Feature: Solving Ghana’s Problems
GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL UNITY: Multy-party politics have engendered some competition with each of the major parties that have tasted power doing everything possible to outdo the other in terms of development and contributions to nation-building. However, in its wake are divisive politics and winner-takes-all, which have literally drawn a deep line within the population, thereby leaving supporters or perceived members of the party not in power on the fringes. All ideas are not harnessed but only those of the governing party. Fearing that objective opinions might be misinterpreted, most people have hushed up or risk political tagging and all the attendant consequences. To this end, some people are proposing a government of national unity in which the political parties close their ranks, stop the politicking and tackle the local and national problems facing the country together.
DEVELOPMENT PLAN: The country needs a development plan drawn up by all stakeholders and not by one political party. Experience has shown that succeeding administrations have set aside or truncated the implementation of existing plans not their own. Such a development plan must be the central spine to which processes toward objectives ought to relate. The parameters must be clearly set out as to the nature of development so desired or required, to be lubricated by the building blocks of short and medium-term goals. All initiatives by the government and, even the private sector in conjunction with the state must have a broad agenda in view, making sure that these are steps toward the ultimate. The plan must be clear on what the nation wants to achieve in 10, 20, and 50 years.
POPULATION CONTROL: No government budget can address the issues facing a given people if they are based on hypothetical assumptions and scenarios. Actions intended to solve problems only become realistic if populations are matched with resources. We all know that standards of living take a dip when there are too many mouths to feed in the face of slowly growing, stagnant, or dwindling resources. A breadwinner whose earnings do not match the numbers in the household comes under severe pressure to meet the needs of dependents, the absence of which makes the latter worse off. Interventions look more genuine if they are sensitive to population numbers. When this comes to mind, the state would be more concerned about the little girl caught in teenage pregnancy or stiffen the laws against the men responsible for such pregnancies. Let’s have in mind that a nation’s per capita income is determined by the simple mathematics of dividing resources or national revenues by the population. Therefore, if the population is growing exponentially when revenues are poorer, you are heading towards poor standards of living.
BRIDGING SOCIAL INEQUALITY GAPS: Our system of education and national conversation over the years have shied away from telling the populace about their intrinsic entitlement to uncommon freedoms which are the next stages of the basic rights enshrined in constitutions. The absence of these corollaries to the legal guarantees is a reason a person declares unwillingness to vote in subsequent elections owing to the lack of returns on the vote so exercised. They are hapless and helpless afterward. So be the case, these disadvantaged masses are unable to demand livelihoods beyond thresholds which inimical policies have condemned them. The escape of the underprivileged to betterment has largely been isolated cases and opportunistic. Chanced opportunities. The wide economic gaps require deliberate measures to uplift the poor and the average person.
FEDERATED STATE: Questions have arisen as to whether the panacea to development problems could be the switch from a unitary to a federal state. Countries with large landmass are federated and this is marked by the independence of the authorities in provinces/regions from the Central government on many frontiers of national administration. After leading Ghana to political independence in 1957, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah declared Ghana a unitary state based on several factors among which was the small, manageable size of Ghana. However, more than sixty years of post-independence, too many signs point at a central government that is struggling to cope with the size of the relatively small landmass of Ghana. There is a devolution of power or delegated powers exercised within the local government system but they appear to be mere extensions or rubber stamps of the central government. A measure of regional autonomy or in its absolute form as pertains in federal states would allow state governments to better manage resources, both human and economic resources, to the advantage of the regions. The calculus should determine the trade-offs between the center and the outposts, in terms of the ratio of resource allocation between the center and the regions. This must take into account the fact that some regions are more endowed and ought to put a percentage in the national kitty for the benefit of others. The least of the approaches to this tangent is for regional ministers backed by legal instruments, to have a measure of independence to marshall all resources at their disposal in the regions to affect development.
APPLICATION OF RESEARCH: It has been said in several respected quarters that the development gap between advanced and developing countries is the function of science and technology. All research is not only in the fields of science and technology. It encompasses all efforts being done to propel other endeavors and applied in a cross-cutting way for renewal, redirection, fine-tuning, and greater momentum. Why budgetary allocation for research in Ghana does not exceed one percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is inexplicable against the background of much talk that the nation urgently needs a paradigm shift in the task of national development. To change the Guggisberg economy which was relevant in his time as Governor of the Gold Coast ( adopted the name Ghana from 1957), we need to show abundant interest in research and apply them in various sectors. Using the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR, as an example, the Council has proven its capability to modify or reshape many aspects of national practice to respond to the new dynamics. The universities are inundated by their own research documents gathering dust on the shelves and academia needs significant funding to break new grounds for national growth and development. Insensitivity to the demands of research clearly amounts to trifling with the subject matter in the search for durable solutions to the ever-present challenges.
