DIASPORA GHANAIANS & PUBLIC SERVICE (Part 1 of 2)
By Dr. Kwaku A. Danso
Folks, can money buy love?
Two years ago I had the old man’s cultural duty of negotiating between a nephew and his wife when his wife told me on phone that she knew “money can’t buy love”. It was a very deep philosophy I have never forgotten, one of those quotable quotes. Today I apply that to the love-hate relationship between Ghanaians in power in Ghana and their brothers and sisters who toil day and night to send money home, now reported to be in the range of over $8 Billion per year!
Folks, why can’t your money buy us love? Why do those in Ghana hate those overseas? Why can’t they even deliver water despite the Billions of dollars they took in loans? Where did they hide the money?
Is our money the only element our people in Ghana need?
THE ECONOMY & Love We all know stories where a man could lose his wife during hard times. Economic reports on Ghana indicates a good 70-80% or more of all moneys generated in Ghana as of last year were coming from remittances - mostly Ghanaians overseas. Ghana sent our best talent overseas since the 1960s to learn and contribute to national development, but not to send in money to take care of the failures of government. Why can’t those who went overseas to study return home?
What happened to Ghana is simply that these men and women stay overseas because they cannot get jobs at their level of qualifications at home. Period! Let us recall that most Scientists and Engineers and Accountants did not go to school to come back and set up their own business. Today, that is the requirement for returning home to Ghana! A Network Engineer friend of mine told me last year he was planning to diversify, rear goats in his village and have them sent to Accra to supply the chop bars. He had closed his shop during or after the load-shedding or power rationing in 2006/2007. Folks, let’s face it, I don’t think my friend is skilled enough to compete with some of our villagers folks in goat rearing industry. He just is not equipped to compete. This writer purchased 150 acres of land in Affram plains and has never touched that land in my last trips! Shame!
I recall in 1975 attending an interview at the Ghana Embassy in Washington DC, as a former Scholarship student who had a promise of a job at home! And the government could not find me a job in any electronics firm in Ghana. Akasanoma and Sanyo Electronics had been closed down by those who overthrow Nkrumah in 1966. I guess the World Bank advised Ghana we did not need an electronics company, just ad former Ambassador Franklin Williams said in an NBC documentary that Ghana did not need the Tema-Accra motorway! What a crock of advisers and leaders Ghana has had! And we took all these in like the proverbial tortoise with his head in the ground!
Folks Ghanaians living abroad (GLAs) or in the Diaspora send money home because (1) Most of their retired parents do not get paid enough to live decently, and (2) A very high percentage of their relatives have children they cannot take care of.
In a country where Koreans or other foreigners are hired to man our oil refinery and Ghanaians allowed to leave in a pay dispute, and Indians are hired to build Presidential mansions, can these men and women living abroad ever return and be of help to Ghana?
RETURNING HOME What’s love got to do with returning home?
In 2008, returning home to settle in Ghana has become a major economic and financial challenge for most people. One must save enough and budget not only to build a house and pay at least $10,000 to ship and pay duties and taxes on one vehicle, but learn to start and succeed in one’s own business in Ghana to survive. Failing that, some have maneuvered to enter government – implying aligning with the government in power! Even then one is not guaranteed ordinary water, stable electricity, decent transportation systems to conduct business in a secure manner or police security!
There is a school of thought that suggests that the way Ghana has wandered in the bush (so to speak) for half a century, the only way it can be saved is by the intervention in the public management by the men and women trained since independence and now resident abroad, the GLAs, also known as Diaspora Ghanaians. There is a love hate relationship, but we all know there is nothing anybody can do to prevent us form returning if we want. Most Ghanaians are even afraid of guns and most of us overseas are not (smile). The Electoral Commissioner, in his infinite wisdom, has not changed the rule that only a window period of 1-2 weeks are allowed for new people to register to vote – making sure that Diaspora Ghanaians may not infiltrate the system and return home to vote. What a crock! We used to call this skin-pain policy!
Another school of thought suggests that GLA- home-Ghanaian merger will never happen, and never without a “fight”. They argue that those entrenched in the corridors of power in Ghana will never give up power and privilege for others they have described as “less patriotic” for leaving the country, to come and share the glory and free government benefits such as the $75,000 Toyota Landcruiser vehicles! The fact is now obvious, that of Ghana’s estimated $10 billion in gross domestic product, about $8.29 Billion came though remittances alone last year (according to the governor of the Bank of Ghana, $6.2 Billion in the first 9 months of 2007). Ghana cannot generate even half or a quarter of what she consumes! Almost everything consumed in Ghana is imported, and our government seems helpless in offering major assistance to boost up small and medium size businesses that provide employment.
FAILED STATE Examining infrastructures like roads, communication networks, judiciary, security, ethics and corruption in government, and human and economic development factors, Ghana surely has symptoms regarded by some Professors as that of a failed state! No matter how the argument goes, the facts are that Ghana and the other African nations have fallen shamefully behind in some simple aspects of not only technology, but in know-how to be a player in the global marketplace. Politicians use words like “strategic investors” when in fact they invite foreign exploiters unlike the old pre-colonial days. Perhaps the most critical and worst aspects are in the simple art of forming organized communities under the laws of decentralization - the simple art of forming local governments, city councils, designing budgets and tax collection and accounting systems. Central government has failed and local governments have also failed. Everybody seems to think only of their homes and Poly-tank water reservoirs, as even delivery of common water and services have failed! We have in fact what one might describe as Poly-tank elitism and leadership! The bigger one’s poly-tank in the affluent suburbs, the higher ones ranking in government. In our next article we shall demonstrate how one can decide and finally migrate back home, the challenges and the rewards, self empowerment, and the necessity for us to plan to help our communities. We will use one man’s example who has been invited to return to stand as MP of his constituency.
Dr. Kwaku A. Danso
President, Ghana Leadership Union, Inc (NGO)
Intn'l Chair-Co-Founder, GNP -Ghana National Party