Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Can the private sector alone salvage Ghana's economy? (Part II)

Frank Kwaw Codjoe

Frank Kwaw Codjoe concludes his article, the first part of which was published last week. He puts forward some suggestions for improving efficiency in the economy.
To say that the state should play a passive role - act as onlooker - in a developing society like that of Ghana, is to condemn that society to perpetual under-development. History also shows that in the capitalist countries where the state got involved early in the process of development, the economy, with time, has been strong and buoyant. Such has been the case of West Germany and Japan.

It is knowledge, patience, sense of sacrifice, devotion to duty and responsibility which boost up creativity and development. These elements are mainly lacking in Ghana to the highest degree. Ghanaian industries are inefficient because the efficiently trained middle personnel is not available. The few available are not respected, not given the required recognition and are poorly paid. Great value is placed on university degrees only. Yet the middle personnel is the very backbone of industry.

There is a great waste of manpower because the thousands of middle and secondary school leavers (form five and sixth form) are not vocational or trade institutions in order to be used efficiently for production in Ghana. The sense of extreme individualism became strong after 1966.

Dr Jones Ofori-Atta, the former Junior Minister of Finance in the Busia government has stated what happened after February 1966 like this: "The new power elite gave priority to their own needs and interests and used their taxation and expenditure powers of the state (now under their control) to enlarge their share of budgetary resources thereby forcing the nation to "consume" more... (Ghana Social Science Journal, Vol.4 No.1 May 1977).

The capitalist era that set in after that date tore the Ghanaian society apart and increased the consumption spree of the elites at the cost of the society. Laissez-faire operated in its orthodox form. Public coffers were individualised. People well placed in sent to the society started to think strictly

The Ghanaian elites' psychology of dependence, which has been also revealed in Mr Addo's statement. He says: "Revenues are low because imports do not come in large quantities to raise import duties ." What kind of imports does he mean: capital goods or consumer goods? Import of capital goods is an asset and has long-term effect on the society. Import of consumer goods is a liability because these goods are instantly consumed and do not contribute to capital formation.

And if the Governor is managing scarce foreign exchange, then imports must be selective, limited to capital goods and raw materials and not consumer goods to the taste of the elites. It appears that Mr Addo wants to boost up the importation of consumer goods because he says: "Imports must be allowed in as much as possible... When official channels cannot import, private sources should be allowed to bring in those needed imports we cannot finance."

How is the Governor going to solve the contradiction between managing scarce foreign exchange and using private channels to import? Either he is saying that the scarce foreign exchange should be given to private people to import consumer goods or that the black market must be recognised as a legitimate channel to be used by private people to import. How will he explain the worsening of the black market situation which will inevitably affect price levels?

Mr Addo has great appreciation for the private sector and he sees it as the only sector capable to solve all our problems in our peripheral economy. He wants the government to support the private sector (how? giving subsidy?) Yet he allows the cat to come out of the bag when he says: "Businessmen are not operating efficiently to pay higher company taxes and to supply commodities." So the inefficiency also prevails in the private sector and not only in the public sector? It seems to me that the Governor tolerates inefficiency when that prevails in the private sector and condemns it when it prevails in the public sector in accordance with his ideological leaning.

To him the public sector smacks of socialism. Since Mr Addo accepts the fact that the private sector is as inefficient as the public sector, why does he want the government to "handle the private sector with great seriousness"? In other words, the Governor is recommending that the government must withdraw subsidies from the inefficient public sector and use that to support the inefficient private sector.

I have said that the 'illness of inefficiency' prevailing in Ghana is a psychological problem. Efficiency is a state of mind. Like experience, it comes through higher devotion to duty and responsibility; it is the result of committed efforts geared towards performing one's duties successfully in order to earn honour.

Inefficient society is a corrupt society, the higher the inefficiency is, the higher becomes the rate of corruption. And there is always the struggle for survival by the disadvantaged who are always in the majority. An efficient society abounds in creativity, industry and progress. Because people in such a society take whatever they do seriously and never leave things to chances.

Dr Nkrumah, Ghana's first President whose socialist experiment ended in 1966.

Unless Ghanaians change their mental attitude to things national, perform their duties with devotion and commitment and control, the society will never fare well. To improve upon the level of efficiency, the Ghanaian society must be seen as an organic whole to which everyone commits his or her efforts with the view to get it improved. Ghanaians can themselves to either capitalism or socialism as they may wish to do, but none of them will work there unless each and every one becomes the keeper of his neighbour. This would then mean that the society should be organised well with all its parts properly functioning. To be able to do that, Ghanaians must develop a high feeling of love for their society bordering on chauvinism and then pool their efforts together.

When that is done, the great advantages and openings that would result from the pooling of efforts and the society as a whole, will then guarantee to the maximum individual welfare, contentment and better prospects. If they try that out now, they will see in the future that the present shortages and deprivations will make room for better security.

To bring efficiency into Ghanaian industries, both public and private, management must be improved. Instead of companies having Boards of Directors, with sometimes one person belonging to various Boards of directors of each company must be dotted with a supervisory board composed of engineers, economists and lawyers.

The supervisory board should control management and the general performance in the factory: production levels, statistics of inputs (raw materials principally), and outputs, accounting and auditing, ware- housing, sales and the procurement of raw materials. Each supervisory board must comprise three persons minimum, five persons maximum. Lenin said that to trust is good but control is better..

Apart from that, work councils or committees composed of worker's representatives should be elected in each factory or production unit with the duty to discuss problems affecting workers' welfare, production levels, quality, ventilation, cleanliness and other things with management. This will bring industrial democracy and harmony. These duties are now being partially carried out by the PDCs and WDCs. The work councils or committees should comprise between five and nine members, and be elected every two years.

The sense of efficient management should start from the schools which produce the nation's future personnel and managers. The government has appointed educational reform commission headed by Dr Anfom (I do not know how far it has gone). But if possible, it should be turned into a permanent commission for education, which would be responsible for curricula development. Such a cominit commission should lay emphasis on science subjects. Mathematics, the basis of the sciences, though compulsory in the schools, must be given more emphasis. Through the school system, the love of Ghana and devotion to duty instilled into the future leaders. Finally, the media should be actively used to expose Ghanaians to their problems and how they need to work with dedication to solve them.

If the media is effectively used to criticise things, including the political situation, suspicion, distrust and rumour mongering would be reduced to the minimum. But above all, Ghanaians occupying leading positions now should work hard to improve their performance of duties and efficiency so as to relieve the nation of some of its burning problems.

talking drums 1984-12-03 Ghana a government of part timers Nigeria press-government relations