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General News
Ghana@50: Is it worth celebrating 2/21/2007
A GNA feature by Stephen Asante,

Kumasi, Feb. 20, GNA - On March 6 1957 Ghana made history as the first country south of Sahara to gain independence from colonial rule.

It is on record that at the time of independence the nation had a strong multi-party parliamentary system of government with a popular ruling party led by Dr Kwame Nkrumah and a vigorous opposition led by Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia, supported outside parliament by Joseph Boakye Danquah.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates that the nation at the time of independence had a population of about five million, an average per capita income of 400 dollars, a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of some 2.5 billion dollars, balance of payments surplus of some 400 million dollars and close to about 100 per cent of her total land being arable. The prospects for successful governance and rapid socio-economic development looked excellent and it was against this backdrop that many countries on the African Continent looked up to Ghana for inspiration and motivation.

However, Ghana''s 50 years of self-rule has witnessed many positives and negatives and it is, therefore, incumbent upon us as a nation to make a self-assessment of the past to see where we fell short so as to make amends.

The nation had over the years gone through authoritarian rule, political instability, systematic violations of the human rights of the citizenry, arbitrary seizures of properties and misguided economic policies with their attendant consequences.

In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, for instance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates that thousands of Ghanaian professionals and intellectuals left the shores of the country in search of greener pastures abroad, a development that contributed to the significant depletion of the country''s vibrant human resource base. Notable among the factors that contributed to this mass exodus of Ghanaian professionals was the almost economic stagnation that fuelled widespread unemployment with a steep d ecline in real incomes and the political instability on those days.

The fact that foreign remittances constitute about 40 per cent of Ghana''s total GDP in recent times suggests the many number of Ghanaians who are still living abroad due to economic and political reasons.

It must, however, be noted that since independence, successive governments in 1966; 1972; 1979; 1982, 1992 and 2000 had in spite of their bad records tried their best to restore the nation to cutting the path forward; substantive economic liberalism; multi-cultural participatory democracy; commandments by rule of equitable law; efficient, responsible and responsive governance as well as campaign against corruption.

Already, immediate past ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) Government and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Administration had sufficiently succeeded to re-arrange Ghana''s domestic affairs so that confidence has returned, business has revived and the nation appears to be entering an era of prosperity which is gradually reading into every part of the nation.

Due to the ever-improving economic fundamentals and domestic political maturation about seven billion dollars of Ghana''s debt has been written off under the present Administration with the cedi enjoying its longest sustained stability.

In 2005, for instance, economists estimate that the real effective exchange rate of the cedi appreciated by 19.1 per cent in trade-weighted terms and by 17.4 per cent in foreign exchange.

It is worth mentioning that President John Agyekum Kufuor in his recent State of the Nation''s Address affirmed his Government''s resolve to working hard to overcome her existing problems and hindrances such as the energy crisis plaguing industrial and economic activities, conflicts arising from chieftaincy disputes, productivity as well as the high unemployment rate among the youth.

More importantly, the President cited Government''s commitment to instituting pragmatic measures that would ensure that Ghana attained a middle-income status through a growth rate of eight per cent GDP annually, which translates to over 1,000 dollars per capita income within the next decade.

There is no denying the fact that Ghana is endowed with unique natural and human resources that could significantly contribute to the quality of life and economic prosperity of the citizenry. However, there are constraints in mobilising, allocating and utilising these resources to achieve higher per capita income levels and thereby help to reduce poverty at the individual level and at the national level as well.

The most significant of these challenges is the failure to formulate a comprehensive and coherent national science and technology policy designed to contribute to the achievement of the country''s development objectives.

Even though, our society depends on science and technology for its survival, successive governments had failed to realise this, a development that had resulted in a situation where Ghana even after 50 years of independence still import almost everything and produces virtually nothing.

Ghana has not been able to change the structure of its economy for over 40 years as the country still rely on the export of raw materials and also depend mostly on foreign donors and her development partners to fund development budgets.

It is unacceptable that about 80 per cent of inputs into agriculture, education and health are from foreign sources.

In his lecture address at a Students'' Forum at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi last year, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Chief Executive Officer of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, decried the inability of the nation to do things for itself as a result of the lack of a vibrant science and technology policy.

"Building roads, construction of schools, hospitals and digging boreholes with borrowed money or grants does not constitute development. Development, to me, is the process of developing the capacity to do things for ourselves and to be less and less dependent on foreign capital and technology", he noted.

Indeed, despite efforts to alleviate poverty, Ghana still exhibits chronic inability to alleviate poverty. Many people still find it difficult to afford nutritious food, access to clean water and sanitation, energy, safe shelter, education and a healthy environment. In the 1960s, both Ghana and South Korea had per capita income of 250 dollars. Today, the per capita income of South Korea is estimated to be over 5,000 dollars whiles that of Ghana is hovering around 300 dollars.

The reasons for the success story of South Korea include the application of science and technology in all sectors of the economy, effective science and technology policies as well as adequate funding for research and development activities by institutions.

Considering the present state of Ghana''s socio-economic development, there is no disguising the phenomenal scale of work, commitment and seriousness that need to be imputed before the nation could close the technological gap that had over the years stifled her overall development agenda.

Already, there seem to be a fairly developed science and technology infrastructure since independence.

In 1958 for instance, the National Research Council was established with the broad aim of co-ordinating scientific research to support the country''s development.

Since then Ghana has witnessed the creation of a Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology in 1996 with the mandate for science and technology policy formulation, planning, programming and co-ordination. The ministry''s principal operating agency is the Council for Scientific and Industrial Resarch (CSIR).

There is, however, more room for improvement as technological advancement does not occur automatically but through a deliberate well thought out programme backed by action, ingenuity and uncompromising determination.

The state should put in place an enabling framework to encourage tertiary institutions to be more innovative and results-oriented. Again, technical schools and research bodies should be resourced and equipped so that they could produce the manpower required in the manufacturing sectors to enhance the manufacturing of machines, development of processes and materials for national development. As Ghana prepares feverishly to celebrate her 50 years of the attainment of independence, it is imperative that the state, universities and private research institutions resolve to embark on collaborative efforts aimed at ensuring the pursuance of a more vigorous programme to bringing research findings and developed technologies to the level of potential users for a sustainable economic development. 20 Feb. 06Source:

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