Still stuck in the thinking box!

BY: Colin Essamuah
Still stuck in the thinking box!

I was roaming Adabraka as it rained heavily yesterday. My thoughts went to the fact that it doesn’t appear we have comprehensive histories of the development and expansion and growth of towns and cities and suburbs in this country. I may be wrong since I left school decades ago and some material may have been gathered and presented to the public about the beginnings of say Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, Tamale or Cape Coast, for example, as small habitations for far smaller populations than we have now.

I am aware the former Accra Mayor, the architect Nat Nunoo-Amarteifio, has some publications on aspects of the growth of traditional pre-colonial government in the Accra area. I have also been fascinated by publications on the Afro-Brazilians who came to Ghana in the 1830s from Brazil and are now an acknowledged and permanent part of the social history of Accra. This of course has a direct bearing on my musings as I roamed Adabraka, the Accra suburb they identify with and occupy today.

The point of this excursion into the history of the peculiar development of our towns is that they not only assist in town planning on the broad scale, but are also very vital in the promotion of the touristic sights and sounds of particular locales, and thus have an economic value as well.
Today, I would really have loved to share with readers my preliminary findings on the history of Adabraka, its people and its attractions as a vital part of Accra, but certain obvious things have waylaid me.

Job creation

The institution of job-creating initiatives in both the developed and developing worlds, especially in democratic partisan settings have always been problematic and we in Ghana cannot claim to be a positive exception. Let me take my readers back a bit. How many Ghanaians were lifted from poverty or made fabulously rich by the establishment of the CEDCOMs, URADEPs, etc set up in the Busia and Acheampong regimes four or more decades ago?

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Invariably, in the Ghanaian example, we have the beneficiaries being government supporters who I must quickly add, also need gainful employment. But since the end result is always intended to provide and introduce the unemployed into not only good beginnings into the world of work, but also have self-perpetuating systems and bureaucracies in place to reduce significantly overall unemployment, we must ask ourselves if these really achieve their aims? This question is very different from saying that these schemes are completely valueless. As I said, some lucky ruling party supporters who are unemployed will get lucky.

The GYEEDAs, YESs, YEAs, and the rest now joined by NABCO, are all sweet sounding schemes, but they signify nothing of enduring value in the polity. Part of the reason is that they are instituted to satisfy transient political views, and are thus stopgap measures. They are basically social democratic panaceas to the problem of mass unemployment in the industrial and post-industrial society. When you see capitalists and champions of the free market like those in the ruling New Patriotic Party promoting such schemes, it does mean something more than the abandonment of ideological identity. Such schemes seek to suspend the free choices of free men and women in the marketplace of work and substitute an official choice or decision for the workings of the market. It is the welfare state ran amok, capitalism on steroids and in the end, the disappointment and cynicism of failure by ideological backsliders.

On paper, such schemes look attractive to the unemployed, and they fulfil the need to find something, anything to do for compensation no matter how small. I will urge all those qualified to apply. But they can never replace what a really growing and expanding economy offers; real meaningful permanent and adequately-remunerated work. Our fundamental problem, the structure of our economy, is actually perpetuated by these band-aid schemes because they have never formed any foundation for breaking out of our cycles of dependency. Ghana beyond aid becomes a distant mirage because you will get external assistance to fund these schemes taking us nowhere soon.

Future prospects

In other words, the current price of the dollar and that of fuel which are both on the high side, speaks volumes about our future prospects, than a solution tailored to the need of election cycles and government tenures. We seem stuck now in the management of low expectations. Promises were made which are now known to be unachievable with the attainment of power. Where is our government going to get the money to give each constituency one million dollars each year? This is quite apart from the ridiculous nature of the promise. How many workers in a productive establishment qualify the establishment to be a high-value concern to be supported by our government in furtherance of the 1D 1F promise?

The truth of the matter seems to me to be the belated realisation that some of these promises lacked the wealth of wisdom provided by rigorous research which now seems lacking. I am certain that real capitalism is possible in this country, though the social cost would be unbearable and unsustainable. A major part of that unsustainability is the land tenure system tied to a moribund chieftaincy system championed ironically by the capitalists in Ghana.

The only sustainable alternative is politics with a human face, which in our situation, means social democracy. It is ideologically untenable to claim that private enterprise is the engine of growth and pay 70 million cedis a year to essentially private actors in the marketplace and call it a job creation initiative. Since the coming into power of the predecessor party of the current ruling party in 1969, this country cannot name a single school, a hospital, a factory, a road or any major infrastructure conceived by the party which has provided the foundation for the creation and expansion of the overall economy. Tinkering with figures, and social democratic schemes are a pathetic letdown not worthy of the minds and reputation of our current government. We must think outside the box and act likewise.