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Opinions Sat, 24 Jun 2006

Ghana Soccer And Business - Good News

.. Twice Today!

The article published in Ghanaweb of June 22, 2006 is good news to compound with the Ghana World Cup soccer victory over USA of the same day. We should indeed be rejoicing. If our man Kofi Annan of the UN can pray for Ghana on soccer, we have a chance God will listen to our prayers. However, let us examine one aspect of this.

The article quoted said: “A 50 million-dollar loan scheme to help to strengthen and boost the operation of micro and small-scale enterprises in the country takes off next month, President John Agyekum Kufuor has announced”


What can be better news than that [except of course Soccer win!]? On the serious side, some of us have been advising our nation through public discourse for the past three decades. Are our mates in government capable of effective management of any loans?


Here’s the catch to the story that makes me comment:


“He said Offices to oversee the efficient and transparent management of the Fund had been established in all the regions. President Kufuor was speaking at the 13th Ghana Consultative Group /Annual Partnership Meeting at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) on Wednesday”.


Efficiency and transparency in management of state resources has been a thorny issue indeed for a nation that could have used the strategic plans of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to propel us to an industrial hub as Singapore managed to do. In fact in the book by Lee Kuan Yew [From Third Word to First- The Singapore Story, 2000] is one that I highly recommend. In it he cites his visit to Ghana in 1959 and his observations in both Ghana and Nigeria of our culture that sheds some light.


In my recent research on Ghana the results gave me one major surprise about why we are behind. In my upcoming book titled “Leadership Concepts and the Role of Government in Africa – the Case of Ghana”, I cite the following that I am allowed to share now in reference to the case of the American youth Michael D. Fay who was caned by a Singapore judicial system and become a global news item. Singapore did not yield one bit and carried out the sentence despite some American group’s threats and even pleas by former US President Bill Clinton.

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History reveals that any developing nation needs strong leadership, strong laws and strong discipline that sometimes appear cruel. The America of the 19th and early 20th centuries had examples of laws such as hangings and lynching for small crimes that will make this case of Singapore youth misdemeanor and judicial-ordered caning a trivial affair. Britain has a record of brutalities, physical abuse and even hangings in their country and in their colonial former administrations around the world. Singapore, as a young nation trying to survive in a brutally globally-competitive world only three to four decades earlier, had instituted these rigid laws to protect itself in the 1960s against Communist graffiti and vandalism. They insist that such disciplinary rules and laws made it safer than American cities. The almost perfectly clean subways, no graffiti, and no vandalism are their testament. Singapore’s leadership has been described as paternalistic by critics, as Karen Fawcett of USA Today has said: “Singapore's paternalistic government strictly enforces laws that prohibit pornography and ban smoking, eating, chewing gum or drinking in designated public places. It's even illegal to fail to flush a toilet. All of the above are punishable with fines and/or work/ prison time. Dealing in drugs is punishable by death” (USA Today, 1994, March


The reason to bring this issue is that Ghana has an accumulated debt burden of $6.2 billion as of the last budget and cannot show where the money went into infrastructural development. Ghanaian culture and our leadership seem to lack the discipline to implement projects and to punish those who commit crimes against the state through bribery and national sabotage of resources. All the State Owed enterprises started under the first government were run down and hence sold at cents on the dollar to foreigners. Hardly anybody has been punished.


The article further quoted that “The meeting provided a forum for the Government and its development partners to dialogue on how to move the nation's economy forward by prioritising Government's spending on areas that would make significant impact on the lives of the people. "Results and Resources: A Partnership for Shared Accelerated Growth" was the theme for the meeting. President Kufuor said he was confident that the private sector of the country would within the next few months come up strongly when a giant international aluminium and bauxite company puts in a two-billion dollar investment in Ghana and the West Africa Gas Pipeline Project came on stream” (Ghanaweb, 2006, June 22)


Folks, there is no doubt the macro economy is finally heading in the right direction and the private sector is the engine of growth. However the use of the term Development partners always makes me feel uncomfortable. Nobody, and I repeat nobody, is partner to us in our own development. Americans have their problems to deal with. The British have their problems to deal with also, as other nations. They are lenders and brothers or partners! When we take loans, we should plan and strategize how we are going to pay the loans back! Period! The idea of 5 or 10 year grace period is passing the burden on future governments who often have been over-burdened and may seek to file national bankruptcy, called HIPC. No matter how you call it, it does not look good. As of now the basics are being ignored. The article quoted the President as: “He noted that accelerated growth of the economy would result from continued macro-economic stability, increased infrastructure investment, a vibrant private sector and vigorous human resource development underpinned by deepening good governance and civic responsibility”


It appears in most cases the President talks as if he knows what to do. However effectiveness of leadership would require that he puts into gear his vision into pragmatic mission statements and goals that can be managed down the chain of command to the very bottom of the nation. Issues of strategic management seem a weakness in Ghana, but this is the only way to see visions and goals accomplished. As of now “infrastructural Investment” our President talks about may imply loans for roads and water projects. However Ghanaians’ own ability to finance some of these projects is not being optimally utilized. We find the easy way out and overtax in some areas while we ignore others.


For example, in all areas of the municipal and metropolitan Ghana, builders are forced to spend large amounts of money to dig their own septic tanks, install water reservoir systems, and sometimes buy generators due to poor service delivery. Why? The sum total of these could amount to over $25,000 each house [based on a recent research conducted by this writer in Ghana]. The government could collect say half of that amount and in each neighborhood and provide water, sewage and electricity that people are prepared to pay for. A small subdivision of the city of say 200,000 will have 20,000 homes [assuming 10 per household]. $10,000 each amounts to $200 Million which can create a complete city council empowered to develop independently of national government. All they need is the legal empowerment in the form of a charter as a city. A constitutional amendment is needed for the President to allow districts and town to elect their own leaders, DCEs and MCEs or Mayors as called in America. This is what is done in the US and most Western nations. In Ghana the residual elements of dictatorship and perhaps old socialism in our constitution and culture allow the central government control over the towns and cities! The NPP government, as the NDC before it, seems to fail to recognize the value of identifying property and identifying people so that the financial system in Ghana can take off in a managed fashion. America Economy would be nowhere if people had to build their own houses stone by stone as we do in Ghana, with cash savings, and if nobody was able to tap into real property as a major source of wealth and hence taxation.

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Government failed to do the fundamentals and rather court large billion dollar investors only who come with their own satellites and power plants. They also know how to expense all the revenue and leave hardly any taxable income for the nation. Small businesses are hence left out. No country can survive on large corporations alone. American employment statistics show that about 90% of all jobs are created in the small to medium business areas. Well, one can only hope these leaders read what we write. Ghana needs to find the formula by hiring the right people to budget, and find ways to tap into our own resources and manage our towns wit the basics: Water, electricity, central covered sewage, telephone infrastructures, and roads!


It is out of this frustration to communicate new ideas of managing society that lead some to seek to form a new Political Party to be announced July 1, 2006. Let’s pray, but push ourselves to establish systems of management that will help us see a better future and more responsive leadership.

Kwaku A. Danso [The writer is the President of Ghana Leadership Union, Inc., a non-profit Change Management lobby group and columnist writer. He has worked as Engineer and Manager for several high tech American and Western companies in California and Texas and has degrees in Engineering and PhD in Business and Technology [Organizational Management /Leadership Option].




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


Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.