“As a start, we have to do things differently to realise this goal of a Ghana beyond aid. Business, as usual, will not do it. It cannot happen by waving a magic wand. And it cannot be achieved overnight. Indeed, the most rapid cases of economic and social transformation in history, those in South East Asia, generally spanned a period of 30 years; about a generation. We cannot wait any longer; we have wasted enough time already. It is time to get on with it, and the time is now”. Nana AddoDankwaAkuffo-Addo (2018)
I have never analysed a Presidential speech before because it is not my strongest skill, however, I love to read. Yes, I love reading and writing and I take a lot of inspiration from speeches of great leaders. Sometimes, I go on YouTube and listen to speeches of great men like Mandela, Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther, among others and the most recent leader whose speech inspires me is Barack Obama; he is a great orator. He has a way with words and knows how to tap into the mood and emotions of the people and easily connects with his audience. Michelle Obama, his wife is also another wonderful public speaker. In Ghana, all our presidents in the fourth republic have given one splendid speech or the other. Analyses from experts suggest that our current President stands tall among them.
In other societies, speeches of leaders are meant to inspire hope, confidence and boost the morale of the people to pursue things for the greater good of the society. Premium is placed on speeches because, in most instances, these societies have experienced leaders who have kept their words, have sought the collective interest of their society and as such, they are held accountable for every single word they utter. They know that, at least, 70% – 90% of the time, they can trust the words of their leaders. So I am happy when I hear someone reiterating the phrase “I am a citizen and not a spectator”. That tells us how powerful the words of a leader are and they are held accountable for it.
Your Excellency, in this country, we have had leaders who lie to us in our face. They hide behind technicalities and laws and think that we are not discerning enough to decipher what is happening. Our leaders over the years, have treated us like a spare tire. They visit us during elections with all the juicy promises and come back when another election is due. This is the experience we have had since the inception of the 4th Republic. So it is natural for us to be cynical.
Mr President, in terms of the economic policy and direction of this country, we have had so many, in fact, it is left with only two years for us to get to the year 2020 and yet we as a people do not have any idea the state of that vision which was trumpeted around 1995.
In fact, in our development trajectory, we have had as many policy slogans as there can be. In the 80s, our country pursued policies such as Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) and even PAMSCAD. All these policies were meant to put our economy back on track and propel growth and development. The end result was increasing levels of inequality among the people, low standard of living and the others. To pave a way for a long-term growth for our country, the NDC government launched Vision 2020 around 1995. This developmental blueprint was shot down when power changed hands in the year 2001. In fact, MrOsafoMaafo is on record to have said that, the vision 2020 was dead and that the country will pursue vision 2010 (30th September 2001 on GTV, Kwaku one-on-one).
President Kufuor took over and managed to grow the economy to 8.4% in 2008. Mr President, I agree with you that, economic transformation is not a “nine days’ wonder”. It is a conscientious effort on the part of the leaders of the country to pursue long-term structural policies geared towards achieving a near-constant growth rate over a long period of time but, unfortunately, the new government pursued a different policy with the slogan “Better Ghana Agenda”; that was indeed a catchy phrase. However, recorded a growth rate of 4.8% in the following year. Along the line, a new National Development Commission was inaugurated in 2015 by the former administration and their focus was to develop a 40-year development plan. The first day I heard of a 40-year development plan, I was perplexed. Why will a country like Ghana go on such a tangent but alas, we did work on a 40-year development plan. In their attempt to give it a national character, a lot of consultations were done.
Characteristically of us, a change in government meant a change in everything including the caretakers of public toilets. Yes, this is Ghana for you, we are so petty. Mr Osafo Maafo during his vetting stated emphatically that we did not need a 40-year development plan. He was of the view that, it is not prudent to plan in excess of 10 years.
Your Excellency, our problem is this; we have leaders who are inconsistent managing our inconsistent economic policies. I think the only constant word there is inconsistent. What we lack is the spirit and the will to pursue a long-term economic policy. Can we imagine a Ghana pursuing the same economic policy with a standard blueprint since 1992? It would have been 26 years of being consistent irrespective of the political party in power.
Your Excellency, it is evident that we have never been consistent with our economic growth and development agenda. Any Growth Economist will tell you that, a country who wants to change the economic fundamentals of its country pursues structural policies. Structural policies as you are aware are long-term economic policies. These policies do not win elections within the 4-years or even 8-years because they take time to bear fruits. So over the years, what we have done is to pursue stabilization policies. Stabilization policies are short-term in nature and serve the interest of the politician.
The truth is, we have not been consistent with our own developmental and economic growth policies, our leaders have been self-centred thinking about leaving a personal legacy instead of pursuing the long-term economic policy for the country. So I can prophesy Mr President, that if there is a change of government in 2020 or 2024, your agenda of “Ghana beyond Aid” will vanish into thin air and that new government will also come with another catchy phrase. It is sad, but that is the truth.
So forgive us, Mr President, if we are being cynical, unlike in other countries where their leadership exhumes some level of credibility, ours have never been like that. Most of our leaders get into political office to enrich themselves and their families. Our style of politics has led to widening gap between the rich and the poor. Interestingly, I once saw a picture of a small footbridge constructed by the Member of Parliament and he shamelessly had his name on it (Yes, this is the Ghanaian politician, so petty. They use your money to construct roads for you and think they have done you a favour. Let me not digress). In fact, GLSS 6 indicated that 46.3% of Ghanaians think that government do not take their views in terms of the governance process. With this statistics, we should not be surprised when the people are cynical towards our leaders. You the leaders have made it so.
Mr. President, can we start by working on ourselves as leaders of the country to stand by our words, can we stop taking the people for granted, can we pursue a path of winning back the confidence of the populace, can we put the people at the centre of our policies and agenda? It should not be rhetoric; it should be seen in action. I have a strong believe that Ghanaians know you mean well but you will need to go the extra mile to restore the lost confidence in our society. The people in our society have grown to be self-centred; individual interest tends to over-ride that of the country.
Our slogan has changed from “Yen ara ye asaaseni” to “Me ara me asaaseni”. To me, a “Ghana beyond Aid” should be people driven, there should be a conscious effort to make it part of our system. The concept and its content should be introduced to our school children, it should be talked about by the barber, the Makola trader, the banker, the hairdresser and every individual in the country. It should not be about big words; it should be made simple with a properly laid down plan to get us there. To me, when policies are driven by the people, subsequent leaders have no choice than to follow suit. This is the work to do, Mr President. Till that time, kindly forgive us, if we are cynical because “y3 nimmo politicians firitete” translated “we have known you politicians for a long time”.