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29.04.2001 Feature Article

CAUTION: Naysayers...

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Frank Q. Antwi-Barfi Financial Planner, Chicago, USA

“Ghana did not plan to join the “HighPC Club” but failed to plan not to join!” “Government’s decision to opt for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative was not political but based on an objective analysis of the economic situation” explained President John A. Kufuor.

The Monday morning quarterbacks and a whole lot of “pocket” financial planners are going to debate and analyze Ghana’s economic situation until thy kingdom come, about why and how we got into this economic mess. All the while this mess was being created some of them that are so vocal now were too fearful to open their mouths. THANK YOU, NPP FOR REINSTALLING FREE AND OPEN SPEECH TO GHANAIANS AGAIN. That in it makes you a winner. The new administration does not have the luxury of time to join this debate. Therefore, the forward thinkers and the friends of Ghana should channel their energies into how best to get Ghana out of this economic predicament.

The World Bank and its subsidiaries did not steer Ghana into financial mismanagement. Rather those organizations came to our aid because of our past shallow planning. So many people are questioning past World Bank programmes to Ghana. Those people should be questioning the many ignominious people who took power by force and in the end became the only rich people in the country and destroyed all of the then accomplished entrepreneurs.

How can so many people gain self-enrichment by professing to run the country into prosperity and in the end leave the country broke. If the highest paid person in Ghana in the last 20 years had invested all of his salary in the best investment in Ghana, he would not be considered rich in today’s terms. THE WORLD BANK’S PROGRAMMES BY FAR WERE GOOD, BUT WE DID NOT HAVE THE ASTUTE, COMPETENT LEADERS WHO WOULD LEAVE THE COMPETENT BUREAUCRATS ALONE TO IMPLEMENT.

Countries, like corporate entities, do go “bankrupt” or do have financial reorganizations. A good example is the Chrysler Corporation of America. When Chrysler got itself into bankruptcy, Mr. Iaococca and his staff set up plans and strategies to get out of the mess. The rest is history! Therefore, lovers and friends of our fatherland let us use our talents, assets and resources to build Ghana into the beacon of “ Africa power house”, that it should be.

The new administration’s plans and strategies to get Ghana out of our economic predicament are not yet complete. However, the Minister for Works and Housing has announced in Accra at the meeting with the executives of Ghana Construction and Building Material Workers’ Union that there is a $50 million infusion of foreign grant available for the housing sector of the economy. And, about 30,000 jobs will be created this year by the government for unemployed youths. How can the government of Ghana create “housing related-jobs” when the government is not in the real estate housing development business? The Ghana Housing Corporation is defunct. Firstly, do I have an amnesia that Ghana is still under “command economy”? Secondly, does Ghana need a ministry for Housing in a “Golden Age for Private Sector” of a market-based economy, particularly when more responsibilities for urban physical planning have been shifted to the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assembles, under the Local Government Act of 1993?

There seems to be a contradiction to the pronouncements of the new Ghana “Golden Age” (the Millennium) by His Excellency the President and the Honorable Finance Minister Osafo Marfo versus the Minister for Works and Housing. The Honorable Marfo said in his Budget speech at parliament: “The 2001 Budget aims at laying the foundation for a robust economic growth with the private sector as the main agent for wealth creation. His Excellency the President envisions the private sector as the principal source of economic growth, the generator of employment opportunities, and the creator of the resources wherewithal for social progress.”

In a market-based economy, the Government does not create jobs. Rather the Government through fiscal and monetary policy influences and/or steers the direction of economic development and it is the private sector that creates jobs and grows the economy. Therefore, the hope is that the two ministries (Finance and Works & Housing) will get together to develop a plan and statement reflecting the new administration’s policies. And, they should cover how to increase employment through housing construction and stay away from the discredited central planning system reminiscent of the past. In the past, the World Bank through its “acronymic soup” agencies had given Ghana so many plans of action but a lack of able stewards to implement them. The entrepreneur class in the country is incapable of raising meaningful local equity capital because it is financially weak, cash strapped, and tread-bear. The local banks are mainly dealing with short-term lending and merchant banking.

Food for thought: many people will not pay minimum wages to a chauffeur and entrust him with a $50,000 Mercedes Benz; but we expect a talented person for $800 per month to manage a multi-million dollar ministry! (Why not consolidate some ministries. Example: Transportation to deal with Highways, Roads, Railways, Waterways and Airways)? And triple the salary.

The Honorable Housing Minister, Ghana, at present, does not have the capacity to create 30,000 new housing construction jobs without accumulating / regenerating Ghana’s huge foreign debt again. Please remember that we just swallowed our pride to accept HIPC statues. There is no conceit in being a member of “HighPC Club”. I hope to believe that the new Administration does have a plan on the shelf to get us out of the membership of the “HighPC Club.” Ghana has been through enough Acronyms: SAP, AEF, ERP, and HIPC. Let us hope that Ghana’s next membership to any economic club will be the first African nation to join the big G-7 Club. The private sector in the market place is very well situated to develop and meet the housing needs rather than the government. Besides, there are no programmes or plans yet developed by either the new or the former administration in place for implementation. Ghana did not plan to fail economically but it does seem that Ghana failed to plan properly.

Frank Q. Antwi-Barfi
Frank Q. Antwi-Barfi, © 2001

The author has 9 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: FrankQAntwiBarfi

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