Ghana’s Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia on Wednesday, 3rd April 2019 said at a town hall meeting of the Economic Management Team that it is “warped” reasoning for the opposition NDC to say that the fact that there has been a fall in the value of the cedi necessarily means Ghana’s economic fundamentals are weak.
Dr Bawumia said the cedi’s fall was largely due to external factors rather than weak fundamentals of the economy, unlike in his opinion, it pertained in 2014 when he (Dr Bawumia), famously said: “If the fundamentals are weak, the exchange rate will expose you”. According to Dr Bawumia, “Factors such as the inflation rate, the balance of trade, the fiscal balance, money supply”, are what we refer to as the fundamentals. But speculation and expectations about these fundamentals; external shocks such as oil price increases, can also have powerful short-term effects on the exchange rate. Political analysts keep on asking; are the pressures on the cedi transitory or permanent?
Ghana’s main opposition party NDC, reacting to the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia’s presentation, where he assured Ghanaians that the strong macro and microeconomic fundamentals arising from innovative policies and programmes implemented by the NPP government over the last two years have placed Ghana in a strong economic position. He emphasised that the country’s future is very promising, Mr. Adongo of NDC said: “As I listened to Dr Mahamudu Bawumia deliver yet another inglorious lecture, he was at pains to describe this ineffective and inefficient management as efficient management of the Ghanaian expenditure regime.” The NDC’s lecture was on the theme: “Ghana’s Rising Fiscal Risk, Financial Crunch and External Vulnerabilities. They debunked all the views expressed by the Vice President and described Ghana’s economic future as precarious and bleak.
Ghana’s predicament is not about the ruling party or opposition party. It is not about series of town hall meetings or press conferences. It is about corruption, poverty, civil strives, low productivity, poor healthcare delivery, poor education, unemployment, armed-robbery, cyber fraud and poor infrastructure. These are only a few of the problems faced by people in our country.
These are the bane of our rapid development but not political partisanship. Many of these problems are caused by exclusion, fear, intimidation, broken infrastructure, mismanagement of public funds and resources, access to information, and blatant stealing with impunity. These are the hard problems to solve but, as Theodore Roosevelt said: Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain and difficulty. Theodore Roosevelt was an American statesman, sportsman, conservationist, and writer who served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909, after serving previously as the 25th Vice President of the United States from March to September 1901 and as the 33rd Governor of New York from 1899 to 1900.
Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency is distinguished by his dedication to prosecuting a domestic programme that embraced reform of the American workplace, government regulation of industry and consumer protection, with the overall aim of helping all classes of people. Roosevelt’s charismatic personality and impassioned combination of pounding fists and emphatic rhetoric undoubtedly helped in pushing his good political agenda. Having Ghana, been blessed with rich natural and human resources, we are handicapped with strong leadership. Our hunger for a strong leader with full political will, trust and independent power is still not quenched.
We openly fail to frown on illegalities caused by key politicians and big guns in the society. There is no silver bullet for fighting corruption. Many countries have made significant progress in curbing corruption, however practitioners are always on the lookout for solutions and evidence of impact. Effective law enforcement is essential to ensure that all corrupt personalities are punished in order to break the cycle of impunity, or freedom from punishment or loss. Successful enforcement approaches should be supported by a strong legal framework, law enforcement branches and an independent and effective court system. Reforms focusing on improving financial management and strengthening the role of auditing agencies have in many countries achieved greater impact than public sector reforms on curbing corruption.
One such reform is the disclosure of budget information, which prevents waste and misappropriation of resources. Countries which have been successful at curbing corruption have a long tradition of government openness, freedom of the press, transparency and access to information. Access to information increases the responsiveness of government and the state Institutions, while simultaneously having a positive effect on the levels of public participation in a country. Strengthening citizen’s demand for anti-corruption and empowering them to hold government accountable is a sustainable approach that can help to build mutual trust between citizens and government.
For example, community monitoring initiatives could contribute to the detection of corruption, reduce leakages of funds, and improve the quantity and quality of public services. Communities of like-minded individuals, working together, openly and freely sharing ideas and solutions for the benefit of others, are all essential if and only if we are determined to fight corruption. More often than not, progress towards a resolution happens faster and the underlying problems are solved better because of diversity. Ghana should be conceived and built around the idea of using openness, collaboration, and the citizenry to build a free resource of information and tools that will help people everywhere to create a better future for ourselves. It’s envisioned as a resource to identify and surface problems and bring together people to suggest, build, or assist in building solutions. Ghana is still in its germination phase.
As far as we keep on striving to develop, the biggest project at hand is Ghana’s Economic Problems itself, meaning the platform through which the entire country will initiate contributions to solve problems of the people in the country. It will be where challenges are described and where people will ask for help. A potential project scenario is that, through the platform, there are innumerable projects we potentially can undertake. For example, I recently read an article on the New York Times website, “Hackers Find Ideal Testing Ground for Attacks: Developing Countries”. This headline was not a surprise to me. Of course, developing countries would be fertile ground, as they face so many other challenges that digital security often falls by the wayside. While the article pins the increased threat in these countries on complete ignorance or lack of concern, I think it’s really because of poor awareness, education, tools, resources or misplaced priorities.
