Business in Ghana

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The only free cheese…

Posted by Business in Ghana on April 23, 2014

By Charles Wereko-Brobby (Dr), Chief Policy Analyst. Ghana Institute for Policy Options (GIPPO)

I got into a spot of bother recently for ‘putting the knife’ to one of our sacred cows. I put our civil society organizations (CSOs) into the same field as our politicians, opining that they only call on others to act instead of them taking charge and leading. Now I find it necessary, nay imperative, that I must return and train the full bores of my double-barreled guns onto the civil society organizations again, but without a hinge of apology this time, no matter what brouhaha ensues

Last Thursday, the Government of Ghana organised a stakeholder consultation on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. Arrogating themselves to the role of our stakeholders, the CSOs thronged the meeting with an assortment of politicians, producers, and the Great and the Good of Ghanaian ruling classes to do what our leaders always do best, namely to shout over the rafters about what we do not want, but without offering any alternatives whatsoever.

When the assembled folks found the Head of the EU Delegation in Ghana in their midst, they turned their guns onto him and bayed “Dzulo” ( Thief) with the shrillness and excitement that normally leads to a mob lynching without guilt being established. Claude Maerten, one of the gentlest souls I have met, had to be bundled and hurried out of the meeting like a cat on a hot tin roof; by a mob led by the representatives of the CSOs.

I have been hearing about the EPA for several years. I have participated in several discussions about its pluses and minuses. My position has remained unchanged for all those years. If we do not like what the EPA portends for us, what alternatives have we got to offer? For more than ten years. Nothing has changed: “We do not like the EPA, period. We do not have nor are we willing to offer any alternatives”

As far as I can surmise, the EPA is not a one way track to dump EU goods and services onto us. On the contrary, we are allowed to ship 100% of specified goods into the EU markets. In return, the EU is allowed to ship 75% of their specified goods onto our markets. So it is a trade agreement in which each partner stands to gain something. It is not a sellout arrangement to our former colonial masters.

So why is it that instead of spending the last ten years looking for how we could maximize our gains under the EU, all we have done is expended enormous amounts of energy, time, resources and intelligence, sounding the same tired beat of “NO!. NO! NO! & NO! Somehow, and very erroneously, we have gotten it into our ‘swollen’ heads that if we shout loud enough, the EU will put a “wape” toffee into our mouth to shut us up.

I need not remind the CSOs and indeed all of our leaders that the member nations of the EU are democratic states whose leaders are also chosen by universal adult suffrage. It is the benevolence and acquiescence of the people of the EU that allows their leaders to give 0.07% of their wealth to us as aid. That wealth comes from the economic activities undertaken by the EU nations, including the EPA and other trade arrangements they have with other Regional Economic blocks around the world, such as ASEAN, BRIT, ETC.

Without exception, all of the regional economic agreements between the EU and others are on terms which are far stringent than those proposed by the EPA. For unlike our own ECOWAS which we have failed woefully to get going, modern regional economic groupings are strong, vibrant, internally coherent and adding up to make the sum of the parts greater than the whole. ECOWAS stands alone as the symbol of the abject failure of African post-independent leadership.

The Blackman is capable of looking after himself” is the rallying cry that Osggyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah sounded when he ushered Ghana into independence 57 years ago. With all his faults, Nkrumah tried to walk his talk. Unfortunately, after his demise, those who took over the baton of leadership elected to tread a path of self- delivered neo-colonialism and return us into the reluctant arms of our colonial masters.

Under the euphemism of Development Partnership, we have returned Ghana to the shameful position of the “Whiteman’s burden”. Not just that, because of our notional position of independent nation states, we have compounded our shame by behaving and insisting that the Whiteman owes us a living. Begging the Whiteman is no longer a humbling, nay humiliating necessity. We have come to regard it as our ENTITLEMENT which came down inscribed on Moses’ tablet.

Every CSO I know of in Ghana is dependent on the EU & their neo-colonial manifestations, for their existence and being. Whether it is Bilateral or through the Star-Ghana, whether it is indigenous or foreign, they are all dependent on funds provided by the EU, World Bank, DFID, CIDA, and DANIDA, etc; Add our politics, elections, toilets, media and everything ;se Without the benevolence of development partners, all the naysayers would be very quiet and probably members of the National Association of Unemployed graduates.

Ghana’s CSOs contain the brightest and the best brains this country has produced. They have elected to stay away from the hurly burly of being part of the solutions for our problems, but with the financial assistance of development partners, have become articulate observers and monitors of the political process. Fame, reputations and god lifestyles have emerged from this. Alas, what are missing have been the real and effective actions by CSOs to affect the country’s development in a positive way.

CSOs have become like all others. They do not want to get stuck in. Theirs is to call on others to do something. So it is that under the EPA, they do not like it, but cannot tell us what they like or what they would do for us to get what is good for Ghana. For them, WE DON’T LIKE IT is enough to justify the support in kind and for real that the EU and those they flay against provide to amplify their unproductive noise

Ghana thrives on the negative. Politicians slam their opponents to get into power. And when they do get in, they are guiltier of the very excesses they complained about. Professors talk problems at their inaugural lectures and offer no solutions. The media lap up the negatives, finding those who proffer solutions to be boringly sane.

People who cannot tell the difference between kW and kWh become energy experts because they can talk ignorantly about SRP. Experts are created overnight because they criticize policies without offering answers to the problems. Ours is a society steeped in WE KNOW WHAT WE DO NOT LIKE, BUT WE HAVE NO CLUE AS TO HOW TO FIX OUR PROBLEMS.

Until and unless we recognise that the EU and all other such organizations do not owe us a living, we will continue to live the illusion that simply baying NAY will get us our way in the global community of nations. Like all nations and economic interest groups, the EU has to practice the doctrine of ENLIGHTENED SELF-INTEREST, in which it seeks its overall interest and that of its voters, within a framework of achieving synergy from the relationships it has with helpless countries and economic groups like Ghana & ECOWAS respectively.

Ghana’s CSOs cannot afford to bite the hands that keep them in survival. For if they want to do so, they should seek and negotiate another Star pact with the Chinese to give a prosthesis hand when the EU bites ours off. The very intelligent people who run our CSOs must begin to help themselves and our nation to wane ourselves from our continuing burden on the 21st century Whiteman.

The CSOs, the politicians and all those who assembled at the meeting that threw Claude out must apologise unreservedly to him and to Ghana for their shameful and opportunistic conduct.

Not just that, they must have their closed door meeting and come up with Ghana and ECOWAS alternative to the EPA. Being Just Against is BOGUS, SHAMEFUL AND DISHONEST

If we want to be truly independent in deeds and manifest Osagyefo’s dream of being in charge of our ourselves, we should be guided by the wit and the substance of the old Albanian proverb, that : “The only free cheese is found in a mousetrap”

The EU’s first and foremost duty is to promote the economic wealth of its nations and the well-being of its people. We cannot expect nor insist that the interests of seemingly independent and vociferous African nations must come first. There is no free dinner anywhere in the world, period.

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