Towards a strategic, non partisan approach to National Development Planning in Ghana
By David Owusu-Amoah, (National Development Planning Commission, Accra)
Governance and Democracy have been widely recognized as key ingredients for development. Multiparty Democracy that hit Africa in the early 1990s represented a sharp historical discontinuity in the mode of governance. Evidence seems to confirm that, African countries where multi party democracy has been established perform better as agents of development.
In Ghana it is an understatement to say that multi party democracy has brought a lot of gains to the nation in all areas of development. Multi-party democracy is the only way to true representative democracy in Africa. This true democracy must take into account the perspectives of all people.
One of the challenges that confront multiparty democracy however is the contention between political party ideologies and national aspirations in setting long term national development agenda. This is especially so when considering for instance the strength of a party manifesto against national development agenda.
As a nation development planning has been a part of us since time immemorial. Ghana’s history in development planning dates back to the colonial period with the first development plan by Gordon Guggisburg, in 1919. Ghana has ever since had numerous development plans such as Kwame Nkrumah’s Seven year Development Plan, the Vision 2020, the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy 1 and 2 and the currently the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda(GSGDA).
Consensus building for national development planning the world over has time and time again been a daunting task although it is laudable in achieving the best in a democratic dispensation. It is worthwhile to state for instance that when development plans are sometimes clothed in political colours it makes it difficult for other governments to use them. More often than not strategies and programs are sometimes abruptly cut short, especially with changes in government. This is most probably as a result of the tendency for some politicians to regard particular development strategies as owned by a particular party in Government as such their reluctance to embrace them.
Multi party democracy is nothing more than a system of governance, a means to take a nation and its people forward. It is not an end in itself, and should not placed above national interest in setting development agenda
It is as a result of this among other reasons that the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) in Ghana is putting in place a strategic framework for a long term development plan. Think tanks, parliament ,academia , civil society, formal and informal business associations, civil society organizations (CSOs), faith-based organizations (FBOs), youth groups among others are expected to make inputs in this long term development strategy that can be a nationally owned.
The National Development Planning Commission is embarking on this participatory planning process to ensure this national plan prepared by Ghanaians for Ghanaians. The goal of the NDPC is to promote the democratic principles enshrined in the constitution and Ghana’s international commitments to good governance and accountability.
Such a non partisan long-term national development framework, when translated into a long-term national development plan would serve as yardstick by which programmes and manifestoes of political parties would be measured.
That way, manifestoes would come closer and closer to each other, and the differences may be in the pace at which one Government wants to develop and how efficiently a Government in power want to apply resources and the capacity to mobilize additional human and material resources.
Indeed if there is any period when such a strategic framework for national development planning is priceless, it is now when Ghana has become an oil-exporting state with an experience of a strong growth warranting the need for a fair and objective approach towards harnessing these potentials.
For development planning to become purposeful, national visions other than political manifestoes must become prime components in development planning.
Political parties from generation to generations would do the nation a great service if they ensure that they relate their manifestoes to such a strategic framework which carry the development vision of the entire nation.
The importance of long term non partisan strategic development planning can indeed not be overemphasised. It is this that warranted a critical look at the role of the National Development Planning Commission in development planning by the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC). The recommendation which has been accepted by Government and indicated in the Government White Paper for a long term strategic multiyear rolling national development plan is indeed a step in right direction. It is hoped the National Development Planning Commission will be given further the necessary mandate to develop this strategic long term framework that will be carried on by successive governments.
This would go a long way to ensure an overall nationalistic approach to development planning in Ghana. Such a policy framework will ensure that there is the needed synergy and proper sequencing in development planning that would ensure policy stability and harmony in development planning. This strategic policy framework would chart a new course of development for the country, and ensure consistency and continuity in development.
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