31.10.2002 Feature Article

Mr President, First Things First

Mr President, First Things First
31.10.2002 LISTEN

So much has been said about the frequent travels by the President. Those who speak in favour of the President claims that the trips are necessary because it will bring investments to the country. Those against also claims that the answers to our problems are at home. It is true that we need investments to jump start our ailing economy and that is an undisputed fact. The question therefore is how do we attract investors? I do believe that our politicians have not taken the time to really sit down and reflect on this all important question. Most of our leaders try to find the easy way out. You can visit all leaders of the industrial world and nothing is going to come out of it. The real catch is to prepare the ground well. Like they say first things first. For starters, investors are not politicians. They are ordinary citizens of certain countries who are well endowed in managerial abilities and has made success out of it. So just visiting the White house will not send Bill Gates to come to Ghana and invest. This is what our leaders are loosing sight of. It is true that during the cold war era most of the western countries were giving some companies tax concessions, if they invest in certain countries. This was to counteract the advance of communism in certain third world countries. With the demise of the cold war those policies don't exist anymore. Investors look out for certain conditions. We tend to lose the fact that most of the big multilateral companies are not one man owned. The millions of shareholders who put their monies in these companies do so solely to make profit. Logically the first thing these investors look for is profit. Secondly they look at the infrastructural base of a country. I remember a couple of years back, whilst watching CNN, there was this debate about why American investors prefer Asia to Africa. Most of the panelists agreed that Africa was way behind in terms of infrastructure. They said, there was one telephone to two thousand people in most of the African countries whilst in certain Asian countries the ratio was one to every four hundred people. African countries lack good roads and most of the hinterlands were inaccessible. They also talked about stability and poor purchasing power of the ordinary African. One other thing that potential investors look at is the human resources of a country. Sometime last year, I read in one of the local newspapers that the government was considering giving some of the ministers and heads of certain organizations training in computer usage. Dear reader I cried that day. How do we expect people to bring thei! r hard earned money to invest in our country when heads of organizations that they are going to do business with, don't know the basics of computers in this twenty-first century? They also look at how their predecessors were treated. This is why I am kind of wary about the way the Malaysians are being treated. Investors also take a critical look at the legal systems. A strong legal base is a prerequisite for any direct investment. So Mr. President I would wish that before you embark on another trip looking for investments, consider these factors: Does Ghana have the right environment and conditions set in place that will make investing in the country profitable? Do we have the right tax systems? Do we have the right investment code that guarantees easy transfer of profits? Are the investors going to have easy acquisition of land? Are Ghanaian businessmen ready and prepared to enter into joint partnerships with their foreign counterparts. You need to ponder if we have the right infrastructural base AKA good roads, good communication systems and proper technology. Do our educational systems produce graduates with the right technical know how? Remember we are only good at producing engineers who just love to sit in air-conditioned offices instead of being on the field. You also need to sit down and think about the stability of the country. Prosecuting past political opponents for causing financial loss to the state instead of corruption sends the wrong message. The foreigners see it as political persecution. Also driving away existing investors because the previous government signed a bad contract will not do the country any good. Renegotiating should be the answer. The catch therefore is to create the right enabling environment and the investors will be flocking in, instead of you going to them. So, Mr. President do your homework well before embarking on another wild goose chase.

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