What Are Their Business Plans for Ghana?

Saturday, September 13, 2008 

By Bright Simons & Franklin Cudjoe 

PlanThe question explicit in the title of this article is directed at the political parties aspiring to govern this country.

We are by no means ignorant of the fact that nations are infinitely more complex than businesses. Nor are we by ‘business plan’ referring to those multi-year ‘development plans’ favoured by certain ‘political visionaries’ ONCE THEY ARE IN POWER.

We use ‘business plan’ generically to refer to any espousal of a plan of action that also contains some financial figures by means of which the viability of the plan in question can be evaluated.

In the context of the political parties we are addressing, we are inquiring whether their MANIFESTOES, in their currently released or about to be released forms, are viable plans of actions.

You will appreciate our point better after you have read the underlisted ‘promises’ made

to the electorate by the various political parties vying for our votes:

Provide free secondary education to all pupils in an extension of the current FCUBE program.

Provide free tertiary tuition to all qualified students.

Provide free electricity to the masses by means of ‘permanent magnets’.

‘Grow’ donkeys in sufficient numbers to transform the agricultural capacity of the North, in an integrated pastoral system in which the donkeys provide both free ‘fertilizer’ and mechanization-substitutes.

Mobilise internal resources to the tune of $840 billion, up from the current ~$7 billion. On a comparative basis, this means Ghana’s GDP during the tenure of this party will be ~$2 trillion, making the country the 5th wealthiest in the world – richer than the UK and France.

Construct a pipeline from the newly discovered Western offshore oil fields to the North as part of an integrated petroleum complex. Figures from comparative endeavours elsewhere in the world (taking into account the geographical and industry context in Ghana) suggests a project outlay of 5 to 8 billion dollars (definitely greater than the current combined national expenditure).

What we find worrying is that when journalists choose to scrutinize these plans, even in the superficial manner they usually adopt, they ask a generic ‘how will you do it’ question, thus providing enormous room for politicians to ramble long-winded strategies containing even lesser content than the original statement of purpose.

It is not sufficient for a political party to ‘cost’ the individual initiatives they are proposing, something most of them are not even bothering to do anyway. They must produce a COMPLETE pro-forma budget which demonstrates what the opportunity cost for each initiative will be by showing the source of budgetary receipts alongside the inventory of expenses. A manifesto without such a pro-forma budget cannot suffice as a proper statement of intent.

Nearly all political schemes are feasible in a certain context. The true measure of feasibility comes when all the schemes are hung together and their costs summed up against projected inflows of resources to determine whether the overall political program is viable or not.

It may be entirely logical to argue for the entire northern corridor to be turned into an irrigation belt in order to feed a proposed cereal industry, but the question is whether in the inevitable trade-off that must occur for that to happen we are happy to sacrifice low public debt, NHIS concessions or the school feeding program in view of the expected levels of tax gain and donor aid.

It is true that not all our compatriots are capable of following detailed assessments of political programs, and that only a few even bother to read manifestoes. But that is why the Media exists. That is why, like most other societies, an academic elite subsists on the backbreaking labour of manual workers and other economic producers. It is the duty of such to transmit sophisticated analyses in forms accessible to the general population. But the quality of what they convey will, obviously, be coloured by the substance of what they receive from politicians.

Our argument is further that calls for an ‘issues-based’ electioneering campaign are empty demands unless we place a greater emphasis on improving the quality of manifestoes as actionable statements of intent. What constitutes an ‘issue’ is ultimately a subjective decision over which reasonable people can disagree.

Objective politicking, on the other hand, cannot proceed in the absence of some form of figure-based analysis and commentary.

We call on the Media and Civil Society institutions in this country to join us in a loud demand for all political parties to supply pro-forma statements of national accounts for, at least, their first term in office alongside, and correspondent with, their manifestoes.

Bright B. Simons & Franklin Cudjoe are affiliates of IMANI and www.AfricanLiberty.org