I was surprised that the Daily Graphic described the speech of President Mahama at the United Nations as an account of Ghana’s democratic and economic strides to his peers.
To cast the President of Ghana in a subordinate role to his colleagues on Founder’s Day is to send the creeps down the spine of Ghanaians Kwame Nkrumah endeavoured to emancipate.
And so let us affirm on the 107th anniversary of Nkrumah’s birth that Ghana is equal in status to all states and that the President is the Head of State and Government and takes precedence in accordance with the Vienna Convention and subsequent international understandings.
President Mahama was right to affirm at the UN that Ghana in common with other African states did not need sympathy or Overseas Development Assistance but fairness in world trade. It is to be hoped that the President and his principal aides will always remember this and not expect much from “partnerships” and other nebulous relations. A failure of my former Ministry is to make Ghanaians realise that there are no “friendly-to-Ghana” states and unfriendly states. States pursue their national interests. We should therefore stop the ignorant discussion about too many Chinese, Indians or Brazilians in Ghana. We have the power to allow those we wish to come in and when they come we should see to it that they obey our rules. If some of them mine anywhere, anyhow and pollute our waterways the fault lies with us and we should deal with the institutions responsible for lawful practice in the relevant areas.
To go back to the President’s speech, he rightly explained why Africans undertook great risks to cross to Europe. He indicated that they could not compete with foreign products. He gave an example which applied to Ghana. He said they “sell their shops and undertake the journey because they can no longer compete with the tons of frozen chicken dumped on African markets annually”.
But why should our Government allow cheap, fatty frozen chicken to be dumped on our markets to the extent that our own chickens are not bought and our farmers go bankrupt? I once discussed this with educated Ghanaians knowledgeable in economics and world trade. To my surprise they complained that the world trade regime did not allow us to do anything about it. They blamed the World Trade Organisation which took over from the GATT (The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs)? They were surprised when I said that what they complained about was rubbish.
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The world trade regime aims at free trade which obviously is good for profitable exchange of goods. But we have to pay for what we buy and consume. Our country cannot import juicy chickens if we cannot pay for it. Therefore, there are ways of limiting purchase. In any case my friends who are learned in trade finance and economics knew that we could not for some time get the Turkish barges to deliver power for our energy requirements because we could not open acceptable letters of credit. We are therefore not obliged to buy chickens we cannot afford.
Besides, tariffs are in our hands and our government should know how to handle this to promote our interests. Incidentally, the government at one time (not during the Mahama regime) discouraged or placed prohibitive duties on imported chicken. The duties were removed or eased because the stalwarts of the ruling party who were behind or engaged in the chicken trade persuaded the government to remove the duties. The imported chicken trade then flourished to the detriment of our poultry industry.
President Mahama should, therefore, reserve some of the blame for the virtual collapse of our poultry industry and resultant loss of jobs to inept government policies. There has been in all regimes officials and experts who read WTO provisions and the like and advise that this or that cannot be done. They do not always bother to read the small print or study the “asterisks”. Such experts and advisers should not be employed near the Presidency or in key positions.
As Kwame Nkrumah would put it “tell me how it can be done, not why it should not be done”.
Fatty, juicy chickens from outside may promote obesity or other human ailments we would like to keep at bay. We may then restrict certain imports which promote consumption we would like to avoid. The President should encourage knowledgeable patriotic thinkers around his office. They should influence international agreements by working with our envoys and other