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Opinions Sat, 10 Dec 2005

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Ghana, A country of Misplaced Priorities and Visionless Leaders? A Rejoinder

The notion that Ghana lack leaders with vision to take the country out of poverty is quite wrong. Yes this writer understands the frustrations and anger that underpins his sister and compatriot Araba Thompson?s analysis (Ghana web article 8th December 2005), however the notion that our motherland lacks leaders who are ready to lead us towards our goal of our VISION 2020 ( the year that we have set ourselves for the take off - that is our country achieving middle income status on par with our East and South East Asia counterparts) is wrong.

Yes my sister Araba was right to point out that our motherland is the only country in the sub region not to have experience civil war which stems out of the very policies put in place by our former President and a great patriot Dr Kwame Nkrumah of blessed memory. Araba stated: ?The advantage we have is that most Ghanaians are considered peaceful with minimal tribal tensions as compared to others???

To give a brief history to those who do not know the make up of our motherland, Dr Nkrumah on attainting independence for Ghana instituted a policy of di-tribalisation by encouraging inter-tribal marriages among people with diverse and distinct tribal groupings. Dr Nkrumah was lucky due to the fact the West African sub region was deemed to the most integrated region in the whole of Africa due to migration within the region, with people constantly moving from one place to another. Thus in Accra, there is a large community of Yoruba?s living in Lagos Town, in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) there is the Fante community in Fante New Town etc. Dr Nkrumah use his Young Pioneer Movement to foster unity among the youth, with boys wearing their bright and shinny uniforms and a red scarf with gold and green boarders making up the Ghana flag. Boys in those days (our elder brothers and fathers) were proud to be members of the Young Pioneers. The membership of the movement entails that every boy or girl should be in school, thus generations of Ghanaians had the opportunity to go to school and foster friendship and unity among themselves?????????? almost all the current crop of our leaders benefited from Dr Nkrumah?s Education policy, a proud moment in our nation?s history. Education was made free in the Northern half of our motherland and partially free in TransVolta Ghana, a region that Dr Nkrumah fought tooth and nail from French Togoland aggression, a very vital part of our motherland.

Araba?s argument that after almost 50years after independence we still have nothing to show for, to some degree is right. This lack of progress on our part was due to bad policies and constant military interruptions in our political system. Perhaps the most damaging interruption was the 1972 intervention by the Supreme Military Council led by Kutu Acheampong that cut short Dr Kofi Busia?s government.

The issue of leadership in our current political dispensation was first raised by Kimberly Louis in her article on Ghana web 30th April 2005 relating Ghana Structural Adjustment ( a subject that this writer did a research on at Graduate school in the late 1999s) ? The Lament of a nation: Ghana SAP?s Experience. Kimberly raised 4 very important issues: POVERTY, UNEMPLOYMENT, INEQUALITY AND LEADERSHIP, and our relationship with the Bretton Woods Institutions On our relationship with these institutions (IMF and the World Bank) Kimberly stated :

?Beginning in the early 1980s, through to the mid 1990s attempts were made to rebuild the government and restore Ghana?s tarnished image. The reconstruction efforts fell under the application of IMF and World Bank sponsored Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). The Bretton Woods institutions have touted Ghana as one of the best examples of successful economic restructuring in Africa. This however is a false representation. The ramifications of these ?successful? programs have produced dire costs to Ghana. These reflections will examine the impact of these adjustment programs in Ghana and prove that the SAPs have not been totally beneficial to Ghana?s development as is often claimed by the IMF and World Bank??? Kimberly further argue that our lack of progress and our over reliance on the Bretton Woods institutions was due to lack of concise leadership when she stated:

?Agreeably, Ghanaians have a reason to worry, because for a long time, the political elite have delegated their responsibilities to the un-elected foreign individuals sitting the in the comfort of fortified buildings in Washington D.C. Sadly, Ghana?s poor performance reflects very much the situation in many African countries and the rest of the third world. Clearly what is missing is leadership. Confident and visionary leaders would obviously confront the Bretons woods institutions with alternative development programs that respond to the socio-cultural dynamics of the region. The question that stirs everyone one in the face is; how does Ghana justify its continuous reliance on the Bretton Wood for economic salvation when it is evidently clear that such past reliance is negatively correlated to standard of living, human well-being and people centered development? Ghanaians may well reflect on this situation.?

The lack of real leadership theme was taken up by Araba when she wrote, ?Unfortunately the best brains have left the country only to be ruled by greedy politicians with everyone just seeking his own bread and butter. How come a country as Ghana (supposedly endowed with rich human capita who-are managing world institutions, are Deans in great Universities, are professionals working on complex engineering projects in Europe and the US; are managing highways in the US; the specialized doctors in South Africa and the great medical faculties of Pittsburg) has been left in shambles to narrow minded politicians. How come the millions of Ghanaians who are outside have been too apathetic and allowed drug smuggling politicians to make legislations impacting on our people. How come we have not been able to take off after all our troubles and we have become a nation of beggars, consumers, very dependent on the so called World Bank policies?.?

Although this writer broadly agrees with both Araba and Kimberly on our turbulence relationship with the Bretton Woods institutions in the past, however the decision by the PNDC government led by ex-President Flt Lt Rawlings to go to the Bretton Woods institutions with open arms was a very good move. The fact Rawlings adopted all the Structural Policies prescribed by the Fund/Bank including financial liberalizations enabled him to link into the Ghanaian economy the numerous professionals that Ghana lost in the 1970s and the 1980s. What Rawlings got wrong was the introduction of user fees in Education and Primary Health Care and also policies to stem Brain Drain. Dr Kwasi Botchway, the finance minister during the ?Miracle Years? and other technocrats including Dr Obed Asamoah, Ohene Kene and others knew that our only salvation was to adopt those Bretton Woods harsh Austerity measures in order to help stem the rapid decline of our economy??..and that was the crucial factor that saved our motherland from degenerating into chaos that we saw all around us in neighboring countries???. Thus the debate about lack of leadership in our system was wrong then and is still wrong now.

