Ghana’s Woes: The Negative Politics of Abandoned Projects

Wed, 18 May 2011 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

Part I

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

May 17, 2011

In our kind of politics, where promise-making and the initiation of politically motivated development projects predominate, there is very little for anybody to say in defence of the irresponsible behaviour of governments that fail (or refuse)—for partisan political reasons—to complete projects begun by their predecessors. Or to maintain those projects, thus leaving them to deteriorate.

The primary objective of any government is the provision of goods, services, and social amenities to improve living conditions of the citizens whose mandate put it in power. Exercising that mandate entails securing the state and managing its affairs properly so that resources can be created, distributed equitably, and used for the benefit of the people.

It is, therefore, absurd for any government to claim credit for providing amenities in the form of development projects. We shouldn’t praise such a government. That is what it is in office to do. It is for the same reason that we shouldn’t praise any man for impregnating his wife. That’s his call-to-duty—and it’s moot.

The government is expected to provide what the citizens need to live their lives in decency and shouldn’t seek credit for performing such a function. But if anything happens to the contrary, the citizens must make their voices heard. And many things to the contrary have been happening in the country since it gained independence from Britain some 51 years ago that we know but hardly work on to change the situation for the better. One of them is the negative politics done by our governments to abandon development projects initiated by their predecessors.

Recent complaints from some people in the Ashanti Region (Kumasi, precisely) that projects begun there by the Kufuor administration have been “intentionally” abandoned by the NDC government because the Region is the NPP’s stronghold reiterate a major national problem. These complaints are not misplaced. Although the government has denied that allegation and attributed the stalling of work on those projects to the nonavailability of funds, that explanation alone will not persuade the people or erase that problem.

The tendency to abandon projects has mostly been fed by political rivalry. In a previous article on political intolerance, I drew attention to this negative politics of abandoning development projects initiated by previous governments. My argument was that the successive governments fear that completing such projects might enhance the image of their political opponents and win credit for them. The new government always perceives the outgone one as an anathema that must be discredited. Thus, to eliminate any influence of that government, the new one adopts a politically intransigent stance against continuing those uncompleted projects even though much of our scarce resources would already have been sunk into them. Somebody has to be punished for this wickedness in high circles.

I argue here that the new government itself rushes into initiating development projects of its own choice only for them to be abandoned when the tide turns against it and its rival assumes power. My claim, then, is that the numerous abandoned projects dotted across the length and breadth of the country would have been completed long ago to serve their purposes had successive governments not allowed their petulant political intolerance to take the better part of them. There is evidence of such abandoned projects all over the country, which is deplorable.

The abandoning of projects (houses, roads, schools, electrification, bridges, utilities, etc.) by successive governments is not a new phenomenon; it is the norm, which the complaints from the Ashanti Region give credence to. This negative politics of abandoning projects initiated by previous governments indicates paralyzing political immaturity, pettiness, and treachery against tax payers and producers of the country’s revenue. More pointedly, it confirms fears that our leaders lack the requisite vision and programmes of action to do what will improve living conditions of the people.

Let’s take a brief tour to see some of these instances. Some projects initiated by Nkrumah were condemned as “prestigious” by his political opponents but they ended up serving national interests when completed. I have in mind the Akosombo Dam, Tema Motorway, and the Job 600 (State House). When Nkrumah announced his government’s development agenda, it irked his political opponents.

For instance, the United Party (led by Busia) sent a delegation to prevail on US President J.F. Kennedy not to allow Kaiser Aluminium Company to give Ghana the loan it was looking for to construct the Akosombo Hydro-electricity project. This opposition to the Akosombo project was driven by nothing but stupidity as we can tell from the huge benefits that this project has provided since 1962.

Additionally, numerous development projects that previous governments had on the drawing board (e.g., Nkrumah’s plans for moderning Tema and Sogakope) or had even begun (such as the Abosso Glass Factory, the Tarkwa Gold Refinery, and the Accra Sewage System, which the Israelis had been contracted to construct) were discarded by successive governments. The Aveyime Tannery, which was almost completed (and the Ghana-Italian Cattle Ranch established nearby to feed it) was abandoned also.

Many others suffered a similar fate. The Tema Silos Project that the Nkrumah government spent huge sums of money to construct has been lying idle since Nkrumah’s overthrow. It is a painful reminder of the treachery of our political leaders. That project should have been revived and completed long ago to serve its original purpose—a warehouse for storing food for Ghanaians. Unfortunately, it has not been given any attention and still stands tall as a testimony of a lost cause.

In the 1970s, the Acheampong government began a well-thought-out housing project for the Ghana Police Service in Cape Coast before Acheampong’s overthrow. A visit to the Pedu Junction in Cape Coast shows that the structures are still standing there, many years after work on the project had reached an advanced stage before being cut short.

Successive governments and IGP’s have blown hot air that they would complete such projects but everything has so far ended in smoke. Such a project would have served many useful purposes and given the Police a better public image than what we have now with the personnel and their dependants huddled in rented premises, where they can’t live their lives in comfort and function in conditions suitable for security personnel.

The same sad situation affects members of the other security agencies. Governments that we’ve had so far know about the problem and the fact that some projects that have already been initiated (and on which huge sums of money have been spent) should be completed to ease the office and residential accommodation problems facing the personnel. But they won’t. And only they know why. But their lack of will-power and vision negatively affects the status and morale of personnel who are denied the opportunity to live their lives in decency.

Like this abandoned major project, all others dotting the perimeter of the country speak volumes about our leaders’ lack of vision and their purposelessness in government. There is nothing preventing anybody from completing these projects except political mischief and shortsightedness.

More importantly, the dissipation of public funds (much more the loans contracted from the donor community on which huge interests are charged) on such projects only for them to be abandoned suggests that our governments are atrociously careless.

As if not persuaded by reality to act cautiously, the Mills government is going ahead with the Korean STX Housing Project at a huge cost to the country’s coffers (at least, when the loan for this project will be repaid with interest). Considering the controversy surrounding this project, where is the guarantee that if it’s not completed in the tenure of President Mills it will ever be completed by his successor? Another white elephant is in-the-making and will definitely appear on the horizon to reflect the negative politics of abandoned projects.

To be continued in the next installment

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.