The German Chapter of the NDC, Ghana's biggest minority party, held a one-day economic symposium in Frankfurt / Germany last Saturday 1st October '04. The main agenda was to reach out to the African Diaspora in Germany, to discuss issues of relevance to Ghana and Africa generally and to discuss the economic policies of a future NDC government. In attendance were not only party members and sympathizers but also a high-powered 2-man delegation from Ghana, led by Hon. Albin Bagbin, Minority Leader in Ghana's Parliament, with Hon. Kofi Attor, Chairman of the party's Foreign Relations Committee and shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs in tow. Other high-profile guest speakers were Mrs. Adelaide Treuscher of Transparency International (TI) and Dr. Nchor, a Ghanaian lecturer of Engineering at the University of Darmstadt, Germany.
First to take the floor was Mrs. Treuscher of TI, who introduced her organization and tried to illustrate how important it was to cooperate with governments to check corruption worldwide. Speaking of the latest report issued by TI, Ghana ranked 70th among a list of 130 nations on the corruption index. Though taking great pains not to single out Ghana for criticism, Ghana's deteriorating position on the index in the last four years was quickly pointed out by a panel member, which was an obvious swipe at the ruling government that had come to power on a campaign promise to fight corruption.
The next speaker, Dr. Nchor, avoiding bipartisan rhetoric, chose to stay within his focus of work: the need to involve the grassroots in all developmental efforts in Africa and the necessity to do this with the application of technology suiting the requirements of Africans. In a passionate appeal, he called for the establishment of Rural Universities and the adoption of African languages as a medium of mass communication throughout our continent, also bringing the public's attention to the existence of a blueprint prepared by him to increase trade and commerce in Africa with the expansion of the African railway network, just as America did in the nineteenth century. . Next in line was Mr. Kofi Attor, a long-time NDC parliamentarian, who opted to let his delegation leader deliver the keynote address but would not end without encouraging Ghanaians and Africans to constantly link up with their home countries. African immigrants, he pleased, were never to forget that their help and contributions were important, direly needed and most welcome. Remittances of Africans to relations back home, he pointed out, had become a very important factor to reckon with. In Ghana's case alone, it was estimated that about $ 1.2 bn. were being annually transferred into the economy, a sum that exceeded proceeds from direct investment and foreign aid per annum by a wide margin.
The highlight of the evening was delivered by Hon. Albin Bagbin. Taking the floor at last, his experience and oratory qualities quickly became apparent. He began with an analysis of the current economic and political situation in Ghana. In a non-combative but characteristic no-nonsense manner, he outlined the standpoint of his party on current issues, naturally sticking his fingers in those wounds which he thought the ruling government had left oozing with incompetence. Despite all their promising slogans, the NPP, in his view, had neither delivered on positive change nor on zero tolerance. In the last four years prices of utilities had tripled, health and education were worst off, the HIPC policy had drained off all liquidity in the national economy. Frantic efforts to find alternative funding had spawned the known loan scandals (IFO, Chinese Barber) of the incumbent administration. Dismissing allegations of NDC failure while in government, he pointed out that a government crying of having found nothing in the state coffers did nothing better than spend about 20 billion Cedis renovating private residences of ministers etc. and paying huge amounts of monies to Trades Union and Student leaders with a view to neutralizing them. What, he asked, could be held of an administration that preached about a property-owning democracy in a country saddled with economic problems? Where was the country heading to, he asked, with Chiefs being given undue importance in national politics (Asantehene's World Bank contract and the constant travels of the Okyehene)? The coming NDC government with Prof. Atta Mills at its head would avoid the current mistakes and concentrate on education, social justice and employment. Asked about the chances of his party to form the next government, both parliamentarians were full of conviction that victory of the NDC was imminent come December, provided free and fair elections were conducted.
Answering questions after the speeches, participants were assured that a new NDC government would be different from the former one. The party had learned from its mistakes and now had a new echelon of young politicians ready to pursue new policies for better governance. With the lively presentations taking so much time, only a few of the many questions from participants could be answered before the curtain had to be lowered on the function. The Frankfurt NDC chapter led by its ebullient Chief Coordinator Mr. Francis Tamakloe, organizer of this symposium, ended the function with a promise to intensify contacts with other social democratic organizations. He also promised to organize more of such informative functions in the future.
By Jojo Cobbinah
Travel Editor of The African Courier, Germany