Monday, 24 July 2017

Performance of journalists during presidential media encounter

Yet again, the nation has witnessed an encounter with the President in a remarkable meet the press session. This staple of our political system, started by the Kufuor administration continues to enjoy the admiration of both the political class and the citizenry, deepening the country’s democratic credentials in the geopolitical space. There are some who are of the opinion that six months into the presidency is too short for this engagement. One can say without equivocation that, July 18 exercise was needed to understand the broad vision of the president on the direction of the State six months into his administration. This is because quite a lot of things have happened and were talked about within the last six months, some of which were clear to the people and others not so clear that the people needed clarity, and direction from the president.

To adapt the good old cliché, six months is quite a long time in politics. The question is how useful was the exercise? In answering this question, it is important to recap at least three critical issues that needed clarity from the president. The first had to do with the China money. A clarification as to what government means by saying “it is not a loan but a joint venture”? The Second issue is, is Atiwaa forest the subject of the Ghana-China agreement on the so called joint venture money and the bauxite? Last but not least is galamsey. A major issue that has engulfed this nation, and the fight of which has probably become the “poster boy” headlining the six month presidency of Nana Addo.

There is no doubt that it is the burning desire of most nationals to know from the president how many galamsey sites, in terms of land size has the nation been able to clear off the illegal miners? What is the extent of preparation, if any, towards reclamation of galamsey areas? Instead, what the country had was a mixed bag of about 40 percent quality, 20 percent not so fantastic and a final 40 percent of over the bar questioning. This is not to run down the media and our hardworking journalists.

Ghana, undoubtedly, has one of the finest and most liberal media environments in Sub–Saharan Africa. According to the literature, the media have had to adapt to several political changes and have now become more stable, plural and freer since the 1990s. This is because the 1992 constitution makes provisions for media freedom and plurality and also insulates the state owned media from any form of interference from any quarters. In fact, the renewal of the Ghanaian mass media culture, experts say, has become an integral and indispensable part of the process of democratisation. It is also general knowledge that the Ghanaian media have generally been influential in safeguarding the country's democratic principles by playing critical roles in both the historical and socio-political development of the political system.

However, there has been an emergence, in the last few years, of a problem in public sphere, co-produced and managed by the media, predominantly. In highlighting this problem, it is imperative to refer to Dr. James Abugre, an authority in political communication and the media space in Ghana, who notes that communication helps to explain reasons, methods and ideas of corporate administrators and political leaders to their audiences. Political communications seek to achieve the latter through the mass media, predominantly.

Unfortunately, this process, which is the function of the media, has largely been contaminated in many ways in Ghana, including uncritical, selective and propagandist observation and reporting. In the more recent years, experts, including Abugre, have noted, that greater part of the Ghanaian media have sought to support and project the voices of the political system, becoming opportune witnesses, playing mischief and propaganda rather than educating and informing the citizens and being critical of the political system through fair and neutral ways.

Consequently, the Ghanaian media have greatly succeeded in propping the political class. The issue is glaring to many, especially those who have the authority to talk about it and to correct it. Yet, many are those who would choose to remain silent. It is the hope of many that this trend is reversed. To a large extent, that should begin by sorting out media ownership.


Ensuring Public Safety In Ghana

It may appear that Ghana is not a safe place and it has been unsafe for some time now. There have been repeated episodes of political violence which have made names like Agbogbloshie, Akwatia, Baffoe, Kumbungu, Kulungugu, Lamagushie and others famous. Places like Yendi, Bawku and others remind many of bloodshed rather than the grandeur of chiefs. The recent murder of Major Adam Mahama and others have shaken our assumptions about who we are. To make matters worse, last week, two police officers were shot in broad daylight at Lapaz in Abeka, here in Accra. This should however not surprise us. We are part of Africa.

According to former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair's Africa Commission report, since 1980, violence has killed more people in Africa than on any other continent. These conflicts have displaced 13 million people and created 3.5 million refugees. Ghana may have a reputation as a peaceful and stable country, but the sad reality is many Ghanaians are living in fear. Our security at home is frequently violated by armed robbers and frequent stories of unsolved robberies and murders abound. Western nations routinely warn tourists of violence on our streets. One can attribute the growing levels of crime in the country to inadequate police personnel.

