The suggestion by Mr. Joseph Henry Mensah, chair of Ghana’s National Development Planning Commission that “Ghana rejects World Bank's crafted policies,” by making development policies that have “Made-in-Ghana” inputs, as carried by the Accra-based “Statesman”, comes in the face of the growing discussions on Africa’s history, norms, values and experiences being factored in Africa’s policies. Dr. Y.K. Amoako, former chair of the U.N’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), observes that Africa is the only continent with foreign dominated development paradigms. This partly explains the distortions in Africa in the face of rich values.
Mensah’s proposal reveals a man who has had a new understanding of Ghana’s and Africa’s development process. Highly respected and touted as a brilliant man in international development planning, he has been involved in development planning in both sides of Ghana’s impassioned political spectrum, the Danquah-Busia tradition and the Nkrumahist camp, including dabbling one of the military regimes. He was in charge of economic planning in the Kwame Nkrumah government and was Finance Minister (Commissioner) in the National Liberation Council military junta. In Kofi Busia’s government, he was Minister of Finance and Economic Planning. During the first term of incumbent President John Kufour’s government, he was Senior Minister of Government Business and head of Economic Management before becoming chair of the National Development Planning Commission in the second term. Mensah was a member of the African Advisory Council of the African Development Bank (1993 to 1997).
Perhaps his deep-seated nationalism emanates from such broad background but, for a long time, he has had a weak grasp of the holistic values that are to drive Ghana’s development. Having seen it all in the making and unmaking of development policies for Ghana, Mensah is talking of hybridization of development planning today – Made-in-Ghana values mixed with multinational development paradigms. The prominent Indian economist, Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Kumar Sen says, “the world of banking and that of culture are not thought to have much in common.” But Amartya Kumar Sen argued, “cultural issues,” with its in-built history and experiences, “can be critically important for development,” the links taking many different forms as they relate to the “objectives as well as instruments of development. If development can be seen as enhancement of our living standards, then efforts geared to development can hardly ignore the world of culture.”
Mensah is not different from Amartya Kumar Sen. In making development policies for Ghana, let Ghanaian values talk to multinational agencies so as to come out with better and holistic policies that reflect the values of both sides. Reflecting on the on-going thinking, Mensah said, “Do we want the dialogue between Ghana and the donor community, which will come happen just five months down the road, to be conducted on the basis of our own home-grown agenda, produced after a comprehensive dialogue with Ghanaian civil society and with our own best scholars in disciplines of national economic development, or on the basis of another Washington-manufactured document which, in the absence of any alternative, our official negotiators will once more be compelled to adopt as 'the Ghana document?”
In the coming years, Ghanaians will see whether Mensah can creatively come out with development policies. If J.H Mensah could do this, by drawing heavily from his vast experiences, he would have confirmed the continental belief that if Ghana is good at anything, it’s good at “ideas” and that in fact Ghana is a virtually an “idea factory,” leading Africa in development ideas.
By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
Expo Times Independent Sierra Leone
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