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Uneducated citizenry is like a pitch any game can be played on it. Illiteracy is what has given the politicians in Ghana the chance to fool so many people for so a long a time.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ghana: Making Sense of our Democracy

The status of Ghana as an emerging democracy has been acknowledged worldwide. This democracy has come with peace and stability that has made Ghana the darling of her neighbours and the international community. The recent outstanding performance of the Black Stars in the 2010 Fifa world cup in South Africa has added to the worldwide view that Ghana is on the path of greatness. However, the stability and peace that the democracy has brought the nation has not translated into economic and social development.

The essence of democracy is to elect leaders who will manage the country to provide security, energy, housing, education, health and telecommunication infrastructures that the citizens can take advantage of to improve their living conditions. Many who have engaged in the democratic process have done so with the hope that democracy will usher in not only liberty, freedom of speech and assembly but also economic prosperity. But the people who have been running Ghana since the day the Fourth Republican Constitution came into operation seem to have forgotten this simple meaning of democracy.

More than 16 years since the first ballot was cast and 53 years after independence the life of many Ghanaians has stagnated if not retrogressed to pre-independence state. The inequality and the poverty gap between those who govern and the governed is everywhere for all to see. This is evidenced in the number of people working as street vendors including children who work as head potters in our cities instead of being in the classroom. There is a sense of anger and frustration among the populace as is indicated by the growing number of unruly behaviour of the so called foot soldiers of the NDC youth with their incessant seizing of toilets, locking up NHIS offices and constant calling of District Chief Executives to be fired. These activities suggest that the people are not benefiting from our democracy. The only people who seem to have benefited from our democracy are the politicians who go home every four years with fat ex-gratia payments while majority of the people live in squalid conditions. Take E. T. Mensah for example. Since 1992 he has been representing Ningo Prampram as an MP and going home with ex-gratia every four years while many people in his constituency can neither read nor write and lack the basic necessities of life including water, electricity and housing. The expensive and cosy sport utility vehicles (Land Cruisers etc) that has come to represent the taste of NDC and NPP politicians does not reflect the harsh economic life being experienced by majority of the people especially those in the rural areas who live in mud houses roofed with raffia and bamboo leafs and without water and electricity.

Slowly we are missing the opportunity to develop and to add quality and value to the lives of our people. Since 1992 the various governments that have governed Ghana have not been able to take advantage of the peace and stability provided by our democracy to formulate and implement the necessary policies to transform Ghana’s economy to enable Ghanaians to benefit directly. A critical look at every sector of the country: education, energy, transportation, health and waste management reveal a state of organised disorder. The simple truth is that many of the people who have placed so much hope in democracy have been betrayed not by democracy as a system but by those elected to lead them to economic freedom.

This is very dangerous for the continuous existence of democracy itself. People cannot continue to cast their votes every four years and continue to live in the same pre-colonial conditions without jobs, proper housing, electricity, roads, farming equipments and access to water and sanitation. People cannot vote every four years while they continue to live on two dollars a day. That is not democracy. Democracy must come with liberty, economic empowerment, social development and improvement in the overall quality of life of the people. This has not happened in Ghana more than sixteen years of democratic governance and over fifty years of independence.

From the look of things it seems the obstacles to Ghana’s economic independence are the politicians who are trapped in their narrow view of state management. Despite promises of a better Ghana and jobs for the youth nothing seem to have changed, courtesy the politicians who are going round the circle unable to work out a solution for the nation’s many problems.

The people who vote must have something to live up to if they can continue to support the democratic efforts of the state. Therefore, the promises and pledges that characterise our elections must be transformed into actions and deeds. The broken promises and the politics of the same on the part of those who govern must stop before apathy sets in.

We must act now and make good use of our peace, stability and democracy if we want to avoid any cataclysmic political upheaval in future. I want to offer this piece of advice.

First of all, Ghanaians need strategic leaders with the ability to vision and ability to bring the vision into reality. Those who manage state institutions must be strategic thinkers who can formulate good policies and implement them to bring positive change. The begging mentality (i.e. the focus on aid development model) that continues to permeate those who live in the Osu Castle must give way to a more ingenious ways of state management that has as its focus the attraction of foreign investment, promotion of trade, support for indigenous producers, farmers, the promotion of local entrepreneurial development and the building, renovating and expanding of the economic and social infrastructures in the country i.e. energy, roads, rail lines, harbours, telecommunication, silos, canals, schools and hospitals. Therefore the politics that has come to define our education (3 years for NDC, 4 year for NPP) must give way to a non-partisan approach to problem solving.

Secondly, evidence from Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and China has shown that a country’s economic growth, human development and poverty reduction strength are dependent on her technological development. Therefore, if we are to make sense of our 53 years of independence and over sixteen years of democracy; if we are to take advantage of the current favourable political climate and make it a force for good and a force for development, then a ground work for export-driven industrial economy must be laid through the adoption of a comprehensive export-driven industrial strategy. Such a strategy must make the development and acquisition of advanced technologies a priority so as to take advantage of the huge unexploited natural resources in the country, to increase production, and create wealth for the people. Why should our child-bearing women continue to carry their children on their back in this African heat when we can adopt technology to build pushchairs/prams for them? Why should we continue to wash our cloths with our hands when we could adopt the technology to build washers to save us precious time? Why should we continue to sleep in darkness when we could adopt the technology to convert solar energy into electricity? Why should our farmers continue to farm with cutlasses and hoes when we could adopt advanced farming technologies to increase yield and reduce hunger and poverty in the countryside? Adoption of advanced technology will help to move millions from poverty as has been done in China and in India.

Added to the above point is the fact that Ghana cannot continue to depend on the export of some few raw materials while the population continues to increase almost exponentially. Ghana cannot remain agrarian if we are to solve the teeming unemployment problem, eradicate poverty, hunger and improve the overall quality of life in the country. The policymakers must device ingenious schemes and work assiduously to diversify Ghana’s economy by shifting emphasis from the current reliance on raw material export to manufacturing, service, and knowledge based economy. The diversification of the economy will not only help the nation expand her revenue base but will also lead to increased production, create more jobs and protect the country from the shocks that always threaten the vivacity of our economy.

Lastly, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning must be told in plain language that lowering inflation alone will not meet the aspirations of unemployed Ghanaians who are looking for jobs. The National Development Planning Commission and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning must live up to their names and build some credibility for themselves as institutions tasked with planning the nation’s development. These institutions must think strategically and device strategies with inbuilt policy priorities that will revive defunct firms, create jobs and put money in the pockets of the people.

I want to conclude by saying that if Ghanaians are to make sense of democracy, cherish its values and ideals; if indeed democracy is to thrive in Ghana, and if Ghana is to continue to serve as the guiding light for the rest of Africa, then more must be done to improve the economic well-being of the people, for democracy without economic and social development is a catalyst for chaos.

By Lord Aikins Adusei*

*The author is a political activist and anti corruption campaigner. His e-mail is politicalthinker1@yahoo.com

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