The Honourable Minister of Communications, The Chairman, Professor Francis Allotey and Members of the University Council, The President and staff of the Ghana Technology University College, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen Gathered here today, I am honourably pleased to be asked to give the keynote speech for this great graduation programme. An occasion such as this confers on us a certain degree of satisfaction, at the least to both tutors and graduands. Tutors, for the reason that they had done their best to prepare their students for the world. The graduands may be particularly elated that they successfully braved the many hours for class lessons and exams, hence their freedom.
However, the end goal of education must be rewarding in thought and deeds for all in a country. Two years from today, tutors must be happy that their students took on the ills in society and turned them into giant opportunities. Students should be proud that they paid their patriotic duties whilst earning dignified salaries through service in a company or through self-employment. But the honest truth is that things will not be easy. They are already not easy. However, you all need to muster courage and keep hope alive.
The many difficulties we are experiencing as a country today is not necessarily unique to the times; neither are they unique to Ghana. However, a certain trail of behavior betrays our persistent resolve to come out of the cold always scathed and scorned at the same time. This worrying state of affairs could be traced to the immediate years after Independence in 1957.
It is evident that the spontaneous process that should harness the ‘local’ knowledge of the creative, diligent, and thrifty Ghanaian to freely create wealth was dismissed as vestiges of Western colonialism. Instead, our leaders introduced what they called the African way of social organisation, a uniquely authoritarian top-down command politics unknown to pre-colonial traditional African governance. This was matched with massive investments in state-run industry. The result was an unproductive and stunted political and economic growth as a tight control on economic activity meant death to individual entrepreneurship. State dependency, poverty, squalor, corruption, ignorance became our lot.
The difference today is that whilst some of these tendencies remain, there is an opportunity to offer ideas for a change. Personally, I have learned through my ten years of think tanking that the only way irritate the political class to jolt them into action 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. For this, IMANI, my organisation has been consistently ranked among the top 10 think tanks in Africa and among the top 100 worldwide, out of a pool of nearly 10,000 organisations for the past five years.
As I note through the entire list of 243 Master students graduating today, it is clear each of you whether in engineering, information technology and business, couldn’t have graduated without taking a lesson or two in management. Our country has for the past 57 years being managed in a piecemeal fashion, with little signs of a coherent strategy in achieving the obvious goals that should lessen our burdens. We certainly couldn’t have grown our economy in 2011 to 14% GDP only to struggle to hold it together at barely 6% by the end of this year.
So here is my task for you 2014 graduating class. The MBA Finance graduands should lend a hand in suggesting alternate measures for managing part of the finances of this country. They should intervene from the position that you cannot spend what you don’t have or can’t generate. They should operate with the realization that it is suicidal to commit 70% of Internally Generated Revenue to public sector wages when your payroll is made up of 75% workers classified as semi-skilled and unskilled.
Finance graduands must be minded that resources are thin, so a proper means testing is required in implementing universally acclaimed rights. My colleague Bright Simons has suggested for instance that busily promising free education for everyone whether they need it or not; failing to encourage user-contribution in the health insurance system, and promoting a mindset of dependency on the state are exactly the kind of behavior that are fueling the growth in the so-called public wage bill. You graduands must be interested in regression analysis for the health of our public sector payroll. Regression analysis indicates clearly that over the last couple of years, the inter-relationships between investment into payroll reforms (including the purchasing of expensive software) and actual improvements in management performance or what we termed as productivity have worsened or stagnated. To you students graduating in Forensic Computing graduands, please offer to audit the public sector pay roll to truly get rid of the real ghosts instead of living them to prayers and mythical dwarves.
MSc Business Decision Management Students should be able to deepen the call for Political and economic decentralisation of governance in order to reduce the burden on central government. The central government must begin to shelve the role of directly recruiting and paying teachers, doctors, nurses, from Accra. This function should be undertaken by district assemblies and metropolitan authorities.
MSc Engineering Projects and MSc Business Decision Management graduands must critically examine the dimension of project finance especially when it relates to securing loans for national assignments: Be highly critical of the actual amounts of disbursement from the point of view of the lender. More important, you graduands must ensure that such a strategy is likely to align or misalign with the short-term policy vision of your work. Most definitely Business Decision Management graduands must question the viability and profitability of any national project you are tasked to manage.
MSc and MBA Oil and Gas graduands should understand that building a gas plant is not like building one’s back yard tool shed. It requires a careful planning, hard knuckled negotiations for finance, your ability to raise counterpart funding and most important your ability to undertake financial modeling to determine the quantity of gas produced, the pricing and marketing framework, the timeframe of actual integration into the power grid, maintenance policy and a host of factors must be dependent on actual realization of Ghana’s gas being used to power industry in the near term.
Finance and Oil and Gas graduands must advice that 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 hence more load shedding or what we call in Ghana “dum so dum so”. A discriminatory tariff policy however requires a modern grid, yet we have no policy for attracting investment for grid optimisation.
Crucially, you must ensure that proceeds from oil are prudently applied to the investment related projects and not splurge on consumption and nebulous capacity building campaigns.
As we open our society, we are learning that it is possible to move from an agrarian society to do newer things that were hitherto impossible with fewer resources. The services industry is picking up and will be greatly enhanced through IT. We are realising that a true knowledge-based economy is indeed the cornerstone of economic prosperity.
But so many teachers in the technical institutes 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.
All is not lost though. The Honourable Minister for Communications is a fervent believer in these ideas of communications technology and he is doing a lot to help realize these goals. However, I am sure he will admit that he will need the help of graduands of Information systems and Technology graduating here today. These graduands should go to the aid of the following ministries that do not have websites and any social media presence at all. The Ministry of Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation , Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources The Ministry of Justice and Attorney General ,The Ghana National Fire Service and The Ministry of Information in the 21st century! I have used the above examples to illustrate that we already know what we must do achieve the obvious.
When FORMER Brazilian President Lula Da Silva was asked how he managed to get his country achieve great success, he said simply “I did the obvious.” He did not wait to be shown any grand development plans made from long boring speeches. I knew we had to fix the water, electricity, open drains, the bad roads, communication, health and a relatively dignified standard of living for Brazilians.
My advice to you today is to urge our leaders to leave wealth and job creation to you these wonderful graduands and Ghanaians at large, encourage your efforts at providing superior goods to Ghanaians. Tell yourselves and the government that you graduands are a new generation of young Ghanaians who simply want to do the Obvious! Just do the Obvious! Congratulations.