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Opinions of Thursday, 2 October 2003

Columnist: Asibey, Akwasi

The NPP and Its Critics

Every day, every hour some Ghanaians raise their voices to express their views on the policies of the government. For opponents of the NPP government nothing has been achieved.

They point to the growing unemployment of the youth and other problems to buttress their position. Of course as opposition politicians, they need to hold themselves up as a credible alternative to the current government.

Therefore it is entirely appropriate that they would deliberately play up the weaknesses of the government to make themselves look good.

Others may raise their voices against the government out of a genuine desire to see faster implementation of policies than is currently the case.

They may reason that the Kufour administration has not been bold enough to deliver on promises made during the 2000 electoral campaign. They want to see a swifter and a more aggressive approach to solving the multifaceted problems that the country faces.

While these criticisms may seem well-intentioned and without holding any brief for the Kufour administration, the question that comes to mind and, which is difficult to side step is, do we as a people have unrealistic or exaggerated expectations of what needs to be achieved within a relatively short period of time?

Let us start with the stated policy goals of the NPP government as expressed in their manifesto. Promises made may have been premised on a number of assumptions. The first assumption could be availability of capable men and women within the civil service to implement the enunciated policies.

However the facts on the ground may not support this assumption since we know that the Ghana Civil Service faces a number of structural deficiencies, which undermines its capacity to implement policies. The often-repeated example is lack of appropriate core competencies in various fields of endeavour. The lack of appropriate capabilities and capacity to implement policies would undoubtedly affect the speed with which programmes will be implemented.

When such fundamental facts are ignored, our criticisms of the government may tend to be just too superficial, not steeped in the appropriate context and process.

The second assumption may have been predicated on availability of financial resources. That the new government hurriedly declared the country insolvent by agreeing to implement the Highly Indebted Poor Country programme (HIPC) confirmed that as a country we do not generate enough surplus revenue to support our development goals.

The facts are there for those who care to search. For instance, without our development partners providing 45 per cent of the total national budget, there would hardly be any development projects in the country. And yet when Ghanaians speak out they forget this fundamental weakness that has bedevilled all governments. We pretend that ours is a normal country like any other. It is not! We can come out with the finest policies and programmes on the face of the earth, but the naked truth is that to be able to implement them requires money, which we do not have - so to speak, there is no national cake to share.

The recent debate over the financing of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) clearly shows how unrealistic our expectations are. Everyone agrees that there should be an NHIS but there is no consensus on how it should be funded.

Is it a case of having our cake and eating it? Someone has to pay for it. Surely we do not expect taxpayers of other countries to pay for our national health insurance scheme, do we? It is perplexing that a national trade union body would mobilise its members to fight a scheme that is fundamentally designed to benefit the less well off in our society, including its own members. Is it the case of crass selfishness or just pure political mischief?

The other dimension is the structure of the economy. Ghana's economy has remained fundamentally the same since our colonial masters created it.

We continue to rely on primary commodities as our main export earnings. We do not add much value to our cocoa, gold, etc. So how on earth are we going to generate the jobs for the youth who leave school each year?

The presidential initiatives for textiles, cassava, salt, cotton and oil palm are all designed to correct this structural imbalance in the economy whose effects will be felt in the medium and long-term.

Yes, we should be vigilant in ensuring that the government lives up to our expectations. However those expectations must be realistic. And we ought to remember that ours is a society in transition.

Some changes will be rapid others will be slow. It will indeed be impractical given our circumstances to expect a quantum improvement in our lives over night. It will not happen! So let us criticise by all means but let us do so with circumspection.

If we fail to do so, we may throw the baby out with the bathwater!


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.