The government continues to harm itself

Thu, 14 Aug 2014 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Folks, those who are quick to label me as an unrepentant supporter of the Mahama-led administration who will not see anything wrong with it make me laugh a lot. I have no doubt that in doing my yeoman’s job of writing on pertinent issues to feed public discourse on our country’s challenges of development, I have covered the terrain, regardless of whose ox I gore in the process. If it has to do with the NPP, I go all out to say it as I deem fit; and for the incumbent administration, I mince no word. Those who think otherwise can please themselves. I write as I like.

I am out to stick my neck out this time in saying that the Mahama-led administration continues to make that hit it hard in the face with huge boomerang effects. Simply put, the government doesn’t seem to be learning any lesson from its numerous failed initiatives that have earned it public scorn. If it does, it will hasten slowly.

Why am I saying so? Don't go too far: "President John Dramani Mahama has announced his government’s plans to introduce the Youth Enterprise Support Initiative (YES) which is part of a larger social programme to generate jobs and facilitate youth development in the country. He said young entrepreneurs selected under the programme, would undergo training and receive capital and mentorship to equip them start and grow their own businesses.

Under the initiative, the government will invest an amount of 10 million Ghana Cedis into the Youth Entrepreneurship Fund to support small start-ups managed by young people who are facing financial challenges.

The announcement was made during the commemoration of the International Youth Day on Tuesday, August 12 at the International Conference Centre, Accra , under the theme,” Investigating in young people : The key to Ghana’s transformation and economic development."

(Source: http://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2014/August-12th/-government-to-launch-the-youth-enterprise-support-initiative.php)


I am not in the least impressed by such declarations of intent. Neither are the millions of Ghanaians now too much worried about the state of the economy to be drawn into such a declaration of grandiose intent. Truth be told, this initiative runs counter to the prevailing situation in the country, which means that whatever good intentions the government may have for wanting to introduce this programme will not be recognized or appreciated by the citizens whose main worry now is the ailing economy, especially the depreciation of the Cedi.

Let’s be honest and blunt to say that this initiative is not what Ghanaians expect from the government at the moment. They want concrete action to be taken to balance the economy and not promises to be made just for their own sake. Aren’t they already fed up with such grand designs on the minds of politicians?

Although the announcement can be seen as a declaration of intent (its being a PLAN that the government is working on), I will immediately tell President Mahama that he should tread cautiously. He is spreading his administration too thin and achieving nothing concrete to justify that widespread move. Although the rationale behind this initiative may be good, and although the initiative may be well-intentioned, it is a non-starter right from scratch!

Yes, our country's youth need an umbrella support for their talents to be identified, nurtured, and tapped for our country's good; but the manner in which this Youth Enterprise Support Initiative (YES) has begun being contemplated for implementation is scary.

Where has the government reached in its contemplation of this Youth Enterprise Support Initiative to be optimistic that it will serve its purpose as "part of a larger social programme to generate jobs and facilitate youth development in the country"? Where are the modalities to prove that a concrete line of action has been drawn on this initiative and that the project itself will take off instead of being shrouded in promises upon promises?

And who says that job creation should be the government's purview? We have said several times that the government needn't saddle itself with job creation for the youth but to create the congenial atmosphere for the private sector to create jobs and absorb the unemployed youth. I insist here that if the government takes up job creation, it will end up worsening its credibility problems. Job creation demands more than what the government has given us to know of its capabilities (or otherwise) on that score. History tells us that in the First Republic, the Great Osagyefo established an umbrella ostensibly to guide the youth (wherever toward or what for, I don't know for sure). His Committee for Youth Organization (CYO) ended up being a political tool that he used to prop up his CPP and himself in power. That was nothing to help the youth.

In our Fourth Republic, the Kufuor government introduced the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) and created avenues (such as community policing, etc.) but the NYEP couldn't be the solution. Apparently, it depended on the national coffers and couldn't be sustained. We want initiatives that will not add more pressure to the national coffers, which is why the government mustn't saddle itself with the responsibility of creating job openings for the youth.

Without even bothering to revisit the failed GYEEDA and SUBA projects or any other into which the government rushed to invest public funds, this so-called Youth Entrepreneurship Fund is a washout. It won't take off, let alone fly.

First, it has no solid foundation apart from the 10 million Cedis that will be allocated (because it is available and easy to take out of the national coffers). No structure already exists to cater for this initiative. The National Youth Council (is it still in existence?) or what Ras Mubarak heads is an empty shell that all manner people are scrambling to occupy so that they can manipulate the situation to gain undeserved personal advantage. If this initiative is designed to fit into the agenda of this Mubarak-led institution, then, let me sum everything up to say that it will be much ado about nothing.

In terms of management of this initiative, there is no particular locus where it will be grounded and managed unless the government wants to establish a new structure for it. Even then, it will be needless to establish a whole new framework for an initiative that is easier announced than done to improve the job situation.

As I said yesterday, initiatives of this sort can have a better grounding if done in collaboration with Parliament so that the appropriate legal framework can be given it for it to endure. Unfortunately, the government is going it alone again, sowing the seed but not positioning itself to ensure that it is nurtured to fruition.

I am sounding this early alarm so that the right thing can be done to prevent a repetition of the circus of corruption that has doomed GYEEDA and raised SUBA to a high level of stage-managed thievery of public funds. It is annoying that the perpetrators are walking about free, thumping their chests as "rich" and taunting the system.

With this sordid happening as a guide, can't the government act more carefully in initiating any new project? I have very serious doubts if this particular Youth Enterprise Support Initiative is not just some kind of hot air being blown for political expediency. But it has its negative backlash for the government to be wary of.

In a country with a teeming population of the youth, better and long-lasting initiatives are required to assure the youth that they have a bright future in their own country. Otherwise, nothing will prevent them from either deserting the country for others (where they will willingly "kill" themselves just to stay afloat in life) or resort to anti-social activities (such as armed robbery or drug trafficking). After all, life must go on for them.

I urge the government to stand back, take a harder look at this intention, and find ways to work with Parliament so that this initiative doesn't end up in smoke as others before it did. It is long past that time in our history for lessons to have been learned and used to improve governance. But it is not too late for the government to seek support and not go it alone in any desperate bid to prove that it has the interest of the youth at heart. There is a lot more to do to support the youth than the 10 million Ghana Cedis earmarked for this project can provide. What happens when the fund dries up? How sustainable is this initiative?

There is too much being spread on the horizon without any silver lining for us to see. Instead of initiating this project, the government should rather tackle projects already in existence but not being managed properly. No addition of any new fuzzy thing to compound problems. Let someone listen for once!!

I shall return.

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.