Originally published, April 17, 2013
The debate about President Mahama’s State of the Nation address delivered on 21st February 2013, though of immense interest to Parliament and those in formal party colors, we should not loose sight of the immerging, independent and discerning voters – whose votes continue to grow more significant in each national election- who are just as concerned about the drift of what lies ahead of the nation, and thus want to deliberate on what we see presaging the “BETTER GHANA AGENDA” in the first term of Mahama’s presidency, though, the rungs for an honest appraisal of the adequacy of someone’s vision are few and far between.
The Leader and His Vision
The President in spelling his personal vision said among other things, “is to create a conducive national environment in which our children grow happily into responsible adults; where workers are proud to work and defend our national values; where improved maternal health reduces the hazards of child bearing; a Ghana in which we all create and share in the benefits”. On that note, I am encouraged by the effort of His Excellency to create a course to ensure future direction for the nation to embark on till we achieve prosperous and meaningful lives as Ghanaians.
The president’s remarks on values, which on the surface may seem routine, given the audience, struck quite a different chord with me. Admittedly, we are not making the discovery for the first time of his keenness in speaking about cherished national and personal values, I am nevertheless, conjecturing whether there is now an opportunity for affirming and deepening such values as they offer stability, promote honor and strengthen the nation’s sovereign integrity. They serve as the capstone to our national efforts.
The President’s Team
Leaders, we are told, are to “concern themselves with doing the right things, for the managers to concentrate on doing things right”. Need I remind His Excellency, that good intentions alone does not produce effective governance, and that the veracity of his “pledge to work with a sense of urgency and remain sincere and truthful at all times”, is also contingent on the attitude of his appointees; on their focus on doing things right; not as people who were piggy-bagged into office.
Government appointees must understand that with public recognition comes higher level of responsibility, accountability and therefore commitment. The values which former president Rawlings stood for-social justice, probity and accountability should be preserved and applied as a yardstick of raising awareness among the president’s team, only then would society be enlightened again like the past and be developed.
It is imperative to remind government appointees not to engage in frivolous press battles or peddle irritating spins to cover up what should rightly be made known to the general public. Putting spins on information reflects gross disrespect to the people with whom the sovereignty of the nation resides. Propaganda is neither an art nor a science of repute; it smacks of outright thievery; it is a callous and inimical way to deal with one’s own kith and kin. Such practice will undermine the President’s effort.
The “Law of Vital Few and Trivial Many”
Given how far we have come as a nation my guess is that the 20-80 law “Pareto Principle” has been applied to the nation’s developmental efforts and equitable distribution of wealth resulting in what the president terms as “half rich half poor”. The President’s model, of the “BETTER GHANA AGENDA”, focuses on four thematic areas of priority, which I envision would translate positively in the living conditions of Ghanaians if properly implemented.
Modernizing the Economy
If that is the thinking then I suggest, we desist from the old approach of sourcing revenue from every thriving industry to support “survival” budget which only meets the short-term needs of the nation. Let us commit ourselves to a new course of action by making long strides-national decisions that will not only mordernize our economy but will also raise the living standards of the people.
Moving forward, let policy makers consult our technocrats on how to design profitable management systems, pursue new opportunities and venture into frontiers outside the mainstream to lift the country from the economic quagmire we find ourselves in. For example, what will an effective spatial identification do to our economy? It’s time to find its cost benefit. Should we continue to be the dumping ground for cheap foreign products?
Leading us Over the Hurdles
To “Lead us over the hurdles and obstacles that might threaten to keep us from meeting our goals” as the president promised, will mean firstly; dealing with the humongous wage bill which the SSSS has fostered on us. Any bill that devours 60.9% of national revenue poses a real threat not only to development but also stability of the country. The current situation is reminiscent of the pre- Structural Adjustment Programs [SAP]. The situation forecasts another SAP with its concomitant ills of retrenchments and redeployment exercises.
Value for Money
There is no gainsaying the fact that the lead hurdle and obstacle to our national development is corruption. This gargantuan issue denies the nation of the right to receive value for money on all its investments. It places undue hardships on the mass of the people and makes development unnecessarily expensive. It is unfair, for all kinds of fees and taxes to be collected only for it to be lost to official corruption.
Admittedly, in practice, corruption is found in every sphere of our national life, but if the President is pledging to lead us “over hurdles and obstacles”, I want to assume that he will lead the charge against corruption in his party- the NDC, anytime corruption rears its ugly head.
A Call to Service
For the Better Ghana Agenda to succeed, Political appointments should be accepted with a sense of responsibility, and must be seen as a call to service and not an opportunity to amass wealth unduly.