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09.11.2005 Press Review

EDITORIAL: Perception is Everything

By Ghanaian Chronicle
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All Ghanaians, who have taken a keen interest in the investment drive of our governments over the past few years, would certainly be worried over the kind of images that the outside world has of our country as an investment and tourist destination.

Ghanaians would recall images of the former president, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, the pilot that he is, illustrating through gestures before the business and Ghanaian communities in the United States of America in particular our readiness for take-off.

The former president was far back then marketing Ghana, telling the international community that we were ready for a take off and needed a small push from without.

President John Agyekum Kufuor has within the last five years made a record trip abroad, the purposes of which had included trying to woo in investors.

Almost ten years on, the problems that we (including key members of the present government) all identified and complained of, as bugging business growth in this country, continue to be the same identified by the international community as constituting a disincentive.

Unfortunately, even as we bring this to the attention of the nation, for us to challenge ourselves, and reason together to find ways of removing these obstacles to business promotion, there are some who are uncomfortable with this kind of exposure.

As far as such persons are concerned, trumpeting the positive things happening in our country is the way to go. They deem it as unpatriotic, the reality check of exposing the cancerous side of our lives, which is necessary for proper diagnosis and surgery.

With much of West Africa in turmoil, coupled with our recent period of stability, described as unprecedented since independence and exceptional in tropical Africa, we seem to have a comparative advantage that we ought not let go with the wind.

What we therefore need to concentrate on is what is within our borders and have control over. This is more crucial as we do not have control over what happens without.

But the constraints cited by the London Financial Times, for instance, do not bug just the foreign investor.

They equally affect the local investor, with some losing out on their investments.

In today's edition of our paper, for instance, is a story about some members of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), particularly in the retail sector, complaining of 'slow decision-making' among others, as threatening their very survival.

The problem of high costs of doing business, the officious and obstructive attitude of some civil and public servants, as well as, our land tenure system, have long been identified by local entrepreneurs as not just impeding their expansion, but threatening their very survival.

Reaching out to the international community is not a problem. Indeed, even the developed economies are still soliciting for investors to infuse more into their economies, for sustained growth and development.

What becomes the problem is closing one's eyes to the obvious homework that we ought to do before embarking on such investment promotional tours. What we forget is that the very serious investor, does not depend on only the information officially provided, to take decisions about whether to invest here or not.

They depend on feedback from those already on the ground, as well as other independent sources. We must therefore bear in mind, in our investment drive, it is not how attractive we are or think we are that would sell us; it is how attractive the business community thinks we are!

We must wake up and clear the barriers!

As far as The Chronicle is concerned, playing the ostrich would not help, for whether we like it or not, in this business, perception is everything!

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