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Opinions of Friday, 25 May 2018

Columnist: Kwesi Biney

Why have we lost out on job creation?

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I hold that materially poor societies cannot produce the democratic public life which is an essential pre-requisite of the creation of socialist democracies, because gross material poverty and isolation as well as the illiteracy and narrowed intellectual vision which accompanies these material conditions, make the majority of their citizens inactive or ineffective as continuous monitors and controllers of the use of public power——- Gavin Kitching (RETHINKING SOCIALISM)

Ghana, like many developing nations, has a major challenge of providing sustainable decent job opportunities for its growing population, which recent statistics indicate is just an inch away from 30 million, about five times the population at independence; 61 years ago. As the population grows, job opportunities diminish, in numbers and qualities, to absorb the energetic youthful population.

Immediately after independence, the government of the First Republic led by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, embarked upon the journey of industrialization as a means of not only creating jobs for the populace, but also providing import substituting goods and services for the young nation. The biggest industrial holding company ever to have sprung up in Africa South of the Sahara was GIHOC (Ghana Industrial Holding Corporation) which had about 16 industries under it.

Those were the times when Ghana produced its own matches, foot wears, bottles and glasses, toilet rolls, pharmaceuticals, books, textile prints among many others. Job opportunities were available for the few highly educated, the middle class intellectuals as well as artisans and the illiterates.

Per the State Enterprise Commission Law (PNDCL) 170 of 1987, the following, among others, were the State Owned Enterprises operational at the time.

Architectural, Engineering Services Corporation
Achimota Brewery
Automotive Technical Services Limited
(i)Kowus Motors

(ii)Kassabohher Ghana Limited

(iii) Ghana Vehicles Assembly Plant

(iv) RT Briscoe Ghana Limited

Bast Fibre Development Board
City Express
Food Distribution Corporation
Food Production Corporation
Forestry Commission
Ghana Airways Corporation
Ghana Broadcasting Corporation
Ghana Film Industry Corporation
Ghana Oil Palm Development Corporation
Ghana Highways Authority
Ghana Publishing Corporation
Ghana Industrial Holding Corporation (GIHOC)
Ghana Railways Corporation
Ghana Supply Commission
Ghana National Procurement Agency
Ghana National Trading Corporation
Ghana Water & Sewerage Corporation
Graphic Corporation
GEA and Associates Limited
(i) GEA Packaging

(ii) GEA General Chemicals

(iii) Gave Farms Limited

(iv) Victory Industries Limited

Ghamot Company Limited
Ghamot Enterprises Limited
Ghamot Vehicle Assembly Plant Gh. Ltd
Ghamot Textiles Limited
Ghamot Estates Ghana Limited
Ghamot Leather Products Ghana Limited
Ghamot Motor Engineering Company Limited
Ghana Rice Mill Company Limited
Ghana Rubber Estates Limited
Ghana Seeds Company Limited
Ghana Sugar Estates Limited
Irrigation Development Authority
Labadi Pleasure Beach
Loyalty Industries Limited
Meat Marketing Board
New Times Corporation
Ominibus Services Authority
Post and Telecommunication Corporation
State Construction Corporation
State Fishing Corporation
State Hotels Corporation
State Farms Corporation
State Housing Corporation
State Shipping Corporation
State Transport Corporation
Tema Development Corporation
Tema Food Complex
Tema Shipyard & Drydock
The various Enterprises had a number of branches throughout the country. So if you took the State Housing Corporation for example, every region had the SHC working there and in some Districts as well. So that single body was employing so many people throughout the country. So were other such State Owned Enterprises.

Apart from the above in exhaustive lists of State Enterprises, there were a number of private productive businesses which were adding to the job creations and the growth of the economy. Once upon a time, the same PNDC whose laws indicate the number of State Enterprises, embarked upon a negative economic onslaught on the private business sector, confiscating businesses left right and centre, chasing many of the owners into exile while the unfortunate ones were jailed for long periods of time without trial. Those businesses collapsed, jobs were lost and cannot be regained.

There were hundreds of Timber Firms across the southern part of the country which employed thousands of young men and women of all categories of educational and artisanal levels who were properly employed by this sector alone. They have all collapsed, the prime reason being that we did not as a nation, abide by or follow the rules of the industry which required that each tree felled should be replanted. We kept on felling them without replacing them, forgetting that trees are natural gifts and that their sustainability for any economic venture depends on the actions of human beings.

The Forestry Commission which had and still have the oversight responsibility of ensuring that those who had concessions to exploit our timber resources re-planted them, rather took monies meant for the re-planting but never replanted a single tree. If they ever did, then they might have done so in the dry season and therefore the plants did not survive. You see, planting trees in the dry season for them to die did not begin today.

Travel around the five regions in the south and you will see abandoned timber firms which used to employ hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians.

Some of the factors that led to the collapse of State Enterprises were ideological bigotry, politicization of the enterprises and the mindsets and attitudes of Ghanaians generally. Misguided ideologies informed governments’ decisions on the enterprises that have been established with the tax payers’ monies. People who were appointed to manage many of these enterprises did not have the requisite knowledge and qualifications to efficiently manage those enterprises.

While they were running at losses, public taxes were being pumped into these viable but poorly managed enterprises to the detriment of the economy. Some of them had over bloated staff who were engaged on political grounds rather than productive reasons. Even where management was good enough, political interference in management activities did not inure to the benefits of the enterprises.

State Hotels suffered huge political patronage for which they were not paid. Politicians patronized the hotel facilities with their girlfriends and enjoyed the best the hotels could offer them without paying for those services. They collapsed and workers lost out.

To add to the woes of these enterprises, the workers themselves did not put in their best. They lazied around and engaged also in thievery of assets and products of the enterprises. While making strings of losses, workers were embarking on demonstrations for bonuses even as the businesses had declared massive losses. With very strong Unions and supported by the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), governments were blackmailed into coughing huge sums of monies to appease labour even when they had not earned them.

Subsequent regimes, instead of correcting the wrongs of the past and bringing life back into them chose the easier option of selling these enterprises for a song. Strangely enough, it is a particular regime which touts itself as a Social Democrat which engaged in the most stinking sell out of the State Enterprises under such dubious and opaque manner the nation had ever recorded.

Those we could not find buyers for, to take them virtually for free, they have been taken over by weeds and are residents of animals. In some cases, individual citizens occupy the premises as if they own them. We seem to have no minds to do anything. How sad it is.

We are now finding ad hoc means of creating jobs for the teeming youth of this country, from NYEP, through to GYEEDA, YEA and now NABCORP to get our youth busy and active even if temporary so that the devil does not make use of their fertile minds. The biblical statement that ‘the sins of their fathers will be visited upon thee’ has come to pass.

Our children are suffering from the wickedness, malice, shortsightedness, witlessness and above all selfishness and greed which have characterized our policies and their implementations. Today, we are virtually inviting people outside this country with pittances and giving them all the incentives to come and create jobs for the youth. What do we offer the few local investors? The harm we have done to this country may never be corrected in our life time.

Daavi give me four tots.