An economist, Prof. John Gatsi, has said the lack of a clear plan to chart the country’s development path will continue to hinder its economic growth if the phenomenon is not addressed.
He said the tendency to compare Ghana to other countries such as Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore was out of place because those countries had clearly laid down plans that guided their economic development.
The case, he regretted, was different in Ghana because governments had refused to agree on a long-term plan for the country.
In an interview with the Graphic Business during the Easter festivities, Prof. Gatsi, who is also the Head of the Department of Finance at the School of Business, University of Cape Coast, alleged that in spite of all the efforts put in by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) to develop a 40-year development plan for the country, that document had been placed on the back burner for political reasons.
His observation comes at a time when the country is being run using political party manifestos that only last for a maximum of eight years, instead of a comprehensive national development plan that will guide governments, irrespective of their political background.
“This is what is actually leaving us behind so if we want to compare ourselves to South Korea, Singapore and the rest, we should just ask ourselves, ‘What did they do, what are they doing and what are we also doing today?’” he said, explaining why Ghana seemed to have under-performed.
Per capita incomes
Ghana, at independence, had peers such as Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore, with per capita incomes similar at around US$450 in 1960, and economies dependent on the production of primary commodities.
Currently, these countries are said to have significantly transformed into industrialised economies. Income per head in Singapore is now US$51,431, South Korea at US$29,115 and Malaysia at US$9,623 compared to Ghana at just US$1,512.
On the issue of corruption, Prof. Gatsi said those countries Ghana used to compare itself with meant it when they were fighting the canker, adding that they did not do so only when there was a change in political power. He noted that corruption was corruption and it should be fought irrespective of political affiliation or which party was in power.
He added that those countries showed commitment by fighting corruption across the board even to an extent that a sitting President could be tried for corruption, but that was not how Ghanaians understood the fight against corruption.
“The fight against corruption is just a political tool. You raise it to come to power; you come to power and you get into corruption, then some people also raise it against you and when you are out of power they come and they chase you,” he stated.
According to Prof. Gatsi, those countries were investing in technology and research and questioned how many presidential candidates had ever visited the research institutions in the country to ascertain which research could be made a national programme.
“You don’t see people using their knowledge in information and communications technology to engage in sakawa (internet fraud) but they use it to develop applications that can be used on the farm, in the market or for productive ventures,” he noted.
Developing beyond aid
Some development experts argue that following the experiences of South Korea and Singapore, it is only when Ghana has attained a high-income status that it will not need aid.
To them, Ghana can selectively make good use of aid.
Prof. Gatsi deduced that the literature on aid provided mixed results; in some cases, aid promoted economic development; in others, it did not.
“Where is the aid directed? If the aid is directed at consumption, it will not reflect in growth but if directed at providing socio-economic infrastructure, that can translate into some growth. But we should also do the cost benefit analysis of the conditionalities attached to aid, whether it is going to consumption or its going to socio-economic development,” he said.