Business News of 2014-04-16

National Forum on the Economy?

JM, YOU DON'T NEED IT

-NDC already has a large pool...

To say the Mahama-led administration’s proposal of a non- partisan national forum to find best ways to resolve the current economic difficulties of the country is beautifying and another case of wasting the taxpayer’s money in a flowery and worthless talk shop is an understatement.

There is no doubt Ghana is presently reeling under dire economic challenges that has affected all facets of national life resulting in the present hardship Ghanaians are facing. But, the proposed forum by President Mahama and his economic management team certainly, cannot be the best way to overcome the current difficulties.

The aL-Hajj can authoritatively state that, what the President and his team are planning to do is like sending a visually impaired fisherman to go searching for a lost car people with sight have fruitlessly gone scouting for over a year.

Finding answers to our present economy difficulties does not require the Mahama government to spend scarce resources brainstorming in a politically charged environment such as ours by “gathering all the stakeholders (political parties, civil society, private sector, labour and government) around the same table”, in the words of the president.

The solution to the challenges confronting the national economy is not a one or 2 days national forum. The truth of the matter is that your Finance minister, Seth Terkper is overwhelmed by his job yet, he won’t acknowledge it.

He is overwhelmed not as a result of incompetence but because of his thought process. The Finance Minister lacks the ability to consult and constantly shrugs off any suggestion and advice save, his antidote to a problem.

Mr. President, your administration has also shut the door to the hitherto wise counseling from the large pool of economic experts, both within and outside the NDC this nation is blessed with. There haven’t also been productive one-on-one fruitful engagement and consultations with stakeholders including the numerous economic experts the NDC is endowed with and which would have aided in finding solutions to the current economic meltdown.

Being in government for close to 25 years and considering the pool and library of economic giants the NDC has produced, if the present administration had employed the knowledge and expertise of these people to help in the management of the economy this far, the country’s economy wouldn’t have been in its present sorry state.

History has it that Ghana has had too many of such proposed national fora on the economy with little or no results. Previous administrations have organized what the present government in turns doing but available records show almost all have come to naught.

The 1999 Akosombo, 2000 North Carolina conferences, and recently Ho conference on the SSSS are all forums Ghana has committed valuable resources to organize but yielded little results. There is no need belaboring the point that the Mahama government finds itself in this economic quagmire largely due to the absence of institutional memory.

When President Kufuor was confronted with similar economic challenges in 2001, but for the consultative process and experts’ advice, even against his then Finance minister’s held position; he took Ghana to HIPC and we are all living witnesses to what magic that bold and singular decision did to the nation.

Similarly, when the late President Mills in 2009 met a ‘shattered’ economy inherited from the Kufuor administration, his government, (under which President Mahama served as vice president) based on wider consultations and sound advice, embraced an IMF program that provided immediate respite which enabled the economy to stabilize for a long period of time.

These successful examples cited were not achieved through a national economy forum. What has further compounded the present economic situation is the Finance Minister, who believes he, and he alone has the panacea of redirecting and refocusing the economy.

The Achilles heel of the Mahama administration is the decision to sideline all the economic gurus that helped the late President Mills to achieve a modest success on the economic front.

Paradoxically, all persons who partnered the late President to restore macro-economic stability; relative strong cedi, longest single digit inflation, low interest rate and other profound economic achievements are still lurking around with their expertise been wasted.

The Kwame Peprahs, Ato Ahwois, Dr Kwesi Botchweys, Moses Asagas, Dr Duffuors, Fiifi Kweteys and a host of them are still alive and one wonders why President Mahama and his economic managers would want to ignore these people and spend money to organize a worthless economic dialogue.

We are in the know for example, of numerous suggestions, proposals and advice proffered President Mahama’s Finance Minister, but which unfortunately; have been tipped into the rubbish can and or, are gathering dust on the minister’s office shelves.

A case in point was a proposal from some Ghanaian tax experts on how to improve revenue generation, which we are told is yet to receive the attention of the Finance Minister.

If the Mahama administration, on assumption of office had consulted extensively, especially given the twin deficit arising from the 2012 over-run in expenditure due to the election of that year; the government would have long taken to an IMF program in order to have a breather than wasting all the months to a so-called “home-grown” policy only for the situation to worsen.