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17.04.2004 Feature Article

Rumour Mongering – The Negative Effect On Business

Rumour Mongering – The Negative Effect On Business
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Fellow Ghanaians, One of the negative forces in any society, with strong negative implications for business and society, is negative unverified information, otherwise called rumors. There is a saying that you give a dog a bad name and then kill it. Our society, as well as many, is know for that. In the international scene it can be devastating economically. On April 15, 2004, a Ghanaian who is a resident overseas traveling to Ghana recently sent out some serious news posted on the Ghana Social Democrats forum. I think it demands our immediate and serious attention. It is too important to ignore even in the middle of a busy day. The writer of the posting (let's call by his first name only, Newton) wrote from Ghana: "I am in Ghana now for The Easter, and one of two things. The Democracy is contributing a lot of tense, that mankind is afraid of the incoming election. For your information NPP has imported guns to terrorize the election, and also under no circumstances they have recruited forces in the Police section called PARTY POLICE. They are under pressure."

Instead of simply responding to this on a small forum, it is better we bring this in a public debate for examination of such news and inquiry for the sake of Ghana. To Mr. Newton, one may ask: what do you mean by the NPP is IMPORTING GUNS into the country and implying they are to terrorize the (coming) elections? Is this news really true? Are there hard core facts? This news bothers me, and will bother most of us overseas as well as those at home. I hope you don't mind me sharing your “akwantusem” with others to solicit their inputs.

Some of us have chosen to participate in public affairs by been offering criticisms of our governments, on perceived and real injustices, and on lack of developmental activity for decades. It is prudent that as we all get more mature, we evaluate news carefully in order not to use sensationalism and rumors to evaluate the performance of our leaders and public officials. We better be careful with facts, now that we have a government under the rule of law.

One may ask: How can a civilian government import guns for the sake of elections? Does anybody know the implications of this at the global level? Whether this is true or not, does anybody know the damage this perceived social danger has caused already from a business standpoint? It takes only one or two businessmen who shy away from Ghana on bad news for it to contaminate the business climate. There was a lot of perceived and real fear during last year when armed robbery was rampant in Ghana's affluent neighborhoods of East Legon in Accra. It takes only one or two such stories to kill a nation's social and hence business climate.

For those who may not be aware of the implications of social stability and good leadership in a country, let me share with you that global financial managers in the West have an index of risk called social and political risk associated with any nation. As the news appear, the nation's risk evaluation is changed down or up, just like news of a company's profitability can raise the value of their stock at the stock market. It is this risk assessment that is used to determine the interest rates for any nation or organization asking for loans. For say a small $10 million dollar loan, anybody with a Business calculator can estimate that the difference in payment with a 2% differential can be as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars to Ghana.

The process of building a nation is not an easy task, as our almost half century years after colonial rule has demonstrated. One thing we as a nation have to grapple with is the legal status of our nation in our ability, understanding and practical application and implementation of the rule of law. Some have suggested we need more prayers, but the real facts are that God also expects us to solve some of the problems with laws and rules instead of prayers alone. The other spectrum of solving problems has been violence, such as we see in coups. As anybody would know by now, FEAR is not a way to rule and to develop long term. Nobody wants to go back to the PNDC/NDC time when people were really afraid of their neighbors being abducted in the night or being victimized. My observation during my trip in Ghana in November 2003 was that Ghana is opening up in quantum jumps. Democracy is taking roots, whiles roads and a few things are being built. However, the management of major infrastructures like telecommunications is still in its infancy stages; and Ghanaians are still being exploited to the bone. Calling cards or phone cards are sold for the equivalent of $0.87 per minute for cellular phone calls that should not cost $0.8 per minute overseas. So how do ordinary people making $1-2 per day communicate? Despite this, many people are forced by necessity to use cell phones.

One of the observed measurable levels of development in the nation is the freedom of speech and exhibited self confidence by the people. Ghanaians have regained their sense of humor, and the President who borrowed money under HIPC has a street junction named after him called “HIPC Junction”. The NPP was pretty effective in going to court during the first few years of the NDC in 1992-96. So what is the NDC doing these days when there are perceived injustices and irregularities? Are we to conclude then that Oppositions are more effective when they boycott Parliament and are NOT in parliament rather than when they have actually been voted into the legislative body and in the opposition? Or this lack of legal action is due to lack of competency on the part of the NDC? Where are the Opposition's so-called brilliant lawyers?

Any Ghanaian in Ghana can share any substantial verifiable information with us from Ghana, else these may be considered as mere rumors after a while with no legal action. The Opposition has a right to take cases to court. Period! I read there were 50 charges or accusations against members of the NPP government, including Dr. Kofi Apraku. Up till now, almost 6-9 months, I have not heard of any prosecution. So how can peoples' names be tarnished in the press, and there are no prosecution and no further resolution or clarification? It creates an atmosphere of mistrust without justification in our societies if we continue to do that. In addition to that, the Press becomes also less credible.

Rumors and misinformation can be very dangerous in a society. In fact, our world is now in an information age. Of the major forces of change in societies, technology for informational exchange is perhaps number one, followed by customer focus and globalization. In Management Theory, organizations that use information well to seek competitive advantage in markets, and open their minds to learn and share information, are called learning organizations. Any such historical data and events are stored in what is called organizational memory. Some readers may remember the 1981 coup by Jerry Rawlings was based in part on rumors that Dr. Limann's government had men like Okutwe Bekoe and Krobo Edusie involved in schemes to solicit money for their government. After the coup, there were no actual trials to bring out the truth, only seizing of personal property by Jerry Rawlings and his henchmen using the cars and houses and justifying their illegal acts as "for revolutionary duties". It was a time of sheer armed robbery! I know men who were victims in the early 1980s. This kind of poor organizational memory has hurt Ghana greatly in our image as an attractive place for investors, and we are still considered a high risk nation as we keep struggling to entice foreign investors.

The bad results of the rumors in the 1980/81 government were the coup of Dec.31, 1981. The rest is history, with 11 years of dictatorial rule and suspension of the constitution, followed by 8 years under the continuity government of the P/NDC. If these charges and accusations are true against the NPP, then let us see the intelligence reports and exercise the rights of the people making the charges. This writer is not in anyway supporting or condoning any reported acts by the NPP or the NDC, but we should not be prejudiced against anybody or persons simply because some people are making charges. This is what growing up is all about, and some of us stand accused of growing up. I hope our countrymen and women are growing up also in this new concept of self-governance. Let's acquire the right type of information as we find today on the Internet. Let's learn to use them to achieve some strategic interests, and let's share them and dissipate the knowledge throughout our society. That is a positive way of using information. We will then be a Learning Society, and can learn to catch up to others in the world sooner than later.

Good luck in Ghana and Cheers, Kwaku A. Danso Amtek Realty & Finance, Inc. (Division of Amtek Engineering & Financial Services) Fremont, California, USA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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