The President of Ashesi University, Dr. Patrick Awuah says Ghana can only achieve its long term goals of development if and when the public sector changes its hostile attitude towards the private sector.
Speaking on Joy FM's Super Morning Show on Tuesday December 4, 2007, he spoke on a wide range of issues including leadership, education, infrastructure and the internet sector.
He told host Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, that for Ghana to be on track in her development agenda, the country must focus on the basics.
He said the public sector must change its hostile attitude towards the private sector and stop paying too much lip service to the sector. He argued that while economies are built on commerce and for which the country has acknowledged the private sector as the engine of growth, not much is being done by the public sector to develop the private sector.
Dr. Awuah expressed concern that for most part, the government's tax revenue comes from import tax on goods that are not produced in Ghana. He considers that as a perversion.
He said the system has created an environment that puts local businesses in a stiff competition with foreign products.
He lamented the fact that Ghana is still poor after 50 years of independence. While agreeing that the country's poverty is due to a combination of factors, he said, “a country remains poor because its government decides that it should remain poor.”
Dr. Awuah, pointed out the unfortunate situation where people in business are seen as enemies of the state and inventories are considered as hoarding.
According to him, by destroying the private sector, the base of the economy has been destroyed.
Speaking on leadership, he said, Ghana's leaders are those who have received the most education in this country, and they have been put in various positions to make far reaching decisions that affect everyone, however, they have consistently made the wrong decisions.
Commenting on the role of ideology in nation building, he said after the World War II, most countries chose socialist ideologies and others chose free market ideologies.
According to him, it is those who chose free market ideologies that have become successful.
Speaking about the internet sector, Dr. Awuah wondered aloud, how the National Communication Authority could happily license about 114 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) but only 27 are in business in the country and the public institution does not care.
He said in other countries one does not need to pay for a license to operate the unlicensed wifi spectrum, but in Ghana, one is expected to pay for it. He said, this situation makes the provision of internet services more costly and therefore, denying many companies the ability to set up businesses in the industry.
He said, if the ISPs have been able to set up, that would have meant more jobs. Many more people would have access to the internet and be more productive. He also said, it would be prudent to allow these companies to set up, make some profit so that government could tax them, instead of making it impossible for them to set up at all. He added that this situation deprives the country of appropraite revenues hence she remains poor.
On education, he said the country's education system is in crisis. He said all the country's schools are overcrowded, right from the primary to the university level. There are also no teachers to teach.
He said education is very important to a country's development and should be looked at seriously, advising that government should involve the private sector in education and serve as a catalyst for the development of the sector, because that is less expensive.
He cited the example again of South Korea where the government decided to give a majority of its citizens university education. He said, the government involved the private sector and subsequently 80% of South Koreans are in university and 85% of all those in university are in private universities.
He suggested that government must do a lot to move the country out of poverty, by enforcing laws, have stable laws, property rights, a liberal market policy where it is the regulator of quality and not price. He said government must take up the primary responsibility for well educated and healthy citizens.
Government must also be a good customer of made in Ghana goods, a good employer and pay Ghanaian companies on time when they have completed government contracts, he said.
He advised that government must build in all Ghanaians a culture of paying taxes and this he said, must be taught in the schools.