12.09.2002 Feature Article

Ghana Economic Forum, Issues Arising

Ghana Economic Forum, Issues Arising
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..Politics Matters in Development Planning Politics ought to matter if the outcomes of formulation and implementation of Ghana's national development planning were to be positive, progressive and to have long-term transformational effect on society. Ghana's Minister of Regional Planning and Development, Hon. Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, Member of Parliament, seems to have a reductionist view of the place of politics, as the most important superstructure in the architecture of a social formation. At a forum recently in Washington, DC in connection with collection of ideas towards formulation of national development planning for Ghana, Hon. Nduom stated in his closing remarks that even as a politician, he is not interested in politics and does not care who gets credit for a successful development plan. It was not clear whether Nduom's sentiment was meant to disparage the relevance of party politics or to convey diminished role for political discourse in development planning. Either way, Nduom exposes himself to critical refutation and stands to be corrected, especially given his position also as chairman of Ghana's National Development Planning Commission, NDPC, in which capacity he made a presentation, Aug. 10, at the Ghana embassy. Whereas the economy of a society constitutes its base and foundation, its existence cannot materialize in concrete terms without the political, juridical, cultural, religious and other superstructures. It is instructive that the nature of the economic base of society influences dynamics in the political and other superstructures. Similarly, the direction and trajectory of economic base of society are affected by the conditions in the political and other superstructural spheres. Nature of the relationship between the economic base of society and its political realm does not occur in a vacuum; it derives its materiality and concreteness from the decisions and policy implementation made by those who control the political power of the state, as a state. In this regard, it makes sense to accept the dictum that all political discourse, ultimately, ends with the question of power ---who has it, how it is used and fro whose benefit? Hence, Nduom cannot wish away politics in society even if he wanted to. It is important to emphasize that those who wield political power of the state when they make significant economic decisions they do affect the rest of society in varied terms. For instance, economic policies in Ghana that affect the rates of taxation and the minimum wage or whether water supply ought to be privatized, are made by people who wield political power. Thus, the sphere in which the process by which some individuals covet the right and privilege of controlling political power of society, necessarily, ought to be important. For example, it is on the basis of the political power of the individual who occupies the Christiansbourg Castle at Osu that determines who becomes Ghana's minister of regional planning and development in the third government of the country's Fourth Republic. In a society like Ghana where backward free-enterprise economic thought dominates the structure of production, differentiation along class lines is more pronounced. In this regard, political role of the state becomes equally significant precisely because of the tendency for economic decisions and policy implementation to favor the minority rich, to the detriment of the majority poor, resulting in social conditions characterized by group antagonisms reflected by so-called indiscipline and various types of crimes. There is no arguing that class differentiation which develops around social production and wage-labor relations between workers and employers, reproduce antagonisms marked by the interrelations among the ruled and rulers, the poor and rich, as well as the unemployed and the working poor. In a 'free-enterprise' society, there is a tendency also for the embodiment of the state to bond with the minority employer class, working in tandem to control the political and economic power, to constitute themselves into the ruling class. In the light of the above, it is defensible to deduce that since those who wield political power of the state tend to have enormous effect on the relations among and between the people, politics—a derivative from 'polis' (Greek for people)—ought to matter in national economic planning. In short, since the 'polis' cannot be wished away from society, politics matters! Indeed, those who feign neutrality in politics tend to be 'fence-sitters', a reflection of acute incapacity to be decisive. There is no second-guessing the symbiotic relationship between politics and the nature and course of democracy as well as nationhood. It is established well that a population that is engaged in political participation and practice is prepared better to understand and appreciate the good attributes and ideals of democracy; the alternative tends to be suicidal. When and where political participation is not encouraged or becomes suppressed, a culture of silence develops among the masses of the people in a society. Ghana witnessed the episode of the “culture of silence” in the early 1980s in the face of extra-constitutional and extra-legal transformation of society. There are not too many Ghanaians desirous to see the return of a “culture of silence” in their new experience of political reality. In the interest of progress in Ghana, it is important to remind Nduom that national development planning, an important adjunct to social organization, cannot proceed successfully in the absence of political activism marked by differences in thinking, consciousness and perspectives among the populace. In fact, Ghana is worse off because of the negativities associated with the course of political socialization whereby fathers and mothers have tended to preach lies and innuendoes about opposing political parties to their sons and daughters. This means, it is imperative for Ghanaians who capture the commanding heights of political power to be careful about what they say and do, in the interest of posterity. For example, young adults of Ghanaian descent happened to be present at the forum at which Nduom made his disparaging remarks about politics and that was not a worthy instance. If politics were not important Nduom would have been a member of the ruling New Patriotic Party, NPP, which has given him national exposure as a cabinet minister. The fact that Nduom has made a choice to be a member of the Convention Peoples Party, CPP, indicates that he sees a difference between it and the NPP; and the difference is political. Thus, politics matters! In the final analysis, it is considered useful to advise Nduom to see the political realm of society as what it is, not what one wants it to be. R. Y. Adu-Asare DALE CITY, Virginia; posted, Sept. 7, 2002

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