Government, private sector urged to strategise

Business News of Thursday, 13 July 2017



Ha JoonDr Ha-Joon Chang, Director of the Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge

Government has been advised to engage the private sector and academia to design a Ghanaian version of workable economic strategies and policies that helped developed economies of the West and Asia to reach their current advanced status.

“The truth is that you need communication between government and the private sector to know exactly what is needed for the industries to grow and become more competitive across the country,” Dr Ha-Joon Chang, Director of the Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge, UK, declared.

Dr Chang, who is in the country at the instance of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), was interacting with the media in Accra a day before delivering a lecture on the topic, “Destiny or Policy? – Development prospects for Ghana.”

Modify to achieve targets

Dr. Chang said there were no developed countries that practised a strict economic policy like protectionism or free trade.

He indicated that even countries like Korea and the USA have some exceptions.

“There are no countries that have practised either of these types of economic policies. Countries like North Korea do not only have protectionism and the United States does not have total free trade. There are sectors that are protected,” he said.

“So you have to approach it on a case by case basis, I don’t think that uniform policy, whether protectionism or free trade, I do not think it works,” he added.

‘One district, One factory’

Answering a question on the ‘One District, One Factory’ policy of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr. Chang observed that the policy might not be as strange as it might sound, adding that developing countries were not used to such forms of development.

He, however, indicated that having factories in these areas might actually expose people to how the economy evolved, adding that they would in turn realize the different ways of life and how to make a living.

Time factor

Dr. Chang, who touched on time keeping, said Korea used to have the phrase ‘Korean Time’ just like the country’s ‘Ghana time’ phrase, where people could be late for about an hour to an event without having to apologize.

But he said through the development of the economy and industries, which affected the way people lived that cliché is no more.

“So it is more about developing the economy, and people themselves begin to live in a certain way and not about the government telling them what to do. It does not work at that level,” he stated.

Alternative approaches

The economist also advocated alternative ways of developing the Ghanaian economy rather than following a particular ‘ideal’ economic development plan.

According to Dr. Chang, instead of going the way of other developed countries, Ghana should approach its economic development process by identifying the industries it wants to promote and the kind of policies that will be needed to develop those industries.

“Sometimes the conclusion will be yes, we need tariffs. At other times, it will be local training or research and development,” he said.

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