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Opinions of Friday, 18 July 2008

Columnist: Ayisi, Gabriel A.

Politics of Inclusion, Development Planning, Decentralization ....

Politics of Inclusion, Development Planning, Decentralization, the role of Chiefs and GPRS II.

The truth is that, despite our gradual progress in democracy, our democratic political dispensation is still in its infancy where we are on the learning curve. This is displayed by the fact of our practice of politics of exclusion where we feel comfortable dealing with only members of our own political party, hence the appointment of District and Municipal Chief Executives (DCEs and MCEs) by the President instead of subjecting these positions to be contested in a fair election. On the other hand, political maturity is displayed by one’s ability to deal with and resource constituencies that are represented by members of the opposition, who are duly elected into office, in a fair and equitable manner. Political maturity is where we abhor politics of envy, discrimination and hatred.

The whole idea of inclusion, when it comes to governance, is completely alien to our leaders, who think in the vein of winner takes all and, therefore, practice politics of exclusion. However, as common sense dictates, for our development to be consistent and sustained, we need to practice politics of inclusion. Specifically, the current composition of the National Development Planning Commission, which comprises political appointees from the ruling party, falls short of this arrangement without reaching out to all the stakeholders, including members of the opposition. The country’s development planning commission must be set up to include think-tank from across the political spectrum and include private industry and higher education. It is only with such an arrangement that we will be able to plan effectively and execute these plans in an effective, efficient and sustained manner. We want to see the entire country opened up for investment and development. This is the basis for the authors call for a Permanent Tripartite National Development Planning Commission (PTNDPC) to replace the NDPC. In order not to repeat or rehash, the following is the author’s synopsis for his argument: The 21st century will undoubtedly call for greater collaboration among government, private industry, and higher education for complex research and development projects in the fields of technology, agriculture, health, the sciences and engineering. This collaboration, however, must begin with formal networking among individuals in the universities/polytechnics, private industry, and the government, which may eventually create the necessary basis for cooperation between the industrial and academic worlds on specific projects and lead to formal, broader, and continuing collaboration once they are established. These formal initiatives, however, may require an environment, which encourages relations between the three sectors as well as high levels of institutional flexibility and openness to allow the pursuit of different approaches and modes of cooperation. By including higher education and private industry in the formulation and implementation of economic development policies, the nation will be able to forge a focused shared vision approach to economic development, sustained growth, economic and political stability. An ongoing bilateral and reciprocal collaboration between government and higher education, between government and private industry, between higher education and private industry to find lasting solutions to Ghana’s economic development and growth problems would enable the three constituencies to develop a common front in tackling national development objectives. Thus, it will be the benefit for all if the government will seize the opportunity and establish a Permanent Tripartite National Planning Commission (PTNPC) made up of think-tank representatives from government, private industry, and higher education to advise the government on economic development policies and their implementation. This is a new development paradigm. At the end of the term of the ruling government, its members on the commission would be replaced by members of the incoming government, who would get a briefing from the sitting members from higher education and private industry as to the state of affairs, ensuring a smooth transition and continuity of policies and ongoing projects. The new members may inject the commission with its own creative ideas once they are on board. Members from private industry and Higher education may serve a term of, say, ten years minimum, after which they may be replaced with new replacements from their departments. The author believes that the shared vision approach will foster commitment to the objectives of national development goals and eventually lead to sustained economic growth. The collaborative approach will ensure continuity of economic development policies and ongoing development projects regardless of changes in the country’s political leadership.

