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Opinions Sat, 30 Jun 2007

Economic inpacts of military bases in Ghana

The dialogue has begun regarding the possibility of the US government developing military bases in Africa. Thus far certain African countries are being considered to host this endeavor among them is Ghana.

Discussions are underway which identify the overall impact, benefits, and the implications of possible downfalls should the project take place in Ghana. It is disheartening to mention that since our independence, issues have been debated from the perspective of political affiliations against who is in power or opposition. Previously the tendency was for the government in power to exercise its absolute power in making decisions concerning the nation. Thus there was no cooperation amongst political parties in the deliberation and signing treaties that benefit the nation.

With a despotic attitude of “I have power today and I will do whatever I want to you; I do not care about what you think”, the end result has proven to be costly to the nation. As time has evolved (from 1957 to the present), we have learned that one will not forever stay in power and the “we will stick it up to you when we have power” attitude will not work. It has not worked. As such, in order to have better results we should change our “input attitude” to expect a cooperative output that will benefit the nation instead of party/individuals. This issue about the American base should not be sensationalized based on whether you like or dislike America. The presence of an American military base should be less of a political consideration than an economic one.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon is said to be planning the greatest shake-up in America's overseas military deployments. With the end of the Second World War, gone too are the days of massive bases in places like Germany, Japan and South Korea that looked like small U.S. towns. Replacing them will be a global network of what Pentagon planners call "lily pads" -- small forward bases in remote, dangerous corners of the world that can act as jumping-off points when crises arise. According to experts, the strategy is to position U.S. forces along an "arc of instability" that runs through the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia and southern Asia. It is in these parts of the world --generally poor, insular and unstable --that military planners see the major future threats to U.S. interests. The base serves primarily as a strategic airlift hub and launching area for air refueling missions, exactly the kind of "lily pad" Pentagon planners envisage for other parts of the world and to make it a more stable world." They have stated their interest and this may include creating safe pathway for the oil in Nigeria, Gabon, Angola and others as some people have suggested.

Some people are worried about some Radical Islamic groups condemning Ghana’s government for cooperating with the Americans; we must not allow circumstances, environment, or the opinions of others to distract us from acting in good faith and in the best interest of our nation. We should also not make decisions based on fear, emotions and greed as that will not benefit us in the long run. We are a sovereign nation and should make decisions that will benefit us. We are not subscribing to an accord that will allow dumping nuclear waste in our territorial waters, which will encroach upon our neighbor’s welfare.

GHANA is said to be among six countries being considered for the location of the military base. We are being considered due to our “true young democracy”, freedom of speech, good governance (which has earn us monetary rewards for MCA projects), and an excellent human rights record, (The Global Peace Index study has ranked Ghana the 40th most peaceful country in the world ) and other positive factors for better development.

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The direct impact of this base includes employment, payrolls, retiree pensions, and payments to private health care providers, and purchases of goods and services from local vendors. It may operate a hospital in Ghana, but in addition it contracts with private sector providers for additional health care services for its personnel, employees, and their direct family members living in the area. Ghanaians employed could take advantage of on-base services such as overseas travel or access to commissaries, and even education, both in class and on-line.

When military related payrolls get spent within the country, and when the base lets local contracts do businesses in the country, these expenditures have multiplier or indirect impacts that generate additional economic activity. The base in Ghana will directly and indirectly account for jobs nation wide. Some benefits are: Increased employment, fewer unemployed, better health and education, lower crime, lower drug trafficking and economic growth in every quarter, and joint military/police exercise for our forces to learn new technique in protecting the country.

All economic activity is directly and indirectly linked to the personnel and procurements at this base. In addition, service personnel might be compensated by providing subsidized schooling for their dependants. The wages and salaries of personnel will form part of the household income of the nation as they spend a proportion of their income within the local economy e.g. on shopping, food and drink, entertainment etc., this will increase the amount of money in circulation.

In addition, a large number of military personnel and visitors will visit the base from foreign countries and are likely to spend money within the local economy. The government should weigh the impact of this project on the nation’s economy and be proactive by assembling advisory committee. Such committees should comprise of selected individuals from a broad spectrum of the population including military personnel, chiefs, members of the police force, government officers from different ministries including experts from other political parties, legal professionals, intellectuals both within and outside the country, representatives from the business community and others. Their task should be contact and work with the American government to bring the base project to Ghana. We are competing with other countries and their mission should be to market Ghana to the Americans, proving why we have an edge over the other countries.

It will also be an opportunity to clear up any issues of concerns to both the Americans and concerned citizens. The President should even take some committee members (Cabinet, Council of State and other economic and security committees) as advisers with him when he goes to Washington D.C to meet with President Bush, congress and pentagon officers if necessary to pursue the project for the country. If there has been an official contact by the American government interest of establishing a base in the country.

As the country goes through economic and social challenges, moving in this direction will help us solve some of these problems and challenges. We have a choice to either sit around or complain about everything or face the challenges and opportunities that our sustained peace and freedom have offered us. We need a different approach; to work with excellence and a new kind of commitment that could earn us the attention and respect as a nation. As a result, we will be rewarded with greater responsibility.

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The base will really help create a positive impact on our entire gross domestic product. Maybe it’s a dream but people who don’t have dreams don’t have much. According to the great British historian Arnold Tonybee, “Civilization is man’s ability to control his environment for his own survival”

>From a vantage point, this is the way I see it. This is where I stand.

By: Kwadwo Nketiah
San Francisco, California


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Nketiah, Kwadwo