Politicians who have the courage to point to their achievements in the last fifty years may have to do a serious retrospection. In most instances they have been able to hoodwink us all into believing they would deliver. Pitifully, our countryside folks fall for their gimmicks and later to be marginalized from the hobnob of creative enterprise.
But they glow with gratitude during elections when they get the chance to exact their voting rights worth; maize, salt, cooking oil, chicken thighs, building materials and party T-shirts.
But these political baits are the very things they would have been able to create or purchase if their travails and produce from mother earth were recognized, just as it was easy for a bureaucrat to see his pay check accumulate with raises, even when the general health of the economy is not in very good shape.
I’m not talking of a recognition that begins and ends with huge rallies to award a myriad of subsistence farmers for doing so well to remain subsistence. I am talking about the ability to hire and fire those who they entrust their taxes, hopes and aspirations to. Aspirations that stem from economic competition, decentralized decision making and build innovative solutions to our prehistoric farming culture, hopes that cuddle the aged even into their graves and taxes that help in opening up the countryside to tenths of subsistence agricultural produce.
But having been gatekeepers of national resources and a five-decade long penchant for aggressive wide-eyed policies of chasing free dollars abroad, the desire to look within for redemption from poverty appears to be light years away.
Poor people’s taxes in the rich western world have been mollycoddle into donor driven agencies freely given in the hope that all will trickle to the poor. But much of these funds far from being phantom aid, were supposed to go into agriculture production. But how much have we not sunk into agricultural projects without a careful thought on marketing the produce? How much have we not sunk into poverty alleviation projects without due diligence, monitoring and evaluation?
In truth, not all the IMF/World Bank reforms yielded nothing. Poor evaluation, deliberate weakening of oversight institutions and profligate spending on the part of beneficiary countries meant little of the gains was left for diversifying the economy. We have had our own experience with how gains from Structural Adjustment and Economic Recovery Programmes, even if they were minimal as some may argue, were not used properly to diversify our agrarian-based economy. Sadly, when the first energy crisis hit us in the late 90s we could not keep up. It was worsened by the financial crisis that hit Asia.
The world has learnt very little from this betrayal. The providers of the aid dollars are happy to keep their jobs of fighting poverty; so their ability to dole out aid dollars usually means they are doing so well. Even the World Bank admitted that the more aid they gave, the more they saw poverty increase. Sadly they say, they have no choice but to keep on giving. Recent happenings within the World Bank points to this efficiency problem.
So, here we are, with a political party that began well, reversing the misfortunes that plagued our economy under previous governments. However, it began trumpeting its relative success and then stood still while receiving accolades from far and near. But the bolts were soon to come off the wheels carrying the past glories and plunged everyone, who wanted political change into a deep, distracting energy crisis. This has left close to 35% of businesses either out of operation or beating the pathway of high operational costs due to usage of electronic generators.
But having correctly blamed the previous government for the energy crisis, Ghanaians now are being asked to turn to God- Apparently He is responsible for the shortage of rain to atone for our sins. The good thing though is, the anti-development alarmist slogan of Climate Change is not being cited as the culprit.
Humour aside, one can only describe as disturbing, a future that less than a year ago looked brighter but has under the aegis of political naivety began an avalanche of reverses due to the current energy crisis.
Even if it seems sensible that the current administration should suffer electoral defeats for such punishable oversight, the question to ask is, whom are they handing over to? The alternatives staring us come with a baggage. Some say Socialism is the new kid on the bloc as Latin America is immersed in it. Then there is social democracy. Apostles of this version of political creed, argue that it is better to stay in the middle than being extreme right or extreme left–but that’s a confused formula for running an economy- one can predict with certainty that the scales would turn toward more centralist planning as has been with countries that practiced social democracy. Winston Churchill is instructive here-“The inherent vice of capitalism is the uneven division of blessings, while the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal division of misery.”
Whatever choices we make, we must be able to find lasting solutions to the energy problem. Some have reasonably argued for nuclear energy because it is cheap, efficient and less dangerous. Others want nature-solar and wind energy. Ultimately, it is the leaders of the day who need to be convinced of the reason
If only the current leadership and their successors will accept that politics is not magic, but an art that could win over hearts and minds of people with the right choices, choices that give opportunity to every one to excel, choices that accommodate dissenting opinions, choices that reward innovation and enterprise, choices that allow ordinary people to say what form of enlightened government they want, ultimately that would be the voice of truth, light and economic growth. The contrary is deceit, darkness and economic depression.
Franklin Cudjoe is director of Imani, a Ghanaian think-tank. He has spoken severally on four continents. He is currently speaking across the United States. Send him an email at franklin (-at-) imanighana.org