Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Political economy of the "31st December Revolution" Continuity or Change? (Part 1)

Akwasi Brown

As class struggles and challenges to the PNDC rule intensify, it will be difficult for the government to gain support from all segments of society. This implies that the PNDC would have to constantly justify why it thinks it is more capable than the alienated political forces to govern the country.
THE 31st OF DECEMBER coup d'état brought a new governing class into power. This class is represented by the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC).

The PNDC took over the reins of government in the most critical period since Ghana attained independence in 1957. The economic base of the country, especially the export sector, had almost collapsed and as a result, there was a perennial foreign exchange crisis. Most industries were producing below capacity, there were constant shortages of food and raw materials, frequent industrial unrest and, above all, national production was at a very low level.

These problems were compounded by the perceived inability of the Limann administration to provide a coherent development strategy or a plan of action to lessen the socio-economic and political paralysis that confronted the country. The apparent inertia of the Peoples National Party (PNP) government coupled with the naked abuse of power by prominent members of the PNP, created conditions for the 31st of December intervention.


There are those who will argue that the PNP did not fail the nation because the government had little time to carry out its projects. This argument is a red herring. The PNP seriously down played the activities of the forces that were to result in the 31st December coup d'état. By ignoring ongoing class contradictions and struggles in

my main concern in this article. In assuming power, the PNDC promised to radically transform the existing socio-economic and political institutions of the country in order to remove the intractable socio-economic and political perplexities inherited by the government. In a preamble to its policy guidelines, the PNDC offered the following assessment:
"... It is only when we effect concrete and revolutionary changes in these institutions that we can make definite progress... Just as we fought relentlessly in the past to achieve 'self government' so should we commit the 31st of December Revolution to the direct task of achieving total economic independence by ensuring a fundamental break from the existing neo-colonial relations".
Furthermore, the PNDC promised to form a broad-based alliance embracing patriotic elements of society for socio-economic and political engagement. This strategy singled out the less articulate segments of society (i.e. the masses) for particular consideration and integration into the sector). key institutions of the country. Again the PNDC policy guidelines stipulated:

"The December Revolution aims at ensuring that power is exercised by the people organised from the grassroots. This implies a revolutionary transformation of the existing institutions of the Ministries to respond readily to the will of the people. Our policies must aim at ensuring the popular expression of this new freedom.

It has been two years since the PNDC seized power. This article attempts to go beyond the PNDC'S rhetoric and intentions to determine what the 31st of December coup d'état represents for the future of the country. Simply stated, this paper discusses whether or not the 31st of December insurrection has brought about any fundamental changes in the existing socio-economic and political institutions in a way that either lessens the country's dependency on "inter national monopoly capital" or Ghanaian society, the PNP hastened encourages the less articulate segment its own demise. However, this is not of society to meaningfully participate

in the decision-making process. Since December 31st, 1981 the PNDC has initiated specific policies aimed at effecting changes in the existing socio-economic and political institutions of the country. It is my contention, however, that these policies have not resulted in any fundamental changes in existing institutions and structures of the country. The changes introduced so far by the present government, have been skin-deep only. Let especially the economic and political me consider changes embarked upon by the current administration in Accra.


As far as the economy is concerned, the PNDC aims to resolve persistent economic crises by injecting discipline into government expenditures. This implies that the government will not resort to printing more currency in order to meet its expenditure commitments. Government expenditures will have to be paid from increased national production (mainly through the improvement of the agricultural sector.

The PNDC government has also attempted to plug loopholes in the existing tax system, steamline foreign exchange management, and above all, curb growing bureaucratic ponderous ness and corruption. The economic changes introduced by the PNDC are formidable. These changes represent an improvement over economic mismanagement by previous administrations. At the concrete level a decade of however, these changes remain cosmetic policies on the economy and merely tinker rather than completely transform the existing relations of production.

In fact the PNDC economic strategy centers on increasing the role of the State in the economy. The State will play a distinctive role in the economic development of the country as outlined in the government's economic recovery programme. The use of the State as the main instrument of capital accumula- tion is not at all surprising given the economic surplus. thin material base of the governing class. However, in the current Ghanaian context, the reliance on the State for economic development will not result in breaking existing "foreign monopoly control over the economy and social life".

This is because the material base of the State which is mainly located in the export agricultural and mineral sectors of the country has dwindled. For example, the extraction of economic surplus from the cocoa economy has hit the lowest level since 1960. There has been a systematic decline in cocoa production over the past fifteen years. Thus, whereas in 1965, Ghana was able to produce 556,000 metric tons of cocoa, this figure had fallen to a paltry 249,000 metric tons by 1979.

This fall in cocoa production has seriously weakened Ghana's once acclaimed position as a leading producer of cocoa. Between the 1950's and 1960's, cocoa exports from Ghana accounted for one third of the world's cocoa production. Today Ghana's exports account for one-sixth of the world's cocoa production. This decline has been compounded by fluctuating prices in international cocoa markets. The crisis in the cocoa sector means that the state cannot totally depend on this sector for the extraction of surplus value.

It has, therefore, become necessary for the PNDC to resort to international borrowing in order to supplement Ghana's meagre domestic economic surplus. What does the economic policy imply? There are two main issues.

First, it implies that the extraction of surplus revenue from the cocoa economy is of economic importance for the survival of the State. The resilience of the agrarian basis of the State in the current PNDC regime indicates that the wealth of the country continues to be produced by peasant farmers. At least the foreign exchange extracted from the cocoa economy, even if it has declined in volume, remains significant.

Second, the dependence of the State on international borrowing is likely to deepen rather than lessen the country's integration into the international capitalist economy. Put differently, the current economic policies of the PNDC will not be a "fundamental break from "total economic independence". There will not be a "fundamental break from the existing neo-colonial relations" as the PNDC had promised.

In substance, the economic strategy being pursued by the current government is not radically different from the economic policies of the Limann administration nor is it fundamentally different from the policies of past administrations in Accra. Clearly, in the economic sphere, there is continuity rather than change!

To be continued next week.

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