Fruits of democracy : Pitiable Ghana and admirable Singapore

BY: Eugene B.G. Bawelle
Parliament in session

Generally, the fruits of democracy act as a conduit for development and offer a congenial environment for coexistence. So why is it that Nkrumah’s Ghana is miles behind Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore today when the two were almost on a par with each other in 1960?

One cannot look beyond the shoulders of leadership in an attempt to answer the above question.

Everything rises and falls with leadership. Leadership is inexorably the cause; every other thing is effect. A good people with a bad leadership will result in bad governance. To quote Prof. Frimpong Boateng, “The quality and life of the society depends on the quality of the leaders.

As a person cannot function without a brain, so a society cannot function without leaders.” The resultant effect of our bad leadership over the years is the inability of the citizenry to acquire or enjoy basic social amenities such as roads, water, shelter and food.

Clean administration
When Singapore separated from Malaysia, the government of Lee Kuan Yew set out to have a clean administration.

In his book “From Third World to First,” the Prime Minister said: “We were sickened by the greed, corruption and decadence of many Asian leaders” and “we had the deep sense of mission to establish a clean and effective government”.

Lee Kuan Yew and his team were able to live up to their good intentions and Singapore, which in 1819 was a village with 120 fishermen without any natural resources and hinterland, propelled itself from third world squalor to first world affluence in just 35 years (paraphrasing Prof. Frimpong Boateng). Same cannot be said of Ghana.
From a prosperous and thriving economy in the early 60s, we are now a committed disciple of the Bretton Woods institutions, exiting one programme and joining the next programme of the IMF and/or World Bank.

Not long ago, I got a WhatsApp message from a friend. The message aptly described the Ghanaian situation. Ghana, he said, was foretold in the Bible. Micah 3:11 “Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money.

Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say, ‘Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.” Amen! Hypocrisy isn’t it? Our leaders engage in political chicanery.
In Singapore, leaders take delight in virtuoso and honest performance and implore God for long life not personal gain.

Rights and responsibilities
The entire East Asia has a sense of nationhood and responsibility. There exists an inseparable relationship between rights and responsibility. Here in Ghana, however, people are quick to catalogue their rights yet very reluctant to accept the fact that those rights do not stand in isolation.

The result is that morals have fallen, respect has dissipated, personal responsibility is arguably non-existent and every misfortune is attributable to one culprit - the government.
On his Facebook page, Boris Kodjoe, the Ghanaian- German actor, posted a picture of himself and John Mahama with the caption; “Meeting with Ghanaian President John

Dramani Mahama. Great man who sees tremendous value in the empowerment of girls and pushes hard to end child marriages in Ghana.” Then a young man (I had to look at his profile), one Prince Boakye says in reply, “He lied to you, man. That’s corruption standing next to you”. In an attempt to defend Prince Boakye, a second person espouses Prince’s right of fundamental freedom of speech and the fact that Ghana is a democratic country. I shook my head and wondered where our sense of respect and responsibility was. You may not like John Mahama as the President of Ghana, but come on, live in the real world. He is the President.

Agreeing with Lee’s assertion, democracy works well where the people have that culture of accommodation and tolerance which makes a minority accept the majority’s right to have its way until the next election, and wait patiently and peacefully for its turn to become the government by persuading more voters to support its views.

Culture of accommodation and tolerance
In response to a question at the “Shared Prosperity Forum” at the University of Ghana, the World Bank President, Dr Jim Yong Kim, compared Ghana to Korea. He said the Korea of 1958 was the Ghana of 2015. I felt very sad.

To put it more succinctly, yet Ghana was the country that was supposedly so successful at managing its non-oil economy that at one point in time “we were regarded as the poster child for a great story of “Africa Rising”.

On August 05, 2014, the Financial Times carried the headline: “Ghana tarnishes ‘Africa Rising’ Story,’ as we were forced to run back to the IMF for a bailout. We had worked hard to wean ourselves off dependence on the IMF to enable us to undertake the growth that would transform our nation.

Now with oil, Ghana is on a downward slope. The sudden and calamitous decline has left many friends, many institutions, and many investors totally perplexed. How did it all go spectacularly wrong?”

The writer is an Economic Policy Analyst and
Executive Director of the Bangfu African Research Institute (BARI).