In spite of huge skepticism surrounding a proposed National Economic Forum, mainly from the camp of the opposition NPP, Kweku Baako Jnr. Editor-In-Chief of the New Crusading Guide newspaper remains optimistic that something useful can come out of it.
The veteran journalist believes although it could amount to a talk shop, government “can’t act without [first] talking”.
Government is set to host seasoned economists, former finance ministers, former governors of the Bank of Ghana and a fleet of experts and politicians to discuss some nagging economic problems on Tuesday.
Ghana’s economy has been battered by currency depreciation, stifled by economic deficit and strangled by a lack of funds to implement projects. Parliamentarians are crying over funds they need from government to develop their constituencies while District Assemblies are deep in debt.
Ghana’s fiscal problems have been described as a crisis by the opposition but has been deemed a challenge by government.
The Member of Parliament for Akwapim South, Osei Bonsu Amoah, last Thursday, scoffed at what he says is a clandestine move by government to use the non-partisan economic forum to solicit views on the way out of the ‘self-imposed economic mess’.
Gabby Otchere Darko summed up this view on Joy FM’s Newsfile, branding the government a ‘talkcracy’ and the forum a “PR gimmick” despite real difficulties.
But Kweku Baako refrained from criticism, stating governments over the years have held non-partisan economic forums to chart a path for the nation.
He said the National Democratic Congress (NDC) under Rawlings in 1997, the National Development Planning Commission organised a similar forum aimed at “achieving national consensus”.
He said the benefit of that meeting was that opposition to a controversial VAT proposal, which was accepted by the government.
President Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) followed suit in 2001 and in 2002 by having a National Economic Dialogue. According to Mr. Baako, “some recommendations were implemented”.
Fast forward to 2014, the Editor-In-Chief said although the upcoming forum was important, many solutions to Ghana’s problems have already been documented.
In view of this, the focus for such a forum should be why Ghanaian managerial quality is so poor and economic handlers so undisciplined, he suggested.
“There is nothing that we don’t know…what is lacking is that requisite quality of management and discipline…and issues that have bedeviled our fiscal discipline”.
The lack of fiscal discipline is an all-too familiar theme in Ghana’s economic development. Especially during an election year, governments very often overspend for political gain to the detriment of economic stability.
In recent times, the 2012 Vice Presidential candidate of the opposition New Patriotic Party has revealed the lack of fiscal discipline by governments since independence has affected the value of the cedi relative to the dollar by some 2 million per cent.
Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has also called for the passage of a Fiscal Responsibility Act by parliament to regulate government spending.