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01.05.2000 Feature Article

RE-EXAMINING AIDS AND GRANTS FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD

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Most of the aids /grants Ghana and the rest of the developing world receive from the West are in one way or the other tied to specific projects of the donors' choice. This type of aids/grants not only entrenches the culture of dependency of the developing world on the developed world, but also it denies us the opportunity of deriving the maximum benefits from these loans/grants by not being able to use them freely in sectors that are critical for improving the lives of the ordinary people. With a Ghanaian as the UN boss, Ghana has a great opportunity to mobilize the rest of aids-receiving world to argue for more non-project type of aids/grants like the one Japan gave to Ghana recently. This type of aids/grants will give us the freedom to use aids/grants in areas that will give maximum benefits to our people.

One type of aids/grants that needs serious re-examination is educational aid/grants from the rest of the world. Since Independence, Ghana, like the rest of the developing countries, has been receiving both government-to-government and private-to-government educational aids/grants from governments and institutions in mostly the developed countries. These educational aids/grants normally take the form of scholarships which all Ghanaians to be sent to universities and other institutions of learning abroad for training, re-training or further training ( further studies ). Principal among the objectives of these scholarships is to help develop the needed skilled manpower for our national development.

However, over the years, the cardinal objectives of these educational aids/grants have been abused so much so that the national economy hardly benefits from these educational aids/grants. The objectives of educational aids/grants have been abused on two fronts. First, it is no secret that most of the scholarships go to relatives of members of government and those with some political connections ( who probably can afford to educate themselves anyway without any financial support ). Second, a vast majority of the recipients ( or beneficiaries ) of these scholarships, more often than not, do not go back home on completion of their courses ( studies ). Instead, they prefer to stay in the host aid-giving countries for "greener pastures", thereby contributing to the development of those countries rather than to Ghana's. This constitutes a double jeopardy of a sort: not only does Ghana lose the benefits of the so-called educational aids/grants, but also she loses the potential benefits she could have derived from using our scarce resources to provide education ( almost free ) for these people locally, if they had stayed home. Given these obvious inadequacies, I think there is an urgent need for Ghana and the rest of the developing countries to propose an alternative scheme that we enable us benefit maximally from these educational aids/grants from our "generous" donors.

In this connection, my humble proposal is for Ghana ( and the rest of the developing world, particularly African countries ) to plead with our donors to allow us to these scholarship monies to train our people in our local institutions, and also help improve our educational system. Let me elaborate this suggestion with a hypothetical illustration. Suppose each year Ghana receives ten government -to-government scholarships from the government of the United States of America which enable ten Ghanaians to enroll in four-year doctorate programs in universities in the United States. From personal experience, I know that it costs roughly $25,000 a year to enroll in such a program in the US. In highly prestigious private universities such as Harvard or Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) , the annual cost hovers around $35,000. Which means that at the end of four years, about $100,000 would be spent on one person, and for the ten people, $1,000,000. Hard currency! Assuming the exchange rate is $1 = 2,200 cedis, it means that about 2,200,000,000 cedis would be spent on the ten people over four years. I am not sure about how much it costs to educate a person in a year in a university in Ghana. But without being a victim of exaggeration, 2,200,000,000 cedis can easily be used to educate about 50 students in Ghanaian universities. So if we can somehow plead with our educational aid donors to give us the $1,000,000, we can train the ten people ( hypothetically cited for convenience ), and still have some money left to improve our educational facilities and recruit qualified professors ( lecturers ) for our universities. In addition the chances that these people may stay home to contribute to national development are higher. Imagine the cumulative effects!

Maxwell Oteng
Maxwell Oteng, © 2000

The author has 28 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: MaxwellOteng

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