19.10.2004 Feature Article

Good Governance in Ghana is not Necessarily Efficient

Good Governance in Ghana is not Necessarily Efficient
19.10.2004 LISTEN

Almost unquestionably, the labeling of outcomes and effects of performance of national leaders in the administration of emerging societies with the concept of “good governance” has become accepted incorrectly as an article of faith. Rather, it is the view of this writer that assessing effectiveness of leadership in execution of national policy initiatives should be based on an objective approach that ends in the evaluation of efficiency or inefficiency, as in “efficient governance.” This position bolsters the idea that the concept of badness and goodness, as in “good governance,” is purely subjective with the trappings of parochialism and idiosyncrasy.

Upon reviewing press reports, this article concludes that when “good governance” translates into the measurement of outcomes and effects of public policy execution, as it should be, the NPP government of Ghana, led by President John Agyekum Kufuor, performed below optimal efficiency in the economic structure during the first two years (January 2001 to December 2002) of its maiden term. It emerges from press reports (thanks to archives) that performance of the Kufuor administration in the economic sphere during its first two years deserved below average grade with the caveat that it had the opportunity to redeem itself during the second half of its maiden legal term.

In NPP 2000 Manifesto, the party promised to ensure “good governance” by “implementing with commitment and competence appropriate policies and measures for solving the socio-economic, political and cultural problems of the country.” It is in the light of that promise that “policies and measures” initiated or implemented by the Kufuor administration towards “positive change” in Ghana has been critiqued. Thus, this article focuses on the Administration's performance in the economic sphere during the period under consideration.

In the economic realm, the priority sectors selected by the NPP government included development of the private sector, provision of infrastructure needs, delivery of social services and modernization of agriculture in harmony with development of Ghana's rural areas.

As candidate for president, Kufuor promised also that the NPP would defend “liberal democracy and free enterprise.” Another promise made by Kufuor to Ghanaian voters says, “Victory for the NPP will provide the opportunity, once and for all, to resolve the deep, social and economic crises that have continued to plague our country.”

However, within five months in office, President Kufuor started complaining about the state of Ghana's economy inherited by his government. The president assured Ghanaians in Washington, D.C. that he had assembled people with the capability of reconstructing the inherited decrepit economy of Ghana. Senior cabinet appointees supported President Kufuor's view about the nature of the economy their party inherited and the capacity of the new government to rescue it.

After two years in office, Pres. Kufuor told Ghanaians in his February 2003 “State of the Nation” address that, “any objective observer will accept that the nation has made some gains.” However, in the same speech the president equivocated on the perceived success story when he pointed out that Ghana has “to rely on donors and other multilateral agencies for almost all the funds for the development of roads.” He said, “this year, a total amount of almost two trillion cedis, the equivalent of about 250 million US dollars will be spent on road construction. Out of this amount, the Ghana government component is about 422 billion cedis. In other words, only about 22% will come from our own resources.”

From purely economic standpoint, it is hard for one to accept that Ghana had made gains during the first two years under the NPP government when 78% of funding for road infrastructure construction in the country had come from foreign grants and loans.

In effect, Pres. Kufuor's admission that 78% of funding for road construction in Ghana had to come from foreign sources was a clear affirmation of the dependent nature of the political-economy of the country.

Kufuor's disclosure of the sources of funding for infrastructure provision confirms also that the free enterprise phenomenon that the NPP government cherishes, appears to be dependent on foreign resources; hardly an efficient approach towards development, self-sufficiency and “positive change” of Ghana.

In the 2003 “State of the Nation” address Pres. Kufuor complained that implementation of his administration's programs “has not been as fast as desired” because “the public sector has not yet adjusted enough to the speed at which the Administration wants to operate.” In this instance, it is fair also for one to conclude that the statement on deficiency of Ghana's public sector indicated admission of poor performance of the Kufuor administration by default. Simply put, Ghana's national administration cannot perform efficiently with a maladjusted public sector.

In addition to an unresponsive public sector, the absence of capable, viable, credible and efficient 'free entrepreneurs' constituted another missing puzzle required by the NPP government to have a successful execution of its stated mission and agenda for Ghana's private sector. It emerged from review of news stories also that in Ghana corruption rules at the point of interaction between public servants and private sector personnel.

Whereas the government of Ghana hardly has sufficient tax-revenue, somehow it exceeds tax collection targets. With a strong culture of bribery as a component of corruption in Ghana, it should not be difficult for one to understand the problem any government could have in trying to implement public policies, whatever their promise and value to society. However, this observation is hardly an excuse for the NPP government not to have accomplished what it promised voters because leading members of the party should have known all the negative conditions and difficulties associated with governance in Ghana as they sought power.

There had been no question that President Kufuor and significant members of his cabinet demonstrated passion and enthusiasm for their desire to see the private sector in Ghana pickup the job of powering the national economy. However, passion, enthusiasm and desire alone could not help the Kufuor administration fulfill its intent and program to transform Ghana's private sector. Historically, the private sector in Ghana had been unproductive and dependent on largess of the state (in return for political patronage).

Given the recognition that the private sector in Ghana had been incapable of its promise as a machine for job creation, the Kufuor administration transitioned from supporting the private sector to the creation of “Presidential Special Initiatives,” a state-sponsored capitalist activity. In that regard, it was fair for one to deduce that the Kufuor administration had been on the march in support of the dominance of a state-sponsored capitalist regime in Ghana.

Roads, railways, telephony and telecommunications, energy, water and housing had been the sectors designated by the NPP government for focused provision of infrastructure. Unfortunately, inadequate national revenue did not help the Kufuor administration in the implementation of its anticipated programs for the provision of infrastructure during the period under consideration, in spite of expressed promises and useful intents of the NPP.

