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Opinions of Sunday, 8 October 2006

Columnist: Agyeman, Akwasi

Show Me The Money And The Jobs

Some Ghanaians, perhaps fairly reluctant to admit it these days, will certainly hark back to the time when they were picking up checks and cash for fun. Those were the days when ghost names were in vogue and contractors were paid for no work done.

The quasi-religious mantra chanted by hordes of such people these days are : “NO JOBS !….NO MONEY IN OUR POCKETS!…… And the Accompanying Words From On High, an economic equivalent of the Ten Commandments, if you like – “Thou shall have money in thy pockets after we have achieved macro –economic stability”

Making a presentation at an Energy workshop recently, Mr. Kwame Pianim urged government to move from glorifying macro economic stability to issues that would place the economy on a higher path of economic growth and development. According to him "Macro-economic stability is good and it has cleared the field, what we need to do now is to plant the seed to grow and then we can enjoy”. To that I say Amen! But the question really is “ who plants the seeds after the fields have been cleared”.

The critical role that the private sector plays in the “seed planting” is what will bring the money into people’s pockets and create the jobs. And my private sector definition is not only limited to the Tropical Cables of this world but also to the waakye seller at the legon trotro station. I think we can and indeed MUST celebrate what has been achieved thus far: but we must do so without being distracted from the need to preserve and build on the progress we have made.

If we do not tell the investors, that our currency is stable and indeed has been for the past couple of years, how will they get the confidence to set up base here. If we do not tell our people that indeed bringing down interest rates is a prerequisite for job creation, how will they have the patience to wait.

Giving people what they really want, as opposed to what you think they ought to have remains the biggest challenge in politics. In Ghana , and if comments on radio are anything to go by, “money in our pockets” is treated as if it is manna to fall from heaven. And so despite the clear evidence to the contrary of roads being constructed , of buildings and hotels springing up everywhere, of new airlines coming into Ghana, of expansion of our ports and building of container terminals, of Universal banks coming in and expanding , uncountable FM stations and newspapers, of a boom in mobile phone usage the pessimists will want us to believe that there are no jobs and to that effect no money in our pockets.

Five years ago, there were only 53 radio stations, now there are over 100, internet access penetration has grown from below 1% to about 13%, newspapers and magazine has almost tripled from 25 to 65 and phone usage (fixed and mobile) has grown from around 390,000 to about 3 million. At the last count , the number of commercial banks was 22 and growing.

A simplistic analysis with mobile phone usage will indeed tell us that the “no-money in our pockets” is not entirely correct. And really, it is up to us individuals to put the money we earn into our pockets and not Government to put the money in our hands into our pockets.

Please lets not let the pessimist amongst us win. We are “In this together” and as one , we can show the money and jobs to the doubting thomases.

Akwasi Agyeman
Accra


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