Envisioning a Ghana Beyond Foreign Aid

Published on 20th March 2018

It is important that we never forget our history, and we try not to distort the truth about our past; the ugly and beautiful parts, they all deserve to be faithfully recorded and told. As our elders say, if you do not know where you are coming from, you are not likely to get to where you want to be. Our brothers and sisters in Nigeria probably capture it best: “to forget is the same as to throw away.”

We should make an honest assessment of ourselves, and the situation of our country and our continent. This puts a lot of responsibility on those who tell our daily stories. In these days of social media, the task is on all of us, and not only on the journalists and writers. A deliberate falsehood, posted on a social media platform, poses a great danger to all of us, and undermines the credibility of the Ghana story.

As the 2nd President of the 4th Republic, His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor, once put it: “we do not intend to live on past memories, nor the Ghana story to be only what can be seen on old newsreel tapes, nor our sporting glories to be recounted only through the exploits of past heroes.”  The litmus test is simple: every day must bring some improvement in our lives, today must be an improvement on yesterday, and our tomorrow must certainly be better than our yesterday.

Around the time of our independence, we had peers such as Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore. Our per capita incomes were very similar at around four hundred and fifty United States dollars ($450) in 1960, and our economies were dependent on the production of primary commodities. Today, these countries, once our peers, have significantly transformed themselves into industrialised economies. Income per head in Singapore is now at fifty one thousand, four hundred and thirty one United States dollars ($51,431), South Korea at twenty nine thousand, one hundred and fifteen United States dollars ($29,115), and Malaysia at nine thousand, six hundred and twenty three United States dollars ($9,623) compared to Ghana’s at one thousand, one hundred and fifty two United States dollars ($1,512). We are still dependent on the export of primary commodities. We must admit, sadly, that, in the area of economic development, we have underachieved, relative to our peers at independence.

The only nation we are destined to become is the one we choose, and decide to be. We do not have to accept someone’s definition of Africa or Ghana. We must define and craft our own destiny. As the American politician, William Jennings Bryan, once put it, and I quote: “Destiny is not a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” But achieving our destiny requires a deliberate, qualitative change in all aspects of our lives; especially, in the structure of our economy, the nature of our infrastructure, the education of our young people and acquisition of skills, and, above all, in our attitudes and holding firm to the values that define us.

The change in our fortunes will only happen when our economy improves. Since I became President, I have been advocating for a Ghana, indeed, an Africa, Beyond Aid, and I am keen to have the support of all of us in this enterprise.

The economic transformation we desire will not come through aid. We have been on that trajectory for most of the past sixty one years, and it has not happened. We are told there is “aid fatigue.” The taxpayers of the aid-givers have a right to decide how their tax money is spent. The truth is that, even if there were no aid fatigue, and with the best will in the world and the most charitable governments in place in the so-called donor countries, there will never be enough aid to develop Ghana to the level we want. Aid was never meant to be what would bring us to the status of a developed nation.

I do not, by advocating a status Beyond Aid, want to inflict poverty on us, or thumb our noses against those who have helped us and continue to do so. There is nothing to be gained in celebrating an ideological victory in poverty. There is no pride or dignity in poverty; there is no dignity in having hungry children, or mothers dying needlessly in childbirth, and there is no dignity in drinking dirty water. We need no lessons in that.

Ours is a country that is well endowed with many natural resources such as gold, bauxite, iron ore, diamonds, oil, natural gas, timber, cocoa, water, fertile land etc. The truth, however, is that the state of our nation does not bear out that we have these natural endowments. Poverty continues to be our lot. Mismanagement, corruption and high fiscal deficits have become the hallmarks of our economy, which we finance through borrowing and foreign aid.

It is time to pursue a path to prosperity and self-respect for our nation. A Ghana Beyond Aid is a prosperous and self-confident Ghana that is in charge of her economic destiny; a transformed Ghana that is prosperous enough to be beyond needing aid, and that engages competitively with the rest of the world through trade and investment. It is possible. It is not a pie in the sky notion, because other countries, including some of our peers at independence, have done exactly that.  It is doable, and we must believe that, what others, with less resources, have done, we can do.

We are not going to achieve the transformation in our economy by just talking about it. We have to DO something about it! We have to do things differently to realize this goal of a Ghana Beyond Aid. Business as usual will not do it. It cannot happen by waving a magic wand. It cannot be achieved overnight. Indeed, the most rapid cases of economic and social transformation in history, those in South East Asia, generally spanned a period of about 30 years; about a generation. We cannot wait that long; we have wasted enough time already. It is time to get on with it, and the time is now.

