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Opinions of Tuesday, 26 February 2013


Samia Nkrumah: The greater the challenge, the bigger our love for Ghana

Forty-seven years ago, on 24 February 1966, a dark mist clouded our vision as a nation.

The coup that toppled Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP government, robbed Ghanaians of an economic breakthrough that would have put us at par with countries like Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.

As the first country south of the Sahara to gain independence in 1957, the CPP government led by Kwame Nkrumah introduced measures to gain economic self-reliance and self-sufficiency.

The launch of the Seven Year Development Plan in 1964 was expected to transform the structure of the Ghanaian economy from one that depended on the export of a few raw materials into an industrialized and prosperous society where the basic needs of its citizens are met.

That vision was truncated in 1966. But the force, the spirit, the hope behind that vision never died.

Today, as we mark the darkest of days in the anals of our history as a nation, we draw strength from the relevance of that vision to re-capture the spirit and strategies that created the Akosombo Dam, the Tema harbour and township, free and compulsory education, hundreds of well-planned and integrated industries, revolutionised agriculture, a de-tribalised society and set the pace in development for the continent. Let us rededicate ourselves to the pioneering vision that has created so much of what we enjoy today as a people.

Our meeting today comes at a particularly challenging time but rather than succumbing to pessimism, we are energized by a resolve to reverse the serious setback in our electoral fortunes, including the loss of our lone seat, snatched by the immoral and unjustifiable act of transporting thousands of voters from across the border from Cote d’Ivoire.

I recall the words of Kwame Nkrumah, responding to the news of the February 1966 coup, “One step backwards has been taken. We shall take two forward.”

We can say the same today. Nothing and no one can kill our spirit of resolve and determination to make Ghana work again and work effectively for all Ghanaians.

Just like the Party lived on in Conakry, underground in Ghana, in the Diaspora, in the Pan-African Movement, in the hearts and minds of many Ghanaians and Africans, so does our Party live in us, in you and I, and in all those who are committed to our renewal.

We have been banned and betrayed, banished and bombed, exiled, incarcerated, ridiculed and now marginalized, yet we are still standing.

The greater the challenge, the bigger our love for Ghana, and the stronger our determination to serve and to put Ghana to work.

More than half a century of independence, we are yet to take control of our economy.

That is because after neglecting and steadily destroying the infrastructure and industrial base put in place by the first CPP government in the 1960s, we are back to a situation where we are dependent on the same few commodities: cocoa, gold and timber, and to a lesser extent, oil for our earnings.

This over reliance on the three commodities of Gold, cocoa and timber has been the norm since 1911.

The structure of our economy has not really changed in over 100 years. And this is what we have to address as a nation.

Ghana needs an alternative framework for socio-economic transformation and diversification of our exports.

We need a structural change in our economy, which adds value to our agricultural produce and our precious minerals, through processing, increasing our manufacturing capabilities, and developing our skills for improved labour productivity using existing technology.

All these are possible if we adopt a different way of working from what we have now.

This alternative framework will consolidate ownership of our natural resources.

There are some good examples around us for maximizing returns on our resources. Botswana has close to 50 percent shares in its diamond mines as well as a newly-established diamond processing plant.

In Ghana, where we started producing gold before Botswana’s diamonds, we are yet to see the realization of a gold refinery that was almost 95 per cent complete before the 1966 coup.

As a matter of urgency we need to address the challenges facing the manufacturing sub-sector in Ghana in view of the important role manufacturing plays in the creation of decent jobs and poverty reduction. Budgets and economic policies must include concrete and innovative proposals and funding arrangements to address the bottlenecks in the sector.

We need to support indigenous entrepreneurs through specific policies such as providing advisory services to local businesses, facilitating the establishment of industrial parks, and better access to credit.

Government can ensure we encourage local manufacturers by securing purchases as soon as they start production. We should reward companies doing well and give them specific inducements.

The well-planned industrialization drive of the 1960s remains valid for Ghana today. The development history of the UK, the US, France, Germany, Japan and more recent giants like China, India, South Korea and Brazil, reveals that very few countries have been successful without industrializing and increasing their manufacturing capacities.

