Ghana Is Not A Banana Republic

Ghanaians are rightly full of complaints today mainly because of infrequent water and electricity supplies; inadequate health facilities; falling educational standards and chronic absence of jobs.

They rightly blame those in authority but many do not realise that they helped to put the authority there and are responsible for a lot that is going wrong.

And so let us spend a little time to examine our duty and role as citizens so that hopefully we may forswear our wayward ways and make life better for us all.

There will certainly be shortage of water if we raze down homes which house six people and replace them with tall buildings for sixty.

We argue that prime land should not be wasted when our main reason is to make money. Therefore, we bribe our way through for plans to be changed or ignored.

Meanwhile those who are responsible for water do not ensure that those in the skyscrapers have water.

They also appear to ignore population explosion. It is the same for electricity.

Generally we try the individual approach to solve nagging national problems.

We acquire generators to escape the consequences of electricity failure and send our children to private schools so that they can read and write simple English, the official language, after finishing junior school, while the bulk of the population cannot adequately manage the native tongue or local language after six years at school.

Instead of our making our health facilities second to none, we support medical treatment abroad for those in authority who should improve our health delivery system.

Reliance on health facilities outside Ghana epitomises our growing lack of self-confidence. There is euphoria when countries which are not superior to us in technical ability and natural resources come to tell us that they are coming to invest in Ghana and become development partners! We seem to look outside for economic and social development.

But the disarray and flight of self-reliance provide no excuse for visitors to abuse our hospitality and meddle “by heart” with an air of superiority in our affairs. For example, the Israeli ambassador was reported to have publicly criticised Ghana’s invitation to the Iranian Head of State to visit the country.

What impudence! Ghana is a sovereign state and has the right to fashion her own foreign policy and not sheepishly follow even friendly countries.

Foreigners may comment on our policies but hostile comments by ambassadors indicate disrespect and are not acceptable in the comity of nations.

The Foreign Minister, Ms Tetteh, should be congratulated on her rebuke of the ambassador. Perhaps Ghana should have asked for her recall in accordance with normal diplomatic practice.

We should, however, realise that our behaviour suggests that Ghana is a banana republic which can be tossed about by foreign entities.

We should acknowledge our shortcomings and resolve to put things right principally by our own efforts. That is the only way of achieving respect, self-confidence and greatness.

We can arrest the present drift by well-articulated plans for economic development which will provide jobs for school leavers and graduates to make the country prosperous.

A plan which does not favour particular groups in implementation will encourage substantial Ghanaian investment in the country.

At present Ghanaians with means have not many avenues to invest their money mainly because there is no clearly-defined development plan.

Building or establishing estates yield good returns and many are engaged in that enterprise. It is generally believed that the huge flats we see around are financed by Nigerians.

Nigerians may be in the m­arket but Ghanaians are also in the building business.

I believe there are Ghanaians who can invest US$200,000 or more in ventures or projects if we stop looking outside only for investment and encourage the people to invest in diverse areas and work for their own prosperity.

This brings us back to the problems of electricity, water and the like and the institutions and attitude of those charged to deal with those issues.

The Ghanaian will think twice before investing at home with the present performance of our institutions and their officials. We have adequate institutions to run the country.

And those who man them are well-trained. In my time you leave the university and you are thrown into the administrative and technical pool to swim or drown. Today our professionals and technical experts are well-trained and are better-equipped than we were. There is hardly anyone in a major institution with only a first degree.

Many have gathered extensive experience here and outside. But output leaves much to be desired. We have the men and women with admirable qualifications. What is achieved, however, is often depressing.

The death of Theodore Aboah reminds me of how low we have sank in managing the affairs of the country. We do not look well after our resources let alone take advantage of what we have.

Today, we have highly-qualified accountants but the country’s accounts are not well-kept and are often late. Prah, the first Accountant-General rose through the ranks.

Accounts were in those days published on time and anomalies including those of auditing were dealt with promptly. E.T. Aboah was my “accountant” when I was Principal Secretary in Flagstaff House.

I was Accounting Officer but I knew hardly anything about Accountancy. Aboah worked under me but he was my mentor in accounting. He knew the financial regulations and other rules well and advised me accordingly. In those days there was discipline and no one was above the rules.

Also, I had funds which were not subject to auditing. But public funds were public funds and should be properly accounted for. E.T. Aboah helped me to use those funds for the purpose for which they were released. Even though he knew the funds were not subject to auditing he did not misapply a pesewa.

What has happened to Ghana? Are there no more Aboahs? Public Accounts reports before Parliament make depressing reading.

I am afraid until our highly-qualified professionals and functionaries do their work with dedication and devotion as the not-so-qualified Aboahs did, the country will continue to be in disarray and many will not be happy.

Complaints and moaning will not solve the problem. We whose taxes pay state functionaries should demand service as of right.

We should support the disciplinary code of the various institutions and demand punishment where appropriate, irrespective of family, party, ethnic or school connections.

The old hierarchical nature of composite administration should be maintained. High technical or professional qualification should not confer independence from administrative structures? Yes, things may not be good. But they can only improve if we say no to indolence and indiscipline and thoughtless institutional independence.

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