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30.01.2003 Feature Article

Management Resources: Solution to Ghana’s Myriad Problems

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Part III The recent phenomenal rise in petroleum prices which was partly due to the huge debt that had accrued at the Tema Oil Refinery, has brought into sharp focus once again the failure of leadership and sound management of our Strategic Developmental Organisations (SDO). In a country with limited potential to generate private sector funds for national economic development, this should be a matter of grave concern for all of us because these SDO’s have been indispensable components of our national economic strategy since the creation of the state of Ghana. They were supposed to be our main weapons against poverty and economic growth. It will soon be 46 years since we proudly took up the mantle of self rule. However on a daily basis, information is coming to light about the emerging disaster that the operational activities of these SDO’s are causing to the nation and its citizen’s wellbeing. Apart from the crisis at TOR, the Electricity and Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporations in near and total collapse, Ghana Airways despite huge market potential is tethering at the edge of disaster, Ghana Commercial Bank unable to realise its huge potential as an engine of economic growth. In addition to this there is also crisis management situations ever present at the various sector ministries which continues to burden all of us with seemingly insurmountable social and economic hardships. Apart from the failure of leadership at the organisational level, their rigid, hierarchical and status oriented culture and archaic administrative processes, have been unable to respond to significant changes in their external environments for far too long. These indicators should be the WAKE UP call that should force a change in our attitudes and thinking in terms of the need to reform the management and organisational structures, especially of our SDO, s which are so critical to our economic development. By their very nature and unique operations, some of these SDO’s cannot be privatised and If we understand this, and the consequences of the huge fuel price increases to the well being of our citizens, I believe the Government must think again at the capacity of its people to shoulder such additional extremely painful processes of achieving economic transformation for citizens already at the lowest imaginable state of human subsistence, until the root causes of the problems are tackled. I am old enough to remember how over 20 years ago, the IMF and the World Bank engineered the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) for Ghana. The prescription included Liberalisation, Devaluation, Privatisation, Subsidy Removal, PAMSCAD e.t.c , e.t.c. I would like to emphasise that one aim of the programme was to introduce wide ranging reforms, aimed at bringing improvements in the managerial performance of public institutions and a basic element of proper management is forward and strategic planning. What we should be asking ourselves after 20 years of SAP is why have these same public organisations, especially the various Sector Ministries and the SDO,s not planned for something as predictable as an increase in Ghana’s population growth, and therefore not planned towards meeting the increased basic needs, such as health, education, sanitation and availability of clean water e.t.c. As a result we can all see the consequences of inaction all around us, in our choked filthy and degraded cities and towns if not to mention availability of schools or decent places of convenience to meet the increased demands of a rapidly increasing population. Despite the huge amounts of monetary support that the World Bank and IMF pumped into the system during the SAP period in the early 1980’s, we still have close to 65% of the population living in rural areas with less to non -existent infrastructure, unable to make ends meet, earning low incomes from selling their crops. Those in our towns and cities are not much better off, many are unemployed or at best in menial jobs. Even the middle classes have seen the values of their salaries slip away as the currency continues to depreciate with no end in sight to this vicious circle. Many believe SAP has failed to lift our people out of poverty, and it has not only been unable to produce the intended economic results and some believe it has even aggravated the negative consequences. All of us in the business of management practice and academia, have agreed that though the SAP efforts were laudable, the failure was due to the fact that the programme was based solely on macro economics. It did not pay much attention to the managerial capabilities and competencies of the SDO’s, through which implementation was to take place. They still maintained their Inefficient organisational structures, lack of clear objectives at all levels, problems with the qualification and motivation of managers, inadequate maintenance planning, inadequate and poor financial control systems, weak and inexperienced board of Directors and above all political interference in staffing and recruitment. Rewards in the system like promotion were and are always made on non-rational basis, which affects motivation and results in the hiring of underqualified individuals. We now continue to suffer the consequences, of 46 years of “self misrule”. We now have an opportunity, and we must make serious attempts to tackle the problems of Management Resource Poverty in these institutions in Ghana today, or else I am convinced we will forever be in a state of crisis management of the country as a whole for as long as the state of Ghana survives as a nation state. Some few years ago I had the opportunity to engage in discussions on the subject in question, with an ex British Colonial Official, who served in Rhodesia and the Gold Coast after the second world war, and a notable management practitioner. The ex colonial official indicated that when Ghana gained independence in 1957, he was one of those who strongly believed that the state would collapse because according to him management as he knew it was incompatible with African culture. Of course I challenged that assertion because I thought Ghana was one of those few countries where people were endowed with talent, ambition and potential. The practitioner who had carried out detailed research about why developing countries like Ghana cannot embrace modern management methods to resolve their problems, pointed out that “in our societies, individuals live physically in the present but psychologically in the past and are unconcerned about the future. Their emphasis on the past and lack of forward thinking leads to lack of planning, problems are seldom anticipated in advance in order to make adequate preparations to solve them, thus problem solving behaviour becomes unplanned, unorganised and chaotic. Failures to solve problems are then attributed to the complex and unanticipated nature of the problem rather than the lack of forward thinking”. I am now thinking to my self this is exactly what has been happening to our nation for the past 46 years and If all these characteristics are true of the Ghanaians concept of management then frankly why should people continue to believe in HOPE. I am aware from the feedback from my earlier articles published recently on the features page of this medium that some who are even occupying leadership positions in some of these public sector institutions tell me modern management practices would not work in Ghana. Fair enough, no one is suggesting for one minute that we should import Western European or American development strategies, which I agree will not work because of our different socio-cultural and socio-economic systems. Having said that no one can convince me that keeping the status quo is an option. Yes our values, beliefs, family concepts and Kinship relations and past oriented culture might hinder our efforts, but surely shouldn’t the very serious crisis of management in our country and institutions force a change in behaviour and thinking. So we look at our systems again, using the very basic elements of proper management such as the concepts planning, leadership, organisation and control and make adjustments consistent with our environment and circumstances? Why should we not consider any decisions made at variance with good management practice a disciplinary matter for employees and managers of these institutions. This was the reason behind my proposals for PROJECT MIDA, because talking alone about it would not work; it is its planning, organisation and implementation and its sustenance at all levels of the national economy that I believe matters. Sometimes I ask myself why is it that when you approach people who are in positions of power and influence about this matter, they tend to tell you modern management practices cannot be adapted to benefit our national economic development. Yet these same people if they can afford it, would for example, to satisfy their transportation needs, purchase a Mercedes Kompressor , a vehicle of the 21st Century, to use on the nations pot- holed roads instead of using a “Mummy Truck” which suits our roads so well. When some of them become victims of illness, they would like to rely on the latest developments in medicine or fly to Paris, London or Geneva to enjoy the benefits of the latest medical advancements. Yet they refuse to acknowledge the efficacy of management practices of the 21st century for a system whose infrastructure is on its knees.