We will have to harness effectively our own resources, and deploy them creatively and efficiently for rapid economic and social transformation. This will require hard work, enterprise, creativity, and a consistent fight against corruption in public life.  It will also require that we break from a mentality of dependency and adopt a confident can-do spirit, fuelled by love for our dear country, Ghana.  We cannot subordinate the common good to build a prosperous nation to the selfish interest of a few.

Moving Ghana Beyond Aid means ensuring that future generations of Ghanaians have a healthy environment to inherit. We must, thus, be determined to protect our environment and water bodies by joining hands in the fight against illegal mining, also known as galamsey, in order to bring an end to the devastation of some of our landscape, and the pollution of our water bodies, occasioned by the activities of illegal miners. We have to win that fight to keep our environment clean, and protect our heritage for our descendants.

We have started on the right path towards a prosperous future with the concrete steps we are taking to restore macro-economic stability and economic growth. After a year of disciplined and innovative economic management, the results have been remarkable. Our economy has grown from 3.6% in 2016, the lowest in 22 years, to 7.9% in 2017, and is this year expected to grow at 8.3%, which would make it the fastest growing economy in the world. Inflation has gone down from 15.6% at the end of 2016 to 10.3%, as of January this year. Ghanaian industry has witnessed a spectacular revival from a growth rate of negative 0.5% in 2016 to 17.7% in 2017. Interest rates are on the decline, the cedi is stabilising, and the fiscal deficit has gone down from 9.3% in 2016 to 5.6% of GDP in 2017, with a projection of 4.5% for 2018. Fiscal discipline has been restored, and fiscal consolidation has taken hold. For the first time since 2006, government has been able to meet its fiscal deficit target. We will continue to manage the economy in a disciplined and sound framework so that we maintain fiscal and debt sustainability. This, in the long run, is fundamental to moving Beyond Aid.

An improving, disciplined macro-economy is essential for expanding the economy, and, thereby, creating jobs. This year, we will see vigorous job creation in the public sector, beginning with the recruitment of one hundred thousand (100,000) young men and women in the Nation Builders Corp. But, what I am seeking, above all, is the rapid growth of private sector jobs, both in industry and agriculture, i.e. in the programme for Planting for Food and Jobs, which should generate a lot of rural sector jobs. Moving Beyond Aid demands that effective measures are taken to address widespread unemployment, especially amongst our youth. We are on the right path to do so.

Corruption, or more specifically, the stealing of public funds, continues to hold back the development of our nation.  A recent audit by the Auditor General into the liabilities of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies led to the disallowance of some GH¢5.4 billion of claims. These are fictitious claims that would otherwise have had to be paid, but for the eagle eye of the Auditor General. Can you imagine what we can do with GH¢5.4 billion? It can certainly finance the Free SHS for five years.

Corruption is not a partisan matter. We must all act to protect the public purse. In the words of the 1st President of the 4th Republic, His Excellency Jerry John Rawlings, and I quote: “Combating corruption is not beyond us. Imagine the effect on our nation and our future if, for just a few months, all decent Ghanaians would put aside their own convenience, apathy and faint-heartedness, and challenge every corruption, no matter how petty, which comes their way.”

Government has also made, in 2017, significant savings of some GH¢800 million in government procurement, as we depart from sole sourcing as the primary method of public procurement. That departure will strengthen our public finances, and make it possible for us to finance our development ourselves.

There is, however, one piece of the anti-corruption framework that is yet to be put in place: The Right to Information Bill. It would increase transparency, and add another critical weapon to the armoury in the fight against corruption. After many years of hesitation, we intend to bring a Bill again to Parliament, and work to get it passed into law before the end of this Meeting of Parliament.

The protection of the public purse is a social common good, and it depends on all of us. It is in all our interest that corruption does not thrive, and we police each other’s behaviour. Going Beyond Aid means Ghanaians should not serve as fronts for foreign companies to defraud our country. It will mean we all pay our taxes, as provided by law, and it will mean we all help to take care of government property, as though it were our own.

Getting our country to a situation Beyond Aid means we add value to our exports, and stop the export of materials such as cocoa, gold, bauxite, manganese and oil in their raw state. Our cocoa farmers, for example, get less than 10% of the value of a bar of chocolate, and yet cocoa is the main ingredient. On the world market, bauxite in its raw form is worth about $42 per metric tonne. Processing it just one stage further into alumina oxide will fetch twice that amount. Refining the alumina oxide into alumina will increase the value by seven times, and smeltered aluminium fetches one hundred fold what it gets in the raw state. Aluminium, we are told, is the metal of the future.

