A Dilemma of Free Enterprise, Privatization and Globalization (Part 1 of 2)In my studies on various global cultures and how they relate and react to global business and competition, I found that there are various proverbs and sayings in the Akan language that depicts a wealth of wisdom and understanding if only our leaders would apply them. There is an Akan or Ghanaian proverb that says that when you see your neighbor’s beard on fire you keep a bowl of water near yours.
It is very rare to see somebody’s beard on fire, but the sparring matches going on between Venezuala’s President Hugo Chavez and American President George Bush would be enough for any kid to know there is some fire ready to spark. Ghanaian culture is not the aggressive culture and we prefer to resolve disputes with the principles we call Fama-Nyame (give it to God) or Gyae-ma-no-nka (Let-it-be) principles. So where does Ghana fit in this equation of the global empire building and struggle for resources by others, with the consequences of subservient obedience to rules made offshore as to how to spend their own resources and how to open or close their markets?
Global inequity in resource accumulation and distribution is not a new phenomenon. Professor Henry Mintzberg of McGill University has described the use of globalization in the name of development as a “sham” (Mintzberg, H., 2004, www.mintzberg.com). Those who invented the Ocean Ships and the Gun have shown in the last 500 years that the might of a few can be used to conquer the rest and sometimes justify even the use of others as beasts of burden. This has created such income and wealth disparity that makes men like Bono and Bob Geldof and others feel like puking.
The Christian Bible teaches us the hard lessons of life in proverbial manner, and Jesus, the main Man from Galilee himself pointed out this irony of life, that “to them who have to them will more be given”, suggesting that global competition was part of nature. With the little oil that Ghana has started discovering, it was reported a month or so ago that Ghana’s former government of the PNDC/NDC and the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, GNPC, former CEO Tsatsu Tsikata, a Lawyer who had been claimed by his former boss Chairman and President Jerry Rawlings as “financial wizard”, had in fact “sold us out”! It appeared that arrangements had been made such that Ghana did not receive any money from the oil but all the proceeds went to the foreign firm. Huh! You might exclaim. How long this heavy burden of foolishness in executive decision-making will be passed on to our children is not known. Father Abraham cannot help us in this. It was not disclosed, and Ghana’s Parliament seemed aware but incapable of reviewing the agreement or doing anything to stop what seemed like daylight robbery to many by these foreign firms.
In this writer’s recent book on “Leadership Concepts and the Role of Government in Africa - The Case of Ghana”, we show on page 157 a comparative measure of ten global economic and human development indices, including Agricultural productivity, under-5 infantile mortality rate, the percentage of people who live under $2 per day for the rich nations, the newly developing nations such as Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong and China, and the poor nations of Ghana, Botswana, Nigeria. Let us not forget that according to the World Bank report (2005) the per capita income of the USA was $37,610, UK was $28,350 and Ghana was $320. Singapore has jumped from where we used to be together in 1959 (around $400) to $21,230. Not to take the job from our local pastor friends, is the Bible predicting something to us or not? Are the poor losing the little they have to the rich and the mighty? What part does our government take to facilitate this open and daylight robbery,,, Ooops! errrr…, I meant “unequal resource distribution”? (smile).
On May 2, 2007 a member of our global GLU (Ghana Leadership Union) Forum posted a link to the report by Natalie Pearson , AP Business writer, and added a comment:
Looking at what happened in Venezuela in 1975 and what’s happening today Does it mean our fathers don’t have the spirit of playing around the intelligence of the West but have given out Ghana Telecom, etc and also planning to give out ECG?” (George Stone, Tuesday, May 01, 2007 9:41 AM)
In the article by the Associated Press business writer, it was reported that the known fearless fire-brand macho man Hugo Chavez of Venezuela had taken over the last “privately run” oil fields in his country “intensifying a power struggle with international companies over the world’s largest known single petroleum deposit” (Pearson, N.O., 2007, May 1). The report added that “newly bought Russian-made fighter jets streaked through the sky as Chavez shouted “Down with the US empire” to thousands of red clad oil workers”. Chavez called the take-over of the oil fields “a historic victory for Venezuela after years of US- backed corporate exploitation” (ibid). Chavez accused the oil companies of “bad drilling practices due to their hunger for quick profits, and said Venezuela could sue them for causing lasting damage to oil fields” (ibid).
I wrote a response spontaneously (small edits) and I choose to share it with the Ghanaian media and let the chips fall where they may. I live in America and as stated many times I love America just as I love my country of birth Ghana. However, intellectual honesty pushes all of us who can write to tell the truth as we see it. The Christian missionaries have been building school and Churches for us for centuries, but are we learning any of the tricks of global competition from their people, especially the one that says that “might may be right” in the court of law set up by the rich for the rich? The funny comment about suing the foreign companies, named as BP LLC, Conoco-Phillips, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron, Frances’s Total SA, and Norway’s Statoil brings to mind a Ghanaian famous law that has been used before called “causing financial loss to the state”. This suggests that the government does indeed have power, be it Socialist or Capitalist, under the rule of Law.
