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And You Want To Govern Us? Critical News, 24th August 2014

Posted by Business in Ghana on August 24, 2014

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

I lost another good friend, Saturday. Dan Kermah, brilliant movie and documentary maker and director passed away at the Korle Bu hospital from a myriad of complications. It bears a sadness, difficult to detach and so wound-fresh it affects everything around you and yours.

He fought his last days buoyed by faith of family and the care of dedicated medical staff, whose only fall back was that Dan himself would find the strength to hold back the tow to the next world and stay to dedicate himself to what was left of his life’s work, which clearly was a few more years yet. But he could not hold on, Dan, rest in peace.

In life, we trust doctors who take the trouble to ask and answer questions with care, and show that they understand what the problem is and that they can explain the limits of available treatments.

We trust journalists who take trouble to provide evidence and sources for their claims, and who publish prompt corrections if they get things wrong.

We trust Kenkey sellers who make claims about quality and accept that they have prepared the favorite “ga komi” with minimum aflatoxin, which with the black shito and shrimp is cholera free and ebola sterilized.

We trust teachers who explain what they are doing, listen to comments from parents and pupils, and provide intelligible feedback to them.

We don’t trust politicians who speak with forked tongue, promise what they can’t deliver, explain their policies and difficulties with abandoned caution, and visibly try to hide what they have not delivered and promised.

We don’t trust retail banks that short-change customers by rewarding loyalty with unattractive interest rates.

There is a distinction between trust and trustworthiness and the question of whether or not the fact that a trustee is trusted makes the former behave in a more trustworthy manner.

In short, does the act of trust beget trustworthiness?

Under certain conditions people “trust” or take a risk on others, and those who are trusted in this way honor the trust bestowed upon them even if such trusting and trustworthy behavior cannot produce future benefits.

If you have ever played “SUSPECT” as a family game, you will appreciate the simple issues of trust. Even though a game, we transfer our everyday trust assessment of the player to the game and pick up visible signs of mistrust to suspect cheating.

Nobody sensible simply wants more trust. Sensible people want to place their trust where it is deserved. They also want to place their mistrust where it is deserved. They want well-directed trust and mistrust.

Trust is well placed if it is directed to matters in which the other party is reliable, competent and honest — so, trustworthy.

Can you trust the corner kiosk to sell fresh bread? Can you trust your Okada rider to deliver letters? Can you trust your colleagues not to gossip about confidential matters? Can you trust the taxman to calculate what you owe accurately? Trust is badly placed if it is directed to matters in which others are dishonest or incompetent or unreliable.

So the key to placing trust well is to distinguish cases. It is a matter of trusting some people for some tasks, and of mistrusting others for those same tasks; of trusting some companies, office holders or professionals for some activities, but not for other activities.

If we want others to trust us, the first step is to be trustworthy: it remains true that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. The second step is to show that we are trustworthy: we have to provide enough intelligible evidence of competence, honesty and reliability in the relevant matters for others to reach an intelligent judgement.

This is not best done by saying we have instructed, we have directed, we have put in place, we are confident of the measures we have set out, we have commissioned etc.

Complex forms of accountability may be useful for third parties, but what matters for most people in judging where to place their trust is generally simpler. Most of us look for evidence of trustworthiness — of competence, honesty and reliability — in the relevant matters.

What does it mean to “trust?” What makes us feel secure enough to place our confidence—even at times our welfare—in the hands of other people? Is it possible to “trust” an institution? What exactly do people mean when they claim to “distrust” their governments?

How can we restore trust when the untrustworthy have to pretend to be trustworthy, so they will try to withhold or fiddle the evidence, or to smother it in glossy publicity?

In the week, Mahamoudu Bawumia of the NPP questioned the deliberate incorrectness of statistics provided by the Central Bank and the Ghana Statistical Service. He is not the first to say this, but its timing is particularly positioned when we have an IMF team in the country to peel the under layer of the macro indicators and the Government’s overdrawn bank positions.

Government admitted that their turning to the IMF is deliberately to give some credibility to their policies and restore confidence in the economy, particularly, some help with the sliding cedi. Then they denied it.

You see trust is a social virtue that cannot be reduced to strategic self-interest; others claim that trusting another person is ultimately a rational calculation based on information about that person and his or her incentives and motivations.

We place our trust in persons whom we believe to have strong reasons to act in our best interests. We are correct when we assume that the main incentive of those whom we trust is to maintain a relationship with us—whether it is for reasons of economic benefit or for love and friendship

Can we trust an NPP government that wields machetes and fisticuff each other in open daylight, in the glaring view of public cameras, captured on TV as some uncivilized group of persons, bent on winning political leadership at all costs?

Placing and refusing trust intelligently is not a matter of finding guarantees or proofs. We often have to assess complex and incomplete evidence, which the masters of spin and PR may be massaging, to make things look better than they are.

Transparency is another fashionable remedy, and has become technically easy. It can be achieved merely by pushing information into the public domain. But transparency is no guarantee that others will be more likely to trust.

Professionals who take the time to listen, who use plain language, who open themselves to check and challenge, who offer others opportunity to judge their honesty, competence and reliability, are more likely to be trusted.

I had the privilege of exchanging thoughts on Joy fm Super Morning Show with acting CEO of the National Youth Authority, Ras Mubarak. He was patient enough to explain the ghc10 million “YES” fund, but fell short of telling me why it was placed under the President’s office and not any other ministry. We are still waiting for the report on the use of the funds placed under the Presidency for LESDEP (Local Enterprises and Skills Development). I understand it has served its purpose and no longer runs. The last I heard of it was re the matter of ghc23 million paid for no activity done in 2013.

And still on the matter of youth, have you seen the WASSCE results? Only 28.1% passed. We will have a whole host of semi-sharp graduates to run the country in the next decade.  Can we trust them with the future of this country?

Once more, Pastor Mensa Otabil of ICGC committed the heinous crime, advising Government on the crisis situation in the country and a need for determined action to respond to the needs of citizens.

As I said once before, he MUST elevate himself to Bishop. If the President can trust that Arch BISHOP Duncan Williams can command the cedi to rise despite the impossible, yet he trusts and believes, it must be because the Bishop carries a “bishopy” title. In Ghana, Bishop aaa ne eko. Mensa, heed my word, ooo!

Trust requires an intelligent judgement of trustworthiness. So those who want others’ trust have to do two things. First, they have to be trustworthy, which requires competence, honesty and reliability. Second, they have to provide intelligible evidence that they are trustworthy, enabling others to judge intelligently where they should place or refuse their trust.

To govern this country, both parties have to ask themselves, “Can Ghanaians repose enough trust in their trustworthiness to increase mutual trust between the governors and the governed?”.

Ghana, Aha a ye de papa. Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!

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