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23.12.2004 Feature Article

Media and prudent management of the economy

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Inflation Down To 12.3% I am afraid, but wish to ask who are these economists? The title for the article "Inflation Down To 12.3%" by the Statesman on Friday may be okay in showing the economy is on track. But the total content is not good enough, and therefore left much to be desired for economic reporting in the country.

In view of a serious mistake portrayed, which will consequently make any international partner, multilateral and bilateral donors to Ghana be, highly disappointed and worried after reading a report of the kind. In short, a case in which it was referring to four weeks, but was represented by "annual" which presurposes 52 weeks, that is to say 12 months was not proper.

The misreading into clear data from the first two paragraphs of the article, will send tremors in a vicinity of so many thousands of kilometres away from home. Thus, by reading into the first and second paragraphs, referring to the later it should have been: "Though a marginal monthly change of 0.1% compared to that of October`s 12.4%, it, however, stands out as an all-time improvement in the performance of the economy," and so on.

Instead, we the reading public had to grapple with an information like this from paragraph one, "monthly report of the Ghana Statistical Service which indicates that Ghana has recorded another decline in inflation at 12.3% for the month of November."

Then the second paragraph followed like this, "Though a marginal annual change of 1% compared to that of October`s 12.4%, it, however, stands out as an all-time improvement in the performance of the economy in the past five years at this period of the year."

This is a mismatch and its just not acceptable in economics or in any monetory economy, in the sense that the misplacement of decimals in figures, including addition of zeros could cost taxpayers and a nation so many billions of dollars. This could also lead to capital flight from the country.

In view of this we can be sure of failing industries especially state-owned as well as private and it is because of the way we take things for granted. I did not intend to put too much blame on the Statesman; newspaper, since it is a data said to have come from the Ghana Statistical Service. That is not to hold brief for the press house because it is equally important to read well into what it publishes.

I could not be sure about the way the report itself was published anyway, but with hindsight it could not have been from an economist, because of the manner it was reported. This small private newspaper company is probably only trying hard to breakeven in a rather depressed economy like ours.

I do also understand that prior to the just ended 2004 elections, newspapers were accussed of inflamming passions and not focusing on the issues. Yes, the economy will continue to be an issue so long as 40 per cent of the population live below the poverty line. But it is even more dangerous for a newspaper without the know-how to miss out on an economic report.

I may well want to say that, I will agree with the journalist who said although they, he meant the media houses, report on almost everything, although certain newspapers may emphasise or focus on certain areas they may have a hold on more than others, be it social, economic, political, sports and so on. This may be based on their interests, expertise, other considerations and of course what will sell to bring-in the cedis. I therefore, think that should be the case.

We should be seen to concentrate on what we know and therefore sure of doing best in media reporting. Rather than to succumb to external pressures about what we cannot do truthfully and well, for the sake of the nation. I reckon, this piece of advice to be a critical example and should be amended.

This may also be the reason why, we are sometimes taken for granted in our dealings with international development agencies. The reality of such errors however little, could be summed-up in the adage "little drops of water makes the mighty ocean." Lets be careful when our journalists are presenting such reports so as not to further jeopardise our plight of poverty vis-a-vis our benefactors.

Especially, when Japan and Norway have just releaved Ghana of its debts of 104.68 billion yen worth of loans (1 US Dollar = 105.560 Japanese Yen ) and 11.04 million dollars respectively, on Wednesday. We may not be aware of what everyone reads, but contradiction in information sharing can also lead to corruption and poverty.

I vividly remember an anectdoctal situation while I was still in Johns Hopkins University, in the USA. A colleague from a friendly African country talked about how the Finance Minister in a neighbouring country south to his, had to present a budget statement to parliament. After a perceived "government`s prudent management of the economy," was not be happy about the figures he arrived at. He therefore, had to consult his President because the country was persistently in negative growth.

A strong directive was given to him by the President that henceforth, when reporting the budget he should cross all negatives into positive or plus. So anytime the minister comes across a negative or a minus he confidently changed it into positive by a single stoke of the pen. This situation of Positive Change continued for some years, to the extent that the country with a name that starts with "Z" or so, lost hold of its economy.

That country is also currently a strong member in the team of HIPC countries. I think Ghana has graduated from the HIPC completion point so, lets not find any more excuses for others wrong doings but we should rather "hold the bull by the horn," and do just what is expected of us.

Our situation may not be worse than what caused the world`s corporate giants like Anderson, Enron, Worldcom to go crumbling a fews years ago, and much recently Halliburton. To the extent that MBA`s trained in the USA have to struggle to get real jobs these days.

A situation which have so badly rocked US institutions that they are taking a second look inwards. Whereas, some young students these days are tempted to take their MBA programmes from destinations in Europe especially, in the UK, France and Switzerland.

The nature of the newspaper report could be a blow to the government in power and its Finance Ministry. Many experts including me, can tell you these are abundant around the world and in the diapora watching critically. Others from the minority side, the public and even the electorate could read into it as a government-spin, which may not be the case at all. None of the above scenerios auger well for our yearn for our politics, accountability, good governance and development.

It will interest us all to know that, if we go through very high profile reports on Ghana`s Economy. One comes across such fears of misrepresentation and you will tend to wonder. How this well adorned Sub-Saharan African country of ours could get out of economic douldrums the way datasets are compiled? We therefore, need to be more serious than this as a nation.

If it is a general lack of appreciation or skill for numbers as we all saw in the international report and the 44th postion of Ghana, both in mathematics and science from a tally of 45 countries. Then it is not just an issue of free education by 2007, but real investment into science, mathematics, knowledge-based education and technology, a vision which should begin right from the basic (elementary or primary) level. You will all agree with me that the Wednesday article "Ghana sucks at maths and science," was generous enough have to excluded the literary results.

The ensuing frustration has therefore made some educationists, to believe and even suggest that, "If Ghana as a country would revisit its pre-independence high standard in education then the government will have to make education a top priority and commit more resources (both local and international) to ensuring the rejuvenation of the country's education system." A position which may not be visionary enough looking at the global developments.

Coming back home to the matter at hand is although, I agree that the problem across board for both boys and girls. I do sincerely want to know what happened to the programme that existed before the year 2001, which sought to encourage and support for instance, to give a "head start" to girls in science and mathematics? Dr. James W. Doe Independent consultant, currently in Oceania Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

James W. Doe
James W. Doe, © 2004

The author has 15 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: JamesWDoe

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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