Ghana Beyond Aid — actionable, but how?

BY: Mike Mensah
Ghana Beyond Aid — actionable, but how?
Ghana Beyond Aid — actionable, but how?

On March 6, 2018, the President espoused his vision of Ghana Beyond Aid (GHBA) and stated that it required a change in all aspects of our lives. GHBA seeks to wean the country off aid.

Critics have described the GHBA as either a political slogan, gimmick or a paradigm rich in vision, without policy guidelines and not actionable. Government countered, describing it as actionable with a visionary framework founded on four pillars which include domestic resource mobilisation and the creation of opportunities.

This article associates with proponents of the vision but believes that because it entails change and a range of interlocking activities, GHBA needs to be planned as a long-term overarching programme. The principal goals may not necessarily be attained now but a solid foundation could have been laid.

About Aid

To appreciate GHBA, it is important to understand what Aid is and when it is desirable.

Simply put, Aid is a support given by governments or agencies to leverage development in a recipient country.

While it is common knowledge that developing countries are generally aid dependent; there are developed countries that depend on aid/loan. Countries such as Japan, Italy, Singapore, United States and Belgium have had very high dDebt to GDP ratios in recent times. According to Forbes listing, most of these countries took advantage of prevailing low interest rates to secure aid / loans to develop their infrastructural base specifically. Thus, being indebted is not an anathema if purposely designed.

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Aid can, therefore, be a desirable remedy for development if strategically accessed, especially when the aid being contracted cannot be generated from internal financial arrangements.

GHBA and problems to be tackled

From the President’s pronouncements, he seems to be in no doubt about his vision; but the citizenry must share in it and more needs to be done to make GHBA actionable.

Ghana still imports food items such as rice, oil, sugar, poultry, tomatoes and even fish; little is derived in terms of value addition from cocoa and our minerals; and our infrastructural base is weak. These problems have lingered on since the first republic. This is the arduous task GHBA seeks to correct.

For GHBA to be actionable and goal oriented, the following will need to be addressed:

• Planning for GHBA

A crafted concept, frame work and a plan of action, especially modelled on the SDGs 2030 agenda will need to be developed. GHBA should be couched as a product of long-term planning which will outlive the tenure of office of Mr President. In other words, let it be devoid of politicisation. It should be a development document such as the Agenda 2030; and as such it should be flexible enough for any other president to add on.

• Re-orientation of attitude towards domestication

Consumption of local products will be a major boost for GHBA if the country is to reduce the importation of foods that can be locally produced, then vigorous and purposeful policies linking production and consumption must be put in place. For instance, government could introduce “draconian” policies on say rice consumption, which requires that only locally produced rice is served at all government-sponsored functions, in secondary institutions and the school feeding programmes.

• Investment in research, science and technology

GHBA will thrive on research, science and technology. Government will need to invest more in these areas to create an environment where growth in technology becomes a direct measure of progress in national development; and where technology is visibly married to industry, infrastructure, agriculture, health, education and other sectors.

• Enclosure approach

By enclosure, this article is suggesting that certain liberties be curtailed when liberal domestication policies fail. A ban on certain commodities could be enforced to ensure that specific commodities are not imported into the country to enable local entrepreneurs to perfect their skills.

• Working within the ECOWAS / AU

The GHBA vision is not one to be advanced by one country alone. At best, Ghana could canvas and champion this within the ECOWAS Region and possibly AU to derive effectiveness from group action.

In conclusion, it is good to decipher between good and bad aid; depending on good aid for the growth of the economy is not an anathema. But to be beyond aid is more desirable; but this does not happen wishfully, it must be planned.

Ghana will for a long time need “good aid” for development and the initial focus of GHBA will be to establish a framework for the progressive reduction of aid over a specified time period.

In the words of the President, GHBA “requires a deliberate, qualitative change in all aspects of our lives”; it can be done, but needs to be advanced within an actionable framework.