Can A Vampire State Achieve A Great Leap

Thu, 20 Sep 2012 Source: Ofosu-Appiah, Ben

Forward? Analyzing the Political Economy of Ghana.

South Korea went from a poor country devastated by

war to an OECD member in 50 years. In the same period of time Ghana went from

a country with a high potential for take off to one that stagnated at best and

standards of living declined or backwardness.

In many parts of the

country, hundreds of kilometers of colonial roads have disappeared, schools and

clinics are in dilapidated state and social infrastructure have been allowed to

collapse. In 55 years not even a single kilometer of railway line has been

constructed and the one the colonial rulers left have been allowed to

deteriorate and collapsed. Something is definitely wrong and needs to be put

right now. Leadership failures and an incurable greed have been our bane. Our

motherland is under enormous strain today due to the unbridled quest for

material gains using the state machinery. Cronyism, nepotism, favouritism,

political patronage are turning the democratic governance on its head. When

will political leaders ever roll up their sleeves and get to work for mother

Ghana rather than seeking to fill their pockets first acquiring material gains?

Much has been said about Ghana as an economy on the move

recently: One of the best performing economies in Africa

and the world at large given its 14% growth rate in 2011. However, let's look

at the following: What's the unemployment rate? Average household income? Has

it risen over the years and by how much? On all these fronts, the news is not

good. "It's exciting, it's challenging, there are limited opportunities and

there are lots of frustrations as well”. A friend who recently returned home


The country is in deep crisis and the biggest problems at

hand now are corruption, poverty, and unemployment. The labour force in the

country is growing at 5% per annum or more creating unprecedented labour tensions

and the result is a huge unemployment problem among the youth. More than half

of the jobless rate in Ghana

today is accounted for by people in their 20′s and 30′s. This is very alarming.

Figures are hard to get by but it is abundantly clear that about six out of ten

University graduates this year are without jobs not to count Secondary school

and TechnicalSchool graduates.

There is no system in place to absorb new graduates into the

workforce as new graduates are left on their own to fend for themselves. I was

moved to tears the other day as I listened to a forty something year old

University graduate giving a testimony at church for landing his first job. He

was so happy and thankful to God for giving him his first job. Obviously I was

happy for him too because he counts himself so lucky to have a job while many

of his colleagues were still searching. But at 40? In many places, at 40 you

are already a senior manager not starting your first job and there is no cause

for celebration. The need to create new opportunities is more crucial than

ever. The dilemma facing us now is not only that more than 250,000 people join

the job market every year, but that many of them are well educated and

naturally have higher expectations.

Lack of job after the first degree forces some people back

to school hoping that if they get a Masters degree things would be better but

they come out to meet even a tougher job market. How can we take care of our

youth as a nation if we don’t care whether they are getting the right experience

at the right time? The fear of the unknown has kept many Ghanaian graduates

from foreign universities staying abroad. They are scared they may not get a

job if they come home. The jobless rate rose as “positive change” and “better Ghana” failed

to create jobs for new graduates entering the job market but helped those in

government to develop 'pot bellies'. Since there is an absence of a viable

private sector in Ghana,

the onus of creating jobs fall squarely on the shoulders of the government, and

government needs to create about 400,000 jobs annually if the unemployment rate

is to reduce. The government must take the lead in economic development and not

leave it to a non existent private sector.

Yet the newly rich and their wealth are on display everyday:

New flashy cars, even private jets, luxury malls and supermarkets, expensive

restaurants, quality arts and concerts and frivolous beauty contests whose tickets go for anywhere between 50 -100

dollars for a country where over 60% of its population live on less than 2

dollars a day.

How are public work construction projects faring under the

so called boom in our economy? No meaningful development can take place under a

situation where the country’s infrastructure is dilapidated and no public work

projects are underway to rejuvenate them for real developmental takeoff. No

city center redevelopment projects are being undertaken to facelift our cities, Accra stinks to

high heavens from the dirty gutters and its deplorable sanitation problem. No

public transport (railways, buses, trams etc) redevelopment. No high rise

business towers being put up. No public housing projects in a country with such

a huge housing deficit. No new hospitals or expansion of existing ones. There

is a huge infrastructure deficit: Can Ghana’s infrastructure handle its


What do you see in


May be Ghana

is growing and getting richer, but not everyone is earning a resource (Oil)

sector wage. The benefits of the boom are far from being shared. There must be

a shared prosperity, shared opportunities, and shared responsibilities for all.

One of the things we have seen in recent years is a dramatic increase in the

divide between those who have and those who have not. The rate of development

we have been seeing here with the limited oil industry we have has pushed up

the cost of living factors quite dramatically because there’s so much stress on

the economy and on community resources. Go to Takoradi now and verify things

for yourself. It makes you wonder if the so called oil curse has not set in



and Takoradi are now pricier than Johannesburg, Lagos, Cairo

etc Everything feels expensive from coca cola to movie ticket. A night out is

very expensive on all fronts. But the biggest impact is on the housing market.

Already we have a huge housing deficit. Rents are up over 100% in the last few

years There’s a country wide housing crunch. Average family income lags far

behind the cost of living. If you talk about people on minimum wage, and those

who have no jobs (there’s no income support from the state), then lots of

people are really starving. The new phenomenon is the working poor: People who

are in employment but cannot afford the cost of living because they are

collecting minimum wage which can barely scrape the surface of this outrageous

cost of living situation in the country.

We might be the fastest growing economy but we have no train

stations worthy of service and no real highway of note except the George W.

Bush highway and the motorway. A friend just remarked George W. Bush did more

for Ghana’s

development than any other Ghanaian leader with the possible exception of

Nkrumah with no pun intended.


Across the country the pressure is being felt: Common

complaints are clogged roads, erratic electricity supply, frequent water

shortages, dirty environment, delays in accessing healthcare etc.The country

has to concentrate on liveability issues: The critical thing is to formulate

long term strategy. How would you make Ghana a better place and Accra a better city to

live in? Almost good is not good enough. Long term development strategy is

needed to tackle issues that are of strategic importance to Ghana.

Leadership is not about how much money you make for yourself

and your family but how much difference you make in people’s lives and how you

change lives forever. We owe the next generation a better Ghana than we

found it. We are called to build something better so that the next generation

can go on to build more than we could ever imagine. A lot in politics are just

interested in having a job where everything is offered them free of charge

rather than doing the job. They are just interested in the perks of office and

occupying an office rather than doing the job.

The priority should be to do everything possible to wage a

battle against poverty, raise living standards, and encourage businesses to

thrive. Some 10 million Ghanaians live on less than one dollar a day, this is

unacceptable and a shame. Ghana’s

poor are less inclined to vote than the middle class because they have kind of

resigned themselves to fate, that no politician nor political party can make a

difference in their lives, thus virtually guaranteeing that their discontent

would not prevail on the election day. Elections 2000 and 2008 were the turning

points and just as there was a yearning for change in 2000 and 2008 that drove

the people to the polls, I can sense the same yearning for change now and that

will show in Election 2012. The Ghanaian electorate is growing impatient with

the incompetence and greed of their political leaders.

Ben Ofosu-Appiah,

Tokyo, Japan.

The writer is a senior political and socio economic analyst and policy

strategist based in Tokyo, Japan. He welcomes your comments.

Contact him here: do4luv27@yahoo.com

Columnist: Ofosu-Appiah, Ben