To do so, we need to abandon the phrase “government has no business doing business” and re-think the role of the State in Ghana’s economic transformation.

The state ought to lead in investing in the appropriate sectors for industrial development. In many cases, state ownership allows countries to develop industries and give them an advantage where they would not normally survive, but once they do, they are likely to become an asset to the country. Sometimes we need to protect our budding industries until they can become successful. The Japanese motor industry is a case in point of an industry that initially received protection to succeed.

The agenda of Ghana’s developmental state is not about nationalization of industries but rather state intervention in strategic industries that will serve as catalysts for economic transformation.

The state will drive development by indicating a clear development path anchored in a coherent, consistent and coordinated planning framework linking agriculture with industry, and industry with technology.

To realize our agenda, we will have to review the principles underpinning our economic policy by departing from recommendations that have had grave consequences for our citizens.

For example, embarking on a programme of trade liberalization that removed all the regulatory constraints on trade while cutting custom duties has resulted in the de-industrialization of the Ghanaian economy.

The Ghanaian entrepreneur is driven into the less powerful and less lucrative sectors such as distribution and retail.

We started acting on foreign advice after the 1966 coup and this was consolidated during the 1980s with the implementation of the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) and Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP).

Today, it is well acknowledged that the adoption of those recommendations has not managed to deliver the expected socio-economic progress we aspired to.

If we look around us, many countries have progressed without abiding by those policies that placed the market at the centre of development. Today we have seen that as we are under pressure to privatize, while rich, developing countries have bailed out their banks and intervened when their financial systems nearly collapsed.

We are not able to fund our own budget and we are dependent on international financial and technical assistance. Even when we say we will implement an Industrial Sector Support Programme (ISSP), it is dependent on donor contribution, and this is of great concern. Nearly 60 per cent of its funding is from donors.

That dependency is robbing us of the freedom to chose how to develop, what to focus on and what to prioritize.

Despite an average growth rate of about 5 percent over the last two decades, single digit inflation, lower middle-income status and relative macro-economic stability, these indicators have not improved conditions for our people.

Many are without jobs, have no running water, no reliable power supply.

We want to write the script for our own development story, turn our economy round to be based on manufacturing and technology.

My greatest desire is for you and I to live through such a change in our lifetime, a transformed Ghana, that relies for its economic survival not on aid and imposed prescriptions but on increased productivity, multi-country projects within the continent, mobilizing the African diaspora etc for development to achieve economies of scale and enhance African economic independence.

The CPP is alive in its ideas. Our ideas and our strategies are in demand even decades after we proposed them.

Free education is popular today. The Bui hydropower plant is being constructed but with a smaller lake and reduced capacity.

We are considering building a new airport at Prampram, the same place earmarked for it 50 years ago. A gold refinery is to be established by next year when a refinery was almost 95 per cent complete in the 1960s.

Kwame Nkrumah once said that the secret of life is to have no fear. Let us not be afraid. Let us capture the strategies and policies that enabled us gain independence and set the stage for our economic breakthrough. Let us recapture our agenda for freedom, freedom from fear and dependency.

I can still vividly recall the sounds of gunshots in the garden of Flagstaff house on 24 February 1966. Amidst my tears, I can hear our mother’s voice telling us to pray.

“Even if they fire at you, you will not die, in fact, nothing will happen to you.” We overcame our fear. We are not dead. The CPP is alive. The CPP lives in all of us who are working to see a patriotic, de-tribalized society that is confident in the variety of what we produce, basking in our capacity to innovate, proud of our ability to deliver and meet the needs of Ghanaians.

The CPP did not die 47 years ago and it is not dead today. The Party did not die on 24 February 1966.

The Party did not die on 7 December 2012. Like a catapult every setback is an opportunity to lunge forward further.

We are going to lunge forward with a vanguard of youthful minds, re-branded, rejuvenated, and renovated. We are going to be in offices, homes, schools, universities, hospitals, streets among communities working with them and for them.

We are still standing. Comrades and Friends. - The writer is the National Chair of the Convention People’s Party