Ghana has, since independence, sought to establish an integrated bauxite and aluminium industry. Thus far, this has remained a fond hope. But we are determined to make it happen within the next three years. Work on the law establishing an Integrated Bauxite and Aluminium Development Authority is far advanced, and will be submitted to Parliament very shortly. Government also hopes to reach an agreement soon with potential partners to establish an alumina refinery, and expand the VALCO smelter. A successful execution of this project will be key in moving Ghana Beyond Aid, as will be the successful exploitation of our iron ore and manganese deposits to build a steel industry for our country and the region.

We are all aware of the vast sums of illicit financial flows from our continent that attend the exploitation of our natural resources, especially of our mineral wealth. We can no longer continue to blame others for that. We have to take our destiny into our own hands, and design and carry out the appropriate policies and measures that will ensure that we get our fair and proper share of the value of that wealth. Government will be rolling out such policies as an integral part of our determination to move Ghana Beyond Aid.

We have huge infrastructure needs in the areas of roads, bridges, water, electricity, housing, hospitals, schools, etc. The problem has always been where to find the money. However, where there is a will, there is a way. My government is going to implement an alternative financing model to leverage our bauxite reserves, in particular, to finance a major infrastructure programme across Ghana. This will probably be the largest infrastructure programme in Ghana’s history, without any addition to Ghana’s debt stock. It will involve the barter or exchange of refined bauxite for infrastructure. We expect to conclude this agreement and start its implementation this year. This will represent a paradigm shift in the financing of our development priorities, and make it possible for Ghana to move Beyond Aid.

We now live in a digital world, and to be competitive, we have to be a part of and take advantage of digitization. Since assuming office last year, we have undertaken deliberate policy reforms to digitize Ghana to formalize our economy, and leapfrog in some key areas. The national identification and address system, the drivers licence and vehicle registration, the paperless operation at the ports, inter-operability of payment system in the financial sector, are all geared towards modernizing our economy, and we should begin to feel the difference when all these measures become operational this year. I am looking forward, particularly, to the digitization of the land registration process to help the mortgage market, and release hundreds of billions of cedis to finance our development. Digitization would also allow the delivery of education and health services to remote areas, reduce corruption, expand the tax base, expand e-commerce, make credit more available as uncertainty is reduced for financial institutions, and increase domestic resource mobilization.

At its core, the poverty gap is a technology gap. The mastery of technology separates developed from developing countries, or rich from poor countries. This is a gap we have to bridge. We are laying a strong foundation for an educated and skilled workforce of the future through the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme, which this academic year enabled 90,000 additional young Ghanaians to enrol in SHS. These are our future scientists, engineers, modern farmers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and transformation agents!

In the years ahead, the principal thrust of national development policy must be to ensure that science, technology and innovation drive all sectors of the economy. We are going to commit resources to basic and applied science and engineering, that should result in the development of the capacity to manufacture machinery, equipment and component parts for industry, agriculture, especially machinery for planting, harvesting and processing of produce.

The private sector should be the critical partner in moving Ghana Beyond Aid. In truth, part of our problem has been that government tries to do too much, tries to take on far too much beyond its capacity. There are many projects in roads, railways, water transport, agriculture, etc. which, if properly structured, will attract private sector financing. Key to attracting private sector investment is a conducive, business friendly and peaceful environment.

The primary requirement for prosperity is peace. The first obligation on any government is to ensure the safety and security of the citizenry. I will work to ensure that citizens are able to go about their daily duties in the confidence that they are safe. No miscreant will have the space to terrorize citizens, and generate a sense of insecurity in our country. The police have the primary responsibility of maintaining peace and keeping law and order in our society, and, in exceptional cases, with the backing of the armed forces. The government is doing, and will do whatever it takes to enable the police discharge their duties effectively. We are providing the means for them to modernize their equipment, and learn modern methods of policing, and their numbers will be rapidly increased to match our growing population, and the sophistication and audacity of the criminals.

We should not forget that the police need the help and support of the community to be able to do their work. We dare not lose our reputation as a haven of peace and security. Let us salute the leadership and the gallant men and women of our security forces, who, in the various Operations, Calm Life, Cow Leg, and Vanguard, are putting their lives on the line to protect our environment, and guarantee our safety and security. They are patriots, indeed.

Ghana Beyond Aid is meant to be more than a slogan. It is meant to propel us into the frame of mind that would quicken our pace of development. It is meant to change our mindset from one of dependency, to one of achieving our destiny. It is meant to put us in charge of our own affairs, and make us truly independent. Above all, Ghana Beyond Aid will give us the respect and dignity we deserve. Let us believe in ourselves. Let us believe in Ghana and in Africa.

By  Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo

President of Ghana.

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