Some may want to argue it’s the most real and assuring strategy for a motherland like ours to achieve development. Others may want to rebut that we could kiss development goodbye. The latter’s contention will be that developed motherlands are not sitting on their butts for the underdeveloped or developing to catch up with them. In that sense, hastening slowly would be forever playing catch up without ever catching up.
For 20 years, congresspeople sat on my compatriots’ necks claiming exclusion. One of their acts was a $94 million loan to build a sea defence wall. To date, no one knows where the money went. Strangely, rather than help trace where the loan went, bigots are accusing another of bigotry. When Rwanda downed two presidents (Rwanda and Burundi) for exclusion, at least, today, that motherland is the toast of democracies no matter its brand of democracy.
Hastening slowly, explained, is balancing the speed of physically developing (infrastructure) with affordable cost of living of citizens whose lives development must be seen to have improved and enhanced. As a motherland, the balance has been forever elusive. Doubters may ask Kwame Nkrumah about February 24, 1966. They may equally want to ask Kofi Abrefa Busia about January 13, 1972. They may proceed to question Hilla Limann about December 31, 1981 and John Evans Atta Mills about December 7 and 28, 2000.
The list is not exhausted yet. They could, in addition, ask Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo about December 7 and 28, 2008 and the top-up January 2, 2009 all combined in one election. All the names mentioned, I bet, would answer ‘onipa (Ghanaba anaa Ghanani) nneayɛ,’ (the Ghanaian is without appreciation) or crudely boniayɛ (ungrateful).
As for December 7, 2016, by squandering the John Agyekum Kufuor oil money legacy, while depleting whatever else, and emaciating all the social intervention legacies (NHIS, MMT, school feeding, capitation grant, LEAP, free medical care for pregnant women), all in addition to the oil money, no one was going to vote toaso to continue with the profligacy.
Thus, no matter the nature of the ‘suffering, as in 2008,’ my compatriots have always gotten rid of governments. Sadly, they don’t seem to distinguish between suffer to gain governance and perishing sufferingkleptocracy. As such, they haven’t had the patience to wait a little for a loan properly invested to yield the desired results. Those were the cases of truncated loan investments which were due to positively mature to impact lives, in 1966, 1972, 1981, and 2008.
‘Neayɛbɛdinkoaa’ and ‘ɛkwanwɔnnwe’ attitudes in shortages of provisions in 1966 and 1981 or effects of currency devaluation in 1972 have triumphed over overall development. Governments have so far not succeeded in persuading the citizenry to moderate ‘wo nya sika a w’anum,’ mainly because those in government largely fail to lead in modesty and frugality.
In assessment, one would say, it’s all been an imbalance between fast pursuance of development with its adverse effects on the living standards of citizens. Any correlation whatsoever, appears to have been negative, as physical development improves, human development lags by not improving. Citizens would often cry out they are suffering; while governments determined to achieve development, trying hard to catch up with the developed, aggressively spend more on the physical infrastructure than the human well-being as in affordable food and shelter.
Clearly expressed, there is physical development and there is human development. Physical development is expected to leverage human development. However, physical development for that sake alone can be detrimental to human development because resources might have been misdirected. Every physical development must contribute to improving some aspect of human development.
From Nkrumah’s accelerated infrastructure development which required heavy borrowing, it has always been like that. Heavy borrowing means extensive debt servicing which takes all the cocoa and gold (and recently plus oil and gas) money. That leaves no money to pay public sector workers whose effort is required to operate the government machinery work to operate the infrastructural systems, so much is borrowed to construct.
Governments must mandatorily ensure services are provided no matter what. Hence the various taxes they impose to mobilise funds to pay government workers for the services they are required to provide. Taxes, on the other hand, are a squeeze on the incomes of citizens most of whom cannot be described as high earners. Thus, the discontentment that taxing breeds.
Taxes on petroleum products, for example, bite hard since they affect every aspect of life which gets improved in the human development effort. Citizens, however, need to understand that, without taxes, nothing will work, let alone develop physically or humanly.
It’s a real development conundrum which no politician talks about: that there can be no development without loans and taxes. Maybe they dare not talk about that because some of the ways in which they deploy loan funds are suspect. For example, it’s beyond reason that Onaapo’s government would borrow USD35 million to build a factory that is totally dormant.
A 1999 USD94 million loan acquired to build sea defence wall is unaccounted for. To date, nobody has been able to tell my compatriots where all that money went.
We, our governments, don’t seem to have learnt from past mistakes. From the days of Kwame Nkrumah, to the present, physical infrastructure appears to always have been the focus. That idea was exacerbated by the some 20 years (1981-1993) of the P/NDC and NDC (2009-2016). Over those periods, you would hear about so many roads, schools, hospitals constructed without mention of how many teachers or nurses had been employed to make them functional. Those are clear examples of delinking physical and human development.
We want development but we don’t want to pay the taxes and sacrifice to make it happen. It seems our politicians will have to recognise that it is so because of the extreme comforts they want for themselves which are paid for by the taxes that impose hardships on the citizenry. If they would admit that, we can begin to think about balancing physical development with human development to achieve development.
It would seem we are not cutting our coat according to our size; or borrowing what we can pay to leave enough to develop. It would also seem, however, that it’s a matter of the greed and avarice of those who sign off loan contracts being too greedy and selfish to care to spend loan money on themselves rather than invest in ventures that would yield to repay the loan.
Haste and means to hasten are disconnected by the greed and selfishness of individuals in government who are paid by the taxes which when levied, instead, create hardships for my compatriots the tax payers. Those in charge of the deployment of loans are in a hurry to prosper. But their selfish chop chop obstructs accelerated development for the state and its people.
So you can get individuals talking bucolic tribalism when people complain about a $94 million loan taken for constructing a sea defence wall chopped instead of asking where that money went. They are the individuals in a hurry who can’t wait to prosper but can’t support the state collective to hurry to develop.
It’s like we never learn lessons. I hope we would in 2024 that handing over to disrupter obstructionist congress will be a setback and that what would move us forward would be to aggressively check a new osono administration. That would be preferable to installing another chop chop congress create, loot and share system. Hastening slowly in development is finding the tolerable balance of speedy physical development with affordable cost of living. We can aggressively work to attain it.
By Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh