for industrial workers and smallholder farmers, as well as spawn an additional 5,000 indirect jobs on the side. What is not visionary about this project is the government doing the same thing that collapsed this factory in the first place.

The government should get out of the factory business and should rather find some Ghanaian Enterprenuers to take over this factory, assume the India loan and run it as a private enterprise with good Managers and Supervisors and employ the right number of people instead of this 1,300 direct workers that might be too many. If the government is going to employ that many people, I believe this factory can profitably be ran with 650 if it is managed as a private company.

A visionary leader will not go back to do the same thing that had been tried and failed everywhere. Even Cuba of all places on earth is learning this model of government operated factories do not work and still clinging to the Nkrumah government operated factories as a model of development is nothing short than stupidity.In short, the Komenda Sugar factory revival is a good idea but government should guaranteed this loan for private enterprise to operate as the Nana Konadu Chocolate factory in Tema where the loan from China was guaranteed by Ghana government.

Justice Sarpong