In addition to the reality of a weak tax revenue base, prudent decision-making was lacking in the Kufuor administration thereby turning priorities in policy actions for infrastructure provision upside down.

In the roads sector, for example, the Kufuor administration turned priority upside down when it spent available funds on roads linking urban centers as opposed to improving rural roads network connecting food and other agricultural commodities producing areas to markets. It emerged from the discussions also that the Kufuor administration abandoned NPP's promise to tar all roads in favor of reshaping, regravelling and spot improvements. The Administration's method for rehabilitating exiting rural roads served as palliatives rather than cure for the ailing system.

There was not much practical activity in the railways sector of Ghana during the first two years of the NPP government except repeated public announcement of intended policy actions by the Kufuor administration. Primarily, the Administration promised to rehabilitate and extend the existing railway system through private capital.

The Kufuor administration promised in 2001 to increase the existing telephone landlines of 200,000 in Ghana to one million and to lower the cost of accessing the Internet. According to the Administration, the two-pronged strategy for telephony and telecommunications improvements could make information and communications technology a prime mover of economic activities in Ghana. Sadly, intentions, plans and promises towards revamping Ghana's telephony and telecommunications sector hardly took-off during the first two years of the Kufuor administration due to uncertainty of funding sources and lack of adequate local expertise.

During first two years of the Kufuor administration there was no hint of the “Scientific Energy Policy” the NPP promised would rescue Ghana from that sputtering national sector. Meanwhile, the Administration abandoned NPP's promise to carry on construction of the Bui Dam needed to supplement generation of hydroelectric power in the country.

In trying to introduce efficiency into the overall output of VRA, the Kufuor administration broke a significant principle of NPP's stated actions for fighting corruption when it stacked the Authority's Board of Directors with political patronage appointees.

Apparent inability or failure to transmit electricity to rural areas in Ghana violated NPP's promise in that matter with respect to the much heralded poverty alleviation program during the period under consideration. Rather than leaving rural dwellers to fend for themselves as under the “Self-Help Electrification Project,” they should have been provided assistance with the resources utilized for public subsidization of electricity consumed by urban dwellers of the country that tend to be relatively better off in the economic and social sense.

Making Ghana's strategic fuel reserves program operational in 2002 had been a prudent decision by the Kufuor administration. The reason here is that whereas the strategic fuel reserve policy had been in place since 1998, it was not implemented by the NDC administration in spite of collection of 30 cedis per gallon of petrol at the pump. However, the Kufuor administration erred in decision-making when it failed or refused to resolve promptly a dispute between two state agencies, BOST and Ghana Railway Company (GRC) with respect to control over a loan facility for rehabilitating Accra-Kumasi railway line. By not intervening to resolve the conflict between BOST and GRC, the Administration did not help both agencies to serve Ghana better.

The Kufuor administration scored points for baring problems at Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC). The Administration's actions saved Ghana from the absurdity of open gross mismanagement, inefficiency and apparent corruption orchestrated by an individual with connections to those who wielded the political power of the state of Ghana.

Dragging Tsatsu Tsikata, former managing director of GNPC to court for the opportunity to exculpate himself from accusations of wanton waste of public funds and alleged actions bordering on naked corruption was the appropriate thing to do by the Kufuor administration. The Administration has to receive credit also for restructuring GNPC to force it to focus on exploration for hydrocarbons in Ghana.

In addition to the positive actions by the Kufuor administration in the case of GNPC, introduction of Petroleum Products Pricing Policy (PPPP) could be considered useful since it had the promise of letting Ghanaians know in advance when to expect price increase of petroleum products. However, the Administration had not seen to let PPPP work.

NPP government's promise to create an “Energy Economy” had remained a non-starter during the first two years of the Kufuor administration. Of course, given the fluctuations in the world price of crude oil and acute absence of effective co-ordination of energy-related agencies and resources, Ghanaians should have received NPP's promise in that area with skepticism. However, in the light of the anemic state of Ghana's energy resources, the Kufuor administration gets credit for pursuing access to the promise of the West Africa Gas Pipeline project, despite the fact that the government's share of funding comes from a foreign source.

NPP's promise to provide low-income housing, urban renewal and rural housing under “Housing the People Scheme” had also been a non-starter during the first two years of the Kufuor administration typified by existence of slum enclaves in Ghana's urban centers and shanty housing in the rural areas.

The most troubling aspect of Kufuor administration's economic program for Ghana had been the dominance of its dependency on foreign assistance, grants, loans and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) capital, as significant component of the national budget. Whereas all previous governments of Ghana had resorted to seeking injection of foreign capital as important segment of the country's development needs, it appeared as if the Kufuor administration treated the country to a new and elevated round of the craft of soliciting and attempting to access or penetrate the world of economic dependency popular with most post-colonial African societies.

In general terms, the political economy of dependent societies tends to be characterized by persistent unemployment and poverty, as populations become more consumption-oriented as opposed to production, with appetite for foreign commodities. Imagine for example that Ghanaians prefer expensive imported rice to locally grown produce thereby placing the country in a comparative disadvantage in the context of world trade and market relations. Logically, it is defensible for one to assume that persistence of dependency would reinforce a cycle of unemployment and generalized poverty just as Ghana has been experiencing.

By placing a lot of faith in economic dependency as the basis for development needs of Ghana, key members of the NPP government demonstrated that whereas they have fixation to capitalist aspirations they had not shown ability and capacity to fashion and execute policy-decisions that could sustain the level of progress the country should be capable of.

In the light of the discussions above, it is important to acknowledge that in governance, political goodwill and useful intents cannot be substitutes for efficiency because it impacts directly on the safety of the individual in society and thereby on national security. Yaw Adu-Asare DALE CITY, Virginia Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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