Commentary | By Franklin Cudjoe | IMANI Center for Policy and Education.
As we will delve into the details of President Mahama’s speech and offer a comparative but didactic analysis, I’d like to say in the interim, that a greater part of his speech sounded as though he was delivering a financial statement and made quite an effort listing as many villages and hamlets that had some form of bearing on what every government will ordinarily do- provide some drinking water or feeder road and hope.
Some parts of his speech were edifying, patriotic but lofty, as the ideals he espouses for all to emulate in order to rise from the current ashes of economic and leadership decadence seemed in reality a pale shadow of what is currently being practiced in government. Still some parts of his speech were draped in his usual sarcastic and cheeky tone – such as that reference perhaps to the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) for publishing what he perceives to be overly cynical concerning his office being the second most corrupt institution in Ghana, when according to him institutions such as the IEA should be publishing academic papers and sharing their research findings for development.
It does seem to me that the President has forgotten that institutions such as the IEA are like a stage for theatres – They play out what political office holders perform and advice on how to avoid their plays ending tragically and depressing our collective lives in the process. The President cannot be holding himself as a democrat yet has problems with his cynical citizens. Cynicism is wise especially if it is based on faulty leadership that lacks the urgency to deal with the basics of life. Cynicism is better expressed through words and tomes of advice than fisticuffs.
If the President wants to avoid the form of cynicism, he could start with the below:
- He should reverse the Interconnect Clearing House project to terminate our calls through a reclusive entity with doubtful intentions whilst imposing additional taxes on telecom services that already exist. He should call for greater clarity in regulating the telecoms industry as the industry is virtually dying with only two out of six operators try to break even.
- He should not be encouraging borrowing at expensive rates such as 8% to ‘invest’ in an infrastructure fund when we had idle government assets that could have been collaterised to raise a $1bn for the infrastructure fund.
- He should ensure that critical value for money audits is conducted on all publicly financed projects under the aegis of the government to prevent procurement fraud and duplication of efforts.
- He should also support Ghanaians to prevent abuse of the purse especially payroll fraud and a non-performing Auditor-General to give hope in our quest to fight corruption.
- As we have signed a $1bn IMF Balance of Payment Deal with the IMF, he should ensure that it does not become a trump card for reckless borrowing. He should see to it that the greatest option we have as a country going into an election with an IMF deal to match is for greater political dialogue.
- The trade unions and indeed Ghanaians will have to hear different uplifting ideas on how to end the economic mess. They will fancy recouping at least Ghc3bn of looted funds in various scams. This could buy hope for the government.
- The political parties must be influenced even externally to keep the peace in all instances. Internally we must force political dialogues and the President must lead this charge.
- He should see civil society as partners and not enemies. Civil society must ensure the next election is issue-driven, but only when they have the manifestos of political parties six months in advance.
- Beef up the country’s security. It will not be enough to have weapon-less Policemen and women guarding important buildings and senior officers.
- Civil Society will like the President’s support to press on with public interest litigation that will force non-performing institutions to sit up.
- We need an integrated national ID system that could have multiple uses. Perhaps, we need to talk to Nigeria and MasterCard on how to get it a national ID project right. The country must have control of the data and local content policies must ensure at least a 30% partnership 30%-70% partnership with any foreign company.
- We truly need a deregulated upstream and downstream petroleum sector. Those oil blocs purchased by questionable characters for less now face herculean task developing the blocs. The bill for developing each one costs upwards of $100m but now more difficult with lower oil prices. The downstream petroleum sector needs total deregulation to avoid price fixing by the National Petroleum Authority
- Finally, the President should desist from making governance look like it can only be delivered by the government. The Private Sector has a stake and the President must encourage a new approach to the public-private partnership to go beyond the talk to real partnership. It should be possible for the private sector to take up most service delivery in the public sector which currently delivers with red tape and less productivity.
I wish the President well. He should do his part, leading on more critical areas of the economy and leave the rest to us Ghanaians.
Franklin Cudjoe is CEO and Executive Director of IMANI Center for Policy and Education.
One way to keep in touch with IMANI