George Hagan and New Policy-Making

Mon, 10 Mar 2008 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

In George Hagan, chair of Ghana’s National Commission on Culture, Ghana, as a development project, is not being nurtured well, and may explain some of the challenges it find itself in. The problem isn’t that Ghana wasn’t created by Ghanaians but the British, rather the problem is that post-independent Ghana hasn’t seen good dose of the policies running the nation-state drawn decisively from the values of the 56 ethnic groups that form Ghana.

Fifty years after independence, Ghana is seen more or less like its ex-British colonial self than from a mixture of its traditional values and that of its ex-colonial ones as most countries in Southeast Asia demonstrate. So whether policies are made to develop Ghana are made in Accra it doesn’t matter, for it look like they have been made in London or Washington or Brussels because they do not deeply reflect the values and experiences of Ghana but that of its ex-colonial and the global neo-liberal ones.

And this has created in its wake crisis of values, confidence and trust in the development process – the thoughts of development at the rural level is different from the national ones, the two diametrically different and Ghana carrying the consequences. This has made Ghana unbalanced and the structures for development disharmonious. Elites like Y.K. Amoako has observed that to the detriment of Ghanaian/African values, the African region is the only area in the world where its development values are dominated by foreign ones.

To smooth out the values running Ghana, the standard practice globally is for Ghanaian policy-makers to either mix or juggle the neo-liberal values with traditional Ghana ones at the national level by opening up into traditional values. Hagan observes that “policy makers” need “to incorporate the positive dimensions” of Ghana's “culture into national policies.” Ghana-wide, one aspect Hagan wants to see traditional Ghanaian values used openly in policy-making is the anti-poverty programme, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The MDGs were made in New York; its practicalities in Ghana should reflect Ghanaian values and experiences for it to help solve the Ghana poverty.

As a psychological, confidence and trust issue, Hagan argues that “cultural practices of the people could have a significant effect on national policies and decisions either positively or negatively and therefore law makers should not ignore culture and “leave it at the bottom of the ladder but consider maintaining the positive aspect and integrate them into "our policies" (Ghana News Agency/Ghanaweb.com, Feb. 29, 2008).

While part of the reason why the MDGs aren’t doing well may be lack of input of Ghanaians traditional values, what is instructive of Hagan’s incorporation of traditional values into national policy-making is that he stated this to some of the powerful institutions involved in Ghana’s progress - representatives from some key Ministries, National House of Chiefs, and regional development commissions. By this act, Hagan has challenged these institutions to rethink their policy-making and practices and come out with policies that simultaneously reflect Ghanaian traditional values and its neo-liberal, Western heritage.

For the past 50 years Ghana’s bureaucratization has been more a reflective of its ex-colonial values than the Ghanaian ones – there isn’t any balances whatsoever. This is despite the fact that, as Steve Panford argues in “Searching for Transformational Elites in Ghanaian Development,” “In pre-colonial Africa some of the elite comprising of the kings, chiefs, entrepreneurs, priests, warriors and scholars played significant transformative roles. That group helped to found and build the empires of Egypt, Zulu, Yoruba, Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Asante and Ethiopia among others. Most of these societies developed sophisticated legal, economic, social and political institutions, which provided the framework for developing functional and stable societies.”

The idea is not to go back to any pristine ancient values, the idea is to draw from these values, which most Ghanaians still access deeply in their daily lives, and mix them with the global neo-liberal ones for greater progress. As recent and voluminous literature on the science of happiness argues, Hagan’s incorporation of Ghanaian values into formal policy-making will brighten up the Ghanaian development terrain and make Ghanaians happier.

How Ghana can draw from such rich history and traditional values rests with its bureaucrats, policy-makers and the emerging civil society. As the German sociologist Max Weber has critically explained, whether seen as “structure and regulations to control activity” or “interpretation and execution of policy,” a new interpretation of Ghanaian bureaucracy, as the key executor of policies, as the ears and eyes of Ghanaians’ development concerns, and as the innovative intellectual playground of Ghanaians’ progress, should be informed by Ghanaian traditional values in relation to the global prosperity architecture.

Here, Ghanaian bureaucrats become magicians, juggling Ghanaian traditional values with the ex-colonial, global development ideals. In the same context, in the reinterpretation of Ghana’s progress, the bureaucrats become alchemists, mixing Ghanaian traditional values with the global development principles. The idea is to balance the traditional resources and the ex-colonial, orthodox ideals in the Ghanaian development process so as to give confidence to Ghanaian values as development fodder and correct many an historical and policy errors.

The idea is to reconstruct a new bureaucracy, which has a vast grasp of their traditional values and the global prosperity ideals. For, whether in Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad or Japan’s Akio Morita or South Korea’s Gen. Park Chung Hee or Taiwan’s Gen. Chiang Kai-shek or Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew or China’s Deng Xiaoping the ability to mix the traditional with the Western neo-liberal for progress is noted. No doubt, despite some rifts between their traditional values and capitalism, the Asians’ march to prosperity since 1949, as Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw argue in “The Commanding Height,” is their elites’ capacity to merge their traditional values with the neo-liberal development paradigms. No doubt, the Asian miracle is now sometimes called “Confucian capitalism.”

The Asians aside, Ghanaian policy-makers need not go far to practice Hagan’s suggestion; they can learn from Botswana. With independence from Britain in 1966, Botswana’s development wisdom and humility is seen by its humble elites’ ability to mix its traditional values with the dominant global development ones. In “The Political Foundations of Development: The Case of Botswana,” Scott A. Beaulier and J. Robert Subrick explain that compared to most sub-Saharan states, Botswana has not only steered clear of the “African Growth Tragedy” but has successfully implemented growth-enhancing policies that are driven by its elites’ ability to blend its “traditional sources of authority” with its ex-colonial and the global prosperity values.

While Botswana have been able to draw from its traditional institutions and mix them with the dominant neo-liberal values for prosperity in the last 20 years, Ghana, which pride itself as the “Black Star” of Africa, is yet to demonstrate Hagan’s incorporation of Ghanaian traditional values into the neo-liberally dominated policy-making domain for better development of Ghana.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi