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04.03.2016 Feature Article

Independence, Democracy And Development: Is Ghana Really Growing?

Independence, Democracy And Development: Is Ghana Really Growing?
LISTEN MAR 4, 2016

This year, on the 6th of March, Ghana will be 59 years old as an independent State, with sovereignty expressed in the will of its own people. We are the first Black African Country to attain this feat. Breaking the shackles of colonialism was not an easy thing. Many lost their lives in the struggle. The achievement of political independence may have been taken for granted in practice today, but then it was not a light matter.

It was a tough battle, with far reaching implications on ideology, race, economics, geopolitics and more. Ghana’s independence very much inspired similar struggles in other parts of Africa and the world. Even the civil rights movement in the United States of America owes much of its prowess to the emergence of Ghana from Gold Coast.

The same is true about our democracy. It is touted everywhere, by us and others. Across the continent, we stand out as one of few countries that have had six successive presidential and parliamentary elections, generally acclaimed as free, fair and transparent. Our media isconsidered among the most free and vibrant, now with over 300 radio stations. Access to information is portrayed as limitless, though it is taking more than a decade to pass a good Right to Information (RTI) through Parliament, irrespective of consistent advocacy and pressure from civil society.

Indeed, relatively, Ghana may be said to compete very well in Africa in terms of the application of the rule of law. Since 1992, we have governed under constitutional rule. Our constitutional provisions are prominent in legal and political referencing. The mantra of good governance is not scarce on our lips. And we may have good reason to show for this: the Executive is prolific in policy production and/or rehashing. Our Legislature is avid in metamorphosing bills into laws. Our Judiciary is feared and revered, but for recent developments. Really, the accolade of good democratic governance is a flattery we may insist to deserve.

The quality of political independence and democratic governance must be measured by their impact on development. By development is meant the net integrated progress in the wellbeing of the population. What has been the overall outcome of our political independence, as at now, 59 years on? Has globalization diminished the leverage of national political independence? Or have we looked at political independence as an end in itself rather than a means to efficient development? The internal political wrangling we have had among ourselves, post-independence, has surely robbed us of optimal gains in terms of development.

There are different versions of why and how our first self-government was truncated, and by whom. But we must be responsible enough to take the blame as a collective people and ashamed enough to consider that those seeds of political antagonism persist till now. Let’s be honest: our present mode of governance is not mostly an effective, efficient sustainable and relevant delivery of developmental outcomes from incumbent governments nor is there a constructive objective selfless and disinterested critique from the opposition.

It is not very difficult to notice that our political parties, when in power do things mainly to keep them in power; and the opposition do things just to get into power. In both cases, the agenda is chiefly political rather than developmental. On one hand there is abrasive political opposition and on the other hand a wanton mismanagement of state resources. And this is irrespective of the political party in power.

This orientation is so entrenched in our collective governance psyche. Some have even proposed that our present constitution is more politically oriented than developmental intended. Perhaps it is a stage in the evolution of our governance process. But the effects of this on the actual lives of millions of our citizens are too expensive to leave to negligence.

Perhaps a more serious challenge is the fact that we don’t seem to be innovative about the political ideologies which underpin our governance methods. We must learn quickly how so called socialists and capitalist; right-center and left-center perspectives are fast becoming obsolete and irrelevant. The truth is that governance has been dominated by the quest to access power and control resources for selfish gains. This is not good. It is immoral. Both those who claim to be social democrats (whatever that means to development) and those who preach so-called property-owning democracy (whatever that means to development) have not sufficiently demonstrated how their entrenchment in these ideologies have brought a net worth to the ordinary Ghanaian.

There are some who are strongly advocating that government should leave enterprise to the people, because anywhere government engages in business it messes up. There is a lot of evidence to support how much our national resources are being wasted in unproductive government ventures. The inefficiencies in government is draining our country so much: ghost names on government pay rows, wastage in our energy sector including leakages in our electricity distribution mechanism and low productivity among public sector workers are common examples.

Yet, it is also very evident that leaving resources that belong to all in the hands of the few who have the muscle to access it through what is assumed to be a free market system is the reason the whole world is suffering from the inequality that has led to social instability economic injustice. The theory of the trickledown effect has not vindicated its proponents. Access to opportunity is not equal so the market is not really free and fair. What we could do is to build a rigorous civil society regime that is competent in checking government.

This the politicians know, so they have disingenuously polarized the media, NGOs, traditional leaders and even religious leaders. This is the core of our problem and we must be bold and competent to address it. Therefore, rather than a simplistic call to write off government, we must rise up to correct the wrongs in the system. We should appreciate the fact that access to resources and power is the fulcrum of the political dynamics. So as a people we should find an effective way of managing the processes that provide access to power in both the public and private spheres.

The consequence
The effects of our dysfunctional governance system is manifested in the outcomes we have in our Health, Education, Agricultural, Energy, finance and other sectors of the economy. We have misused our resources, both private and public to the detriment of our overall national good. Our Educational System is not yielding sufficiently trained people to yield the productivity needed in industry. The quantity of quality education is below threshold levels for many reasons: in terms of educational ideology, we seem to have reduced education largely to schooling, with emphasis on teaching rather than learning. We need to spend more on training learners than training teachers.

Children are natural learners and if we focus on making the best of this natural endowment we will be building a more innovative educational system. Our health system is no better. Now that DANIDA has started what might be a long journey of withdrawal of financial support from development partners as we have enjoyed the status of middle income nation, we must qickly figure out how we will manage the huge challenges in the health sector. This is the case for the other sectors, time and space not permitting a broader elaboration of our development challenges.

What we need to do
Our churches should stop merchandising and diligently focus on building the moral backbone of their members. Church leaders should be unequivocal and direct in addressing the moral gaps in their personal lives and that of their members. That should be their full time job. Religious leaders should be bold, direct, objective and consistent in lovingly denouncing corruption and corrupt public officers. They should keep away from the enticing traps politicians set against them. Many of our religious leaders have compromised their objectivity for political and materialistic gains. This is pathetic but can be corrected. Our church leaders must go back to what the Lord Jesus called them to do: save men from their sins. Sins of selfishness, greed, pride, economic corruption, and social injustice should be dealt with in the church and in the State by our popular men of God. They must stand up and be counted.

Our politicians should move out of the media space and stop buying people’s conscience. They should stop taking advantage of the vulnerability of media practitioners and refrain from influencing journalists away from truth, accuracy and fairness. They should exclude themselves from media ownership, as they cannot be wholly non-partisan and non-political.

Our media practitioners must regain the nobility of the profession. They must be truly the voice of the marginalized and vulnerable. Journalists should continue to work hard in unearthing the ills of our society and promote the course of the neglected. They must stop clandestine corruption. Yes, the journalist must eat, and eat well. He must have the resources to carry out his work. But the constraints therein are not excuse for media corruption. If you can’t be a good journalist, may be you can be a good businessman or a marketing profession. Quit the noble profession and find a more money-churning job. That’s no sin.

As we celebrate our hard earned independence, let us rise and work harder in translating political independence into sustainable development through genuine democracy.

We also have very laudable credentials in development. Be development is meant the integrated net improvement in the wellbeing of our people.

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Emmanuel Kwame Mensah
Emmanuel Kwame Mensah, © 2016

The author has 23 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: EmmanuelKwameMensah

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