01.05.2000 Feature Article

Romanticising Military Rule

Romanticising Military Rule
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LATELY, SOME SOLDIERS have taken to romanticising the era of military coups, notably the PNDC era, and suggesting, based on highly questionable information, that we should be grateful for the PNDC era in particular for the purported benefits its brought us. The most recent such attempt appeared in the GRAPHIC of November 16, 1998, under a letter, "Armed Forces ACDR Statement - NPP Misfires", written by a certain Ex.Cpl. Mensah Dapaah. First, I would like to correct some factual errors in Mr. Dapaah's letter and then show how coups, including the one by the PNDC, have harmed, not helped this country. Mr. Dapaah claims that "from a position of below zero economic growth in the 1970s and early 1980s, the PNDC brought Ghana to a growth rate of 5.1 per cent per annum by 1991." Fact: Average annual economic growth between 1970 and 1979 was 1.6%, not "below zero". There were three years of negative growth in the "early 1980s." Two of those years were under the PNDC. (It must also be pointed out that economic growth since 1981 has averaged 3.8% , not 5.0% as Mr. Dapaah and others keep misinforming the public).

Again, Mr. Dapaah writes: "Inflation has been fought from an all-time high of 120 per cent to just: 10 per cent by the same year 1991." Fact: The PNDC inherited a 1981 inflation rate of 117 0%, which rose to 123% in 1983 under the PNDC's watch. In 1991, the inflation rate was 18.4%, not 10.0% The highest inflation rate on record was 128.0% in 1977.

Now about coups and their impact on our economic lives. A complex analysis will require more space, but judging by foreign investment inflows and economic growth, there is no question that military coups have always set us back in this country, no matter the justification. In 1972, when Kutu overthrew Busia, foreign direct investment fell to $12 million, from a high of $31 million the previous year. Similarly, economic growth in 1972 was a negative 3.0%, down from positive 5.0% in 1971.

In 1979, with the AFRC coup, foreign investment did not only decline, but there was capital flight, leading to negative foreign investment of $3million that year, down from a positive inflow of $10 million in 1978. Correspondingly, economic growth in 1979 was negative 2.0% down from 1.0% in 1978.

And then there was 1982, the year the PNDC effectively came to power. In the two-and-half years that he was in office, President Limann was able to reverse both the capital outflow and negative economic growth he inherited from the AFRC.

Foreign investment in 1980 and 1981 shot up to $16 million each. In 1980, economic growth was positive 1.0% (compared to negative 2.0% in 1979), but this recovery was undermined by the drought and bush fires of that year, which brought economic growth down to negative 3.0% in 1981.

In 1982, the first year of the PNDC, economic growth declined at an even higher rate of 6.0%. Foreign investors maintained a wait-and-see attitude with $16million in 1982 as well. This figure, however, declined dramatically to $2.0million once it became clear that the "revolutionaries" were more like "rebels without a clue".

Thereafter, foreign investment stayed in single digits and everyone continued to shun the country. It was not until 1991 that foreign investment surpassed its pre-1983 level and reached $20.0 million. Clearly, the intervening years were wasted years.

The dramatic increases in foreign investment shortly afterwards, especially since 1993, was the result of privatization not some vote of confidence from foreign investors. Otherwise, the president would not spend so much money looking for so little foreign investment. (In Botswana, where the economy is very well managed, it is the Government which stays home and decides which of the many foreign investors flocking into the country to admit or reject).

From these figures, the case can be made at least from a foreign investment perspective - that if the constitutionally-constituted Government of Dr. Limann had been left alone, we would have had a base of $16.0million, not $2.0 million, to build on. And today, we would be much better off than we are.

After all, most of the programmes, such as import credits under structural adjustment which made the large scale importance of "essential commodities" possible, were already under consideration by the Limann Government. In fact, part of the reasons offered for 1981 was that the Limann Government was flirting with the IMF! What an about-turn face the coup makers have done!

The lesson here is simple. No matter how bad a civilian government might be, a military government is always worse. Besides, the physical harm and misery that these coups bring, they needlessly disrupt the tempo of development and always send us back where we started. Those who dream of coups had, therefore, better thought twice. We will never let them take us even an inch back any more. Enough is enough.

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