By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Former President John Rawlings has said that the current economic dilemma facing the country can be traced to 2001 when Kufuor took over the administration of the country.
Describing the economic situation in the country as "almost dead", ex-President Rawlings said that it would require selfless men and women to clean up the situation.
He was speaking to a cross-section of journalists at Senchi, the venue for the National Economic Forum which began today.
The Forum has brought together key personalities to brainstorm on Ghana's economy and to find out how to arrest the current economic challenges facing the country.
Ex-president Rawlings, who was one of the invited guests at the Forum, said that the country is in a pretty tight situation and "we cannot escape with ease," unless we are able to trace the genesis of the problem.
Do you agree with Rawlings on his assertion that the current economic dilemma facing the country can be traced to 2001 when Kufuor took over from him? I don’t.
Ghana has never been economically sound despite all its over-abundant natural and human resources. Even when it was the Gold Coast under the thumb of the British colonial administration, it wasn’t economically sound. Otherwise, those who masterminded the 1948 nationwide rioting and arson won’t have any cause to complain.
But they complained against the economic situation, blaming the Association of West African Merchants (AWAM) for the unbearable cost of living. They particularly cited the cost of a packet of St. Louis sugar, which sold at tupence (two pence) to justify their protests.
What began in the immediate post-independence era under Nkrumah as indigenization and agro-industrialization didn’t put the economy on an even keel. The situation worsened such that opponents of Nkrumah who celebrated his overthrow noted loudly that they couldn‘t even get milk to drink.
And Nkrumah’s reaction? If he had known that it was milk that Ghanaians were looking for, he would have made the drains of Accra flow with milk! But it was too late to undo the harm.
Succeeding governments couldn’t salvage the economy. Not even the late Kutu Acheampong’s robust efforts in the era of his National Redemption Council could. When the NRC metamorphosed into the Supreme Military Council and “Kalabule” took over, the economy sagged to its knees and couldn’t be redeemed ever since.
Nothing came from Hilla Limann and his PNP administration to save it. Neither could Rawlings do so despite the draconian measures that his government took.
Swallowing its pride, it wore a thick knee-pad to beg the IMF for redemption, which resulted in the adoption in April 1982 of the Economic Recovery Programme (and its appendages—Structural Adjustment Programme, etc.) that ended up imposing stiff conditionalities on Ghana to worsen the economy.
Ghana’s external debt obligations increased but living standards didn’t pick-up, which was one major complaint against the Rawlings administration that would work to the advantage of Kufuor and his NPP at the 2000 general elections.
Thus, when Kufuor ushered Ghana into the club of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) in order to reap the benefits promised by creditors, hopes rose that the economy would be redeemed. Policies implemented by Kufuor didn’t differ much from what his predecessors had used to no avail.
When the going became too tough, Kufuor used a short-cut—the redenomination of the Cedi (at what cost to Ghana nobody knew), creating the impression that the Ghanaian economy had as much weight as strong ones. The dollarization of the economy hasn’t helped in any way.
Come the Atta Mills government and the situation remained dire only to be compounded by what has necessitated the National Economic Forum today.
So, can’t we see clearly that the problems confronting our economy couldn’t have erupted in 2001 when Kufuor entered office?
I strongly believe that Rawlings’ assertion was only aimed at fingering Kufuor and his administration for political mischief, which I deplore strongly because what is to happen at Senchi (Akosombo) is expected to be bleached white of partisan politics. It is a mere matter of ECONOMICS: Identifying the problems with the economy and providing input to solve those problems.
It doesn’t call for any name-calling or blame-giving. It calls for forthrightness in pinpointing the factors undermining the economy and offering suggestions to rebuild the economy. I hope the Forum will be used for its stated purposes and narrow politicking shunned.
I shall return…
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