Business in Ghana

We Understand the issues that make the News

Ghana Ain’t Working Folks!

Posted by Business in Ghana on August 8, 2011

By Frank Yaw Ohemeng,

It is a slowly dawning fact that Ghana ain’t working and the very fabric of the nation is in tatters. The Police are politically-controlled, unsanitary conditions abound everywhere, street lamps are without bulbs, traffic lights are out, roads are pot-holed and every road junction is a bottleneck. Taking a short trip through the nation’s capital is an arduous task that could take you the best part of two hours. The country is polarised along political and tribal lines and the President is doing nothing to help matters. Every time he has had the opportunity to bring the nation together, he has woefully failed. The Police have become an automaton controlled by the political classes. It is baffling that the Ghana Police would be willing to arrest an NPP sympathiser who said unflattering things about the President but do not see the need to apply the same laws to people allied to the President who say worse things against opposition politicians. The majority of roads in Ghana are potholed and the condition of the roads and streets of Accra is a pointer to what is happening nationwide. Road projects in and around Accra have stalled and in some cases appear abandoned. In spite of this, some major through roads, closed in connection with the works, remain closed two years on. These are adding to the congestion in the capital. One of such is the closure of the through road from the Atomic junction to Madina Zongo junction on the Accra-Aburi road. Are the cost and inconvenience of the detour through Haatso not apparent to anyone in authority? It would only take a temporary through road to ease the congestion yet nothing is being done. Another eyesore is at the entrance to the University of Ghana. Is it satisfying that the entrance to the nation’s premier university is blocked off by a fence of rusted corrugated sheets whilst the road works that necessitated that appears stalled? Is it not possible to barrier off the new road (if its completion is years away) to allow the university entrance to function?
This morning (06/08/2011), on Joy’s Newsfile programme, there was a young NDC man (Kwadwo Twum Boafo) bemoaning the fact that their predecessors left them these projects without putting the necessary funding in place. This young man does not know that when you decide to go into politics to form a government you have to accept both the good and bad hands dealt by your predecessor. The NDC government was happy to gratefully accept the budding oil industry and cannot accept the responsibility of completing road projects started by their predecessor? What sort of leadership would that then be?
I have a funny feeling, though, that nothing much will happen to address these concerns. Of course this is Ghana where the ruling classes do not feel for the ordinary folks. They prefer to ride in air-conditioned 4×4 vehicles that cushion them against the twists, turns and jerks of the pot-holed roads. You only have to drive outside Accra, say from Nsawam to Asamankese or Nsawam to Suhum and you can appreciate what I am talking about. Where are the maintenance departments of the Ghana Highway Authority or the Department of Urban Roads that they cannot resurface roads in even the capital? Are they being starved of their budget allocation to carry out their function?
The most serious challenge facing our nation has been ignored by successive governments. There was a seminar by the Ministry of Finance in October 2010 during which it was announced that the nation spends up to 84% of annual receipts on statutory payments. After setting aside 9% of the remaining 16% as contingency, this leaves only 7% for investment. Thus we have an untenable situation where we have to source loans for every development we undertake. The size of Ghana’s public sector is the largest in Africa, even larger than that of South Africa. The nation’s attention was drawn to this by the British High Commissioner to Ghana. In the usual fashion, Mr Kwesi Pratt accused him of arrogance and the advice fell on deaf ears. But it is a fact that until we shrink the size of the public sector, we cannot undertake any meaningful development from our own resources. We have to cut down on the number of boards and the people who serve on them. We have to cut down on the number of political appointees and aides who feed on the public purse. I am yet to see a government that would be bold on this front. This is the challenge that Ghana faces which our politicians and their numerous hordes of supporters as well as the media have yet to address.
It is a sad fact that our politicians who should be solving problems of the day are caught up in the battles of yesteryears. Today we remember the politicians of yesteryears (i.e. the Paa Grants, the Danquahs, the Nkrumahs and the Busias, etc.) because they selflessly served their nation and had a vision. What is the vision of the Ghanaian politician of the 21st Century that would make us remember him/her 50 years from hence?
Our media have taken press freedom to absurd proportions. They spend decibel-hours of radio time and column-inches of print material discussing and dissecting meaningless pronouncements by politicians. How much time do we spend on finding solutions to sanitation problems, water problems, poor BECE results and the spate of motor accidents on our roads? Not significantly much. We appeared preoccupied with inconsequential issues whilst the fabric of the nation wears and fades away.
We have a President who never interacts much but rather surfaces every now and then to muddy the waters, and then goes back into hibernation. We have a government that has no clue on how to run a country. I wonder how they would have fared if there were no already existing state institutions. They have no idea about how to: draw up joined-up and integrated policies; cost them; announce them; and implement and monitor them. Thus they have no idea whether they have created 23,000 jobs or 1.6m; whether they have eliminated 165 schools under trees or 1000. Simply put, this lot are running our country down and this is why Ghana ain’t working.
The professionalism with which the NPP ran Ghana has been replaced by insults-based governance. From the President down to party operatives, the NDC cannot join any debate with a view to convince Ghanaians. Whether it is STX or collateralisation of oil or purchasing of aircrafts, they rely only on insults to advance their case. Oh how I wish people choke on their words anytime they mention “Better Ghana Agenda”. If this is a better Ghana then I shudder to think what a “good Ghana”, let alone a “bad Ghana” would look and feel like.
I detect from Ghanaian radio reports on the unrests in the Arab world (especially Libya) a certain amount of gloating. If I were the Ghanaian politician, I would not be gloating for there is something distinct about what is happening. The changes are not being driven by the military but rather by a hapless youth whose national leaders have failed to present them with a vision of the future. This can be said of Ghana and other sub-Saharan African countries too. What is happening with the NDC foot soldiers is an indication of the youth beginning to hit back. If we do not address their situation with concrete policies (rather than bribes and empty promises), a time would come that they would be joined by the youth from other political parties. The consequences then would be similar to what we saw on the streets of Tunis, Cairo and Benghazi!

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