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Opinions Thu, 24 Mar 2005

List Of 53 Additional Nominees II

Since the first article appeared almost two weeks ago reactions from readers have been swift and fast. In the main critique from readers have been quite balanced and above board.

Other readers were however less charitable with their comments. One reader in particular came close to calling me a buffoon for daring to criticize the President?s decision to nominate 53 ministers in addition to the list of 35 that had already been vetted by Parliament. Like they say it?s all good. This is democracy at work and like Winston Churchill said democracy with all its flaws is still one of the best systems of government ever devised by man.

For the record I make no apologies for the views I expressed in that article. Those views were solely mine and under the 1992 constitution of Ghana I can speak my mind on issues of national significance, vexed or not without any encumbrances.

Howbeit, I still insist that the list of 53 additional nominees is the most condescending acts yet of the Kufuor administration and those who applaud it ought to be ashamed of themselves.

How do you justify a list of 88 ministers and deputies in a country that is rated one of the poorest in the world? How would anyone attempt to justify the shoring up of the ranks of the executive arm of government at a time when a sizable majority of Ghanaians are still tethering on the precipice of abject poverty?

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Why would a country like Ghana viewed as a fledgling economic powerhouse in the sub-region indulge in this blatant glorification of big-size government when our main competitors for foreign direct investment are trimming down the size of their government and spending the surplus on creating economics of scale for the private sector?

When we spend our hard earned income on ministers, deputies, special assistants? et al, where do we expect to find the money to really support the efforts of the private sector?

Another name for this charade is what the minority has appropriately termed ?job for the boys.? While I have no qualms whatsoever with the qualifications of Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, Convention People?s Party (CPP) Member of Parliament for KEEA constituency for a ministerial appointment, I really have my doubts on how his current portfolio would affect Public Sector Reform except to duplicate the efforts of the National Institutional and Reform Programme (NIRP I &II) and other allied agencies.

Another appointment that betrays the big-size mindset of this administration is that of Mrs. Patricia Appiagyei deputy Minister of Ashanti Region. I am at a loss at to why the government would even make the appointment in the first place. The lady lost in a contest to become a Member of Parliament and instead of encouraging her to return to her private business, the President decides to ?cool her heart? with a deputy ministerial appointment.

This is a woman who according to newspaper accounts, allegedly forked out a hundred thousand dollars and change (c3 b) of her own money to finance her campaign for parliament. Talk about a gratuitous appointment. This one smells just like it.

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In Ghana today politics has become the safest route to a meal ticket. The elite who ought to use their intellectual acumen to develop the private sector instead use their time to lobby for jobs in the public sector where talent is never in short supply.

Situations like these only serve to perpetuate our poverty and make us the laughing stock of the world.

Governments are no more the biggest employers in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, South Korea and Thailand etc. It is unfortunate when we fail to realize that these countries that constitute the Asian Tigers are invariably competing with us for the very limited foreign direct investment flowing into the developing world.

Any investor worth their salt is looking for a safe, competitive market to invest their money for the most returns. Today?s investor is looking for a country with economics of scale in the form of basic infrastructure. Local industries function better with economics of scale too. It is the responsibility of government to provide this service. However if the government chooses to use the resources to shore up its ranks, the local industry would remain uncompetitive and the country would remain unattractive to the foreign investor.

If there is a wide chasm between the developed world and ours it is partly because we are not striving to be on the same page with the developed world and to a large extent with the rising economies in South-east Asia.

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Malaysia for instance has developed a programme where they have grown (and continue to grow) entrepreneurs within the ranks of the civil service to partner captains of private business to run state-owned industries. Instead of an out right sale of the state-owned company to foreign companies as pertains in Ghana and other countries, the government taps home grown entrepreneurs particularly the highly resourced ones in the civil service to partner the foreign companies to run these industries. The results from this programme have been phenomenal to say the least. From a near convulsive state, the Malaysian economy has grown in leaps and bounds and is still growing in spite of the catastrophic economic meltdown that hit Southeast Asia in the late 1990?s. Other benefits under Malaysia?s divestiture programme include the transfer of knowledge which has resulted in greater understanding of the international business environment, sourcing for loans, investments etc.

In the spirit of south-south cooperation we could borrow a page from the example of the Malaysians.

PRIVATE SECTOR IS THE ENGINE OF GROWTH

African governments are loud in trumpeting their commitment to developing the private sector. In statements attributed to our leaders at recent economic platforms they have touted the private sector as the engine of growth. Sadly they have either not matched the rhetoric with concrete programmes to bring it into fruition or those who are developing definite structures lack the backbone to see it through.

At the rate we are going we run the risk of reducing the slogan into what it really is-just a clich?.

Big-size governments are a drain on any national economy. First it gulps up resources needed by the private sector and reduces the private sector into a nebulous quantity.

Let us do the right thing before it is too late.

I wish to express my thanks to all those who read my weekly columns at www.paakwesiplange.com

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

Columnist: Plange, Paa Kwesi