Big Ideas for Development

Feature Article Big Ideas for Development

The level of development of Ghana, almost 67 years after independence, suggests there is the need to develop policies (Big Ideas) that are capable of spurring growth and economic development. Economic development is not realised because of the failure of political leadership: development issues have been entrusted to politicians who poorly handle such issues. In that light, I suggest the following thematic areas as discussed:

Develop a National Development Plan: Political parties have shown their inability to execute majority of their party manifesto items. Parties that win political power are only able to implement about fifty percent (50%) of their manifesto items or programs and policies at the end of the term (s) of their government: this target is even only achievable when the party in power performs exceptionally. Ghana needs to learn from this experience and develop a National Development Plan, which will serve as the composite development framework for all parties to derive their manifesto items from. The country needs to create a 40-year or 50-year development plan that serves as a document that propels the direction of development of the country – revisiting the Development Plan created by the NDC government is not an entirely bad political or democratic endeavour.

A Development Plan for the next four (4) decades or the next half century (50 years) is essential to direct the creation of development opportunities for the people of Ghana: such a plan should be able to create growth in infrastructure for all sectors, social amenities, jobs and welfare for the masses. It must also be capable of securing economic freedom and happiness for the people of Ghana

With a properly-developed National Development Plan, the country can close the development gap in all sectors by assessing its needs in those sectors and estimating the time and resources including human capital needed to achieve such goals. The amount of kilometres of roads to be constructed in the country, for instance, can be estimated within the plan. Timelines can then be allotted for the completion of the kilometres of road in the country. This proposed strategy to complete the various kilometres of roads in Ghana can be replicated in other areas. The number of factories, hospitals, secondary schools, polyclinics, markets, universities and other facilities necessary for the development of the country in the next 40 years or 50 years can be planned ahead of time and implemented in a piecemeal manner. The development needs of the country must be programmed for the number of years considered appropriate for the attainment of such goals.

Subsequently, all political parties must adopt ideas or policies from the plan as manifesto items. The use of a National Development Plan can help achieve the ideals of Article 35(7), that “As far as practicable, a government shall continue and execute projects and programmes commenced by the previous Governments.” Political parties must be compelled by law – a new law can be enacted for such a purpose; to continue from their predecessors, without developing new policies and programs. The provision of development opportunities is not safe in the hands of politicians.

Restructure the National Development Planning Commission: The Constitution of Ghana created a National Development Planning Commission: Article 86 (1) states “there shall be a National Development Planning Commission.” The Commission consists of – (i) a Chairman who shall be appointed by the President in consultation with the Council of State; (ii) the Minister responsible for Finance and such other Ministers of State as the President may appoint; (iii) the Government Statistician; (iv) the Governor of the Bank of Ghana; (v) one representative from each region of Ghana appointed by the Regional Co-ordinating Council of the region; (vi) such other persons as may be appointed by the President having regard to their knowledge and experience of the relevant areas and roles pertaining to development, economic, social, environmental and spatial planning.” The composition of the National Development Planning Commission is too political that technical expertise was, and still is not valued in the structure of its leadership.

The functions of the National Development Planning Commission require the use of technocrats. It must also be an independent development planning agency. All the persons in its leadership roles are appointed by the President. There are no permanent persons with technical expertise to lead it.

The National Development Planning Commission is weak in practice because, its advisories may not be adopted and used by the President: The President has a mandate to achieve in the form of a manifesto. Yet, the Commission is given the mandate to advise the President on development planning policy and strategy – Article 87(1). The President of the republic will definitely be interested in achieving his manifesto items than implementing new policy ideas proposed by the Commission.

The NDPC is required to; in Article 87 clause 2(b) “make proposals for the development of multi-year rolling plans taking into consideration the resources potential and comparative advantage of the different districts of Ghana.” The Commission has derelict on its function of developing workable and effective development-oriented short-term, medium-term or long-term plans for Ghana. It is convenient therefore to restructure the Commission and task it with major development planning decisions as well as resourcing it with persons with technical expertise in development and spatial planning

A well-restructured National Development Planning Commission, devoid of polarization and all forms of political partisanship, can help curb the problem of abandoned projects. All political parties in Ghana must be compelled to continue the implementation of programs and projects commenced by their predecessors, which were picked from the National Development Plan – Article 35(7). The phenomenon of abandoning projects creates waste in the use of scarce resources. But the NDPC is tasked to; in Article 87 clause 2(d) “make proposals for ensuring the even development of the development of the districts of Ghana by the effective utilization of available resources.” Currently, the function of monitoring, evaluation and coordinating development policies, programmes and projects (Article 87 clause 2(e)) is not attainable and realistic when political persons are permitted to lead such a key development agency.

The current structure of the National Development Planning Commission of Ghana does not make it an independent agency to monitor, evaluate and coordinate state projects. If the Commission performs this function appropriately, there would have been synchronization in building infrastructural facilities for Ghana. Projects are abandoned because the NDPC does not have the power and the political will to advise the President to continue the programmes and projects of past governments – the government in power forms the leadership of the agency through appointments. As such, the Commission will be closely connected to the government to work towards achieving its manifesto items than advising it (the government) to continue the implementation of projects and programmes of predecessors.

Create oil-for-local Consumption Contracts: The gold-for-oil initiative can be imitated differently. The country can infuse clauses in its oil contracts to process part of its share of crude oil. This must be done only when the figures point to a net gain. That is, if there is a likelihood of a gain in processing crude oil locally than importing refined crude. The net gain is the difference between the gains of exporting crude oil to the international market and processing same quantity locally. This strategy demands reorganization the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) to utilise its operative capacity. Oil-for-local consumption contracts, just like the gold-for-oil ingenuity, can save millions of dollars by processing crude oil locally. This model must be explored further to ascertain its efficacy.

Cut the importation of rice by 30% or 50%: Ghana has the capacity to produce at least 30% of its rice imports per annum. It is therefore reasonable to plan the production of 30% of its rice imports in the short to medium-term, and 50% in the long-term. There is no enough preparedness to cut the importation of rice through the use of government’s flagship programmes such as the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) and the One-District, One-Factory (1D1F). There is no evidence to support any suggestion of effectiveness of these programmes. The outcomes of the two programmes would have been visible in terms of outputs in the agricultural sector.

The modernization of the agricultural sector through the use of the Planting for Food and Jobs strategy should be redirected at achieving food sustenance. One area that the programme can produce results is the rice sector. Reports from the sector indicate there is a huge niche to tap. There is the need for the State to design a feasible plan or approach, to cut its rice imports within a defined period.

Introduce effective Public Expenditure Commitment Controls: Ghana’s public finances are severely misused. Internal auditors have compromised the integrity of the system developed to check the wasteful use of public financial resources. Public expenditure commitment controls at the MDAs are not effective because there is opportunity for corruption to pass through every system at these agencies. The use of effective public expenditure commitment controls can reduce the inefficiency and wastage in the public sector.

The use of an achievable National Development Plan, where political parties are compelled to develop their manifesto items from, and continue projects of their predecessors, will curtail the uneconomical use of resources through abandoned projects. A National Development Plan will equally spell out the development path of the country.

The use of party manifestos to deliver development opportunities in Ghana has been unsuccessful, as the political parties have continuously shown their inability to achieve such targets which are recycled in future elections.

BY Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey
Economics Tutor, Advocate and Religion Enthusiast.