Ghana turns 57 years as a Republic today with a lot to cheer about but there are many who want to see state institutions strengthened to perform better on the delivery of social services to the citizenry.
The annual ritual of celebrating Republic Day is here with the country again and would be officially marked, with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo meeting senior citizens to wine and dine.
The auspicious occasion is significant in many respects in the sense that it marks the day which affirmed the country’s true independence, having achieved political independence in 1957, but with the British monarch still the ceremonial head of state.
The Republic Day of July 1, 1960 was, therefore, the moment in history when Ghana was completely de-linked from all colonial ties with the United Kingdom (UK). At independence and later with a republican status, the hopes and aspirations of Ghanaians then were that the country would use its newly acquired self-determination to secure economic independence.
There is no doubt that to some extent the country has achieved some measure of economic success, notwithstanding the fact that it still has some challenges.
Although the country’s political maturity was truncated by a series of military interventions, in 1992 it finally decided on the path of multiparty democracy, which has been practised for the past 25 years.
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The beauty of Ghana’s democracy is most often devoid of acrimony, conflict, violence and political upheavals, and has made it a shining star and model of good governance in Africa.
57 years …
Speaking to the Daily Graphic on the country’s progress with governance, a Media Law/Ethics Lecturer of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, Mr Zakaria Tanko Musah, said democratically, the country had made a lot of strides after the many coups and subsequently the return to multiparty democracy.
He said Ghana had built democratic and governance credentials that had become the envy of some African countries but stated that a multiparty democracy that did not inure to the benefit of its citizenry needed to re-examine itself and live by all tenets of good governance which included following due process.
Citing the recent Supreme Court judgement which ordered the government to send the agreement on the two Guantanamo Bay prisoners who had been brought to Ghana to Parliament or send them back within three months, he said: “We are not too comfortable with following due process. You cannot avoid following due process if you are operating in a democratic process. One of the hallmarks of democratic systems is transparency in the way things are done.”
To cure the ills of today’s generation with respect to the rule of law, he said, it was time to introduce Governance and Citizenship in the curriculum of basic schools.
Mr Musah said the country would make a lot of progress if politicians moved away from things that offered quick results just for them to be pointed at during another election.
Mr Musah added that it was time political leaders took decisions that might not necessarily benefit them during the next elections.
“We need to strengthen our institutions continuously and punish people when they do wrong. Governance is a process; you can’t take one aspect and leave the rest. If we start governance, we need to complete the process. If you have a system that is guided by rules and regulations, when someone breaches the law, the person must face the consequences. It does not matter the status of that person,” he said.
In search of good health
Taking the Daily Graphic through a walk down memory lane of the health sector, a former Chief Executive of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Professor Afua Hesse, said although a lot had changed, the country still had a lot more to do to deliver better health care.
“At the time of independence, tertiary education was just evolving and medical education was not available so anybody who wanted to do medicine went abroad. Those who travelled abroad returned and were willing to work anywhere in the country so far as they could survive there. Then gradually, more institutions were built initially with funfair," she said.
Prof. Hesse, who is currently the President of the Accra College of Medicine, said although there had been expansion in training institutions, the numbers were not enough to cater for the increasing population with a doctor-patient ratio still below the World Health Organisation (WHO) requirement.
The standard WHO doctor-to-patient ratio average is 1: 600– that is one doctor for every 600 patients. But Ghana’s doctor-to-patient ratio is pegged at one doctor per 10,170 people, according to a 2013 statistics of the Ministry of Health.
Besides that, the lack of maintenance culture in health facilities, as well as the difficulties in stocking enough consumables in health facilities, Prof. Hesse observed, were major challenges of healthcare services in Ghana.
"Consumables are things in the health field that could only be used once which have to be discarded. You can’t use them for another person,” she added.
She said the country was now in the middle of a vicious circle where because of its increasing population, doctors, nurses and other health professionals being produced were not enough for the country.
“We have not gotten our modality of healthcare provision right. We were trying to copy the British National Health Service which is even collapsing. We have to look at a different model and think differently.
“We have to condition our people to be willing to pay for their own health and to pay better premium to be able to access better health care,” she added.
Years gone by, the expectation of Ghana was that there would be economic freedom but so far, it has eluded the nation.
Admittedly, the fundamentals of our economy are weak and the nation is currently saddled with huge expenditure.
The national economy is heavily dependent on imports and economies of the developed world to the extent that we easily catch cold anytime our foreign partners sneeze.
It is about time the nation looked within and used home-grown solutions to overcome the economic challenges confronting it.
It is refreshing that President Akufo-Addo acknowledges the need for Ghanaian and African leaders to depart from the dependency on aid and charity handouts and rather assume responsibility for the transformation of their economies.
He recently told his peers and members of the G-20 economic block that “If we, Africans, are to transform our stagnant, jobless economies, built on the export of raw materials and unrefined goods, to value-added economies that provide jobs, build strong middle-class societies and lift the mass of our people out of dire poverty, then we must take our destinies into our own hands and assume responsibility for this.”