29.11.2021 Opinion

Power Distance And The Entitlement Mindset: The Case Of The Ghanaian Elites

By Dr. Stephen Gyesaw
Power Distance And The Entitlement Mindset: The Case Of The Ghanaian Elites
29.11.2021 LISTEN

The novelist Mark Twain could not withstand entitlement or any idea that one human being is better than another human being. Twain writes, "Do not go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." Twain was right, for we are all humans, and deserve the same treatment. Following the examples of Jesus Christ and Socrates, the most important thing in life is to live by the light of reason as a good member of the human community, instead of pursuing wealth and fame at the expense of other human beings.

The entitlement mindset is a state of mind in which some Ghanaians believe that privileges are rights, and they are to be honored or expected as a matter of cause. This culture is pervasive and intractable. It is pervasive because it spreads throughout our society and it is intractable because it is not readily amenable to any social remedy. From the messenger to the minister of state, most Ghanaians have unrealistic, unmerited, or inappropriate expectations of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of fellow citizens. This mindset runs through the various ladders of our bureaucratic hierarchy.

The policemen and policewomen on the highways and in the streets expect citizens to grease their palms to avoid prosecution. The messenger in the office wants to receive a bribe or a gift to perform their tasks. The political and bureaucratic elites have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and fantasy of power. The bureaucratic elites believe they are worthy of certain ordained privileges because of their political or educational statuses, whether real or perceived. These people lack appreciation for the sacrifices of the people whose sweat creates the wealth they enjoy.

The monumental compensations and benefits that the Ghanaian chief executive officers receive compared to the pay of the lowest level of employees are rooted in the assumptions, values, and cultural software of our minds. The underlying cultural forces that create this development is what Geert Hofstede described as power distance. National culture plays a significant role in explaining the exploitative salary structure of many public corporations in Ghana. Geert Hofstede, a world-renowned anthropologist, defines power distance as "the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally." One way to understand the distribution of power and wealth in any society is to look at how different cultures view authority, power, and status.

Power distribution in all societies is unequal, but some are more skewed than others. Ghana is considered one of the countries with a large power distance compared to a country like Austria. A large power distance culture is a culture where inequalities among people are expected and desired. There is a large power distance between parents and children, teachers and students, and doctors and patients, culminating in a huge distance between the bosses and the subordinates. I was taken aback when I learned that the gross monthly salary of the past CEOs of COCOBOD, was GH75, 102 a month, or GHS 901224 a year. This translates into $180,244.8 a year.

I was dumbfounded by the scale of entitlement and bureaucratic abuse of public funds in Ghana. Take, for example, the salaries of the Governor of Bank of Ghana and its USA counterpart: the US Federal Reserve Chairman. And bear in mind that the USA's current population is about 330 million, and Ghana's about 30 million. The Gross Domestic Product of the USA is about $20 trillion, compared to Ghana's GDP of $60 billion. Notwithstanding, the Governor of the Bank of Ghana's gross monthly salary is GHS 89,909 a month or GHC 1,078,908 a year. This translates into $215,781.6 a year. This is in addition to other benefits like free accommodation, free medical care, two vehicles, free utilities, a gardener, a security guard, a driver, a house help, and a cook. The chairman of the US Federal reserve's annual salary is $203,500. This kind of behavior puts a wedge between integrity and leadership, where people in a position of trust sacrifice ethics for personal benefit.

This entitlement mindset seduces people to make poor choices sacrificing national interest for personal enrichment. After independence from the Europeans, one would have expected that the African elites would think about how to ameliorate the plight of their people. Nevertheless, they have been more exploitative than the Europeans: living lives of opulence and wealth while their people languish in poverty, misery, and hunger. The elites have a tremendous influence on the development of nation-states. While accepting the fact that every society is divided into a ruling majority, and a majority that is ruled, the economic rents that are being extracted by the Ghanaian elites in Ghana will continue to undermine any development effort. We cannot engage in any meaningful discussion about the issues of economic growth, state-building, and social inclusion without taking a closer look at the agential factors, such as the elites' role and their economic entitlements, and how they undermine development.

The public sector wage bill has become the most significant problem confronting the Ghana government because of our entitlement mindset. Every Ghanaian graduate believes the government owes him or her a job, the compensation of which does not depend on productivity. The public sector wage bill alone took about half of the total tax revenue in 2017. The total tax revenue was GHS 32.2 billion, but wages and salaries for the public sector amounted to 14.4 billion cedis. One has to analyze these numbers against the background of the fact that the public sector employees constitute an abysmal 2.25% of the total population and about 4.26% of the active labor force in Ghana. In other words, about 50% of our tax revenue serves less than 3% of the total population. How can a country develop, given this lopsided income distribution?

I began this article with Mark Twain, and I will close with Mark Twain, "Always do what is right. It will gratify half of humanity and astound the other." – Mark Twain.

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