By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Monday, May 3, 2016
Folks, as public intellectuals, we do the yeoman’s job by raising issues pertinent to Ghana’s development challenges in our time and comment on them, offering ideas that we hope our leaders and their bitter opponents will ponder as they seek the nod of the electorate to either remain in power or leave the scene for others to “try their luck”. In our African context, it is not strange for those in power to dig in while their opponents move heaven and earth to remove them from power “at all costs” (I hope you know what I mean here).
The stage is set. The NPP says that President Mahama is incompetent and doesn’t deserve a second term. Those who support it are all over the place, citing instances of job loss, unemployment, or hardships as their main reasons for wanting President Mahama out of the way. Their supporters in the academy have even gone to the extent of labelling President Mahama as “Ali Baba”, leading his gang of “Forty thieves” to perpetrate fraud. Dirty politics without substance, one might say.
On the flip side, President Mahama is pursuing an agenda to “account to the people” for his stewardship since being elected by them. And evidence shows that the people are more than satisfied with what he has used the resources to do for their good, which his opponents are angry at.
So, as President Mahama “accounts” to the people and the people acknowledge the benefits of his rule, his opponents have gone bonkers—in tatters—and wish he hadn’t undertaken such tours to bring out all that they fear to see or be told. All happening before the main campaign season begins in June!!
Now, President Mahama is talking big, telling Ghanaians that the country’s economy will grow in leaps and bounds because his government has laid the foundation for that leap. (See http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Economy-to-grow-in-leaps-and-bounds-Mahama-435442)
Surprising? I don’t think so, especially considering the fact that the government has done a lot to tackle the energy crisis. Energy is the hub of any system’s quest for progress. The situation in Ghana long before President Mahama took over has been dire. His government has been under much pressure as a result of “Dumsor” but it has soaked it all up, putting in place all that a country needs to be energy-sufficient. It comes with a huge cost to consumers, though; but will the consumers be so foolish as not to know that they have to bear the brunt to help the government move the country forward? Those doing dirty and cheap politics with this issue are doomed.
Of course, President Mahama’s opponents are still out of touch with reality when it comes to government business. If you are not in government to know how forces operate, you can say anything at all and hope to get away with it. If you don’t, you remain in opposition, as it is with the NPP people!!
We don’t begrudge President Mahama for his optimism because as the head of the team, he knows what is in place. Those who don’t know can chafe, fume, and fuse all they want.
We hope that the parameters are right and that President Mahama will move Ghana beyond its traditional scope as the producer of primary commodities (cocoa, coffee, gold, etc.). I fall back on my earlier opinion piece that questioned what the mainstay of Ghana’s economy has been since the loss of the grip on cocoa.
There is much about the petro-chemical sector and many others in the non-traditional export vein. Will Ghana’s economy take advantage of those sectors?
To end it all, I can say in all honesty that the shea butter industry for which Northern Ghana is noted, could be beckoning. It is the mainstay of the economy of Northern Ghana regardless of other resources. Growing that aspect of the economy is long overdue. Shea butter is in high demand outside Ghana. What is President Mahama’s agenda for that industry?
It’s all about comparative advantage (Adam Smith recalled here?). Ghana has a lot of such comparative advantages that a working political system should promote.
I don’t want to believe that Ghana’s economy will grow on the basis of speculations about cocoa and gold only. These are worn-out sectors. Innovation needed. The petroleum sector is dicey and can’t be relied on (even Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude oil supplier is contemplating moving out into other sectors).
Folks, I will end here by urging the President to maintain his cool and ensure that the country’s abundant resources are explored and exploited for the good of the people. Only then will they have confidence in themselves and the system of governance in place to prove their worth in the community of nations.
Ghana’s economy cannot grow if the political parameters are not set right for it. That is why efforts must be made to reach out to the people. Those in authority (local or national) may bloat but their bloating won’t serve useful purposes. Those who feel it know it and must be reached out to.
The national economy cannot grow on its own. It is human beings that make it grow as they expend energy to do what they are employed to do. I think that the array or of messages from the various grounds on this year’s celebration of May Fay says it all. In other countries (including the Almighty United States, in Seattle, Washington State), it turned ugly as workers vented their anger on the system. Not so in Ghana, which means we have a heritage to sustain.
The government must reconsider its tax policies and lessen the burden on the business sectors and consumers. In countries that have a vibrant economy, there is no disconnect between those who do business and the government that taxes them.
As soon as the tax regime hits hard, nothing works well. That is why the government must rethink the way it maximizes profit from the business sector. For as long as it remains a “Shylock”, it will continue to irk the people who sustain the economy. And when they cannot soak up the pressure any more, they do what will hurt the government. In Ghana today, that is the grim reality. What will President Mahama do to reverse this negative trend> Ghana’s economy will not grow if internal conditions remain harsh.
Our economy may be slow at growing, but if we position ourselves to make it grow, it can grow to our delight and the comfort of posterity. Let’s go for that which is positive as stated by President Mahama, and not the negative stance by his critics. Countries are not built in one fell swoop!!
I shall return…
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