Business in Ghana

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A Certain Standard. Critical News, 9th August 2015

Posted by Business in Ghana on August 8, 2015

Sydney Casely-Hayford,

The Senchi ferry will close at 6pm. The Senchi Report has already been shuttered and obscured with more than the required razzmatazz and fanfare we could muster.

I remember very distinctly, the Vice President confidently disclosing to us at the Royal Senchi Resort that there would be a follow through and the one hundred and forty guests to that National Planning event would be invited back after the report was released to come talk and craft an implementation plan in order to give meaning to the effort we put in.

Unfortunately, we lost PV Obeng in the aftermath and the report has since been interred with his body. We are about to do the same with Dr. Nii Moi Thompson’s forty-year plan, unless someone unravels the contortions of our democracy.

But we are heading for the Senchi pontoon or the Kpong dam crossing and it is close to 5.30pm. So we are making good time and confident that we will get there with no hassle from any security men.

Somewhere just before Fintey, close to the turning to the ferry, a dark-trousered and most undesirable specter you least want at a time like this, pops up from the side of the road, hand held aloft with radar gun in hand. We are hailed to the side, and the driver’s first instinct is to barge past and head for the ferry.

Not my style and not my way, he knows well enough that I will not accept that. So we are pulled up and we side-park.

The two police men who gleefully approach, can’t wait to show us we are traveling at 94Km an hour. He wants the driver’s license and Id and with concentration on the driver, he is focused on the culprit.

I am in the back, slumped behind tinted windows, making no move to show my face in case I up the ante because of my “obroni” nature and maybe something else.

Clock is ticking away and I can picture a long drive back to sleep in Vakpo, now my adopted town/village/citadel/rural castle and reluctantly, I lower the window and stick my face out.

“Mr. Casely-Hayford?”

“yes, it is me”

“Oh, Sir, why such a hurry?

“I am heading to a program and time is going fast, we might miss the ferry or the gate at the dam. Have we met before?”

And the conversation continued. Well, end game, the officer in charge is an ardent listener to CitiFm’s Big Issue and a sympathizer of my thoughts and ideas. We talk for a few minutes and he is pleased to have met me in the flesh. I manage a few more minutes of pleasantries and with fear and panic on my mind, I cut the conversation and try to wheedle out of the proverbial “boss man, your people for chop weekend ooo”.

And that was the most difficult part of the conversation. There is a certain standard I try not to dip below, but this is so critical and time bound, I cop out and offer a “friends twenty” for the palm wine. I am not ashamed to tell the story, because in many ways it is what makes Ghana and in many instances unmakes Ghana.

I have wondered many a time, if we remove all the kiosks on the side roads, clean the gutters and gather all the debris around us, make the environment more sanitized and implement rigid standards for cooking and selling food on tables and in plastic bags, will the people find another way and life? And will we miss the informal arrangements of our life and the hustle and bustle that brings a city alive? Just thinking.

But my thoughts turned to the cedi and to its prevailing predicament. Our currency is trading again at ghc3.8=$1. From a strong ghc3.2 it has started another depreciating cycle heading back to the ghc4.4 it managed a few weeks ago until the Bank of Ghana spun us the yarn that it would inject $20million a day to strengthen the currency.

Many describe the cedi as a currency doing “kpanlogo”, but the more I plot the chart, the more I figure it has abandoned the Ga traditional council, particularly after the false installation of another Ga Mantse and is now heading up north, through Ewe land, flirting with a little Agbadza on the way and on to join in Dambai or Takai, whence it can wiggle its waist more vigorously.

The currency is completely out of control, managed poorly by a Central Bank that cannot say one way or the other whether it is floating to the market or managing it within a band width that we can all feel safe to buy and trade currency and goods with a bit more certainty.

I was at an Institute of Economic affairs seminar a few days ago and there was a large contingent of BoG staff in attendance to explain their interventions. We all there concluded we knew more than them, and we had a field day criticizing and deriding the officials.

But here was the bottom line; we, BoG included all blame the Government for not managing to stay within fiscal targets and consequently, driving the exchange rate and the economy in general down with huge fiscal deficits. Our criticism was forged from the shift and blame by the BoG to the GoG and BoG defense that if they refuse to honor GoG cheques, the whole economy will collapse and workers will bnot be paid. In simple terms, BoG has a policy not to bounce GoG cheques, even if when they clearly have to do so.

I conclude then, that even if we are able to put a fiscal prudence law in place to control GoG spend, it will come to naught, because BoG will feel “sorry” for the GoG and allow the overruns with no auxiliary brakes and certainly no remorse for when things crescendo to the abysmal, like we have today. That is one pillar of the homegrown policy that will definitely be trashed before it is even starts its moribund journey.

And in all this, dyed in the wool CPP manifesto designer Dr. Nii Moi Thompson, launched us a forty-year development plan. Over speed like me on the way to the Senchi ferry, he announced with gusto, how we can solve all the problems of the country by drafting another document; in place of, in support of, for consideration of, the Ghana Shared Growth Development strategy? The Senchi Consensus Report? The Mediium Term Expenditure Framework? GIFMIS? Can’t say which.

So we listened all week to this forty-year plan designed to remove all partisan innovation and creativity, after the political parties have mastered the art of lying to us through a manifesto, to replace everyone’s pet projects with an NDPC document that cannot have any impact, since we cannot even manage a yearly budget in this century.

My final word this week. Don’t come to us with a cockeyed plan that cannot work because you are still thinking in your dinosaurian way that all planning must come from a centralized unit, which knows best what is needed at District levels.

Time we took several steps back and questioned whether what we think we are succeeding at is not rather an albatross we have noosed ourselves with and cannot even see beyond the horizons to develop a better and more pragmatic solution to the political, but especially the quixotic economic theorems we keep flogging to no avail.

Our standards to achieve are too low. We are not challenging ourselves to rise above mediocrity. The obvious things to do are staring us in the face and we doggedly refuse to meet the black challenge.

The English Premier League is back; the local league is in the morgue with no hope of resurrecting, even with the powerful prayer antics of now aging pastors and bishops.

We are missing certain standards in excellence.

Ghana, Aha a yε din papa. Alius atrox week advenio. Another terrible week to come!

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