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Opinions of Saturday, 21 November 2020

Columnist: Johnson Addai-Asante

Tribute to late President J. J. Rawlings: ‘View from afar’

Former President Jerry John Rawlings died on November 12, 2020 Former President Jerry John Rawlings died on November 12, 2020

Personalities of Rawlings’ nature are quite scarce and appear once in a thousand years in a country. There is no doubt about the fact that President Rawlings was selfless, industrious, courageous and down-to-earth in his determinations and convictions in pursuit of issues about national development of Ghana.

In fact, he dedicated his entire life to ensuring that the socio-economic deprivation to which majority of Ghanaians were subjected during his hay days was eliminated or at worse minimized.

In the 1970s the economy of Ghana was entirely on its knees and was heading for a crash. General shortages of essential commodities had seriously hit the economy with total breakdown of infrastructure to the extent that cocoa (beans) which has been the backbone of the economy were left to rot at the various production centres.

This led to the introduction of government supermarkets where rationed essential commodities like sugar, milk, soap, matches, sardines etc, were sold only to people who made it to join the associated queues.

The situation in the country was so bad that the youth of Ghana had no choice but to migrate to Nigeria to do menial jobs that go with construction works and others. Any time some of them returned home, they came with essential commodities that were scarce in Ghana and they were hailed as heroes and heroines by the people in their communities.

The transport system in the country was so bad that passengers had to travel by articulator trucks, cargo cars and boneshaker cars on pot-hole ridden dusty trunk roads.

Having observed the situation in the country, Rawlings appeared on the political scene of Ghana via a coup d'etat, first, in 1979. In his three month stay in power (in his AFRC govt), he carried the people along and created awareness among them about the need for fighting corruption, embracing communal labour, love for country, accepting responsibility for paying tax, spirit of volunteerism, etc, etc.

Some officials in authority (prior to his take over) who were found to have engaged in all manner of corrupt practices were made to face the firing squad.

He made sure businessmen who were not paying taxes were punished severely and most of them were made to pay tax arrears and this raised a significant amount of revenue to government coffers.

The youth in the country especially, students from the Universities left their campuses to join the military (including Rawlings himself) to convey the locked-up cocoa beans from the production centers for exports to increase state revenue and, to repair most of the broken-down roads in the country.

On his return in 1981, he set up the PNDC government that supervised the affairs of the economy for eleven years and continued in the NDC administration for 8 years before he quit power on 6th January, 2001. Rawlings was so serious with the management of the economy that he made sure the transitional government of PNDC was made up of level-headed, experienced and committed men and women of integrity (from both the military and civil society) with the needed expertise to change the destiny discourse of this country for good.

One-and-a-half years into office, his government (PNDC) began to implement the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) in April, 1983 to put the economy on the path of growth and development. Major policies implemented under this programme which ushered our deer Ghana into path of growth and development we enjoy today include the following.

1. Nationwide electrification

Under this project, electricity was extended and made available to all regions and districts including most villages as against the hither to situation where only a few cities like Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi and Cape Coast including mining towns had access to power.

This sparked off economic activities throughout the country. It also helped schools and health centres to maximize their performances. Under this exercise, a separate body (VRA itself) was made to take care of the distribution of power in the northern sector of the economy.

Rawlings administration established the Aboadze thermal plant in the Western Region to augment the supply of electricity in the country. He also put in place plans to build the Bui dam to increase the power production capacity in Ghana.

2. Privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs)

The non-performing SOEs which had become a huge burden on state resources were privatized to the private sector which had been declared as the engine of economic growth and development. Thus, monies which were used to finance the activities of these SOEs could now be used for development of the infrastructure base of the economy to promote more economic activities.

3. Provision of better sources of water

This project provided, for the first time, hand-pump pipes for the majority of the citizens who used to drink untreated water from river bodies. This helped to reduce water related diseases especially in the rural areas.

