25.01.2003 Feature Article

Citizens Abroad: Simple Solutions for Complex problems?

Citizens Abroad: Simple Solutions for Complex problems?
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Many times one reads about the patriotic intentions of Ghanaians living abroad, and how they want to help etc. It bothers me to read articles that suggest things that seem to be out of place and borders on the ridiculous. Such an article can be found here . To suggest that a special account needs to be opened to accommodate contributions to reduce the TOR debt is ridiculous. This position is taken in terms of these statements regarding enterprise and not the NGO issues. With respect to the article (source cited above), who manages this account, why spend more to manage what is not “solid” in terms of contributions? How is this income applied to debt? Several questions are left unanswered from a business viewpoint. In my opinion, if you are interested in helping Ghana, do so by asking the government to put up those companies (to be divested) it has decided to put on the stock market right away. Buy shares and own a piece of the pie. This will give the companies the capital infusion it needs to impact its operations and contribute to economic growth. If you want to have impact, as a citizen or citizens, then as an individual or a collective group, pool your resources together and by shares that allow you to have a controlling stake in the affairs of the company. In the case of TOR, the debt can be sold on the bond market, that is if we had a sophisticated financial market, interested parties could buy the bonds and earn some money once they mature, at the same time reducing the debt burden of the company, and injecting much needed capital. Actually citizens abroad could do well here, as a majority of the debt is owned by the local banks, and outside capital may be an ideal option. This is how we should direct our efforts in terms of public companies etc. The idea of opening accounts simply does not shape the operations of the company or enterprise. We do not need lazy incompetent people running our companies, and I must add that there are state owned companies in certain parts of the world that do well. We have CEO’s of companies in Ghana who cannot articulate a P&L statement. Where does that leave you? So, in as much as some may argue that the government must not be in the business of companies, we are, and I argue that our problems come from weak management and weak boards. The relationships for the two entities are not clear for those occupying them, and it is high time these lousy managers are arrested and jailed (where crimes are identified) and boards fired for non-performance. What better way to do so than being an “owner” of a company, by way of being an institutional investor or majority owner? You can control the company to a certain degree and redirect its efforts to be more efficient and effective. There are a lot of systems in Ghana, but our inability to continuously improve on existing situations, and a great appetite for arbitrary change, makes as fall short all the time. There must be a strong focus on how we define patriotism, and I do not believe we ought to just give. We have to take on ownership roles, and then set our expectations for those who we elect as wards of our investment. It is such an approach that will bring the much needed transparency and accountability needed in all aspects of our economy, but especially the private sector, which is supposed to be the engine of growth.

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