We need social media experts who can help us publicise the problems we identify, amplify the work being done, and share the solutions we create. The hope is that, as the results of our work reach more people and communities, it will encourage even more people to get involved. We need patriotic individuals who are willing to offer their time and skills. Patriots who enjoy solving hard problems, things that will not always be technically hard, but require creativity and new ways of thinking. We need people from all walks of life and from all professions to help solve our numerous economic problems but not political talks, show-offs, affluence and partisanship. Really, we need people who want to make a difference, people with passion, spirit, and drive and people who wish to leave Ghana in a better state than the one they were born into.
Ghana is suffering from so many serious problems. These are a consequence of the rapid rural-urban drift, a lack of capital to invest and a non-existent, very poor and/or outdated infrastructure. The towns and cities are saddled with collapsing infrastructure. Most of the towns do not have an infrastructure that is capable of dealing with the massive increases in population. In addition, we do not have sufficient funds available to maintain the little infrastructural facilities, let alone building new ones. Particular problems arise because of the inadequacy of the road and sewerage networks. Pollution of air, land and water is a major problem nationwide especially, in the cities. The drive to industrialisation brings with it inevitable problems, especially as legislation to protect the environment is often non-existent or rarely enforced.
Just recently, l had an interaction with a British national on Ghana’s sanitation problem. I bought into his suggestion that dumping of refuse should be free. Rather, the government can introduce sanitation levy on either consumption or elsewhere. Thereafter, the vulnerable will not subscribe to dumping in running waters and drains, so far as dumping is free. Moreover, there exist increased volume of traffic on poorly maintained roads. Water supply also becomes polluted due to the activities of illegal mining. Indeed, shanty towns display most problems typical of our country. On arrival at the city, it is most likely that the migrant will find himself or herself having to create his or her own shelter or live on the streets and in jungles. The shanty towns are likely to be found on inappropriate land.
Perhaps they are prone to flooding and earthquake zones increasing the chances of natural disasters. These kind of livelihood could be on a piece of land that has been badly polluted with filth. The shelters (popularly called kiosks or wood estates) are made of plywood and high population densities increase the risk of fire. The social amenities are predominantly non-existent or incapable of maintaining a basic standard of living. The lack of basic services like clean water supply, rubbish collection and sewerage disposal mean that the risks of disease are very high.
Lack of employment means that people have to look for other ways of making a living. On waste dump sites, children scavenge on refuse sites collecting cans for recycling, as well as being unpleasant, the risk of injury is very high and any cuts will become infected. Drugs have also taken a grip in many shanty towns in the cities. One fascinating factor of this drug menace is that they are peddled in the open central parts of the cities. It is extremely surprising to hear public discourse on the legalisation of marijuana (“wee” or Indian hemp). It seems we are dissatisfied with the copious natural resources found in Ghana.
Instead of our leadership using these resources efficiently to develop the country, they have been misused in this post colonial era. They are lobbying the citizenry to accept the legalisation of marijuana, can you imagine? Not far from today, public discourse on gayism and lesbianism will again resurface since they are acceptable in certain parts of this habitable planet. Something which is abhorrent in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats, we are employing all means possible to import them from the developed nations, instead of replicating their expertise, knowledge and actual development in our country. Solutions to any problem are made more difficult by the lack of available resources and the sheer scale of the problems faced.
Challenges in technology transfer faced by developing countries including Ghana is too worrying. A comprehensive action plan should be established as a mechanism to accelerate technology development and transfer. Due to the lack of an open price system, developing countries acquire technology at a price that does not reflect the real market value. The situation is inefficient, especially as developing countries operate on tight finances. Ghana, generally, is technically bankrupt in adopting high technologies. As a people, we have difficulty in understanding technology and utilizing it for the purposes of furthering economic development. We should provide a holistic service for technology and ensure that technology is successfully transferred and effectively applied to our environment. Due to the lack of technology and established investment channels, the country relies on exports of natural resources. These exports bring in minimal returns for the country. Additionally, we often miss opportunities for technological innovation, value addition and profit creation, by so doing we lag behind in the process of globalization.
At the current state of the nation, series of town hall meetings are not the antidote to the rampant economic problems bedeviling us. Demonising particular individuals of their qualifications, describing people’s intellect as pseudo and belittling political opponents cannot transform our nation from the third world status. The citizenry expectation is rapid industrialisation by employing advanced technology and halting the old and hackneyed methods of behaviour in this age of modern science and globalized world. This is nothing but technological deficiency that persists in our development practices and low productivity of Ghanaian labour count as the unsurmountable problems facing the current and previous governments.