In 2014, there were 30,635 police personnel, giving a ratio of one policeman or woman to 784 citizens. That is not up to the U.N. standard of one police person to 500 citizens. The International Association of Police Chiefs believes this ratio varies from urban to rural areas and that urban areas should have about two point five police per thousand citizens. Apart from understaffing, one other critical challenge of the service has to do with equipment and training. Too often, police lack vehicles, communication equipment and other technology.

Perhaps, another contributory factor to the increasing spate of crime is the issue of corruption. The alleged widespread corruption in both the police service and the judiciary undermines public confidence in the law. This leads to people taking the law into their hands. One can also speak of the lack of documentation of people with small arms and the attitude of politicians.

When the work of the police and other security agencies are politicised, we all become less safe. The solutions are obvious. We must hire more police people. Adding 20,000 more to the police force will reduce unemployment and make us safer. We must reduce corruption with and body cams automation. If we double a corrupt police force, we get twice the corruption. We need a transparent and incorruptible judiciary.

Currently, if a man must choose between bribing the police or the judge, he will bribe the police to save time. Let the politicians leave the police alone. Let us begin by ending the practice of changing IGP's with every election. If the IGP can lose his job because of elections, no policeman can be apolitical. Let us make Ghana safe for all.


Monday, 17 July 2017

Factors Impeding Granting Of Loans To Small And Medium Scale Enterprises

Recent statistics released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) revealed that about 80% of businesses operating in economies across the globe fall within the category of small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs). Indeed, about 80% of business establishments in Ghana are SMEs. However, access to credit by (SMEs) from lending institutions is a major challenge for such businesses. Some finance experts believe several factors account for the banks’ reluctance to lend to SMEs. For instance, the Bank of Ghana reported non-performing loans of 4.2 billion cedis. This amount increased to 6.2 billion cedis in 2016, representing about 48 percent rise in non-performing loans over the period. The experts noted that the surge in non-performing loans and other extraneous factors account strongly for the banks’ decision to “relax” lending to SMEs.

It must be emphasized that the lending decisions of financial institutions depend on a set of principles, including liquidity, safety, diversity, stability, and profitability. Liquidity is an essential principle of lending in banking. Banks lend money which can be withdrawn at any time by depositors. To this end, they prefer to lend for a short period of time. For processed loans, banks would like to accept as security, assets that are readily marketable and convertible into cash within a short period of time, usually three months.

Debentures and shares of large companies can be easily marketed or converted into cash. However, it is quite challenging to market the debentures and shares of small firms without adjusting their price downward. An important principle underlying a bank’s investment decision is maximising profits and minimising losses. This makes it imperative for banks to invest in securities that would assure them of a fairly stable return on their investments. Factors such as tax, dividend, and interest rates determine the earning capacity of securities and stocks. Generally, government and municipal securities and shares of some new corporations are exempted from taxes. However, it is advisable for banks to invest more in government and municipal securities than in corporate securities because the former are safer than the latter.

Currently, in Ghana, municipal securities are not actively traded in the securities market, although the existing financial regulations allow Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to access loans in the financial market, using the District Assembly Common Fund as a guarantee. It is hoped government would adopt proactive measures to enhance the autonomy of MMDAs to ease their active participation in the securities market.

SMEs must strive to adhere to the principles of lending institutions in order to have unfettered access to credit from the financial institutions across the country and beyond. This is the only way they can sustain their activities and continue to contribute to national economic growth.

BY Ebenezer M.Ashley (PhD), Lead Consultant/CEO Eben Consultancy & Fellow Chartered Economist.

Need To Balance Hard Work With Prayers For National Development

In recent times, miracles and prophetic teachings have been the main feature of Christianity in Ghana. Unfortunately, over reliance on prophesies and prosperity messages have not only plunged many citizens including some self-acclaimed men of God into a state of confusion, but also risk setting the expectations of believers in God to very absurd levels. It was refreshing when at this year's May Day parade in Accra, President Akufo-Addo entreated church leaders to impress upon their members to be hard working and desist from over reliance on miracles for success. It is mind boggling, how all of a sudden, Ghanaian Christians are losing the very good values and principles of Christianity.

