So, I hear our President will from today begin assessing his appointees. Well, he has the right to do that, but unfortunately nothing will change even if we reshuffled ministers every month until we reform the entire machinery of governance, by investing in over all national capacity to deliver RESULTS instead of paying salaries (how can 93% of budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Education go into consumption, as in paying salaries and wages and ONLY 7% for investment into expanding infrastructure in 2014?)
As you know, Mr. President, Ghana remains too susceptible to price cycles of specific raw materials on the international economy. To diversify the economy away from this over-dependence on a few commodities and still provide jobs beyond the imports-fuelled informal retail and services sector, we will need to see growth in overall national capacity which cannot be fixed with quick fixes.
If we are to make a detour from the most dramatic and frightening slow-down in the reform effort over the last three decades this country has seen, then we must avoid the following.
Mr. President, I present to you the IMANI’S 17 FIRST STEPS AND GAPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL PRESIDENCY IN GHANA:
- The government spends nearly all the money it collects on paying wages of its employees, and has little left to invest in building this capacity. But its employees also include doctors, teachers, nurses and sanitation workers, all categories of labour of which more not less are needed. So how is the government going to pay for all these workers when already their wages are making it impossible for it to invest in the facilities they need to build their capacity? So for example, for many years we had a department of public works with full-time employees but little or no money to fix anything really. We had a department of parks and gardens that couldn’t even afford to manage a seed bank. Today, we still have hospitals where the lifts don’t work and universities in which water doesn’t flow through the taps.
- The workers insist however that not only are there no facilities to enable them train properly and do their work effectively, but also that the wages they receive are disgracefully low and, with inflation and exchange rate losses taken into account, declining in real terms.
- The government tried to address some of these challenges by coming up with a concept called ‘single spine’, which was supposed to ensure that there is fairness in the way wages are paid for work in the public sector. But how far can fairness go when the real issue is that the majority feel the wages are way too low, and that the available facilities for training and work are abysmal? It is like spreading misery equally about.
- To improve on the way it does its business, government of Ghana has tried to ‘decentralise’ its functions. The idea is to reduce the cost of management, enhance accountability, and thereby ensure more resources go into the investments that matter, rather than continue to splash all its money on government workers managed from Accra.
- But what have been created – the district assemblies – to carry out this decentralisation are much too weak. District assemblies have limited means of raising their own money because the notion of a local income tax is fanciful in a situation where even at central government level taxing a sprawling informal sector has proved easier on paper than in reality.
- Because the district assemblies don’t raise their own money, electing their heads won’t make much of a difference as the central government will still hold the purse-strings and call the shots. But being appointed by the government as they now are, the only real motivation these district assembly bosses have in their work is to keep the local party bosses happy so they can remain at post.
- The lack of effective local capacity means essential services like health and education are run from Accra by the government. This has made it extremely difficult to inject the right level of resources into them and insist on accountability since, as we have said above, government is already overburdened with paying the workers and lacks motivated managers to supervise performance on the ground. With the essential services workers seen as part of the national bureaucracy rather than as members of dynamic professions, management is always going to be a complicated affair anyway.
- Consequently our hospitals have become death-traps and our schools laboratories where ignorance is concocted and administered to our young people.
- Because the schools and hospitals are so bad, lifting the poor from poverty is several times more difficult. The poor attend weak basic schools where due to poor teaching they are unable to progress to the best middle schools.
- Malnutrition and childhood disease, poor hygiene and low stimulation in the environment, all ensure that even the little education available in middle school sieve through them without leaving much residue. Higher education is simply out of the question for these wretched of our society.
- The most ambitious of the poor end up at vocational and technical institutes (including polytechnics) to participate in a cycle of mediocrity in/mediocrity out, thereby depressing the social standing of vocational and technical sciences in the country.
- Meanwhile, the growth of ICT has completely transformed the technical and vocational disciplines across the world. Auto mechanics is no longer what it used to be because of electronics. Carpentry and masonry, metal fabrication and ceramics, and a myriad other crafts, are not what they used to be because of AutoCAD and emerging design technologies.
- But the teachers in the technical institutes themselves are not ICT-proficient. How are they supposed to inject ICTs into technical training? The end-result is the lack of an industrial workforce for the secondary portion of the economy.
- The hollowing out of the small and medium-scale manufacturing sector, and the near collapse of the agro-processing industrial base in Ghana, are testimony to the ongoing extinction of light manufacturing in this country.
- The tertiary portion of the industrial sector can of course not stand without legs. Even in the area of pharmaceuticals, arguably one of the few bright spots in Ghanaian industry, there is little evidence of genuine depth. Not a single WHO-certified manufacturing facility is up and running in Ghana today.
- Tertiary industry of course requires energy supply. We are unfortunately nowhere near the development of a rational electricity tariff policy, without which even further investments in installed capacity will not change the erratic supply situation in the country. Having the power plants is one thing, fuelling, servicing, and maintaining them is another.
- Unless a discriminatory tariff policy is introduced to ensure that those who can afford to pay more do so, power plant operators cannot run at full capacity. A discriminatory tariff policy however requires a modern grid, yet we have no policy for attracting investment for grid optimisation. Having discovered that PPPs (and IPPs – independent power producers) can help with the ‘generation’ side of things, we have neglected to create a robust framework for investment in other parts of the power system.
So, as should be evident by now, our problems in this country are inter-dependent and inter-connected. It is actually one problem manifesting in different guises in different sectors: the CHAOS OF POLICY-ILLOGICALITY.
It is in search for relief from this chaos that reforms have been pursued since the early 50s to the present to re-orient the social and material economy and inject logic into the dysfunction. Otherwise, politicians pull in opposite directions, technocrats work at cross-purposes, and the population becomes estranged from the national purpose.
So when we said the ‘reform process’ has stalled, we meant reforms to re-set this country on a *logical course through policy coherence*. This is something we have been trying to do as a modern, contiguous, country for more than a century now.
On behalf of the IMANI Crew, Merry Christmas, Sir. We wish you a great 2014.
IMANI’s mission is simply to subject any government policy that is likely to have systematic implications for development to basic ‘value for money’, ‘due diligence’ and ‘rational choice’, ‘public choice’ and ‘vested interests’ analysis and then actively engage in public advocacy to publicise the results, with a view to promoting peace and prosperity through human flourishing.
Founding President & CEO, IMANI