Life is not worth living without some excitement now and again. We overdid the Bush visit. But we need to celebrate something.
Despite the progress we have made, life remains unnecessarily trying in richly endowed Ghana. If a visit by the President of the most powerful state on earth will change it, why not welcome the visit with fanfare?
But we should realise that Ghanaians are responsible for the hard times they have gone through and continue to endure in varying degrees now and again. Ghanaians are responsible for reversing the hardships of today.
We are primarily responsible for our own development. The belief that Bush and other foreign leaders would usher in prosperity is an indication of misunderstanding things around us.
We should think and be ruthlessly frank with ourselves. Past initiatives of our “developed partners” have not yielded much because we have not always played our part.
How much did we export under the “Generalised Scheme of Preferences” negotiated under UNCTAD in the late sixties? Precious little.
It is the same with the initiatives of the United States Government. We have to organise, plan, produce and distribute to take advantage of any assistance scheme.
Even our own President's special initiatives seem to be coming to naught because our planning, production and management are deficient.
We should be annoyed with ourselves because we have the capacity to do far better. We should get rid of the dependency feeling and realise that we can do it.
We do not need Americans, Europeans or World Bank officials who were born after we had left university to come and tell us to do what they do not know.
Once we rid ourselves of the dependency complex we should insist that our leaders do the same.
Once we begin to think vigorously for ourselves and see things as they really are we shall begin to make progress.
There is so much to do and so little money to do it. The easy way out is to beg for money or to enter into “partnerships” which obscure the master- beggar relationship.
But the subordinate relationship will not get us very far. We should realise that the future lies in harnessing our resources for the benefit of the people.
The economists tell us that we should add value to our resources and all that. They are right. We have agreed with them for a long time, but we have not done much about it.
We should take the advice seriously and implement it vigorously. Meanwhile, we should examine the returns we get from our resources.
A major one is gold. Mining went down after the war when the price of gold was fixed at 35 US Dollars an ounce. This was mainly because as inflation soared, it was not possible to mine and sell gold at US$35 an ounce.
President Nixon abandoned the “Gold-Dollar” standard in the early seventies and eventually the mining industry was revived in Ghana. But it was not that attractive to investors and concessions had to be given to the mining industry.
Today, the price of gold is high. It rises as the price of oil rises. But we pay more for oil. In fact, for many of us, the price of oil as expressed in the crippling amounts we pay for petrol and diesel makes life difficult. Why then do we not receive any benefits, however small, from the high price of the gold we produce?
Of course production costs have gone up and gold mining profits may not be as high as we think. But we should know the facts particularly since mining is a wasting asset and causes environmental degradation which has to be dealt with long after those who benefited most have left the scene.
We should seek answers to a few questions. How and who determines the profits of the gold mines? Are the losses the mines declare scrutinised?
How much of the profits are kept in Ghana? And how would the economy benefit or not benefit if not all the profits are repatriated? What income tax is paid by the non-Ghanaian employees of the mines?
Is there a law governing the payment of royalty by the mining companies or are they free to pay what they can persuade impoverished elders to take?
Ghana should benefit adequately from the exploitation of her resources. The ignorant dismissal of such aims on the grounds that it would deter investors should be regarded with contempt.
Bonafide investors cannot be taken for a ride. We should neither be taken for a ride.
This is the time to think about our resources and the oil regime we would like to establish.
Oil will not help us to eradicate poverty unless, as in the case of gold, we are determined to maintain true sovereignty over our resources. It is time to think, act and promote the true national interests.
By K. B. Asante