Many years ago, hard work, humility, cleanliness and respect for the law were the attributes of Christians. But the insatiable quest for quick wealth has led to the erosion of such admirable values. The President was right when he stated that these days, we are in danger of getting things out of balance and allowing our lives to be taken over completely by a narrow interpretation of religion. And as Martin Luther King observed: “The belief that God will do everything for man is as untenable as the belief that man can do everything for himself". We must learn that to expect God to do everything while we do nothing is not faith but superstition.”

In terms of development, Ghana lags behind her contemporaries like Malaysia and Singapore. We are still far from our destination and without hard work, we may never get to the promised land. As Ken Blanchard once said, "productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort." That is why the attitude of most public servants in Ghana is very repugnant, to say the least. To quote the President again, "we arrive at work late and then spend the first hour in prayer. We become clock watchers and leave in the middle of critical work because it is the official closing time. Everything comes to a stop when it rains and we seem to expect the rest of the world also to stop. We have no respect for the hours set aside for work. We pray, we eat, we visit during working hours. We spend hours chatting on the telephone. We take a week off for every funeral and then we wonder why we are not competitive."

After 60 years of independence, thousands of children still go to school under trees. Thousands of babies die due to inadequate maternity facilities, thousands of people sleep outdoors and thousands of communities are inaccessible. It appears the best booming industry in Ghana is church ministration. Too much emphasis appeared to have been placed on religion in this country. This has been the bane of Ghana's development. It is shocking to see church activities going on weekdays, weekends and holidays from morning to evening. One can agree with Kay Musonda, when he said that "African Pentecostalism has given birth to a new breed of mentally lazy Christians who see God as a rewarder of mediocrity". For us, everything depends on prayers.

Indeed prayer is good but that is not sufficient. Prayer must be seen as a complement to hard work. Nevertheless, we should be guided by Thomas Edison, who said being busy does not always mean real work. The object of work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing." It is only with this mentality that we can make any meaningful progress towards our quest for rapid socio economic development.

Our religious leaders need to understand and imbibe in their followers the virtues of hard work. As the saying goes, you cannot eat your cake and have it. If you do not plant, you cannot harvest. If we expect our nation to develop rapidly, we must learn to work hard. To quote Brian Tracy, "You are where you are and what you are because of yourself, nothing else.

Nature is neutral. Nature doesn't care. If you do what other successful people do, you will enjoy the same results and rewards that they do. And if you don't, you won't.”


Monday, 10 July 2017

Need to scrap off the Basic Education Certificate Examination [B.E.C.E]

Every year, thousands of young children write the Basic Education Certificate Examination conducted by the West African Examinations Council. As the name suggests, this examination is for both certification and selection to Senior High Schools and Technical Institutions. The obvious question is what is the use of this certificate if it cannot guarantee job opportunities for such children after graduation? It is important to note that even Socrates who was credited as the most influential thinker in the fifth century questioned why things were done the way they were, while never settling for simple and mundane answers. If education is the soul of a nation, and a mind is a terrible thing to waste, then we cannot conspire to ruin the future of our children.

Why have we subjected innocent children to writing this examination for the past thirty [30] years with 50% failure every year? Let it not appear that due to lack of facilities, government hides under this examination to deny children Senior Secondary School education.

Furthermore, beyond the discriminatory grading system (Stanine grading system) adopted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC), there are fundamental problems which make it extremely difficult for many children; especially those from deprived homes and communities to pass this external examination. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to know that if children have to walk long distances in search of water when they should be studying, their chances for passing the examinations will be dependent on the grace of God.

Similarly, if over 167 communities in Tatale; together with communities such Kaleo Chiana; Otwereso Praso; Kroboase; Mensahkrom; Apoli Ningo; and many others have no electricity, children from such places can only pass the BECE by magic. We should also consider the more than one in five children in Ghana who have been described by UNICEF as not getting the right nutrition to enhance their thinking ability.

