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Opinions of Friday, 10 February 2017

Columnist: Graphic.com.gh

Taking off from where we left off

By: Professor Akwasi Yeboah

In March 1957, at the time of our Independence from the United Kingdom, Ghana and the Republic of Korea had about the same annual per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP measures the national income and output for a given country.

For instance, Per Capita GDP (US dollars) for Ghana in 1960 was 183 and 1,846 in 2013, while Republic of Korea recorded 156 and had 26,482 in 2013.

In 1960, Ghana’s per capita GDP was $183, higher than that of the Republic of Korea’s $156. By 2013, Ghana’s GDP per capita had crawled to $1,846, whereas the GDP per capita of the Republic of Korea had escalated to $26,482. Institutional demoralisation and deterioration of human services are cited by the World Bank as some of the factors preventing Ghana from realising its full potential.

In the mid-1960s, the Republic of Korea introduced an export-oriented economy, market sustaining incentives, labour incentives, technical education and research. Performance Evaluation System was an integral component of the Republic of Korea's approach.

The announcement of the creation of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Monitoring and Evaluation, as well as Railways by Nana Akufo-Addo's Government should be seen as policies in the right direction when properly implemented.

No country can develop without emphasis on science and technology; it was for this reason that Ghana's first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, invested heavily in science and technology, culminating in the creation of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi.

Without a solid foundation on science and technology in today's technology-driven world, Ghana will be wandering in the woods. The creation of the Ministry of Science and Technology should be hailed as a plank in the right direction.

Railway lines

Before March 1957, under British rule, there was a well-functioning network of railway lines connecting the hinterland to the port cities of Takoradi/Sekondi and Tema. Railways are a more efficient mode of transportation, carrying people and goods from the hinterland to the cities and vice versa. They finely replace trucks which can carry limited loads per journey.

In the United States, Canada, Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Australia, among others, the railway system is the most reliable means of transportation from one point to other. For example, if you live in Western Ukraine and want to travel to Kiev (the capital), you simply take the evening train and by morning of the next day, you are there.

Petroleum products are more safely transported by the railway network, compared to vehicles (petrol tankers). When properly implemented, the creation of the Railways Ministry should put Ghana on a higher growth path.

One positive spin-off is that more jobs will be created for Ghanaians in the railway sector – from replacement of the dilapidated railway lines to construction of new railway lines and to operation of the trains.

Here, we shall recruit train drivers, train conductors, train cleaners, railway security officers and railway police who will ensure security in the trains.

Assuming that we have a train network as follows: Wa-Tamale; Bolgatanga-Tamale; Bole-Tamale; Tamale-Kumasi; Sunyani-Kumasi; Kumasi-Accra; Ho-Accra; Cape Coast-Accra; Takoradi/Sekondi-Accra; Koforidua-Accra, among others, this would generate huge employment opportunities for Ghanaians. No one will go hungry; everyone will find a job to do.

In addition to the rehabilitation of the railway system, the ministry’s focus could include the development of tram network in major cities to ease traffic congestion.

When these entities are well functioning under the Railway Ministry, Ghanaian lives will be transformed beyond any doubt and other countries will see Ghana really as a "leader" “There is no excuse for Ghanaians to be poor,” as stated by President Nana Akufo-Addo during his inauguration.

The Ministry of Aviation has a special responsibility for developing the entry point to Ghana as a veritable gateway to West Africa. For a very long time, when visitors to Ghana land at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), Accra, a bus takes them to a narrow door where they disembark and pass through the narrow door to enter Ghana.

Every time, it is the same narrow door that visitors pass through whereas countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and Côte d'Ivoire have passenger boarding bridges. Once the plane lands, you walk through this passenger boarding bridge to enter the country.

The mere "walking through the passenger boarding bridge" boosts your perception and expectations of the country. Remember, Tanzania is a least-developed country whereas Ghana is not.

Ghana Airways reintroduction

Reintroducing the Ghana Airways is not enough. During the 1990s, Kenya Airways went through a number of difficulties until it decided to go into partnership with KLM.

The partnership with KLM resurrected Kenya Airways, and today Kenya Airways is one of the best Airlines on the continent. Today, we live in an interdependent world, more or a less in a global village. Singapore seeks Dutch expertise to build dykes to stop the ocean from encroaching the land. United Arab Emirates sought global expertise to develop Dubai, Abu Dhabi, among others.

Today, you arrive at Abidjan airport and you'll think you've rather arrived at Paris CDG Airport. Ghana lags behind. I would propose that the Ministry of Aviation take initiatives to build a partnership with the British Airways – in the same way as Kenya Airways did with KLM in the 1990s – to put Ghana Airways on a sustainable development path.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Ministry is critical to ensure "value for money" and control of the "national purse" as stated by Nana Akufo-Addo in his inauguration speech as President of Ghana. The prime function of this new ministry is to minimise waste in the system and to ensure that any dollar we receive is fully accounted for.

Ghana should be forward-looking in striking bilateral trade and investment agreements with selected countries, for example the United Kingdom, Singapore, South Africa, Canada, United States, among others. We should be prepared to train a pool of young and smart Ghanaian negotiators across all sectors of the Ghanaian economy to negotiate the best deals for Ghana.

“Ensure prudent management of the national purse,” “to ensure value for money,” among others resonate in our President’s inaugural speech on January 7, 2017. We should not look up to the President alone to realise this dream. “We are not spectators; we are citizens” – as the President underlined. The President is only one individual. It is up to each Ghanaian to regurgitate and domesticate these important statements to move Ghana forward.

One would say: “We need money to achieve all these.” There is a lot of money in the global economy for a good cause. “Money” is not an issue. With prudent management of the economy as stated by President Akufo-Addo at the inauguration, Ghana will attract an unprecedented inflow of foreign direct investment from all countries to put her on a sustainable path of stupendous economic growth.