13.07.2004 Feature Article

Plea for a new start

Plea for a new start
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Because of the positive resonance to my contribution on tourism, I have decided to share more ideas with the general public. This time, I would like to take a more fundamental view of the whole issue.

I have chosen Tourism as my major topic, because it presents a good playground for observing the performance of our government. Tourism, encompasses all aspects of life in a country. It is the net result of all activities that go to show whether an administration is performing well or not. Its success depends on the trouble-free interplay of all stakeholders within an administration. Its making or undoing therefore presents a good picture of how well a developing country like ours is being run.

Since this is election time, and before party activists get turned on or off (depending on affiliation) by my deliberations, I should like to emphasize that the whole discussion is not intended in any way to be partisan. Its sole purpose is to contribute to the finding of the best means possible to pull our dear country ahead. As I said at the end of my last article, Ghana, has all it takes to attract more than a million tourists annually to its shores. So let us debate passionately on what should happen.

The Germans (a very efficient people) have a fine proverb that says that when fish goes bad, it starts from the head down. Understand the point? Yes, that is what the whole dilemma in our country is about. Too many square pegs are sitting in round holes. Development and progress are not primarily about God blessing one country and cursing another, it's not about the availability or not of oil or rich natural resources. Development is about a good leadership that gives people the right to live in freedom and justice.

As can be clearly observed in Africa, potentially rich countries can go to the dogs when they lack good leadership. Let us give concrete examples: Angola, DR. Congo, Nigeria, Sudan, Chad, Sierra Leone, Liberia are all very rich but sorry places today. Because they lack good leaders, determined to push them ahead.

Our own beloved country, endowed with gold, diamonds, bauxite, manganese, cocoa, timber, a rich culture, good music, good food, friendly people, a beautiful coastline, more than presentable landscape, a huge man-made lake, countless lagoons etc. should not be compared to the above-named but could do far better than the doldrums we are confronted with, if our leaders were really dedicated.

There are also examples of relatively “poor countries” with little or no raw materials that have done very fine by tapping their scanty resources in a more purposeful manner: Taiwan, Korea, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Iceland, Israel, Cyprus etc. Yes. Some of the above-named used slave labour to accumulate wealth in the past, but the point here is not how they obtained the cash, but how they used it, and for what?

Whether we want to hear it or not. It all begins and ends with democracy and the will of a people to succeed. Judging from the statements and actions of a lot of our ministers, parliamentarians and local representatives, it does not look like they really understand the nature of the jobs they have been elected to do. They do not respect the electorate they purport to represent nor do they take the aspirations of the people to heart. If they did, they would not often talk, or behave in the way they do. Mind you, I am speaking in general terms and do not necessarily refer to the members of the present government per se.

But true it is all the same that we have hitherto had the wrong kind of leadership. No matter what most of our rulers have said, they have been people who do not love their country. In fact, they have been people who did and do not respect themselves. They only love their close relatives, have acquired foreign tastes, send their children to schools abroad, look down on their own cultures and languages. This explains why they hardly react when plastic reigns in our towns and cities, when precious trees are felled indiscriminately in our forests, when gold-digging firms pollute our waters and ruin our landscapes with impunity, when rogue companies (national and international) evade taxes, when state officials demand bribes for every service.

Let us be honest. With the exception of a few dedicated among our leaders hitherto, we have been ruled since independence by groups that believe they can bring development to the people single-handedly, without the people having anything to do with it. These are politicians who believe chiefly in magic and charlatanry. Successful development, however, requires something else. In fact, it never functions when the same people who are to bring about development are tricked, lied to, humiliated and marginalised.

Many a reader could counter that my current words overtly have little to do with the topic of tourism. That would be a cheap reflexive reaction to a fundamental problem that must be resolved before anything can go on. We have disregarded the subject of what is wrong with us for 47 years already, but since we cannot be too proud of the results so far, it is high time we recognized the need to re-examine our way of doing things, the need for a real new start. Our present mindset has only produced negative results.

The next elections are coming, but there does not seem to be any new, refreshing voice among the lot jockeying for power. Why has no political party really drawn up a realistic action plan for the near future? Why are our politicians always content with issuing empty appeals to the electorate to be clean, law abiding, incorrupt, etc. etc. Where is the concrete action? Plea for a new start II If we are looking for proofs to buttress the fact that our politicians do not really believe in themselves, all we have to do is look at how they have been tackling Ghana's current problems. Most of our present leaders believe that relief from our woes will come from abroad (or from Heaven). Their thinking tells them that donors, investors, philanthropists, white people, World Bank, IMF, UN) will come and deliver us. A good example of this syndrome was given by the confused lot at Ghana Airways, when they recently found nothing wrong with flying in a Chaplain from London to pray for the good of the airline (serious!), after they had mismanaged the company for years. Even our current good President thinks on the same lines. He keeps traveling abroad on the lookout for Dollars, instead of seeing to it that his Ministers diligently work and desist from rhetoric. And that is also why politics in Ghana have become more of a talk show. Day in day out, our ministers build castles in the air boasting of things they only dream about: one million tourists in three years, railways to Burkina soon, our GSE is the second best in the world! KNUST is the third best university in the world, etc. etc. With such statements supported by an uncritical press, a largely ineffective parliament and an unconcerned public, how are we going to advance?

There is something fundamentally wrong with any country in which the President and his team formally speak to their electorate in a foreign language. Just take a look around the world. The poorest are those singing in their masters' voices. We are among such a lot. Ours is a country where the only language allowed in Parliament is a foreign one, even though a majority of the electorate does not master this language. Why do we remain so cold-footed, when the European Parliament in Brussels can conduct proceedings in 16 languages? The problem we have is not that we could provide simultaneous interpretation for our five major languages. What lacks is the political will and common sense.

Kwame Nkrumah's proud country has volunteered to blindly continue colonial practice by disregarding its culture completely. While Unesco votes money for the restoration of our ancient shrines (Ejisu-Besease, Adako-Jaachi), we rather elect to finance the flights of bogus experts to bogus conferences that produce bogus results. To me, a long time observer of developments in Ghana, it does not look like our policy makers are really serious with their plenty talk about developing our country. If they were, they would really buck up on performance. Has anybody seen the types of representatives our governments send to Trade Fairs, exhibitions and conferences overseas? Incredible sometimes. Ill informed, badly dressed, unprepared, speaking bad English (our official language!) and completely disinterested in what they were sent to do. Is it a wonder then that they produce no results?

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