Despite losing most of our professionals during the crisis in the 1980s (the lost decade) Ghana prevailed. Ghana was the only country in Africa that lost most of her skill professionals to the Western World and are still losing them in more frightening manner. However this writer does not share his sister Araba?s notion that the best brains have left the country only to be ruled by greedy politicians. Although there still corrupt practices within our system, there are leaders waiting in the wing who not tinted by corruption. These leaders can be found in all the 3 major parties.

Araba identified in HIV/AIDS which is laced to POVERTY, lack of INFRASTRUCTURE which in turn is laced to lack of investment??.. In a related article by P.Y Tsikata on Ghana web 20th November 2005 ?Our Land Tenure System Our Development Bane? which this writer and Peter Tsikata wrote rejoinders, the issue of our land system and its negative impact on development is another area that is holding us back. All the countries that we tries to compare ourselves with all went through drastic land reforms before their planned take off. It is through that those countries due to their strategic position and the cold war politics at the time were heavily supported and aided by the United States. They took advantage of the geo-politics at the time to foster ahead????..those societies were corrupt just as ours is, but when it came to national development, they put amassing personal wealth aside???perhaps the most important link missing in our drive for the take. This point was taken on by Araba in her analysis when she stated that ?Unfortunately the best brains have left the country only to be ruled by greedy politicians with everyone just seeking his own bread and butter?.?.

However there are eminent Ghanaians in Diaspora who are willing to forgo all the luxurious life and help with our push for the Vision 2020. This writer had the privilege of talking one such person, Nana Owusu Baah, who lives in Toronto, Canada. Nana Owusus Baah and others like him ( the best brains that Araba stated have left the country) are willing to offer their rich advice to the leadership at a fraction of the consultancy fees paid to foreigners. We do have leaders who think about the betterment of our motherland and wants to contribute their quota towards are march to our cherish goal of the VISION 2020. This Vision is now more a dream or an illusion?..we MUST and CAN achieve this goal. This includes ?Zero Tolerance on Corruption?, Realistic Strategies in place to reduce Poverty, HIV/AIDS, Creating a conducive environment to create employment and retaining the best talents and bringing back the best brains that we lost and are losing, reducing income inequality, building more infrastructures such as rail road, motorways, trunk roads to the hinterlands to bring goods to the coast, drastic land reforms both for commercial agro-business and built environment, investing in research and development, rewarding innovators and the list goes on and on????.

This writer believes our goals are achievable????the day will come when one fly from London, New York or Chicago not to Kotoka International Airport due to the bad weather conditions but to Tamale International Airport and catch the high speed inter-city rail to Sekondi???. In 2032, the generation after us would be biding to stage the 2032 Olympic Games in Accra/Kumasi. That is what the VISION 2020 is all about. It is to transform our economy from a poor third world economy into a middle income economy, thus giving our people the opportunities to be part of the world that keeps changing and innovating.

This writer understands the passion behind Araba and countless others contributions towards making our motherland a better place for future generations, a country of choice for investors???.. Yen Ara Yen Asasi ni???..meaning the land belongs to all of us. That was the legacy left us by Dr Nkrumah, Dr Kofi Busia, Dr Hilla Limann, and Ex-President Rawlings and soon President John A. Kufuor. The Link between these 5 leaders is the Vision 2020. Nkrumah, Busia and Limann all left their careers to go and help reshape their motherland. The same burning ambition was seen and still can be seen in ex-President Rawlings and President Kufuor. These leaders answer the call of duty to serve. What people must realise is without June 4th 1979 and 31st December 1981 revolutions our country would have gone down the road of others in the sub-region. With the Structural Adjustment Reforms that Rawlings was persuaded by those technocrats such Kwasi Botchway, Obed Asamoah and others to adopt in its entirety Ghana would still be lagging behind. Despite the atrocities committed in his name, Rawlings was the one and who set our country towards the current reforms?.our VISION 2020. When it comes to Hall of Fame for our past leaders in 2020, the name of Jerry John Rawlings can never be wiped out of history, so too is the name of John A. Kufuor. Those of us who were too young to know who Dr Nkrumah or Dr Busia were, now knows the VISION of these two great patriots. They may come from different parties and had different ideologies but they all same the same dreams. China adopted communism, and not the free market mode of development, yet today China is a powerhouse in the world trade. Creating Jobs for our numerous jobless but brilliant graduates from our Universities and Polytechnics who are leaving the motherland in droves. We need their talents home. Those who doubt our abilities should look at the medical and engineering professionals all over the world. We might be a small third world country, but Ghana, Sikaman, has prove time and time again that especially our medical personnel (doctors, dentists and nurses) trained at University of Ghana Medical School, Accra, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi and University for Development Studies, Tamale can and are competing with the very best in the world. Our VISION is to compete with the best in the world in research and development, in manufacturing, in agriculture etc?. in Accra, Kumasi, Tamale and country wide. Our Universities would attract the best brains in the world to come and conduct research in tropical diseases, agriculture for the tropics?????? these are already seats of excellence in medical and engineering research.

That is the Vision 2020.

God Bless our homeland Ghana.

Peter Nee Jeffrey
London.


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

Columnist: Jeffrey, Peter Nee

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