NATIONALISATION OF SMALL-SCALE MINING (GALAMSEY): When it comes to the management of natural resources, it comes with the understanding that the state and therefore the government has oversight responsibility. The state holds natural endowments of the nation in trust for the people/citizens. Granted this is the case, it becomes problematic if the state expropriates part of that role and grants licenses to few private individuals or small mining companies to prospect a precious mineral like gold at the expense of the whole population on whose behalf the state ought to manage and receive accruals on those resources. If private prospectors have gone off their limits, degrading the environment required to retain biodiversity, and negatively impacting groundwater, climate, and agriculture to name but a few, then it only makes sense that the state which will manage the sector better seizes control, directly operate small scale-mining and have all the proceeds. This will support poverty alleviation and development nationwide, instead of the few concessionaires who milk the state at the expense of the masses.
A HOUSEHOLD POLICY: There should be a household policy designed to make every household in Ghana have the palpable feel of governmental support. This is not the so-called ideological orientation of socialism. It is a simple way of ensuring that households directly tap into government dispensations. This is not only about handouts but using households as the focal point for tackling issues related to households. Everybody comes from the home, even the homeless, who were issued by the basic family. The armed robber came from a household, thus statistics on this facet of society enable the authorities to work closely with households in tracking each and every individual and what they are doing at any given time. In terms of assistance, it must be stated that poverty cannot be defined simplistically by using external features of places, and people. There is urban poverty and there is rural poverty, and a blanket response cannot solve the peculiar problems. There are variations in the nature of households to be dealt with in this context. It could be the household of fisherfolks, the public servant, the exporter, or the one offering private secretarial services. Each of these has specific needs and concerns.
COMMUNITY SENSITIZATION: Internet-driven or social media-led awareness does not necessarily translate into enlightenment. The information must lead to the enlightenment of the target audience. If anyone ever thought the buzzing new and traditional media which enables people to know happenings around them is sufficient orientation, then we got it wrong. Information made available is only one strand and interpreting it for correct uses by the target audience would be important for the dividend. Let’s talk about public safety and security here. That is reported upon by the media but it is not enough to arrest some of the perpetrators without the kind of education that guides people to protect themselves. In health, it should not be taken for granted that because the mass media touch on the issues, those at the receiving end have imbibed and digested the information for the sound application. Community educators must be physically present to talk directly with the people. Such sensitizations only help objects of interest to become better informed and aware of what is actually happening. People must not settle for less. Democracy might have brought political stability but that would not be enough as we strive for better lives. Lives ought to be elevated from the common freedoms we are familiar with such as the rights to vote and assembly, freedom of expression, and speech among others. People have the right to live uncommon freedoms such as having two houses or houses on different continents. They have a right not only to their upliftment from abject poverty but to luxury. Educators should empower people in the working mechanisms of the system, so they can ask authority questions and demand their pound of flesh. In the United States, this was called ”THE AMWAY EXPERIENCE” in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s but that was driven by the private sector.
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION ON MALES: Nations and for that matter Ghana must not wait on international prescriptions. They must be radically alive to their responsibilities, proactively initiating their own innovative blueprints for transformation. Since the 1996 Beijing Women’s Conference facilitated by the United Nations, most nations appear to have gone to sleep on a vital aspect of the gender equation. Following the 1996 affirmative action on women’s role in development and poverty alleviation, the male gender is completely forgotten in the scheme of things. It does seem that the nations are waiting for an international wake-up call, to be the corollary of that which was started twenty-six years ago, before the men are remembered for any special enhancement. Culturally in Ghana, men are family breadwinners, thus should we fail to financially empower men, we are turning upside down the traditional order that kept society in its formidable state before the advent of foreign culture. Men are complaining that formal jobs are not guaranteed for them in the manner allocations go to women, and this must nudge officials into thinking about the male gender. Whilst they also get their jobs, they are to be told as part of the communities sensitization effort that financial muscle is not the means to trample on the women. The women must be told the same. This is how we build society.