Apparently because the international financial crisis has not had the same immediate cataclysmic effect on the economies of the developing countries, there has been the temptation in some quarters to conclude that what economists have labeled a “meltdown” is a problem with developed economies only.
It needs to be emphasized, however, that no nation or continent is insulated from the consequences of the crisis. Inherent in this challenge, however, is the opportunity for both developed and developing economies to strive to come out with new ways of re-aligning their economies in terms of programmes to mitigate the effects of the crisis.
In Ghana, Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, the Convention People's Party (CPP) flag-bearer for the 2008 presidential elections has suggested 'a stimulus package' to minimise the effect of the financial phenomenon on the country.
As reported in the front page story of this paper on Tuesday, Dr Nduom's ideas for the stimulus package include disincentives for importation of goods, injecting capital into local industries, and a boost to the agriculture sector to ensure food safety. In short, what he was saying was that as a country, we must look within for solutions.
Dr Nduom's ideas are fine. One may even say that they are not altogether new. But the question is: how ready is Ghana to practicalise these ideas? We ask this question because we see no other way to get Ghana, and Africa, permanently out of the woods.
Once upon a time, in Ghana – between 1982 and 1986, the people had a great opportunity to have vowed to depend on themselves, but we missed the opportunity.
This was the period when people developed what became known as the “Rawlings chain”. Hunger stared us in the face; the coffers were empty and the only way was to try indigenous solutions.
We actually did try some: that was the time when all kinds of local soaps and other locally made goods proliferated. But just as we were to take advantage of the pervading consciousness, the freebies arrived from Europe and North America, and the initiative died.
The international financial crisis is yet another opportunity. As the country musters both the political and economic courage to deal with the problem, we must not forget that from the perspective of the contemporary world Africa, including Ghana has lost out on two global waves – the industrial and the agricultural revolutions.
Africa is trying not to be left out of the I.C.T. revolution as well as being part of the solution to the current financial difficulty.
Dr Nduom's first suggestion of disincentives for importation of goods presupposes that as a country we have identified those goods of which we have comparative advantage to produce locally, taking into consideration the issues of the international political and economic relationship at play.
Granted that the above condition is necessary and sufficient, then the next issue is capital injection into these identified industries. The question to ask is what type of capital is available to us as a country?
We have raised these issues so that as a country we deliberate on them to find domestic solutions to them.
The opportunity is now! For once let this country take the bull by the horns. Locally made goods and local foods may not be the best packaged in the world, but consistency is everything. The Ricemaster has started advertising local rice, for the first time in the history of the country. What else can we not advertise if we put our minds to it?
It is a long programme, but it can be sustained.The challenge is how to begin.