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By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
The proposition by the chair of Ghana’s National Development Planning Commission, P. V. Obeng, that stakeholders in the financial sector should factor in the informal, traditional sector not only go with the current enlightenment thinking but it also reveals the ongoing attempts by Ghanaian policy-makers to think hard from within their traditional values for progress.
The reason for such thinking today, as build-up on various attempts in this regard some 50 years ago, is that the informal, traditional sector has for the past 50 years been neglected and not grounded in national policy planning.
Obeng’s thinking is encouraging. It debunks the notion that the African find it difficult to think from within his/her values in national planning. For almost 20 years when he was the de facto Prime Minister under Jerry Rawlings’s military juntas, he and his military regime had all the power to radically undertake a national project that should have been massively rooted in Ghanaian/African traditional values. The Southeast Asians success story is partly as result of this. This would have help correct many a psychological and historical errors, and propel the Ghanaian for better progress.
Now, haven’t reflected and come to his damn senses, Obeng, with his ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), has all the means to hatch a new national development planning that should heavily involve the traditional, informal sector, where much of Ghana’s wealth is located. Entrapped, the wealth is not being appropriated for national progress. And there is this erroneous sense that Ghanaians are poor. They aren’t.
Majority of Ghanaians do not use the formal financial institutions. Part of the reason is trust; another is illiteracy and its associated ignorance. Like other inhibitions within the Ghanaian traditional values, a deliberate appropriation of the traditional, informal economy, as a national policy development work, will help refine the inhibitions that have been stifling economic progress.
And this, in the larger scheme of creating prosperity, greatly affects savings and investment, and therefore national progress. A nation cannot progress when majority of its people who control its wealth aren’t considered in national planning, aren’t regarded and enabled. It tells that the nation’s national planners as ignorant and senseless. The planners do not know what they are planning about. It makes the planning more abstract than practical, the very people to be planned for left out in the larger planning equation.
And to the tough, formal education of Obeng, the informal sector may not be the “poor and deprived” and in need of “empowerment.” What need “empowerment” may be Obeng himself and his practically convoluted National Development Planning Commission, especially in its thinking and research, in order to appropriate and open up the traditional, informal sector for greater progress.
This will correct the erroneous fact that Ghana/Africa is the only region in the world where its progress is dominated by foreign development paradigms to the detriment of its tried-and-tested traditional values. And it is as result of these situations, as Obeng himself has come to recognize, that the “moribund state of the informal sector had” had “very serious repercussions for the general economy, especially the formal sector.”
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