4. Road infrastructure

Rawlings administration will never be forgotten by Ghanaians when it comes to road infrastructure in the country. In fact, he introduced asphalt roads in the country to improve upon road infrastructure in the country. The first of its kind was the Elubo-Takoradi-Cape-Ciast-Biriwa road along the coast which was completed in 1985. Others include:

Kumasi-Sunyani road

Kumasi-Asante Mampong road

Kumasi-Cape-Coast road

Kintampo-Bolgatanga road: which opened up the entire northern sector of the country. This brought the northern sector close to the rest of the country. Thus, a journey from Bolga to Kumasi which took a whole week could be done within a few hours.

Kumasi-Anyinam-Accra road

Takoradi-Agona Nkwanta road, etc, etc.

Kumasi city roads, Accra city roads including, the construction of interchanges for the first time: Tamale city roads, Sekondi-Takoradi city roads, Sunyani city roads, Takyiman roads, etc, etc.

In addition to these, other major trunk roads where rehabilitated with a secondary type of tarring option. These included deprived areas like those in the Sehwi, Brong Ahafo and Northern area enclaves and others throughout the country.

5. Establishment of institutions to promote investment

Under the ERP, important and crucial institutions were established to promote business activities to ensure economic growth and development. These include:

a. The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC).

This institution continues to assist investors in their operations by providing the necessary business advice, helping investors to access funding, etc.

b. The Ghana Export Promotion Centre (GEPC).

This institution was charged with the responsibility of encouraging exports, especially, the non-traditional exports like food stuffs and fruits. This increases the much needed foreign exchange earning capacity of the economy for growth and development.

c. The Free Zone Board (FZB).

This board was/is to enhance the processing of products meant for exports. This reduces the cost of exports and to boost exporting activities to increase growth and development.

d. The establishment of the Ghana’s stock exchange

The Rawlings administration established the Ghana Stock Exchange (GES) in 1990. This was to make it possible for businesses to access long term financial assistance to increase economic activities in the country. Since, its establishment, the GES has played significant contributory role in the industrialization drive of the country.

In addition to the above, his administration promoted the use of smock produced by the northern people of Ghana. He started wearing smocks at official functions and this in no small measure generated the commercial use of the product by Ghanaians and people abroad.

He also put in place measures to assist producers of this product export it to earn more to increase their income levels and for that matter improve their living standards.

6. Trade liberalization

The ERP reshaped the international trade in Ghana. The then protectionist policy was removed and replaced with the more liberal and flexible trade policy. Thus, the import licensing and high tariffs including quota were all abolished.

The fixed exchange rate regime was replaced with the flexible exchange rate regime leading to the establishment of the many forex bureaus (in 1988) where foreign currencies like the dollar could be bought and sold. This policy sparked off importation of all manner of goods into the country. We now have many importers and exporters who do their businesses without permission from government.

7. Telecommunication reform

Under the ERP, the telecommunication policy at the time was replaced with a more flexible policy allowing for the liberalization of the sector. Private competitors were allowed to compete with the state owned communication body called the Ghana telecom.

Such competitors include MTN, Airtel, Vodafon, etc, etc. By this, the sector has become so vibrant that almost every Ghanaian adult now has access to telephone services with the use of mobile phones: unlike the past when people had to queue for make ordinary local and international calls at the post office because only a few rich people had access to the service (the land line service). Now wonder, the service sector now dominate contributions to GDP in Ghana.

8. Democracy

As a foundation and a precursor to the impending democracy, the PNDC restructured the local government system in the country. Thus, the District Assembly concept was put in place in 1988 for the grass root people to determine who should form the local government, hence, the District Assembly system being practised today.

During the later days of the PNDC, the government put in place an institution called the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) led by the late Justice D. F. Annan to consult Ghanaians as to the way forward with respect to the democratic destiny of the country.

This led to the establishment of the Consultative Assembly in 1990 which drew the forth Republic Constitution which is the bedrock of Ghana’s democracy today.

9. Education

In education, Rawlings administration reformed the then traditional system which we inherited from the Britain, our colonial authorities. The sixth form system which took students 17 years to qualify to enter the University was replaced with the current SHS (SSS) system which takes students 12 years to enter the University from class one.

