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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Beloved, it is time for us to end partnership and to think together: An appeal after studying 2024 Budget Statement

I think of the Minister of Finance as an old friend, we are both progeny of the Legon Dons and share a common alma mater, though he was several years my senior.

I must confess that I never know what politicians think of me these days. Old friends have recently called me a terrorist; others say I am not neutral.

My response is always, so long as both NDC and NPP elements say my sympathies lie with their partisan rivals, I must be doing something right. The East African poet, Taban Lo Liyong once suggested that: Ambition swiftly grabs a man by the throat, and as soon as a man wears a crown, he forgets his hunger mates.

These parties differ in the sense of the cabals they present to contest for power. I am unconvinced that they differ much in terms of their fundamental attitudes to the neoliberal road. They both talk a lot and then take instructions from the IMF.

In the days ahead, there will be the usual chatter among the two main bourgeois camps of NPP and NDC.

The budget has taken over the news, and the flooding incident from the dam spillages has been forgotten.

The masses of Mepe and surrounding areas are on their own. Just like the villagers who endured the decimation from the explosive consequences of poor safety practices by a mining company.

In Ghana, the maximum attention span of the bourgeoisie along with the bourgeois media, where the suffering of the masses is concerned, is – I estimate – two weeks! The masses are on their own, the petite-bourgeoisie reign from shore to shore. Until one day the whole thing explodes.

I begin my actual comments on the budget by congratulating the Finance Minister. If all the numbers (except population growth), that I use in this write-up are from his statement, there is something to be said for transparency. I do not take this for granted. Thank you, Sir.

The saddening comment in the budget statement for me is: “THE STRUCTURE OF THE ECONOMY REMAINED UNCHANGED FROM PREVIOUS YEARS.” If we never make structural changes, how can we ever achieve structural improvements?

The budget gives a lot of food for thought, less for the stomach. It has a firm neoliberal focus, therefore its tone and narrative are buoyant and upbeat.

But many of its numbers are not. A glance a my admittedly random selection reveals this.

In 2023 we see these numbers among others. Industry shrunk by 2.2%. Our import cover is at 0.8% only. Non-oil real GDP growth is at 1.5% (in a country with a population growth of 1.94%, this is a real-life contraction!).

Food inflation in September, even if declining, is at 44.8%, which is very high for such a poor country.

We are told the banking sector is sound. At NPL levels of 18% in September, is this a valid assessment of reality? I ask a question here, I do not make a conclusion.

These 2.3 million jobs that are said to have been created, is the number net or gross? And can we be given a sector-by-sector breakdown?

Even more worrying for me is the outlook for the 2024-2027 time frame! Non-oil GDP growth is forecast, and that is only a forecast, at 2.1% growth. This is really just about the same as population growth!

Beloved, we are in trouble. The neoliberal road is not delivering and it has not delivered but we expect it to deliver soon. How is it possible to change our fate by doing the same things that got us into trouble over and over again?

It is time we put partisanship aside and really sit down together to figure out a better way to improve our society for the masses.

We must urgently improve livelihoods, or else, we are heading to the fire next time.

We can only do so by making structural changes that liberate and emancipate our productive forces. The tinkering around the edges we keep doing will deliver nothing!

Three decades in business means I have experience with sometimes facing very difficult situations. Things sometimes go wrong despite your best efforts. You can find yourself stuck in quicksand.

At such times, even the best in the world know it is time to put factionalism and petty rivalries aside and bring all heads to the table to help.

We are there now in Ghana. Who will be the voices of reason that can get a reasonable consensus on effective development approaches from our political class? That is the urgent question all people who love our country must answer. We simply cannot continue like this.

In the name of God, the unborn and our ancestors, I again make an appeal to Nana Akufo-Addo, and ask for help from the best thinkers in the country on development matters.

I can say no more. As always, I must stress that by thinkers, I do not refer only to the formally educated. Best wishes to us all.

Yaw Nsarkoh,
15 November 2023

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