Folks, after I got to read the Venezuela take-over of the oil fields (Pearson, N.O., Associated Press News, 2007, May 1), I said to myself that it takes a lot of guts, money and savvy to do what Hugo Chavez is doing. I mean, how many of us have a few brand new Russian Jet fighters we can display around on Monday morning in our neighborhoods? On the serious side, let us know that the extension of ownership of all resources needed by US /Western conglomerates is a strategic goal of these companies, and they will not stop any place they are not met with stiff resistance as Chavez is doing. Nobody is suggesting that what Chavez is doing is the right or wrong way. Negotiating at the table, under the rule of Law, is always better. However, that seems to be the nature of business as practiced in the West for centuries. Every business or entity uses their strengths to seek to take advantage of the opportunities and weaknesses in the field to take strategic competitive advantage (SCA) to sustain their dominance or market share. Period! A young brilliant niece from the Caribbean, on a visit to the East Coast of the USA, once remarked to her aunt, “Auntie, it’s a doggie-eat dog world out here”. It is everybody’s guess as to what she observed. Chavez is playing the game that Castro played but this time he has his own oil fields and the West needs the oil. No matter what the West does, they have to negotiate and buy the oil from Venezuela. If Chavez’s intelligence is good, and he is not corruptible, then he will succeed. Else they will try and kill him, and he is fully aware. Ghana has never had a leader besides Kwame Nkrumah who has demonstrated the guts and savvy, but even then we did not have some products that were of vital interest to the West. Cocoa, gold and timber are not that vital as oil, especially after 1973 time.
If we played well, we would not have to give away our Telecom industry, Oil fields, Shipping lines (gone), our Factories (mostly gone), our Hotels, our State parks, as we are doing. It appears to many today after seven years that Ghana’s President Kufuor and his NPP are not very smart, as some people in the academic world have pointed out, and if they are they are corruptible. They are selling the whole country under the guise of “free enterprise” and even our farm lands are being sold to the white framers from Zimbabwe who are fleeing Mugabe. Kufuor has no idea how to get from underneath what he envisions as a massive poverty load too much to find solutions to. He cannot add and subtract well (if we want to be honest about it), and to him $20 million to construct one building does not prick him one inch that there may be something wrong. In short, his intelligence level seems way below the radar mark, and easily outwitted by the World Bank boys. I don’t think Akuffo Addo and others are that sharp either to see through the game. I sent Kufuor’s office a copy of John Perkins book but I doubt it Kufuor has read it. Look, folks, unless and until we find a way to stop an incompetent and corruptible President gone astray, with legal suits and challenges in our courts, Ghana will worse than the Caribbean, and under the control of the World Bank. Nobody wants to predict doom, but in a few years unless there is a change in leadership vision and intelligent management, one can predict the following: (1) Executive high paying positions in Ghana will be under foreign firms since our own people are envious of their brothers and sisters coming from overseas with their global experience to take over these jobs. (2) Administrative positions will be in the hands of Caucasians since a colonial mentality still remains as the preferential selection even on a level competitive bidding. (3) Construction work will be under the Chinese, due to their aggressive cultural orientation and use of their cheap labor in project bidding to reduce cost, with Ghanaians serving as cheap factory labor and subservient positions. I know one lady who was being paid C15 million per month in a Chinese factory in Tema and she was so uncomfortable she quit a few months ago. There is a Ga word called “Donkomi” that is usually applied when goods are discounted for quick sale. This writer suggests that Ghana seems to be in a “Donkomi” state now, and the NPP government under President Kufuor seems to be fanning the fire of the sale under an economic globalization formula they do not understand! My suggestion is that Ghanaians in Ghana and the Diaspora should work together and use the courts to sue the government to stop some of these acts of give-away sale of Ghana and abuse of Ghana’s land and resources as reported in the last few years, including contamination of Ghanaian rivers and toxic dumping without penalties. All the book knowledge and so-called smarts we have overseas mean nothing if we sit and allow Ghana to be sold by these folks who seem not to care one bit so far as they get some small bribe money stashed overseas for their children and their pension. For example we can sue the government and put an injunction against the sale of Ghana Telecom, Ghana Water Company, ECG, State Hotels, and have the courts sit on the issue and have public debate and disclosures. There is no reason the sale of strategic assets should not go to Ghanaians first, even if we sell. Anybody who evaluates will see the foolishness in selling a company to a foreigner who comes in with hardly any money, only to manage your company and take home $150,000 per month for the CEO and $3.8 million commission for some Agent of the transaction. For Gods’ sake this writer is also a licensed Financial Broker and could do that for only $1 for love of country. Why should we sell our nation at donkomi prices when the original plan of our founders was to train competent Ghanaians overseas to come and take over? Today Ghanaian human resource abounds in the Diaspora. We have Ghanaians with decades of verifiable global experience with global companies in all fields and expertise, and willing to negotiate fair wages! I am willing to contribute money if others will join to sue the government to stop the sale of Ghana! Folks, democracy does not work on silence and mere free speech and complaints on Talk Radio! Where are the Lawyers, George, Duke, Brenya, Prof. Nti Asare, and others when you need them? Kwame, Kwesi, where are you? Do you know any Lawyers in Ghana who can discuss these with us? What do you say? We may not have the big money, but at least we earn our moneys fair and square overseas and we can use our brains plus combined assets to stop the bleeding of Ghana – that will be our contribution.
(Dr. Kwaku A. Danso, a dual-resident of Fremont, California and East Legon, Accra, Ghana, is President of Ghana Leadership Union and the global Internet discussion Forum GLU-Forum. His recent book “Leadership Concepts and the Role of Government in Africa – the Case of Ghana” is available at online distributors Barnes and Noble-BN.com, Amazon.com. Dr. Danso is also executive co-founder and Diaspora Chair of the “Political Missionary” group registered as Ghana National Party (GNP) in October 2006, offering leadership selection choices for candidates for the 2008 Ghana elections. He may be reached at email@example.com).
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