Republic Day must change things

BY: Daily Graphic
Independence Square
Independence Square

Fifty-eight years ago, on July 1, 1960, Ghana reaffirmed its independence when it achieved full republican status, a little over three years after attaining political freedom from the British colonialists.

Thus, Ghana, by definition, became a state in which supreme power was held by the people and their elected representatives, with an elected President.

By that time, Ghanaians had begun coming to terms with what it meant to be an independent country: that being independent meant much more than freedom and the people’s expectation was to see independence fully in their way of life, with industrialisation as a tool for improving economic, social, scientific and cultural growth.

We have been through these years with a history to write. Even though Ghanaians are quick to point out that they are first in many areas, we have not achieved fully what we envisaged.

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Our comparison with our compatriots at independence, the Asian Tigers, seems to have been over hyped, but a reminder of those facts helps to keep us on our toes and encourage us that we can soar to higher heights.

Ghana and Malaysia were at par economically in the 1950s; they were equally poor and dependent on the export of raw materials. But today, while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Ghana is around 42.69 billion US dollars, that of Malaysia is in the region of 296.4 billion US dollars. Ghana is still exporting raw cocoa and gold, while Malaysia manufactures its own cars and boasts skyscrapers that rival anything in advanced countries. In 1960, when Ghana became a republic, its GDP was 1.271 billion US dollars, very close to Hong Kong’s GDP of 1.32 billion US dollars. But as of 2016, Hong Kong’s figure was 320.91 billion.

Despite the Malaysians importing their first palm oil from Ghana in the 1950s when we already had it in abundance, today we only grow and process the rich red oil for soap making and cooking oil while Malaysia has not only become the largest producer of palm oil in the world but has also developed a high-tech industry that makes sophisticated chemicals and food additives from the raw fruits.

Many factors have accounted for this. The military dictatorships that were virtually non-accountable to anybody; our lackadaisical attitude to work, corruption and nepotism cannot go unmentioned. But lately, especially during the Fourth Republic, two things that threaten our development march are the extreme partisanship and the winner-takes-all type of governance that we are grappling with.

Fortunately, Ghana has the laws to deal decisively with corruption. The Daily Graphic asserts that what we need is a bold leadership to apply them to the letter. As we mark our 58 years of republican status, we should start doing things differently to see different results. Our political leadership should also do away with extreme partisanship. We should be able to reach a stage where wrong or right policies are supported not because of our political affiliation but because of what they are.

With a good, focused leadership and willing followers or citizens, we can achieve the level of the development our forebears envisioned.

We wish all a happy Republc Day