Ghana: A Multi-party National Development Agenda Urgently Needed
Feature Article of Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Columnist: Owusu, Stephen Atta
Since the first republic, any government that ruled Ghana and her people came with its own development plan. Due to this any government that unseats an incumbent government comes with her own development agenda and most of the time neglects the development agenda of the former government. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, came to power with the ambition to modernize Ghana. He built infrastructure like buildings, road network, the Tema Harbour and the Akosombo Dam which was the major energy supply to all the factories he established. He encouraged farmers to produce more, and all workers and those in the Workers brigade to take delight in hard work, in what he code-named, “Work and Happiness”. Nkrumah drew up development plans along the lines of the socialist countries. His most ambitious was the 7-Year Development Plan which he had started when he was overthrown. All these fine ambitions were destroyed when he was overthrown in a military coup. The NLC cancelled that plan and terminated most (but not all) of the activities. The infrastructure he was building grounded to a halt. Most of the factories were closed down and the silos he built at Tema to store grains became a white elephant as the military government came up with their own political agenda.
When Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia came to power his major development agenda was to develop the rural communities, providing them with electricity, better road access, a serious attempt to control the population growth, and many more. When he was overthrown in a military coup, his ideas were jettisoned and never continued. Only the family planning program continued with some half-hearted support. This rejection of former government’s projects has continued until the present day. It is expedient that concrete steps are taken in order to make sure that a project once begun by one government must compulsorily be continued by an incoming government.
There must be a multi-party national development agenda in Ghana in much the same way as in most European countries, specifying goals and objectives over the short-, medium- and long-terms. Political parties will not need to campaign in an election by announcing the major projects they intend to put in place when voted into power. All development projects should be vested in a National Development Planning Commission that will be created. Every government in power must continue and bring to completion all uncompleted projects by former governments. New projects can be selected from the commission and tackled by the government in power. A party can be retained in power depending upon how well it tackles development projects in the national plan.
It must be the job of the national development commission to forge the plans, working with all stakeholders, including the political parties, state and parastatal enterprises as well as private and civil sector interest groups. Most notably the various think tanks, independent and those with ties to specific political parties must be participants. The commission will chart the overall path the country will take.
Once the national development commission is firmly in place, parties elected to power over a legislative period should commit to meet the objectives and goals specified in the plans (short, medium and long term). Our politicians seem to be preoccupied with seeking to maximize their personal gains rather than keeping the interests of the nation at heart. The government in power must work to improve the lives of the people through the provision of infrastructure, health, education, basic amenities, in addition to undertaking measures to create jobs, guaranteeing basic rights and freedoms of the individual.
There must be more transparency on the part of political and government outfits as far as dissemination of information regarding policies, goals and level of performance/achievement are concerned. Special attention must be given to certain key sectors including Health, Education, Job creation and Environment.
The idea of development plans is now outmoded but if we should bring it back, such a plan should NOT be a party plan but one drawn up by the National Development Commission to be set up, debated and approved by parliament. This way, it will not be linked to any one party. The constitution must then be reviewed to include the formation, activities and functions of the commission. Projects to be selected must be subject to intense debate and discussion by all interest groups. The main motive is to approve only development projects that will accelerate Ghana’s determination towards becoming a middle income economy.
The stakeholders must ensure that all aspects of development that should be included must be thoroughly explored. Most of the projects to be selected should be what the ordinary Ghanaian can identify with. For example, rural electrification, construction of highways to connect all the regions, aviation and many more. Projects that are vested in the commission can be changed or amended to suit current or modern trends because what is planned in a year may not be feasible five years later. Planned projects must therefore be reviewed continuously within a certain time frame. The decision to change or amend a project must be effectively discussed by all concerned until a consensus is reached. It must be strictly embedded in the constitution that no government in power will have the right to make any changes to the plan. This will solely be the duty of those who planned the projects. The changes or amendments will then be submitted to parliament for approval.
The underlying principle is that any government formed by any party should be limited in what it can do or not do because all governments must follow a certain development plan that has already been laid down. For example, If the national development commission plans a state university for Takoradi, then that university MUST be built. Another government cannot come and say it wants that university to be built rather in Bolgatanga. The same thing goes for roads, hospitals, water supply, etc. Governments should not have too much power to decide where development projects will be cited. All they have to do is to implement projects that the national commission has decided. Specific governments can decide the manner in which specific projects laid down in the national development plan can best be carried out but they cannot decide not to carry out that project.
When all projects are vested in the national development commission, unhealthy competition, suspension of former government projects and unrealistic manifestos will be things of the past. We are a country in a hurry to provide the vital needs of the people. We cannot continue experimenting with drastically different programs of different partisan governments!
Written by: Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads