03.05.2004 Feature Article

Real Estate As A Vehicle For Our National Development

Real Estate As A Vehicle For Our National Development
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Travel around the world today and you will notice that the skyline of the cities you are visiting, from the "downtown" areas to the suburbs, is a symbol of the wealth and power of the societies that inhabit them.

From Tokyo to Hong Kong, from London to Paris, from Toronto to Vancouver or from New York to Los Angeles, a view from the air of most cities today is pure evidence of how real estate developers have transformed raw land into the residential, commercial or industrial communities that we find around the world today. From Kabul (Afghanistan) to Ramallah (Palestine) or from Kigali (Rwanda) to Monrovia (Liberia)--- the most troubled parts of the world----the lack of real estate development in these communities also reflects the poverty and degradation such communities endure around the world.

There is no question whatsoever that the most peaceful parts of our world today have the most well-developed cities, the world's giant industries, cutting edge businesses and the safest and most beautiful residential environments in our world, while the most troubled parts of the world suffer the worst degradation, abject poverty and lack of infrastructural development.

What has happened in real estate development in our country, Ghana, within the last ten years is such a remarkable success story that should get the attention of the power brokers and decision makers of our country if they are truly serious about helping Ghana move forward. Private real estate developers in Ghana today have put to shame the miserable failures of government institutions like the State Housing Corporation, the State Hotels Corporation, Ghana Industrial Holding Corporation (GIHOC), National Investment Bank and the 60 or so failed state-owned enterprises that had to be sold off to stop the hemorrhaging. What has been accomplished by the likes of Home Finance Company (HFC), Regimmanuel Gray, Manet International and Trasacco Valley (to name a few) within such a short period of time is ample proof that, given the right economic and political environment, WHEN PUBLIC POLICY MEETS PRIVATE CAPITAL, the Ghanaian entrepreneur can rise to the occasion and do wonders for his country.

Perhaps, a little history in real estate development might bring the point home more clearly. In the early 1900s, as cities developed across the landscape of North America and Europe, so did industries like steel, lumber, glass et cetera develop to meet the demands of the construction industry. As more and more construction companies continued to convert virgin land into beautiful cities, so did the demand for labor rise to meet the needs of these industries. As homes and skyscrapers mushroomed across the land, so did a cottage industry develop producing furniture, carpeting, drapery, household appliances and office equipment to feed the growing needs of homeowners and businesses alike. And as more and more real estate development took place there came in its wake the necessity for the services of real estate agents, mortgage loan officers, property managers, escrow and title officers. The job-creation mechanism of the real estate industry was not lost on managers of the various cities in which real estate development took place.

Back in our own country, Ghana, what we are seeing happen in the real estate industry today is no different from what happened in Europe and the Americas in the early part of the 20th century. The population explosion we are witnessing in the Accra-Tema metropolis today is exactly what happened in cities like New York, Chicago, Toronto, London and Paris in the early 1900s, DIRECTLY THE RESULT OF THE ACTIVITIES OF REAL ESTATE DEVELOPERS. Because of the population explosion, city planners and city managers in these cities suddenly found a new cash-cow in the REVENUES THEY COLLECTED FROM PROPERTY TAXES which enabled them develop infrastructure like roads, water, sewerage, street-lighting and recreational parks.

Indeed, the multiplier effect of the real estate industry on any economy in the world cannot be lost on any politician who takes the development of his country seriously. That is why in most developing nations of the world today, there is a completely separate department set up to deal with real estate issues---- from land ownership to land subdivision, from building codes to zoning regulations and from the regulation of real estate agents and escrow officers to the regulation of real estate developers, mortgage bankers and title companies. It is obvious across the world that those countries or communities that have taken real estate regulation seriously and have devised laws to control the development of their cities are those that boast of the most beautiful cities around the world today and those who have not, definitely show the worst cities across the globe.

Again, back in our own country Ghana today, the focus of our politicians is not on LAND REFORM to enable the citizens purchase and develop land freely and easily without much hassle. No. The buzz around town is all about ICT (Information and Communications Technology). As we see our politicians jumping onto the ICT bandwagon and dancing to the tunes of the ICT drumbeat, it is necessary to remind them that, before the advent of computers and cell phones, THERE WAS THE LAND, THERE IS THE LAND AND THERE WILL BE THE LAND!!! For far too long our, PURELY BECAUSE OF VOTES, our politicians have been in bed with our chiefs holding our country to ransom on land reform instead of enacting the necessary enabling legislation that will free up land for sustained real estate development. If our politicians could jump on the LAND REFORM BANDWAGON the same way we are seeing them do for ICT, real estate development in our country could be the real panacea for our economic woes and not the hullabaloo we are witnessing from our politicians on the subject of ICT. PETER TSIKATA Real Estate & Mortgage Broker Los Angeles, California. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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