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Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom Please Let’s Play The Game More Adeptly

Sat, 12 Dec 2009 Source: Baidoo, Philip Kobina

It was Winston Churchill who in a transient remark said the empires of the future are the empires of the mind. He couldn’t have been more accurate with this near prophetic statement. The world is increasingly pushing towards the limits of the information age and the technical progress that is shaping the way we conduct our lives is mind-boggling. Without a choice we are caught up in the vortex of this ever-changing world, and it is incumbent on us, as a people, to ride the eye of the storm in order to take our place in the economic League of Nations. It is therefore very refreshing when you read about our leaders coming up with ideas to help steer the ailing national economy on a better course.

I couldn’t have been happier when I started reading about Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, speaking at a seminar organised by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology’s School of Business Graduate Students Association on the theme: "entrepreneurship; key factor for national development". I was brimming with smiles as I ploughed through the report. Next, the smiles disappeared and I started shifting in my seat then eventually I went oh my God not again.

After going through all the report I realised that he had hit all the right buttons, however, it was when he got to the nitty-gritty part that the wheels came off. To begin with he talk about nationalism, which makes me a bit uncomfortable. Though nationalism is all well and good, it is relevant when the nation is under attack. And honestly I find it very hard to see the connection between that and national economic development. The fine-tuning of the national economy takes a delicate balancing act that needs everyone on board rather than policies that will engender alienation. Nationalism is synonymous to patriotism and it was Samuel Johnson, the English poet, who said it is the last refuge of the scoundrel. I am quoting this man for the simple reason that how do you judge whether somebody is patriotic or not. It is a concept that its judgement is based on subjective evidence rather empirical. Therefore the bureaucrats who will be setting up the standards will single out certain people who don’t meet their standards or criteria as saboteurs. And we don’t need that in these trying times of our democracy.

Now let me get to what really prompted me to respond to what went on in Kumasi. He was of the opinion that the government will have to ensure that the taxes collected from the people went to fund local enterprises and this is where I strongly disagree with him. The micromanagement of the national economy by government bureaucrats has never worked and will never work. And I still find it very difficult to believe that our leaders still cling on to these beliefs that have outlived its usefulness.

To most people the idea of taxation is no go area and will be happy to do without it. On the other hand, for the common good of the nation people pay their taxes for civil society to function. Therefore the efficient and judicious use of the nation’s income is of paramount interest to everybody. Stimulating the national economy is very important especially when we are experiencing a down turn. The idea is to bring about increase in economic activities that will re-absorb job losses to maintain acceptable growth.

Buying things made in Ghana is very excellent. Using tax money to finance Ghanaian industries is all well and good. My problem is who makes that judgement. And the fact is, we are not going to establish any more white elephants. So my question is who picks the industries that will benefit from the tax distribution or for that matter the specific companies. How are you able to determine or stop a company that is receiving tax money from over producing products when the supply of those merchandise has reached its equilibrium vis-à-vis demand? The reality is the excess production will go on so long as their business is being subsidised. Where as losses could have curtailed these inefficient companies they will still be declaring profits year in and year out based on the subsidies from the government – wasting scarce national resources in the process.

Corruption is unapologetically a serious national plague that is already stifling our economic development and we don’t need new policies that will lead to its further growth. We can do without another arm of the government that will be taking bribes to extent favours to their cronies.

I know some people will say the CPP is not going to get to power any sooner so why do I border. And this is my fear; the parties and our leaders borrow from each other all the time. Some of them might think that it’s a wonderful idea and may incorporate it into their programme. So I am pleading to the NPP and the NDC party, echelons please do not flirt with this dead idea it’s a recipe for disaster.

There are better ways to stimulate the national economy. Our infrastructures are crumpling under our noses and they need repairs and expansion. The national electricity grid is woefully underfed. Increasing the capacity of the national grid is a project that can have a multiplier effect on the national economy.

Our inner city roads in Accra and Tema are in a terrible shape and these are the main hubs that serve the rest of the country. I do apologise for not mentioning the other major cities like Kumasi etc., because I have not seen what is on the ground. These roads I am referring to are so bad that they add extra cost to the national economy. Vehicles that ply these roads cannot even go beyond 10 mph. Meaning; the drivers have to move in low gears that have high level of fuel consumption. Besides, think about the additional cost it adds to the maintenance and the unnecessary time spent on the road by helpless passengers.

I don’t really need to bore you with all the infrastructures in the country that needs attention. The most important thing is payment of taxes is like pulling hair from the nostril and my submission is Dr Paa Kwesi Ndoum please!!! don’t dream about policies that will squander our national resources. If we are leaving behind central command economic planning and adopting market economy then we should play the game more adeptly. No hybrid.

Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr London baidoo_philip@yahoo.co.uk

Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina