Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Ghana's State Enterprises Commission

Poku Adaa

It appears fortuitous to arrange an international loan of over 600,000 dollars to merely conduct a probe into unproductive state enterprises. What funds will be available at the end of it to support these ailing national burdens, to bail them out of real cash which they need..? POKU ADAA writes.
One of the notable characteristics of Ghana's post-independence industrial development is the large number of state enterprises which were set up in the early 1960's. They range from housing, road, air, rail and marine transport, telecommunications, hotel and catering, building construction and architectural services, insurance, plantation agriculture, water and power utilities, retail trade, printing and publishing, fishing and food distribution and many others.

Most, if not all of them, have turned into national financial burdens, huge barren elephants with productivity levels that have little or no significance or impact on national economic growth or even worthy of service to the community. Nearly all of them depend on imported inputs to survive. Few can break even at the end of the day. Their operations crawl to a halt when- ever foreign exchange restrictions start to bite. Besides, they are knee-deep in red-tape, bureaucracy, labour disillu- sionment and corrupt practices.

One can recall the case of the €29 million watch strap episode of theGhana National Trading Corporation, the gradual and sad disintegration of the State Shipping Corporation, the public disenchantment with the Ghana Airways Corporation, the terrible state of affairs of the State Goldmining Corporation, the poor programmes of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, or indeed the illegible prints being churned out by the local press.

And yet revolutionary organs take the first opportunity to take over private enterprises only to watch them sink into chaos and mess just like the. Bonsa Tyre factory, the Ghana Textile Printing Company at Tema, the Achimota Brewery, to mention a few.

The decline of these industries has been a national cancer which is crying for proper attention and control and, of course, more funds.

In his Economic Recovery Programme set within the PNDC 4-year programme, the Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning stated inter alia: "To rectify the problems facing the State Enterprises, a new Public Corporation Service Law is to be passed to control and regulate the operations of the State Corporations to make them accountable and productive”

Desirable sentiments of course, but the law envisaged has yet to be passed although a State Enterprise Commis- sion which has been set up, is believed to have been assigned the task of collating data and information to form a framework for the proposed laws. To this end, the Ghana government has negotiated financial assistance from the United Nations Development Programme and the International Development Association to the tune of US$664,000 to undertake the exercise.

On July 30 this year, management of state enterprises held a series of meetings with PNDC officials which has been followed by a two week nationwide tour of state enterprises by the Commission. As part of their schedule, the Commission has submit- ted questionnaires to all state enter- prises as a way to gather data and information to assist in their task of appraising the performance of these public corporations.

It appears fortuitous, however, to arrange an international loan of over 600,000 dollars to merely conduct a probe into state sector unproductive industries. What funds will be avail- able at the end of it to support these ailing national burdens, to bail them out of real cash which they need to sur- vive? It will be of great importance to follow how Squadron Leader C.M.K. Sowu, Co-ordinator of the State Enterprises Study Project will tackle his assignment with $664,000 and what benefits the nation and her Corporations will gain from the study.

What's happening to the FPC?

The Food Production Corporation is one of the State Enterprises which was ear- marked for dismantling at the beginning of 1983. In his nationwide broadcast of Thursday, December 30, 1982, the Secretary for Finance & Economic Planning, outlining a 4-year programme of Economic Recovery, announced that: "The Food Production Corporation are to be dismantled. Their farms and lands will exercise. be apportioned among workers interested in operating on a co-operative basis." This statement on the PNDC economic policies was subsequently published by the Minister of Information under the title: 'The Way Ahead Ghana's Economic Recovery Programme'.

Nearly two years on and no-one knows exactly what has happened to the FPC, whether it was given a reprieve to continue to exist or whether it is being run as a 'co-operative' under the previous name. The puzzle tightens further by the appearance of a quarter-page advertisement in the August 14, 1984 issue of the Ghanaian Times in which the Food Production Corporation is inviting tenders for the supply of agricultural inputs - tractors, motor vehicles, spare parts, fertilizers, agro-chemicals and what is described as "miscellaneous", to be paid from a grant aid from the government of Japan.

It will be recalled that in October 1983, the government of Ghana signed an agreement with the government of Japan for a Japanese Grant Aid package of $3.33 million (approx. 810 million Yens). $2.5 million was to be used for the pur- chase of rice as food aid to Ghana, while $820,000 was to be spent on fertilizers, agric equipment, and machinery for the Upper and Volta regions agricultural development programmes.

There does appear to be the possibility that the FPC advert in the Ghanaian Times is based on the same Japanese government grant aid. That being the case then either the FPC, still operating as a state enterprise, has taken over the development of agriculture in the two regions named above, or else the Japanese government grant aid has been 'switched' to the 'FPC' which only eighteen months ago was singled out for axing in a major government budget statement. When did the government reverse its decision to axe FPC? If the ex-Corporation is now run by co-operatives, are they entitled to internationally negotiated loans and grants?

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