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Opinions of Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Columnist: Denis Andaban

We are only caught up in a web of cognitive poverty

The narrative remains adamant because we refuse to change our methodologies The narrative remains adamant because we refuse to change our methodologies

The subject of poverty is not new in any public discourse whether national or international. In our case as a country, the canker has been largely discussed and continue to be discussed from precolonial period till date yet we are unable to arrest this enemy of progress. The narrative remains adamant because we refuse to change our methodologies. We mimic economic policies from the west without taking into consideration that our economic environments are obviously different.

Pitifully, we keep discussing the issues with emotions while the solutions remain to rot in our minds. We talk too much than we think and never take any step forward beyond the political cacophony. It is in lieu of that, I say our predicaments as a developing nation is not because of economic poverty but mental poverty because we fail to think about the future.

The industrial revolution the West adopted in the late 19th century which catapulted America for instance to an industrialized country was a conscious and strategic plan well executed. After the Americans have used the African slaves to increase their plantation farms, after they have cheated Africans in the then barter trade and took away our gold and other precious minerals, they smartly had to shift focus to make use of the available economic fundamentals. That worked the magic for America. It was not just an industrial revolution but mental revolution as the quest to own factories and enterprises became the target of every family. Wealth was abundantly created within the shortest time and most citizens were economically independent of government and preferred to work for themselves. For them, at the time, working for government as public servants was synonymous to slavery. That is what the whole concept of capitalism emanates and centers around. Can you see the narrative of the economic shift?

In our case as a country, we have been blessed with abundant natural resources but we have failed to utilize them to the maximum and only allow such natural resources under the monopolistic manipulation of foreign expatriates yet we expect economic magic. Of course, if you have a resource and do not know what to use it for, others will use every available tactics to siphon it. We have had more than 40% of the wealth of the world here in Africa but today we still shamelessly parade around, pitifully lamenting and capping in hands from these never satisfying business minded westerners. All these stern from cognitive poverty. Our leaders lack the ability to plan.

You might think I'm whining but let me be specific here. The 1992 constitution of Ghana, Article 86 establishes the National Development Planning Commission. The commission among other things shall be responsible for planning the economy and general development of this country. Paramount among its function is the fact that, it should make proposals for the development of multi year rolling plan, taking into consideration resource potential and comparative advantage of the different districts of Ghana. Reading through that aspect of the constitution, I guess you agree with me that the framers of the constitution had the foresight for economic progress and any effective implementation could have placed us in a prosperous economic era. Isn't it?

Ironically, because of the parochial interest of political schemers who are interested in building economic dynasties around their families and cohorts, they never give any space to this technically justifiably mandated commission to operate. The National Development Commission only exists as a democratic structure but the spirit is swallowed by politicians, making it almost useless to the state. Somewhere 2015, the National Development Commission announced a 40 year development plan after a wide consultation with political parties and other relevant stakeholders. We were told, political parties made a lot of contributions on the plan. Interestingly, political parties came out with their manifestoes spelling out their approaches of economic transformation without taking into consideration our national plan.

I will neither blame the political parties nor the commission for any policy discrepancies but any serious country would have found a way of empowering the commission to have the capacity to ensure that all political party manifestoes is in alignment of the national development path. As I speak, we do not longer hear of the Commission at the time government is taking various pertinent economic decisions some of which in my personal view, obviously, cannot emancipate the nation from donor support. The Senior minister of the current government, Hon Yaw Osafo Marfo is on record to have said that 40 year development plan is too long a plan to be followed. Obviously, it is an indication that the current government is not ready to work with the plan.

In fact, we are overly dependant on the largesse of powerful economic giants, the conditions attached, you and I can not speak of. I was expecting government to be consulting the commission regularly on its economic policies so that we can change the economic narrative.

Again, the decision of government to industrialized the country is a fantastic economic policy that can change the story of a country living on unchecked importation with its negative balance of payments issues. What we need to do is to strategically plan and set up industries that can stand the test of time by having the marketing arsenal to stand the global competitiveness. This is particularly so because most of our factories are now defunct because of the inability of these factories to break even. The economic lesson is that, it is not just about building factories in every district. It is about setting up unique factories at specific locations where raw materials can easily be obtained. Building factories whether public private partnership or state sole funding, is capital intensive and juxtaposing input cost analysis against projected market space and profit would have given us a more informed decision.

Interestingly, the issue of comparative advantage of various districts and resource potentials has never been touched on by the government much committed to one district one factory. It might be politically wise but economically unwise to spring up factories in all districts without considering the fundamental issues of resource potentials and comparative advantage.

Also, we need massive investment in primary production now as the fundamentals to facilitate rapid economic development through industrialisation. We don't build industries before we go back to invest in the production of raw materials or to find markets. Let's get it clear.
Our primary production is largely agriculture and we all know that the unpredictable nature of rainfall and other climatic conditions affect agricultural production. How many irrigation dams have we constructed?
Do we train people to gain adequate skills to help our farmers to increase production? Of the many educational plans that we hear, the Agricultural Training Colleges remain under resourced. People who complete these institutions become frustrated because we most of them are not even posted. All these are issues we should look at.
Look at the hectares of farms armyworms invasion affected only this year. Don't you think that if we had the expertise, we could have stricken the iron while it was hot? Monies have been wasted by the ministry of Agriculture but the situation remains grievous. Many farmers are frustrated. The ministers are equally frustrated and publicly demonstrate it by insulting those who complain. The blame game continues yet the problem persists. We need to think outside the box.

It would be of help to all of us if our politicians stop the "too knowing" attitude and let's allow those with expertise to help develop our nation. You can only be a jack of all trade but a master of non. National development can not be grounded with political motives because it can't achieve any goal in the long run. We need a more radical and truly national approach in tackling our national developmental challenges that singing political chorus and taking personal glory over nothing. That is our problem. Cognitive poverty and not economic poverty. We are reach but the selfish politicians do not take up any challenge, they don't want the citizens to get involved, they don't want the structures to work, No!!

Offer them with praise singing, insult their political opponents and they will call you the only economic brain of the country.

This is the time for revolution. Not only industrial revolution but mental and attitudinal revolution. You don't use a razor blade to slaughter animals despite its sharpness. You will be a mockery to yourself.
A word to a wise...

Denis Andaban
Tel: +233549734023