Feature: What country do we want post-2024? (2)

With Ghana’s economy spiralling downward — higher budget deficits, high inflation, increased unemployment — our country’s voters’ should reject the attempt by politicians, especially current presidential aspirants, to place too much emphasis on culture wars and identity politics in their political campaigns.

An over-reliance on identity topics, religion, ethnicity, which politicians and their supporters have been known to frequently address as the main qualification for the presidency, divert and distract attention away from the crucial economic policies  Ghanaians need to create prosperity for all citizens.

Indeed, God blessed this country to be great. We messed it up because of incompetent leaders and bad economic choices. Surprisingly, we refuse to learn from our history and the amount of damage incompetent and corrupt leadership has caused this country. History is such a fascinating thing, and a very useful tool in wise, moderate, and moral hands.

Presently, large parts of this country can be defined by neglect, disillusion and a sense of helplessness. Sadly, while we are richly endowed, our people remain among the poorest in the world. Several years after independence, we still blame the colonialists and imperialism for our poverty and under-development.

If the colonialists’ economic policies were to exploit the riches of this country, at least, they knew who they were and where they were going and had the confidence and ability to serve their empire with honest dedication under the rule of law.

We made the wrong economic decisions at independence by keeping the same institutions and governance tools they used in their exploitation but, in our case, bastardised the rule of law, and chose corrupt, incompetent leaders who made politics the avenue to make riches, not entrepreneurship.

It is time to send a message to the politicians that we would not take their failures, their betrayals and identity politics anymore. Of course, our economy is struggling and this country is bankrupt because of the arrogance of leaders who ignore the basic lessons in wealth creation and nation building.

Today, the ideals of individual wealth creation by a strong Ghanaian business sector is still over-taken by the ideals of higher government spending, higher taxes, high level of corruption, which undermines economic activity, reducing the economy’s growth opportunities.

In spite of the evidence, there are still arguments that an economic system should ensure “equality” for all citizens and in terms of economic justice. Any argument that suggest that business and the economy are not about subjective and theoretical notions of ‘fairness’ but about the efficient allocation of scarce resources, is labelled selfishness.

This is not true.  However, that is the way it has always been. The dominant political economic doctrine has always been to the lie that to stimulate a slow economy, we should increase government spending to pump money into the economy.

It started immediately after independence in 1957 when our politicians sought to implement Soviet-style seven-year development plans. We are not saying this to dwell in the past. We are saying this so that we move into the future.

Unfortunately, several years after, we continue to misdiagnose the causes of our economic and financial crisis. This makes the proposed therapies also wrong. Our politicians in their desire for political power sadly believe that the right therapy includes even more spending, and involves more borrowing, which increase the debt stock, excessively high interest rates, and more stronger market interventions.

These measures may well have a short-term impact, but do nothing to solve the fundamental structural weaknesses of the Ghanaian colonial economy — they only suppress the symptoms and push them into the future.

Interestingly, there are certain class of poverty-problem solvers who do not want the Ghanaian economy to improve because as long as the problem holds out, they have not only an easy means of making a living but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the voters.

We will concede that sometimes, strong government intervention, either through the use of regulations, or incentives, is necessary. However, this intervention should not cripple the ability of individuals to create wealth or further the growth of wasteful, corrupt and profligate culture growing up in the corridors of power.

Meanwhile, several years after state intervention in the economy, experts estimate that 70 percent–80 percent of the Ghanaian economy continues to be in the informal sector. The lack of economic freedom is the cause of this large informal market; but this informal economy reflects Ghana’s true economic potential.The informal sector is, on average, cedi for cedi, more productive than the public sector. Sadly, our politicians have failed to harness the power of the sector for national development.

To get the economy moving, we need a man or woman who talk about economic programs that are blind to ethnicity, or religious affiliation, with the ability to focus on creating the best possible environment that encourages:

  • Fundamentally sound macroeconomic policies to curb inflation
  • Market-friendly resource allocation and strong business sentiments.
  • Shared Growth principle encouraging citizens to work harder and be entrepreneurial.
  • Allowing competition and a strong rule of law.
  • Stopping seizure and transfer of private property which create poverty in Ghana
  • Improvement in pension incomes, with high levels of savings.

To pull Ghana away from the grips of  recession, the shackles of inflation and the poverty that has engulfed the majority of the population, anyone seeking to lead this nation should  understand that the only path to our economic redemption is an indigenous one. Our politicians must and should get out of the way of the productive local private sector. Institutional and structural change cannot be engineered from the IMF, the World Bank or China.

Moving forward, our policies should be market-friendly; a pro-growth approach that punishes lies and removes government barriers that have crippled the success of indigenous Ghanaian businesses. This should include fundamental reforms at the banking system. Indeed, banking in Ghana has become synonymous with misconduct ranging from petty malpractices to the criminal.

It is that simple, in order to have a great country, there must be men and women willing to be heroes in the economy; willing to support create broad policies that will help individual citizens navigate all life’s risks.

Ghana needs bold and visionary local entrepreneurs, not crony entrepreneurs, who depend on politicians for political incentives and corruption to make easy money on the back of the small taxpayer. This is a big problem; people who should defend a working economy do not, because it has become easier making money on the political gravy train.

In successful economies, consumers decide what to produce; in the end, entrepreneurs, not government officials, build the economy.Indeed, no country has ever develop itself through aid or credit. Former Third World countries that have broken the yoke and developed their economies have all chosen the path of the free markets and entrepreneurship. Ghana took the wrong path after independence and it seems we are stuck.

So long as our politicians, and the governments they form, continue their terrible anti-market policies, hardworking Ghanaians fuelling the economy will be unable to do so successfully. Current policies will not deliver because it does not address the fundamental weaknesses of the Ghanaian economy —- lack of productivity, and the inability to create great companies to compete in world trade.

We hope our feuding politicians are listening.

By Kwadwo Afari


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