Feature Article of Sunday, 17 June 2012

Columnist: Chartey, Douglas

Is Foreign Aid The Only Solution To Ghana’s Lingering Problems?

Time and time again Ghana has benefitted from numerous aids in the agricultural sector ostensibly to boost production. But very little has been achieved in this regard. One invariably wonders why this is so. The big question is why have some countries made it and Ghana hasn’t? I am sure what you are thinking may not be different from what I’m thinking right now. Our leaders have always been prompt without hesitation in begging for help outside and when our benefactors have been sympathetic and generous to us we tend to do any of these three–Mismanage, abuse or misuse. Why can’t Ghana take clues from sister countries like India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Brazil (our new benefactor), and all the other countries who have made meaningful strides in the field of agriculture and other socio-economic domains.
The million dollar question is, ‘how did these sister countries do it?’ It is very simple. These countries have gone through cultural rebirth and political re-orientation. They have also resolved to look after what belongs to them and do not shy away from exposing or bringing to account any officials elected or appointed who pilfer or abuse their offices. The key issue here is there is the need for dedicated officials who are selfless, honest, fair, firm and above all trustworthy. If Ghanaians choose or elect people who lack or fall short of the above qualities then we shall always be in our isolated enclave and will witness no development in our country but rather wallow in abject poverty characterized by systematic decay of our basic infrastructure and lack of foresight.
In the recent past Ghana benefitted from a similar assistance from Japan where a number of agricultural machinery were brought into the country to enable farmers improve their yield. But what happened? Most of the tractors found their way into the possessions of government officials and people who had nothing to do with farming. The excuse we were given was that farmers could not afford the machinery. However, the machines in question were heavily subsidized for some of the officials to be able to afford as many as between two and five each. The question I want to ask is this. Who has the power to challenge these officials when they misconduct themselves like that? If people elected into Parliament embroil themselves with corruption and cannot address such malfeasance then who can?
The media probably the only institution capable of highlighting such issues rather engage themselves in devoting much of their air time and print spaces fashioning frivolous and boring debates allowing high profile entities to bring the inky profession into disrepute. Now that the National Media Commission is partly benefitting from a European Union’s £7-million grant (modernghana.com 12 June’12) it is about time part of their share was used to reshape these institutions to live up to expectation.
To ensure that these array of machines are put to good uses the VP who led the delegation to Brazil for this package, should make sure that a committee of experts is set up to see to the effective distribution of the machinery. It will be most beneficial if all the Agricultural Institutions in the country are given some of these machines to train their students and local farmers on how to use them and also to embark on extensive farming projects to sustain themselves. Local farmers should be made to have easy access to these machines when they need them. Government should also re-consider looking into the possibilities of re-establishing Community Farms (formally State Farms) in all the major farming areas where most of the youth and the unemployed will be involved in extensive farm projects. This can bring jobs to most school leavers who may not want to continue with their education thereby discouraging them from drifting into the big cities looking for jobs which virtually don’t exist. Well established private farmers should also be helped with loans through the Agric. Development Banks and other financial institutions to acquire some of these machines to expand their farms to increase their produce. This practice is common and consistent with most of the advanced countries. That is why food is always in abundance in these countries and the excess exported to the developing (struggling) countries.
The way forward is decision makers must be responsible for any actions that they take. Ghana can achieve this feat if only we start transforming now. We should always remember that our achievement can only be measured by what we have accomplished and not by what we have attempted. The media should play their part by scrutinizing and bringing to light any wrong-doing in government and all that are involved in directing the affairs of this dear country. By this I mean including politicians, all departmental heads, community leaders, political appointees, religious leaders and all in positions of trust and power. The political climate in the country now gives the media power and freedom to achieve this. They should be unbiased and see to it that anything that belongs to the state comes to the state and not ending up in the long pockets of the selfish few. There is still chance we can achieve the status of Brazil, India and the other states who have gone through the same transformation to reach this level. Ghanaians can no longer sit back and take what comes to us. We have to go after what we want. We cannot climb the hill by just looking at it. We’ve got to do something. What we need is concerted positive action NOW!
Douglas Chartey - UK