Vision, Values, Innovation and the National Interest.
We have marked a year into the Mills administration and the various partisans have lined up with their predictable positions but the solutions to our most sustained problems of poverty, ignorance and disease cry for transparent, open, data –driven, evidenced – based and non-partisan solutions.
Politics is a necessary fact of life but it can obscure simple solutions to very persistent problems. In this respect, parliament as an institution remains too polarized to be helpful in identifying non-partisan solutions to many of our most disturbing problems. Its members seem to believe that their own particular ideologies have the answers and a great deal of time and human resources are expended on exhortation, which is what our MPs seem to excel at. It's as if a speaker with the letters MP after their name causes citizens to change unproductive behaviors magically, simply by ordering a change in conduct. Parliament is a body that has not failed to disappoint and has underperformed woefully. Its leadership on both sides have failed to come up with innovative initiatives to address our core problems that arise out of a sense of common purpose on behalf of our citizens. There have been no private members' bills worthy of note.
The executive branch has been a mixed bag so far under the Mills administration but in all fairness it is a transitional year. As a president he has presented a low key but firm approach which is central to his personality. He has taken some pragmatic steps to indicate that he plans to make public officials accountable. As long as there are as many prosecutions of NDC officials as there of ex-NPP officials we will consider the process of house cleaning fair. Corruption is a cultural ailment and no party has a monopoly here. This administration will make the creation of a corruption – reduced society (corruption free will not happen) a reality only when it implements a program that includes the application of fresh resources to this fight along with a purge of the Police Service and the Judiciary. It is a tall order. We need to amend the constitution to include a provision akin to the Special Prosecutor law in the US, so that such investigations are well resourced and swift. Mabey & Johnson was handled to the satisfaction of most but were laws broken? If so, what has happened? Oh yes, the wheels of justice are slow.
If open corruption was the bane of the NPP, party indiscipline and violence have the potential to undo the NDC. All seemed well until the Ashanti Regional Minister brought this subliminal fear to the fore by exhorting the party faithful to go out and visit harsh physical violence on the opposition. For this, the president asked for folks to forgive him because he had apologized. He only did so after first claiming amnesia and only after his memory was awakened with a recording did he give an apology. If Mills is going to do better than Kufuor in this department, he will need to demand more resignations and leave forgiveness to pastors and priests. If I lived in the Ashanti Region I would have no confidence that this man had every citizen's interest at heart. This is not a personal matter but an issue of public confidence. It typifies what is wrong with the forgiving style of management in our society.
Many are satisfied that the President has ended up not being a puppet of the founder of his party. Mr. Rawlings has not handled this well and is second only to Cheney in not understanding the value of keeping a low profile when one is out of office. It is only decent to express ones opinions quietly because loud second guessing of the government in office by previous officials is frowned on by the public. Yes, the voting public.
The greatest challenges lie ahead. First is funding and organization of local government and second is the future role of oil revenues in budget stabilization and development. On local government, true decentralization must come soon with local and municipal authorities taking on the responsibility of generating revenue from their citizens, local businesses and other locally identified sources. A portion of the funds from the central government to District and Municipal Authorities must be matching funds against what is generated locally. This approach to local government funding will eventually lead to more accountability of MCE's to their citizens and result in healthy collaborative initiatives within and between districts on development and service priorities.
Ensuring that we do not allow the addition of oil to our resource – based economy, to lead us down the road traveled by Nigeria and many of our neighbors is of great import. Instead of getting caught up in who we are selling different portions of the find to, we should have a bold vision and privatize the GNPC and have Ghanaians the world over buy shares to capitalize the company to make it more a stronger competitor in the industry. After all, for years we were told that Ghanaians overseas sent home at least $3billion annually. If this is so, then why do we have a deal which gives us only 13% of this new asset? I know this sounds like a Mr. Domestication (May he rest in peace) idea but at some point we have to look at ourselves for solutions to our progress. There are many models of how oil exploitation has been structured for the benefit of producing countries. Even Papua New Guinea and Uzbekistan managed to negotiate better arrangements for their citizens than what is currently on the table for Ghana per the NPP. What we have now, is a frightening recurrence of the nightmare of Union Miniѐre's play in Katanga in the early 60s. There is no reason why the government cannot invite a Think Tank of all the many Ghanaian petroleum and gas experts around the world for a sound consensus in the national interest.
Our long-term vision for the role of these anticipated revenues from oil should rest on their being applied to developing very specific components of our national livelihood. Our transportation (road and rail) infrastructure, agriculture, health and education sectors should be immediate beneficiaries of this largesse for long-term sustainability and growth of our economy. There is dignity in labour and the most important component of these identified areas would be technical education for our youth and employment in the agriculture and reforestation sectors of the economy.
National self –respect should be at the centre of this vision. We already have unresolved problems with gold mining companies poisoning rivers, uprooting poor people and abusing local employees in apartheid –style mine compounds. When was the last time one of these foreigners was deported for disrespecting the land and its people? Some of us are old enough to remember when the 1 o' clock news meant that a list of deported non- compliant foreigners was being shown the exit door. If we do not respect ourselves by applying the laws of our country to our own citizens we will always be abused, robbed and disrespected by foreigners.
After 53 years of self government a longitudinal vision of this country rooted in improving citizen responsibility, forward planning, institutional effectiveness, honest leadership, integrity of public officials and the rule of law is mandatory. This seems unachievable given that we have filthy cities, poor waste disposal systems and an erratic water and power supply but are bent on becoming a middle income country in 5-10 years. At some point our management practices need to become a major public sector priority rooted in an education system that prepares graduates to function in an information technology dominated world.
The president has his work cut out for him. With democracy comes a tremendous public trust and responsibility to lead a nation to a better place. If he remains true to his own core values and acts on them, with the vision that is gradually emerging, he has an opportunity to become a truly transformational figure in our nation's history. Right now, we have a vague sense that his heart is in the right place. The greatest challenge is in the fearless implementation of the emerging vision with a qualified team of irreproachable men and women on a sound basis of collective personal integrity.
T. P. Manus Ulzen MD
January 11, 2010
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