If we know that no one can save Ghana but ourselves then, we must raise the profile of the national debate on these issues. It is time that ministers in the government, members of parliament, the media, civic organisations, ordinary citizens, start debating and discussing these issues at every opportunity, and at every level of our governance structures. So a momentum can be built up for root and branch reform to improve the standards of management practices. It is very very important not only to have a Good Head of State, but to have good charismatic leaders at all levels of the governance structure who can motivate the workforce and create organisational environments where people understand organisational objectives and do the right thing at all times. After all the Charismatic churches are doing it in Ghana so where is the excuse. It is a well known fact that If leadership is poor or absent, the individuals in the organisation will display all the characteristics associated with low motivation, performance to the minimum standards or non performance. After all we have managed to raise the level of debate surrounding HIV AIDS which kills a lot of people, and raised awareness as far as the village level. Lack of proper management of institutions and resources causes a hundred times more deaths, in inadequate provision and management of food resources, drinking water supplies, basic health and sanitary facilities associated with environmental degradation, illiteracy and ignorance. So society must highlight these issues sensitise the people so at least we can start a process of renewal, which will benefit each an every citizen of our nation. All stakeholders in our nation should now understand that unless we pay serious attention in developing and improving the management capabilities of organisations and institutions in both the public and private sectors, as sure as night follows day we shall be having these same discussions again in the year 6th March 2023. I hope God Will Bless Ghana.

Stephen Nyako Management Consultant

Stephen Nyako
Stephen Nyako, © 2003

The author has 15 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: StephenNyako

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