Who says Ghana’s economy is getting better?
Despite the back and forth flight of economic jargons of macro-economic stability from some politicians, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Unique Trust Financial Services, Prince Kofi Amoabeng, has stated that Ghana's economy from the time of independence to date has not got any better, emphasizing that if anything, it is on a downward trend.
He noted however, that “it's not as if it's been straight down; there have been ups and downs but if you draw a line of correlation, we have certainly come down, no two ways about it.”
This comes less than a week after the Ghana Statistical Service had stated that poverty has reduced in all but one region in the country. Last Thursday the "Patterns and Trends of Poverty in Ghana: 1991 - 2006 Report was released by the Ghana Statistical Service. The figures, according to the report, indicated that over the last 15 years the average poverty levels in the country have reduced by half and by extension an improvement in the economy.
Speaking in an interview with The Heritage on the state of the economy, Mr. Amoabeng said if one wanted to see the issue in its totality, one should look at the country's Gross Domestic Product per capita income at the time of independence which was said to be around $400, adding that today our GDP per capita income is still around $400.
"Why people cannot see that means we have come backwards or downwards I don't understand," he wondered.
According to Prince Amoabeng who heads one of the most successful indigenous companies in the country, $400 at the time of independence in today's terms is about $2,500 and, therefore, if at the time of independence Ghana was worth over $2,500 and today her GDP per capita income is still around $400 to $500, then it's a clear indication that the country's economy has comedown.
He said if this cannot be observed, one should look at the various sectors of the economy to tell which one is doing well – apart from the telecommunication sector - adding that, apart from this sector, every other one has gone down.
He said, typically looking at the education sector which is the vehicle for development, the quality of life at the time has fallen, adding that, when he was at the university, the privileges he enjoyed are no more there with about ten students now sharing the room he had to himself alone at the time. Even getting a loan for ones education now is a Herculean task, he added, questioning whether this is an improvement in the life of the people.
He challenged anyone who would insist on the contrary to show which sector is currently performing well in the whole economy, say¬ing telecommunication is performing better today because it is just a relatively new technology that was absent at the time Ghana attained sovereignty. He pointed out that the reason for the economy not getting better is that "we constantly break down systems and do not let the systems work."
Likening the Ghanaian economy to a radio or a wireless set, the CEO of UT said the issue of us taming inflation and bringing interest rates down is like fine-tuning the radio set when the batteries are dying, adding that the batteries in the radio are like the systems that run the economy so what Ghana is now doing is wasting time fine-tuning the economy when the systems are not right. No wonder the police, the courts, the public sector are dying, he asserted. "We need to change the battery before fine-tuning the economy."
Mr. Amoabeng said, when it comes to the battery changing, we have a problem because our culture is wrong here in Africa, with people "showing respect to people only when they know who you are or coming from and, if we know it will benefit us," adding,
"We don't have a culture that has respect for all."
He emphasized that, Ghana's cul¬ture is not for the establishment and nurturing of institutions that will equate people, so changing the batteries is about doing basic things right and then building on it.
He regretted that as a developing people we don't even have information on the people, no street names and not even knowing who lives where and how to tax them and therefore do not allow for the growth of the economy.
Mr. Amoabeng said, currently there are no ready solutions to the problems facing the economy and the country as a whole. To him, the country can be moved in the right direction by its leaders and ironically we have democracy ... one man one vote so what will obstruct us from doing the right thing is that people do not understand the issues and, therefore, building the institutions will be difficult because people will not vote for people who will come and create an equal opportunity and build institutions which is a sad part of it. I can see what will get us moving, but I cannot see what will get us to start doing the right thing."
He said changing Ghana's culture to change the mindset of her people will be difficult, as though education could do it, it would be slow because education levels are going down, a problem he sees all over Africa.