Dr Kenneth Ashigbey, Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, says the recent rejection of major government policies by the public was because of the manner they were communicated.
He noted that policies such as the passage of the Electronic Transfer Levy and the debt exchange programme were all made without recourse to the importance of communication and engagement and were only “forced down the throat of Ghanaians.”
Dr Ashigbey said this during a panel discussion at the opening ceremony of a three-day National Public Relations and Communication Summit and Annual General Meeting of the Institute of Public Relations (IPR), in Nkwatia-Kwahu, in the Eastern Region, on Thursday.
The conference’s objective was to reflect on last year’s activities, look at contemporary trends, and bring new practices to bear, as well as plan for the following year.
It was attended by both public and private sector communication professionals.
Other personalities on the panel were Brigadier General Eric Aggrey-Quarshie, Director General, Public Relations, Ghana Armed Forces and Madam Molieli Molekoa, Managing Director, Magna Carta Reputation Management Consultants, South Africa.
Discussions were held on the theme: “Staying Credible Through Rough Patches.”
The Government has been criticised for the way it introduced certain policies and programmes recently.
Most recent is the massive backlash it received over the debt exchange programme, where some groups, including the Pensioners Bondholders Forum and the Individual Bondholders Forum, refused to take offers from the government over the lack of engagement.
Dr Ashigbey noted that as much as a lot of the problems in the country were purely economic, there was a critical need to have professionals communicate the issues to the citizens.
“It is because, it is not for the fact that we don't have people who can communicate, who are not credible, but I think that the challenge we have is that the leadership of the day is not taking communication very seriously,” he said.
“You have people who can help us do a lot more when it comes to communication but, they seem to be pushed to the back by the people who are taking the decisions under the……. And the good thing is that, if you look at the results that have happened, credibility deficit is very wide.”
Buttressing his point, Dr Ashigbey indicated that many things the government had initially assured it was not going to do, it ended up doing them.
“Let us see the E-Levy for example. We said we were not going to the IMF, we have gone to the IMF. You take it from E-Levy, we said it was going to be the solution to our problems, what happened to that? If you look at the debt exchange, we said there is not going to be a haircut, but it has happened,” he said.
Madam Molekoa said PR professionals must devise strategies to effectively communicate in times of difficulties, especially, what to say and at what time.
She indicated that trust and credibility were important tools in effectively managing challenging times, noting that communication at the right time could achieve remarkable results
“Trust needs to be built and the right people must be put in the right positions to ensure that communication is accepted at every level of the organisation,” she added.
Brigadier General Aggrey-Quarshie, on his part, urged organisations to accord Public Relations practitioners the needed respect to enable them to effectively deliver on their mandates.
Mr Mawuko Afadzinu, President of IPR Ghana called on Parliament to expedite the passage of the IPR Bill currently before it to regulate the practice of the profession, enhance professionalism and improve credibility.