Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Oh No, Dr Secretary, You Aren't Going..?

Elizabeth Ohene

Is it possible that Dr Botchwey has reached the stage where he cannot look himself in the face any more and wants to run from the devastation he has wreaked on the country? Or could it be that he has now realised that it was a much easier job being a law lecturer and criticizing everything..?
In much the same way as official actions and pronouncements seem always to be some three months behind popular wisdom in present day Ghana, it has now been reported that Dr Kwesi Botchwey, the Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning wants to go back to his old job as a lecturer in the University of Ghana.

The official announcement said quite enigmatically that "two members of the PNDC administration who were granted a two-year leave of absence by the University of Ghana, have indicated their desire to return to their jobs at the University in June this year. They are Dr Kwesi Botchwey, Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning, who is a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, and Mr Asiedu Yirenkyi, Secretary for Culture and Tourism, who is a lecturer at the Institute of African Studies".

For years, as lecturer in Law and an authority on "the machinations of multi-national companies," Dr Kwesi Botchwey was the guru to students wanting to find the answer to Ghana's problems. he was unequivocal in his theories about the hydra-handed, cynical and pervasive influence of multi-national companies on the economies of countries like Ghana.

It was something of a relief therefore when Dr Botchwey, Senior Common Room theorist extraordinaire jumped on the 31st December 1981 bandwagon and the high promises, at last, everybody thought, the economy of Ghana will be handled the way it should be.

Our new Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning started off by espousing what he had been saying in Legon for years - Limann was about to mortgage Ghana to the International Monetary Fund for a mess of potage, devaluation is a dreadful thing dreamt up by the capitalists to keep countries like Ghana in perpetual poverty. He, as Finance and Economic Planning Secre tary, will never devalue, it is a perfect waste of time to talk to organisations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. None of the old remedies will do, only revolutionary measures will solve the problems.

Thus he decided Ghana did not need to import food. From the moment the Secretary for Finance took this decision, no licences were given for imports and the whole country held its breadth awaiting the introduction of the magic Botchwey formula. It came with a vengeance in the form of hunger and starvation on an unprecedented scale, seeing that he had made no alternative arrangements for the imports he had stopped.

How Dr Botchwey, the lecture room and Senior Common Room know-all would have reacted to such a phenomenon is difficult to imagine, one wonders if he would have waved off a group of chanting students to go and demonstrate' in the offices of whoever was responsible for taking the decision that had led to the widespread hunger in the country

Dr Botchwey sat it out, ran around like a frightened hare asking for food aid and importing food at premium rates, still pouring out his rhetoric; no devaluation, no talks with the IMF. He appeared to imagine that the Citizens Vetting Committees could extract or extort enough money from those that were called rich, to provide enough revenue for the country to be run on.

For a whole year, it was more important for Dr Botchwey to satisfy his vanity by sticking to his 'theories' than to do anything concrete about Ghana's economic problems as things deteriorated even faster than anybody could have imagined.

Then came the big turn around, and at this point, it is difficult to assess whose influence had been at work the most, was it sheer desperation or Dr Joe Abbey who after having presided over the great economic debacle as Acheampong's Finance and Economic Planning Commissioner, had also been part of the Rawlings team right from the beginning?

Dr Abbey, to be fair to him, had never been of the Botchwey school of anti-devaluation or anti-world Bank; his greatest achievement and innovation for the Ghanaian economy being the infamous 'demonetization exercise' of 1979 which succeeded only in making those who did not have access to inside government information, lose the little monies they had and all the important people paying in their holdings into the banks before the 'surprise' was announced.

However, there he was also in the middle of the revolution and suddenly Dr Botchwey saw the light on the road to Damascus and became a World Bank, an IMF and wonder of wonders, even a devaluation man.

As always happens to converts of the Saul-Paul colouration, he became a stronger and more strident believer than the old believers. A good thing of course that the University of Ghana had been conveniently closed down by this time, for, whatever would his former students and disciples have thought of him then presiding over the steepest devaluation in human history and actually telling the people of Ghana that their only salvation laid in measures prescribed by the IMF? Dr Botchwey obviously saw no inconsistency in his turn-around becoming an even more enthusiastic supporter of the very things he had been condemning his entire life.

The Kwesi Botchwey, Joe Abbey duo roadshow worked its way from the capitalist corridors of Washington DC, New York, Bonn until it reached its climax in Paris last November at the Ghana Donor Nations meeting where all semblance of pride or even self- confidence was abandoned for the best display of grovelling by beggars ever to be staged.

The wonder budget that between Dr Botchwey and Dr Abbey, was presented to Ghana last April was supposed to be the formula for survival and as the Finance and Economic Planning Secretary, Dr Botchwey had been accepting congratulations, real and imaginary, in the same hope that even as a 'Kwasi-come-lately' to a right of Reagan type budget, he had excelled. The results of the budget however have been disastrous and showed a cavalier disregard for reality.

The expected revenue has proved a mirage, strategies have been devised to circumvent every device for revenue gathering the least of which has not been the Ghana Airways fares. A fortnight ago, the recommended prices of rice and maize have had to be reduced as the PNDC realised that their economic policies, if they were going to work, will only work in a country inhabited by corpses and revolutionary cadres.

In the meantime, Dr Abbey has found his way to the more hospitable climes of Canada with an Ambassadorship obviously as his prize for having negotiated the tortuous IMF pledges.

The second budget has been postponed and every ruse possible has been used to explain the many deferrals, but come it will have to come soon.

Suddenly Dr Botchwey wants to go back to Legon - has he finished with the revolution or does he imagine that he has now laid such firm foundations that the country can be left in hands other than his or has he lost his nerve about the repercussions of the one budget that he is writing?

Is it possible that he has reached the stage where he cannot look himself in the face any more and wants to run from the devastation he has wreaked on the country; Or could it be that he has now realised that it was a much easier job being a Law lecturer and criticizing everything and holding court to believing undergraduates who dare not challenge him and lapped up his bogus 'radical' credentials?

No, Secretary Kwesi Botchwey, you aren't going anywhere, you are going to stay in this job and see it to the bitter end. How dare you even think of going back to Legon, you are the big one for bright ideas, have you by any chance run short and what do you imagine will be the content of your courses in the Law faculty? Stay right where you are and take the consequences.

As for Mr Asiedu Yirenkyi, the Secretary for Culture and Tourism, his part in the whole sorry mess that has been these past two years of Ghana has been as undistinguished as his earlier life as a fellow at the Institute of African Affairs. He has been a good example of those who need the cover of state power to camouflage their own mediocrity and he did it quite efficiently. Nobody has poured out as much hot air as he has done. His sound and fury have signified nothing really except that he couldn't resist waging his own personal vendettas, under the convenient cloak provided by the PNDC. He might think that going back to Legon will make people forget his part in the terrorising of individuals, but that is a forlon hope.

The post-script that has been Asiedu Yirenkyi in Ghana's political history will be one of the unfunny type.

talking drums 1984-03-05 Ghana immature at 27 - why buhari must declare assets publicly