Decentralization and Chieftaincy. The decentralization process has for some reason remained a lip service. There must be representation of all government agencies in all regional capitals with parasatal offices at the district levels from passport issuing processes to regional headquarters for all government ministries. One thing, the author is of the view that the Northern region is too expansive or humongous to be managed effectively from Tamale and needs to be broken up into two manageable regions: North-west region and North-East region. The distribution of development funding must be skewed in favor of the four northern regions to accelerate their development to par those of the south. The regional infrastructural accesses in terms of first class roads, highways, railways, airports, harbors (the Volta Lake) provision of water, supply of electricity, health facilities, manufacturing companies, etc. in all regions must be equitably distributed or near to equal. We want to see Ghana as a homogeneously developed unit and not one where some areas are more or less developed than others. We want to see equity in the distribution of resources. Regions that have lagged in development must be assisted and encouraged to play catch-up. The regional administrations must be empowered to initiate bold and futuristic development projects and processes with support from the national government and our development partners to uplift the economic, social, and political conditions in their respective regions. They should be free to negotiate the terms of their developmental agreements and contracts that are congruent with their regional planning objectives and goals. Thus the government should push control out of Accra and delegate full responsibility and accountability to the regional capitals regarding regional development. For manageability and ensuring equitable development, the regional governments must also work in tandem with the district governments by encouraging them to initiate their economic development activities in line with national objectives and goals. Working from the District levels, the administrators must liaise with each town and village within their districts and effect, at least, one development project/goal in each town or village every year. Most towns and villages, except for the untarred roads leading to them, have not seen the development of a single project for decades, be it community centers, school improvement, clinics/health centers, or rural-based industry.

The author feels that chiefs should be made development partners by revisiting Town Development Committees of the 1970s, with the chiefs as the CEOs (Chief Executive Officers). At the beginning of each year each town will be required to submit a commensurate and doable development proposal to the district offices for approval and funding. In Effect, the National government through the regional governments must make funding available for these projects. The author thinks the creation of the Ministry of Chieftaincy would give the chiefs a mouthpiece in government and local development. As the author previously mentioned, this should not be a Ministry that is only headquartered in Accra, but must also have offices in all regional capitals where development issues concerning towns and villages are directly addressed. The central government must empower citizens by pushing control out of the bureaucracy, into the community.


It must be recognized that brain drain or the flight of “intellectual capital” and other human capital resources are the direct result of the Ghanaian government’s inability to provide adequate jobs for its youth, hence the need to assist Ghanaians to become entrepreneurial and help the country to provide more job opportunities for the youth to stem the exodus of its citizens and to reduce or alleviate poverty.

According to UN estimates, there were one billion young people in 1995. About 85 percent of these were in developing countries: 60 percent in Asia and 23 percent in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. According to the ILO, 500 million young people will enter the workforce within the next decade. One in five people in the world are between 15 and 24 years old. Some 85% of them live in developing countries. Sixty-six million young people are unemployed or underemployed. The unemployment rate for young people is two to three times higher than for adults. The above underlie the relevance of the government’s poverty reduction efforts.

Nevertheless, the Ghana Government Poverty Reduction Strategy II (GPRS II) has not been as successful as it should be. Rather than just being skills-training based, It should be entreprenuershiply focused/biased. There must be more emphasis on the training and development of entrepreneurs who must be encouraged to set up small and medium businesses to absorb the unemployed youth who benefit from the skills training. Currently, the emphasis is skewed in favor of skills training for a non-existent job market. Merely giving someone a skill for the person to look for a non-existing job is a failed approach right from the start. Job creation through entrepreneurship must be closely linked to skills training. In 2002, the writer and a friend of his, Dr. Matthew Kuofie, approached the Ghana government with a proposal to set up a Small Business Administration fashioned after that of the United States to encourage the setting up of small businesses by Ghanaians and to cater for the needs of existing small and medium-sized businesses. The writer believes that this approach would lead to massive increase in youth employment. Small businesses play an important role in all economies, including those of the developed economies around the world. Small businesses employ over 50% of the workers in the United States. When established. All regions must have their own small business administration offices to cater for regional job creation for the youth and the needs of established small businesses in the respective regions.

Regarding the setting aside of the GPRS II by the NDC government should it be voted into office come December 2008, the writer is of the opinion that it will not be discarded because the program is foreign induced and supported, and the incoming NDC government will be forced to continue its operation since its funding is externally resourced by our development partners. Just last week, Ghana’s development partners voted to support the program with $1.7 billion US for the 2008 fiscal year. If this were not the case, it is very likely that should the NDC assume power in December 2008, it would undoubtedly set it aside and replace it with something, maybe similar, under a different name. If anything at all, it is rather the “2015 vision” of NPP which may be derailed and aborted by the NDC government should it assume the reins of power, come December 2008, and re-introduce its “Vision 2020” if we fail to practice mature politics of inclusion.

Dr. Gabriel A. Ayisi
Honorary Chairman, Business Advisory Council, National Congressional Committee of USA