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Opinions of Monday, 16 January 2006

Columnist: Agyepong, Benjamin Opoku

Three things gov?t must do to usher in the ?Golden age of Business?

There are many problems facing us a nation, social, ethnic, political, cultural and economic problems, however, the resources with which we can deal with these problems are very limited. This implies that we have to choose our priorities very well, to maximize the benefits we gain from using the resources. Nationally, this call for setting better priorities that encourage judicious use of our limited resources in executing programs meant to achieve the standards we set for the nation. This also means that, the things we do must have a lot of linkages (lead to the development of multiple activities). This is what economists describe as rational economic decision making. But in Ghana, what is the reality? do we set better priorities for our national development?

The answer to this question is anybody?s guess. I have time and again argued that bad policies make bad politicians, and that seems to be the case in Ghana. If politicians are subjected to 100% dictatorial policies by the IMF and the World Bank, the end result is policies that have little impact on the beneficiaries (the people of Ghana). Such policies result in projects and programs that benefit the rich few whilst leaving the poor majority behind. However, when it comes to repayment of the debt resulting from such projects, there is no distinction between the rich and the poor, both the rich and poor share the debt burden equally, If not disproportionately against the poor.

The president is seeking to lead Ghana into what he has dubbed the ?Golden Age of Business?. What a noble idea the president has; however, like Moses who saw the promised land from afar, but could not enter it, How can his Excellency, the President of Ghana leads us into this dispensation in our developmental history, where business would blossom and jobs would be available for the ever growing youth of the country, and lure the intellectuals and artisans outside to come home to support and develop Ghana when the same problems that have for years prevented development in our part of the world still persist in Ghana, and continue to scare away potential investors?

I have these words for the government of the day, like the investor who puts the bulk of his money into stocks that hold the promise of good returns and put less money into risky stocks, so must Ghana invest in higher return programs. We have, over the years embarked on SAPs, PAMSCAD, and what have you, but there is little to show for them. Simply because, the fundamental things needed to make the economy business friendly and to encourage owners of capital to come and invest, have either not been tackled or received a scratch on the surface. I believe that, these three under listed policy areas constitute some of the most important things that the government must do if we are serious about this ?golden age of business?. The ?golden Age of Business? is lurking in the background waiting for government to do the following before it arrives at our shores:

1. Reduction in the number of holidays in Ghana 2. Provision of uninterrupted, stable power supply for the country. 3. Eradicate or reduce Malaria prevalence in the Country

To paraphrase the Biblical verse that says ?seek ye first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all other things ????? I argue here that, we seek the provision of these three things in Ghana, and the golden age of business would follow. There are far too many holidays in Ghana and that is not good for business, it is unattractive to investment, especially foreign capital. At the very least, we have to be content with our independence and Republic holidays and do away with the other holidays such as the religious and others. Why do I say this, do not get me wrong, I am a Christian and do enjoy the Easter/Christmas holidays, but because of these two holidays, Our Moslem brothers argued for and got their holiday as well, which of course they deserved to have and who knows when would another religion gain currency in Ghana and its followers also begin asking for their holiday, can we deny them? Of course not. Which investor would want to put his money in a land of so many holidays? Maybe very few.

Another important thing needed to be done to usher in this age of business is the provision of uninterrupted power supply for domestic and industrial use. With sometimes three times of power outages per day, we are really joking about our desire to attract foreign capital. We need to do a better job to provide power 24/7 in order to lure investors to come in with capital. Stable power supply is one of the keys to attracting capital. I do not know why Kaiser sold Valco to Ghana and packed and left, but I have every course to believe that, power shortages might be one of the reasons if the major reason. No serious investor would invest in manufacturing plants with this level of power supply.

The last thing is the incidence of Malaria, the disease that prevented the white man from establishing good institutions in equatorial Africa to develop our part of the world is still busy killing people everyday in Ghana. Investors are still afraid of this killer disease, but Euro-American research into Malaria has dropped drastically because, it is no longer a risk to them. Besides the Gates foundation, there is no serious western research into malaria eradication for obvious reasons. Malaria is still feared by the people in the west. And so, they would not want to invest in Malaria infested regions like Ghana. It is not surprising that the bulk of investors we are attracting seem to come from Malaysia, Lebanon, and other areas of the world where the bug is present. Unless serious effort is made towards eradication of Malaria, Our continuous talk of attracting foreign capital would be an unfulfilled dream.

If these three problems are tackled and solved, Ghana would become the investment friendly nation we aspire to be, and we would not even ask investors to come to Ghana, before they themselves start knocking at our door displaying the amount of capital they have to invest in our country. These notwithstanding, the government must be commended for its achievements of Macroeconomic stability. It is incredible, how this government has controlled inflation, stabilized the Cedi, and improved the real interest rate. Hon. Yaw Osarfo Marfo and Hon. Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu deserve credit for that



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