23.07.2002 Feature Article

Where Are We Going?

Where Are We Going?
23.07.2002 LISTEN

I have been pondering over and over this question and I wonder whether our national leadership has ever seriously thought about it. Have we Ghanaians thought about whom we are and where we want to go? Definitely there have been endless discussions and lectures over democracy, free enterprise and capitalism. Yes, we have a democratically elected government, which most Ghanaians had thirsted for. Apart from free elections and saying what we want without looking over our shoulder, have Ghanaians really sat down and analyzed why we want democracy? Ghanaians should really sit down and examine what democracy is bringing them: Accelerating crime rate? Husbands killing wives? Children staying home and not going to school? Being sick and the health system watching you die slowly because you cannot pay for the medicine or the surgery? The sad part about our current situation is the substantial number of children in cities, towns and villages who do not go to school. I do not have statistics to back this statement up. The facts are however too naked to be disputed. You go to a lot of areas in Ghana and find 12, 13 and 15 year olds who do not know their ages!!! While in Accra and some other cities 5 and 6 year olds are sitting in front of their desktop computers!!! What kind of imbalance are we creating in Ghana? Are we going forwards or backwards? The above brings to my mind our current educational system. Our leadership has innately absorbed the concept of “cash and carry” from the World Bank, IMF and other international agencies that have come to save our dying nation. Primary and Junior Secondary Schools, school fees are killing families who can barely eat. Let us not even talk about Senior Sec. Schools. While these so called World Saviour institutions are pushing our leadership to accept these policies, they so not practice them in their “developed” World. In the city of New York, public education, at least up to the High School (S.S.S level) is absolutely free. If parents can afford private tuition they go to pay for one. This means at least the average citizen has a chance to earn a decent education and living for himself or family. I was discussing the above issue with an educationist and he said “but the American Govt. can afford free education”. Yes this statement is true but who can afford to pay the child’s education more than the American? I find this educational system very disturbing. This is because the older generation in Ghana has a better opportunity than the younger generation, which should be the other way round. We are creating a class of ignorant, desperate and unproductive citizens and we have started paying for this with ever increasing crimes, which constantly shock the public. Most of us do not even want to believe that some of these crimes are being committed in our very own Ghana. The IMF and the World Bank have persuaded a lot of “developing” countries to buy wholesale the idea of “privatization”. We have, like Essau in the Bible sold most of our assets we had managed to build since independence. We have privatized Ashanti Gold fields. Let somebody tell me what Ashanti Gold fields have positively done for Ghana since? The Ghana Government used to own 100% of the “little” gold it produced. Now we own 20% or less of even the “little”. If privatization is all that good why does New York City, the center of the capitalist World run her own railway (subway) system? Why does New York own her own water system as inefficient as government owned businesses have been, the New York subway has allowed the ordinary New Yorker to go to and from work every day and helped sustain the capitalist system. Our leadership should stop swallowing all these better pills being prescribed for us. All we hear about is “private” investors, private investors and infinitum. The private investor is not interested in upgrading our educational system. The private investor wants money. He wants to maximize his profits. Have we forgotten how capitalism is defined? The most profits from the least? What about our governments talking about improving the efficiency and integrity of governments owned businesses? How do we negotiate with these private investors from our weak position? The truth about our country is that we do not lack human and natural resources. We lack the spirit of nationhood. We have abandoned our traditional communal spirit of caring for each other for individual self-interest. If a government official or minister cares, he or she will not go and negotiate a contract and pocket some percentage while telling the poor villager about “cost sharing”. We have developed the culture of selfishness and personal greed. Everybody is trying to cheat or rob everybody. What about the thousands of churches that have sprouted like mushrooms all over Ghana? What happened to: Love thy neighbor as thyself? Coming back to earth, our leadership should seriously think about improving our integrity and productivity. We have very capable human and natural resources to survive and move forward as a nation. We critically have to look at privatization and its attendant hunger for foreign investors. Let Ghana Airways get one decent jumbo jet and run it honestly and efficiently between New York and we will be surprised how much profits it can generate. Most Airlines spend millions of dollars to advertise to secure customers. Ghana Airways does not have to do that. It is virtually the only airline that flies directly from U.S.A to the Western African Coast!!! If the government turns Ghana Airways around, it can afford to help the villager with the 23,000 cedis ($3) per term J.S.S fees, which is killing our future human resource base. Yes the government can get out of the business of canning tomatoes, palm nut and woodworking ventures. She however has to retain some of the huge institutions, run them with integrity and efficiency and they can become cash cows for the state. We are never going to walk if we do not pick ourselves up from the ground. The “Me”, “me”, “me” should be replaced. We have become so individualistic that the word “selfish” is gradually disappearing from our vocabulary. Even footballers have declined to play for a nation because they could be hurt and lose their foreign base contracts!!! We have got our sense of nationhood and pride and replaced them with the quest for personal need. Where are we going? Look at yourself for the answer.
Mr. Thomas Panford 718-655-4182

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