(..At long last the battle has ended; Ghana our beloved country is free forever - Dr Kwame Nkrumah)
Monday 6th March, 2006 marked forty nine years since Ghana became a free nation. We enjoy the day as a holiday not as a day for reflection and meditation. Mother Ghana today is saddled with debt, it cannot feed its children. Its fame as nation has waned over the years.
At 49 years the balance sheet of Ghana shows a nation in the red. Day after day we hear our parliament debating to approve International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank loan facilities. If it is not the IMF or World Bank it would be Japanese loan facility or IDF. The sad thing for the country is the over dependency on foreign aid which brought us to the scandalous CNTI saga. More than 40% of our national budget is donor funded. It means should another Great Depression hits Europe, US and Japan, Ghana?s economy will automatically overheat.
Everyday our national debt keeps on pilling up and the Financial Minister keeps on panting for loan facilities from all direction. Our overriding passion for loans nearly landed the whole country under the mercies of CNTI scam. A nation that was so rich that it could even lend to others after independence, is now poor and always begging. Today Ghana is what I describe as ?a chartered member of the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC)?.
When we left behind the Gold Coast fifty years ago, we had a population of six million, living in an economy with a healthy balance of payment and reserves of some ?400 million (several times over in today?s terms), a GDP of some $2.5 billion, and an average per capita income of $400. Our economy was dependent on the production and export of raw materials, principally cocoa, gold and timber, whose export proceeds accounted for 90% of our foreign receipts. At the time of independence, we had a strong multiparty parliamentary system of government, with a popular ruling party led by the most charismatic of African politicians, Kwame Nkrumah, and a vigorous opposition led by one of the nation?s foremost intellectuals, Kofi Abrefa Busia, supported outside Parliament by Joseph Boakye Danquah, the father of modern Ghanaian nationalism. The prospects for successful governance and rapid development looked excellent.
When Ghana became independent, it became the star of Africa. No wonder Dr. Nkrumah named Ghana's shipping as Black Star Line, and sandwiched between the two colours in the Ghanaian flag was the black star. It became a great beacon of hope to the rest of African nations still confronting with the principalities of colonial struggle. Dr Kwame Nkrumah allowed Ghana to be used as training grounds for those countries who were fighting against the colonial oppression.
At the time of independence, Ghana was classified in international circles as being a middle-income country. The economic structure was heavily in the primary sector. Inflation rate of the newly independent nation was less than 1%, rate of growth of the population and real gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate were at par at approximately 2.2%. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah?s vision for Ghana was so towering that no government after his exit from power in 1966 is comparable. Shortly after independence, he embarked on a rapid industrialization and a ten-year accelerated development plan to make Ghana a developed nation, and break free from the neo-colonial stranglehold. After the overthrow of Nkrumah?s government, the then National Liberation Council abandoned any serious attempts made by Nkrumah to break the economy of neo-colonial dependence on the West. They halted the most laudable projects. A good example was in Tema, where Nkrumah was building a series of cocoa storage silos with a potential capacity of 200,000 tons. These would have enabled Ghana to place up to half of her annual cocoa crop in storage if the world market price was too low. If this project had been allowed to continue, Ghana could have earned much more for her cocoa export. Nkrumah strongly believed that what other countries have used centuries to achieve, Ghana could use a generation to do the same.
Ghana, unlike other African countries, as Jeffrey Herbest wrote in his book, The Politics of Reform in Ghana, 1982-1991, had a relatively well-developed infrastructure, large amounts of foreign exchange, and a civil service generally recognized as one of the best in Africa. It is startling to note that in 1957, Ghana had the same per capita income as South Korea. However, just 28 years after independence, successive governments adopted policies that caused the average person to be significantly poorer in 1982 than he or she had been in 1957. However, during the same period, the South Koreans quintupled their per capita income. One may hurriedly blame successive military coups as the cause of Ghana?s woes.
After nearly 50 years of existence, the gun has ruled us for nearly twenty years. Poverty, diseases, high rate of unemployment, corruption, inadequate tertiary schools to absorb secondary school products, just to name few - this is where we are. Government after government has not been able to bridge the gulf between promises and their fulfilment.
We have succeeded in closing virtually all the state owned enterprises set up by Nkrumah. Corruption has become the order of the day in Ghana and those who choose to stand against this illicit practice are labelled as maladjusted.
Is Ghana then a failed state? Who then has failed Ghana? Is it the pessimistic civilian presidents or optimistic military leaders? To me we have all contributed in making Ghana a failed state. I know how some people would feel to read my labelling of Ghana as a failed state. I do admit that in comparison with some African states, we may be described as relatively doing well. Our democracy in relative terms is not bad. But therein lies the problem of the African ? our tendency to live with and accept mediocrity as being ?normal?. That is why for instance we have ?African Punctuality? which says that it is better if you are late than never at all. No! there should be no middle ground. It is either a pass or a fail, good or bad. This is what sets successful nations apart from others ? a relentless pursuit of excellence. Under these circumstances, we do not merely have to compare ourselves to the our less fortunate brothers on the continent and pat ourselves on the back. We should subject ourselves to rigorous self-evaluation and compare ourselves with those nations where everyone has the opportunity to enjoy a decent standard of live. Under such circumstances, we cannot afford to be complacent but accept that indeed we have failed as a nation. But the confidence is, that we now seem to be getting back on track. The future can only get better.
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