The development of a nation is not an easy task. Even the development of a family is difficult so it is not surprising that nation building is so difficult. However, there are proven ingredients which need to be in place before we can even begin to think about succeeding in this difficult task. The good news is that all (I mean, all) nations which embark upon the proven path succeed. So, the obvious question is: why is Ghana, and for that matter, Africa not embarking on this path? Why is Ghana not putting the necessary ingredients together to achieve what its citizens so desire? The simple answer, and I know it sounds too simple but it is true, is that success calls for visionary leaders who recognize the importance of these ingredients and who are willing to do all they can to put those ingredients in place. You see, like everything else in life, nation building calls for discipline, especially on the part of the leaders – those who purport to know better should lead by example and passion. In all cases in history, a leader arises who recognizes the importance of putting the ingredients in place and who disciplines himself first and then, with passion and swift punishment for deviants, asks for others in leadership position to follow the same disciplinary walk. If the leaders lead by example, it is relatively easy for them to ask the citizenry to follow (because they have credibility), but the other way round never works – where the leaders are corrupt but ask the citizens to live uprightly. The following may sound simplistic but I believe that they are sine qua nons for us to succeed in our quest to build a prosperous nation:
1. Corruption. This is the single most important factor we need to deal with if we are to succeed in our task to develop our nation. Because resources are scarce (and they are scarcer for poorer nations), the leadership should recognize that an orderly society is a must-have. The leader himself/herself should believe this so much that he/she will be completely free of corruption. Richer countries have better capacity to absorb corruption but, ironically, they are less corrupt than the poorer countries. I posit that, in part, it is because they were able to reduce corruption to very low levels that they have developed. You see, if there is an easy way to steal without being punished, citizens will not make the effort to think of ways to create valuable goods and services for which people will pay. The nation becomes unproductive and most people just seek ways to steal. We all know stealing is easier than hard work. I am very surprised that corruption is not being severely punished in Ghana. I know some blame the people who give bribes but I don’t blame them at all. If the person who demands bribes is not punished when exposed, what do you expect the citizens who need the goods and services to do? If we punish corruption, then I agree that those who offer bribes should be punished. Until then, I just don’t see the option for the weak citizens who need the goods and services and who are told that unless they pay a bribe, they will not receive those goods and services. If President Mahama wants Ghana to succeed, he has to passionately punish corruption, starting from his own party. I have put corruption first because until we close the loopholes to corruption the other ingredients below will take us nowhere. The leakage will keep the barrel empty, no matter how much water we put in.
2. Agriculture. Initially, for a poor country like Ghana, we have to find ways to produce food in abundance. After achieving certain metrics like education and its attendant high productivity, we can afford to import food but until then, we need to produce food in abundance. This shouldn’t be too difficult for Ghana with proper planning and incentives. Again, the leadership has to recognize that this is very important.
3. Education. An educated citizenry is critical to national development. Fifty seven years after nineteen fifty seven, it is embarrassing and shameful that many children still don’t get education in Ghana and many of those who go to school, do so under trees! This is shameful! How can we have 275 MPs in a small country like Ghana, spend so much on them, give Woyome and others GHC50 million and have children study under trees? Are we that stupid? Or, rather, that evil?
4. Infrastructure. The single most important aspect of infrastructure is the environment (drainage, toilet facilities, and sewage disposal). I cannot fathom why our leaders don’t see that the 25 million people in Ghana are human beings who need to go to toilet and shower and urinate. Yes, they are not magicians. They need these places of convenience and if they are not provided with such places, they will defecate in public places. Up till now, Accra, our capital city, has open gutters with people defecating in them. The city smells badly. Look, if all that the Mahama administration does in four years in office is provide our cities with modern drainage system, they will have done their job! This is so important that we should consider using all the oil money (before the oil, we existed) in a four year period to provide drainage and clean toilet facilities for our major cities. Then, we should build our roads and cover the open areas with grass, cement and brick tiles. If food is supplied in plenitude, we can afford to pay the hundreds of thousands of unemployed youth to plant grass and lay bricks all over the cities (road shoulders, store fronts, alleys etc.). If you were to ask me the most obvious difference between our cities and those of other countries, I will name the environment as number one. Every successful city in the world has paved roads, covered shoulders and proper drainage and sewage systems.
5. Healthcare. A healthy nation is extremely important. Again, we need to have our priorities in order. We should cut down on waste in the system and allocate our resources more efficiently. I say that for a small country like Ghana, our civil service is too expensive. We have too many law makers and government officials and these officials are draining our economy of much needed resources for really important things like healthcare. Ghana should be able to make do with 50 – 75 Members of parliament and 10 Ministers (in addition to the 10 regional Ministers). I am serious. Why should we have 275 law makers when the existing laws on the books are not being implemented or enforced? Law enforcement should have priority over law making, because 50 effective MPs can make all the laws we need as a people. Use the savings from cutting down on the number of MPs and ministers to buy needed equipment for our hospitals and clinics, and to educate and train nurses and doctors.
The above are some of the ingredients we need to put in place if we are to develop as a nation. To conclude, I wish to say that our leaders should employ policies with positive long lasting effects. For example, why do we charge so much to import new cars into Ghana and rather charge less to import older cars? It doesn’t make sense when we should encourage less pollution, fewer accidents, and lower environmental impact – and newer cars are better than older ones on all these desirables.
To achieve our developmental goals, I suggest that the government seeks competent Ghanaians wherever they can be found, ask them to bring their respective teams and give them mandates to make the necessary measurable changes. If we do this, I have no doubt that Ghana will be on a true path to development. What I mean is that the Government should identify an area it wants to achieve world class standards in and then seek a Ghanaian who has the competence (read ability), integrity, and passion to serve and give this Ghanaian the authority to bring his team of directors to head the various sections of that ministry/agency and then give him the mandate to transform that ministry/agency into a world class outfit. Do this agency by agency, ministry by ministry, and we will see a completely transformed Ghana in less than a decade. Our per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be quadrupled in less than ten years and Ghana will be on its way to true prosperity. And then what Kwame Nkrumah said about the Black man being capable of managing his own affairs will become true. Until then, it’s an elusive ideal and we remain the laughing stock of the world!
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