Research by “Save the Children” shows that the impact of malnutrition on children’s learning is NOT simply that they are tired and unable to concentrate in class because they have not eaten enough on a given day. Malnutrition from the first 1,000 days has a devastating impact on a child’s future potential. It restricts their cognitive development; as a result, they are more likely to be sick and decrease their ability to learn.

With this in mind, how do we expect such children to pass the BECE? The decision by the government to allow only those who can pass the examinations to enjoy free SHS is objectionable. If children have no difficulty transiting from class 6 to JHS 1, then the same arrangement must be made for easy progression from JSS 3 to SSS 1.

In a world of abiding uncertainty and complexity, our leaders must avoid using a restraining hand or accusing witness in denying children the opportunity to enjoy free SHS, since this could have dire consequences for the future of our children. Howard Earl Gardner once questioned the idea that intelligence is a single entity, that it results from a single factor, and that it can be measured simply through IQ tests. He establishes that there exists a multitude of intelligences. And there is enough justification to say that no child is born unintelligent unless the state defines them as such.

Let us ensure that every child gets free continuous education from kindergarten to Senior High School without placing any impediment which is often disguised as BECE in their way. Every Ghanaian child is capable of reaching his or her full potential provided the state can guarantee continuous education for them without barriers. As indicated by Albert Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.

The solution is for government to scrap the BECE and rather ensure that the final examination is written at the Senior Secondary School level where the children are mature enough to make a determination of their destiny.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Role Of Institute Of Chartered Economists In Ghana’s Development And Growth

Education, and for that matter higher education, ensures effective development, training, and formation of, the most valuable resource of every nation's, human capital. Human capital comprises academics and professionals of all forms found in various institutions, corporate bodies, and industries established within an economy. In this regard the role of chartered and certified institutes, including the Institute of Chartered Economists of Ghana in churning out strong intellectuals for socio-economic development of countries such as Ghana, cannot be overemphasised. The ultimate objective of ICEG is to identify and train human capital to become expertise who could effectively harness the other factors of production, including land, natural resources, equipment, and financial resources, to positively affect development of the Ghanaian, African, and global economies.

The World Bank Group, in 2017, released the economic rankings of one hundred and ninety (190) countries based on eleven (11) criteria: ease of doing business, starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency. The data revealed Ghana was ranked one hundred and eighth (108th). The relatively low ranking of the Ghanaian economy at the global level affirms the relevance and responsibility of ICEG. It is imperative for the Institute to develop and maintain strong checks and balances to constantly keep governments on the right economic track. The ICEG is strongly committed to training and providing the requisite human resource for effective development of the nation, continent, and the world at large. ICEG makes cogent and meaningful contribution to the socio-economic development of the Ghanaian economy through various media, including print and electronic media.

In spite of its challenges, ICEG has made considerable social, academic, and professional gains in its relatively few years of existence through meaningful contributions to the socio-economic development of Ghana. The institute aims to unearth, nurture, produce and acknowledge individuals with enormous qualities and potentials who could propel the Ghanaian economy to unimaginable heights. The activities of the institute point to the realisation of this noble objective. It is worth emphasising that national, continental and global recognitions are, but few of it's aspirations. Members and Fellows of the institute are expected to exude strong academic intellectualism; and demonstrate effective ideas in governance, leadership, entrepreneurship, and diversity. The insatiability of human wants and continuous emergence of socio-economic crises render the work of ICEG unending. There is a need for Members and Fellows of ICEG to continue to research into, and debate issues of national importance; and emerge with cogent measures that would chart, positively, the forward movement of the continent, and the global economy.

To this end, all key stakeholders are entreated to play an active role by providing the requisite intellectual and financial resources needed by the Institute to effectively occupy its enviable position in the socio-economic development and growth of the Ghanaian economy. Stakeholders must help Members and Fellows of ICEG to transform their creative, innovative and productive ideas into actionable ones for an accelerated economic growth.