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19.09.2005 Press Review

Editorial: Patriotism, Hard Work And Self Confidence

By Statesman

A summit billed as the largest gathering of world leaders in history achieved far less than UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had hoped in the fight to overhaul the United Nations and alleviate poverty, terrorism and human rights abuses.

The final document represented the lowest common denominator that all countries could agree on after months of negotiations.

In an opinion piece related to the UN Summit, Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist who headed the United Nations' flagship study on achieving the Millennium Development Goals, wrote in The Financial Times that some of the practical results that could emerge from the 2005 World Summit are global actions with high short-term impact on the fight against poverty.

The two points of most significance involve the fight against malaria and the fight against hunger in Africa. The evidence is clear that stopping malaria would not only end a tremendous amount of suffering and needless death, but would also be a major spur to longer-lasting economic development.

A second key measure in the declaration is for an African Green Revolution. The World Bank and others are realising that, with directed help to impoverished farmers to obtain scientifically based farm inputs, it will be possible to help spur a Green Revolution for Africa, Sachs wrote.

Reviewing the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) on poverty alleviation, health, education and the environment in the poorest corners of the world had been the original point of this summit.

South African President Thabo Mbeki Thursday decried in the UN the lack of necessary resources and material assistance from the rich countries that hindered African countries in their endeavour to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In September 2000, the UN Millennium Summit Meeting set down the MDGs to fight poverty, diseases and environmental pollution, and tackle other development-related problems. The eight MDGs which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 form a blueprint agreed upon by the world's leaders and all the world's leading development institutions. However, after five years since the goals were passed, the MDGs seem still too far to reach for many African nations due to lack of development capital, unfair trade policy imposed by western nations, etc. The usual cry from Africa's sympathisers is that if no efforts are taken to help these countries, it will be impossible for them to achieve MDGs in 2015.

Africa has a population of 860 million, accounting for 13.6 percent of the world's population, yet it only accounts for two percent of the global trade volume. And sub-Saharan Africa hosts 34 of the 42 countries classified as “Heavily Indebted Poor Countries” by the World Bank.

Meeting the MD goals depends on the effective delivery of essential public services such as health, education, water, electricity, and transport and communications infrastructure.

Unfortunately, in our view, Africa appears to tie its chances of success to the generosity strings of the rich nations far too much than it is for its own good. Why, for example, do we worry so much about western trade barriers when we haven't even effected internal opportunities to explore a quarter of our intra-continental trade and commerce relations?

We believe it is time for us to ask certain searching questions and find the answers to them and apply those answers, as well. The major query must be this: Why is it that our continent remains the exception in the progressive global race for social and economic advancement?

If we accept that what the others have achieved is the mark of success – are the standards of development – then we must begin to apply – in some helpful customised way - the methods they employed. We may begin by discovering a constructive patriotic drive.

If we are to move up in pace, we need to generate more revenue. And that can best be done through the relentless widening of the tax net. That can be done through the widening of opportunities. That can be done through a greater, conscious biased effort to empower our own. Too many of Ghana's major areas of economic activities are controlled by foreigners. We have cheapened economic liberalism to the detriment of indigenous entrepreneurship.

There must be a social policy for change - a kind of cultural evolution. Work ethics, performance ethics, tax obligations ethics, and penalties for non-performance must all be looked at in this proposed national exercise. But, are we ready? For example, the latest spate of fatal road accidents and the public anxiety over it would have prompted any on-the-ball government to exploit that public feeling to implement what would otherwise have been viewed as unpopular but necessary radical clamp down on road menace. But, the Ministers of Interior, Justice and Road Transport have hardly been heard – as if they are new to the dynamics of political office – seeing challenges as opportunities. They have left it to the police to implement what was already there but failed!

Our fate is bright but our destiny must be determined by our convictions, commitments and ability to seize the initiative and to adopt the can-do spirit – that which makes nations great. Let us seize the opportunity – with or without sufficient support from without – to achieve the MDGs and beyond.

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