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09.10.2004 Feature Article

The German Clockwork - An Experience- A Rejoinder

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In reading the article The German Clockwork – An Experience, published on Ghanaweb, I could not help but “piggyback” on your comments.

In the writer's account it was stated that the functioning of the Berlin systems was based on “…trust and the assumption that people would behave responsibly…” This may be true now and the values described may serve as the basis for the overall functioning of systems in the Berlin society.

However, let me add to it. The rule of law, accountability and also critical thinking comes with all what you saw. Actually there is no assumption, as people in the west do not work with assumptions, where factual information is possible. They work with facts, data and evidence in most decision. Assumptions are not part of the equation, and only relevant in the absence of data. In making contributions to the article, specific reference will be made to the initial article.

Rule of law is there and the citizens and law enforcers follow it to the “T”. The law enforcers are swift to act. In the case of the luggage issue, should your luggage not have arrived within reasonable time, you would have system to address that problem which would have held someone accountable. So, it is in the interest of all those who could be held accountable to make sure your luggage arrived, as they know the consequences.

In the hotel, what you saw showing your details on the TV is impressive but you are indirectly being reminded that they have captured enough information about you to actually pursue you should you be a “person of interest” in any unsavory act. This goes back to accountability. The hotel knows its responsibility in its society, and knows that should they not capture the information, as required, they can at anytime be held accountable and the cost would be grave for the organization.

With respect to restaurants that serve various continental dishes to meet their needs of the cosmopolitan city and also be the “Eternal Capital of Europe”, as stated in the article, the evidence is there for all to see, as is depicted with the wide food choices. They understand what it means to make that phrase “Eternal Capital of Europe” mean something. They support it with the basic needs of a world traveler, which is food. People may want to try different foods but when you are away from home, the society is telling you that you can be in Berlin and still be at home.

With our slogans of “Golden Age of Business”, “Gateway of West Africa” and our effort to enhance tourism, as a nation, where are we? Our restaurants and even chop bars by now should have menus in French and English, at least to ensure that we are ready for the most immediate market of French speaking folks, all around us. There are things that the government can and must direct, using either local subsidies through special loan schemes, tax exemptions or other to meet a desired objective of the government. The results and especially what the writer saw in Berlin just does not happen because the people are so smart. It is a well-orchestrated plan, which creates such an effective result. In the US for example, as an operator of a petrol station on the highway, you are obligated to have toilet facilities in working condition and clean, for all the motorist driving to use free of charge, and this is the price the business pays for setting up on the highway, where they get good business also. Here again, the result is the expectation set by the government, which monitors this directive and ensures that it is not violated. Again, it goes to accountability and management of the processes.

In adding to your comment, “One thing that came out clearly is that the German system is based on trust and the assumption that people would behave responsibly...” it has been stated prior that there is no assumption They have cameras and police to hold people accountable and mean it when they say it. As such there is no reason for anyone to take a chance, because it is not a matter of 'maybe' you will be arrested if you break the law. It is a fact that you will be arrested. This is the difference.

Our systems are half-baked, because even in copying what the West has, we fail to localize it, with our own local context issues. Critical thinking is short.

Systems designed abroad take into account aspects of their society, in terms of needs and what happens as a whole. As such, by merely importing ideas and systems, without actually adding more specific local context issues, to either upgrade them for our society is just how shallow we approach things as a society.

With the ticketing machines at the Kotoka airport, as stated in the story, the difference between what we have and what would be in the West is as follows: There would be a camera monitoring the booth, which would be filming every minute. That person at the booth would be aware of this. There would be someone making sure the machine to fill was in order 24/7, and there was film for every minute. The video film would be organized by day and would be by month and there would be policy to ensure that all videotapes were stored for a certain period of time, known to all. There would be random audits of all these processes, being the booth operation, the video recording process, storing process, and there would be documentation. Sales reports collected on a daily basis would show the fluctuations of receipts and that on certain days, when certain people were on duty, sales receipts dropped, which will prompt a close investigation and monitoring to see the cause, and the culprit in question would be exposed with the camera and all the other controls in place. This is the level of critical thinking and accountability, which accompanies such a system in the west versus what we have.

As such, based on what has been stated above, compared to ours, we see how shallow ours is. We just have installed a machine for its beauty, thinking it makes us look like a 'developed' nation, without seeking maximum benefit for the investment. Not only will the above approach if instituted ensure maximum return on investment, but also enhance security, in the case a crime was committed to someone from the airport, we do not rely on unreliable accounts but rather go to a source that simply gives us the facts.

This is the thinking that separates, the 'men' of the West and the 'boys' of our developing world. It is not a matter of being smart and of super intelligence. It is an understanding of their roles, consequences of poor performance and accountability. In the west, those who think they are 'smart' know that there is a more sophisticated system, larger than them, and as such weigh all these before risking their lives for cheap thrills and feeble crimes.

Until as a nation, we decide to have deep thinkers and give credit to those who know what to do to make systems effective, we will always go in for people who come into leadership roles with nothing more than a paper in hand, without proven track record to deliver anything.

On the other hand the government must understand that the private sector in a lot of cases cannot meet a grand plan without help and guidance, and it is government's responsibility to provide sometimes more than just a framework, it has create the financial incentives, to make these plans come together.

To answer the writer's final question posed, being “Do we have to blame anyone for our economic woes?” Yes, we do. It is our leaders. They have told the public that they are good for the job. If evidence proves contrary, they must be held accountable and we must be firm with our voice and votes. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Ako Folson
Ako Folson, © 2004

The author has 58 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: AkoFolson

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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