University students were made to access students’ loan instead of depending solely on the government for feeding, utilities, stationery, etc, etc on campus. This released resources to the state to establish more tertiary institutions like the University of Education, University for Development Studies, University of Mines and Technology, etc. etc.

Rawlings even used his hunger award from the UN to help establish the UDS, in Tamale. His administration also established Polytechnics (now Technical Universities) in all the regions. His administration also saw the establishment of the Ghana education trust fund (GETFUND) with the intention of funding infrastructural needs in the University campuses as a response to the Ghana students union’s proposal then.

To regenerate students’ interests in Science and Mathematics, the Rawlings administration established the Maths and Science national quiz which has become popular today. His administration again saw the establishment of numerous Universities in Ghana. As the time of his departure from office there were almost 80 Universities (in both private and public sectors) in Ghana compared to only 3 he came to meet.

It cannot be forgotten that the Forth Republic Constitution recommended for the FCUBE (Free, compulsory, and Universal Basic Education. In fact, the constitution even recommends for gradual free education up to the University level. After implementing the SSS programme, his administration opened many community day secondary schools throughout the country to cater for the increase in demand for secondary education.

10. Agriculture

Rawlings administration was very much concerned about agricultural issues. He introduced the hybrid cocoa specie which has a short gestation period to boost cocoa farming and production which is the backbone of the Ghanaian economy. He in fact, ensured that saving habits were inculcated in our farmers and so, introduced the Akuafo cheques to pay cocoa farmers at the bank.

Rawlings administration introduced the Agric Infrastructure Programme which opened up the agricultural areas with feeder roads construction and or upgrading. The programme also built market facilities for agricultural produce at the various production centres across the country.

His administration again, liberalized the cocoa buying industry by allowing private buying companies to take part in the purchase of cocoa beans in Ghana. Such companies include, Armajaro ltd, Adwumapa ltd, Akuafo Adamfo ltd, etc, etc. this had the increased the employment level in the country because it created more jobs for the youth in these private buying companies.

His administration encouraged the commercialization of the shear butter industry in the northern parts of the country, thus, creating more economic activities for the northerners.

Rawlings administration introduced the premix fuel for our fisher folks in the economy to increase their fishing activities to improve on their living conditions and to increase agricultural output in general.

11. Health sector

Rawlings administration did not leave the health sector with no development. His administration established three major regional hospitals including the Cape Coast Regional Hospital called ‘intabbettin’, the Ho Regional Hospital and the Sunyani Regional Hospital, His administration established numerous Primary Health Care Centres throughout the country in the villages.

He made a personal commitment to fighting diseases that afflicted our brothers in the north. These were the guinea worm and river blindness diseases. In fact, by the time he left office, there were zero cases of these dangerous diseases in the north.

He also made sure the necessary equipment were made available to health centers like the Agroyesum hospitals to fight burilli ulcer which afflicted some mining communities. We cannot forget the establishment of the Cardio Center and other blocks at Korle Bu Hospital by his administration.

12. Other social concerns

Man Rawlings loved his country so much so that he introduced the use of gas for cooking at the kitchen in order to reduce the depletion of our forest through charcoal burning activities.

Again, he ensured that saving habit was inculcated in formal workers. To this end, he made it compulsory for all workers to open bank accounts to receive their salaries.

This happened in early 1980 and it has contributed to money management and mobilization of investible funds to promote investment in the economy for economic growth and development.

His administration again established the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO). This effort was for government to put precautionary measures to curb the suffering associated with all forms of human disaster.

We can conclude and say Rawlings did not live for himself but for the ordinary Ghanaian and Ghana as whole. Having ruled this country for 19 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 6 days, he could have made a great deal of wealth for himself but because of what he stood for, he had nothing by way wealth accumulation. There was even a time when he could not get a befitting home for himself and his family; when his residence was razed by fire.

All we can say is the Lord God who gave him to us, keeps his soul in perfect peace until we meet again, GOD willing, on the day of Judgement.

J.J., DAMIRIFA DUE! DAMIRIFA DUE!! DAMIRIFA DUE, DUE, DUE!!!, I know your soul will rest in peace, for GOD’s sake.