The public and the media have been discussing growing inflation and cedi depreciation nonstop for the past four months. It appears that rather than using specific criticism to better the country, debates on matters of this size have been conducted inanely along lines of perception. There is a lot to be desired about the hoopla and the speed with which individuals wish to destroy the economy. Three things come out of these perceptions: media hype and unethical behaviour, political hype from the opposition party to win back public support for taking back power, and poor communication from the executive branch and policymakers.
The numerous Ghanaian media outlets have behaved dishonestly toward Ghana and the nation's economy as a whole. I comprehend because, since 2008, a like pattern has been observed in media transmission. The media appears to be more concerned with the negative aspects of the economy than the positive aspects. As a result, since April, the media has been reporting progressively dire predictions for the economy without providing any remedies or alternatives. I would refer to this as an "economic run down." Unjustifiably, some media outlets may use phrases like "worthless," "free fall," and others to describe the cedi, even going so far as to inform the public of the incorrect "currency exchange rate." Social media has moreover done a terrible job of downplaying the economy. On social media, price fixing and hype are still prevalent. People continue to post fabrications and pricing for goods without presumably conducting background checks, and the general public is complicit in this. Unprecedented harm is being done to Ghana by social media (Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp). If caution is not exercised, "free speech" could be utilized to spread more unfavourable impressions of Ghana than ever before, with disastrous results.
Furthermore, the opposing political parties use of political spin to win back the public's trust in their ability to seize power again continually reinforces these unfavourable perceptions. Opposition parties, primarily the NDC, will stop at nothing to portray the economy as dire, make the government appear unpopular, and praise "karma" for the faltering economy. Every opposition party wants a weak economy, that much is certain. They plan to utilize the current economic difficulties as fuel to win back the public's trust and retake political power. Since 1992, our democratic political campaigns have relied on "wishing the incumbent administration disaster" to make the opposition parties appear appealing and garner support. You might find it interesting to know that policy-based campaigns have been hard to find in our current political climate. Politics and predictions of the Ghanaian economy's collapse were the driving forces behind the calls for the censorship of the finance minister.
Last but not least, handling these impressions had proved problematic for government communication. Government representatives and policymakers have utterly failed to counter the unfavourable hysteria that has taken centre stage. For instance, the supposed dollar shortage and the frantic rush to buy it were major factors in the depreciation of the cedi. Once more, traders are relying on this notion to scramble for dollars to import items for the Christmas season. The Bank of Ghana and the Ministry of Information had not appropriately handled these instances, not even on the country's television. The communication group of the current administration, which has access to radio and television, has also failed to explain the state of the economy and the steps being taken to restore confidence. Effective communication was required to put a stop to the various perceptions, but it has not been forthcoming.
When perception rules, confidence typically disappears on its own. Additionally, perception spread faster than facts. Perception cannot be allowed to halt our democratic progress and, to a greater extent, ruin its dividends, particularly in light of expanding mainstream media and the monstrous social media. Leadership is required in the current position Ghana is in, and leadership without the backing of the populace may be ineffectual in providing comfort for the average Ghanaian. In our democracy, politics and the spread of hate speech are becoming more entrenched. The media is increasingly playing a role in determining the fate of the current administration by stoking perceptions and unabashedly supporting the opposition. We allow political parties to take advantage of this perception and deliver underdevelopment when given the chance, even though our democracy still suffers from fundamental structural flaws. Ghana cannot continue in this manner or else our democratic dividends will be undermined and development will always be provided piecemeal as unemployment and poverty continue to soar daily.
BY Isaac Ofori
Demographer, Human Rights Activist, Educator, Unionist