Launch of Policy Briefs on “Drivers of Change in Ghana”
Prof. E. Gyimah-Boadi, Executive Director, CDD Ghana
In his welcoming remarks, Prof. Gyimah-Boadi outlined the pro-democracy, good governance mission of CDD Ghana and the various means through which it seeks to pursue this agenda. He then briefly outlined the thinking and methodology behind the Briefs, before giving the names of the authors who brought the research together and the titles of the five Briefs.
Chairperson’s Opening Remarks
Prof. Joseph Ayee, Dean of Social Science, University of Ghana, Legon
In his opening statement, Prof. Ayee noted that the five Policy Briefs covered two important areas; policy environment and policy communication. He said that the policy environment sets the context in Ghana - the variables, forces and factors that shape public policy and determine why it fails or succeeds. With the communication aspect, he questioned how findings from research of this type had been disseminated in the past and observed how government had disregarded findings that had not neatly fitted in to their particular policies and programmes. Prof. Ayee acknowledged the quality and relevance of the work conducted in the Briefs, and reiterated the need for them to have an impact in improving policy making to move Ghana forward. In introducing the next speaker, he commented on the fact that an historian’s perspectives on the Briefs were of great help due to the historical slant of the research.
Review of Policy Briefs
Prof. Emmanuel Akyeampong, Chair, Department of Afro-American and African Studies,Harvard University, USA
In his submission, Prof. Akyeampong initially commented on the fact that the Briefs offered a rounded, ‘Ghana – centred’ perspective, using Ghana’s unique experience in a knowledgeable manner to make an historically informed diagnosis of Ghana’s problems, whilst also offering some excellent policy recommendations. The research collaboration between ODI and CDD was an important step in finding out exactly what needs to be done if Ghana is to match the development trajectory of the ‘Asian Tigers’.
In commenting on the first Brief, Prof. Akyeampong touched on the policy environment in Ghana. He offered his opinion that there was a weak sense of public good and public service in the country, and the arcane and opaque manner that politics is conducted left too much to the discretion of the President and his friends in government. He said that the system should be based around issues and allow criticism. He also called for the building of technocratic expertise in Parliament itself, allowing the institution to properly fulfill its mandate as a check on Executive power. In his final remarks on this brief, Prof. Akyeampong asked what role the Ghanaian diaspora can play in moving Ghana forward.
Prof. Akyeampong said that the second Brief speculated that the budget was seemingly made only for the donor community, as it bore little resemblance to the actual money spent in a financial year by the government. Over spending on salaries in the public sector was par for the course, as was under spending on everything else. He noted the historical continuity of the presence of powerful ‘players’ within the civil service who were extremely resistant to reform in the sector, and that indeed they helped in perpetuating the type of neo-patrimonial regime which has hindered Ghana’s development. The education of the citizenry, and even other branches of government (such as the District Assemblies), was vital in encouraging transparency and accountability on the budgetary system. He also backed the Brief’s call for more time for discussion surrounding issues in the budget, especially for Parliament. The Prof. contended that ‘ordinary’ citizens in Ghana seem to regard development as something that happens from programmes discussed between Government and international development agencies, and is not something that they are particularly involved in. He questioned this continued reliance on ‘answers’ from outside and emphasized the need for Government to listen more to its own citizens about the kind of development they wanted.
The third Brief brought a brief comment from Prof. Akyeampong, siding with the paper in saying that each government Ghana has had since Independence seems to create its own middle class, completely disregarding the same strata of people who supported the previous regime. This type of uncertainty was bad for Ghana’s stability and economic growth, with micro-enterprise the only indigenous type of business seeming to flourish in recent times.
On the fourth Brief on traditional institutions, Prof. Akyeampong said the paper stressed the need for political institutions in Ghana with ‘grass roots’ appeal, hence the attraction of traditional chiefs and councils. However, it is extremely difficult to come up with a way of regulating this system across the whole of the country, as the traditional institutions are so different in each locality. He cautioned that these institutions should not be ‘officially’ involved in national politics, but could be a useful vehicle for resolving matters like local disputes over land rights. On the same theme, Prof. Akyeampong also pointed out that there are examples of some professional people in the country using smaller, less prestigious stools in an attempt to gain some kind of political power as public actors.
Finally, on the fifth Brief, Prof. Akyeampong discussed faith-based associations (FBAs) as vigorous components of society. They have the potential to serve as ‘schools of democracy’ and can contribute a great deal to society. However, he notes that the Brief distinguishes between what are seen as ‘old’ FBAs (such as those based around the Roman Catholic church), and those ‘new’ ones coming from recently established ‘charismatic’ or evangelical churches. The Brief contrasts the two by noting the positive impact that the ‘old’ groups have had, with long standing commitments to (and a good record in) helping the disadvantaged in Ghanaian society. The paper is less complimentary about the ‘new’ FBAs, saying that their more radical approach promotes intolerance and that although they provide some jobs, their attitude does not lend itself toward wealth re-distribution. Any donors should thus be restricted to providing support for the ‘good’ FBAs. Prof. Akyeampong said that he preferred to look at the ‘new’ FBAs as in an early stage of development, and that they would prove their worth in time just as the ‘old’ ones have.
Launching of Policy Briefs
Ms. Esther Ofei-Aboagye, Acting Director, Institute of Local Government Studies
Ms. Ofei-Aboagye started her submission by questioning what the reaction would be of people in government would be to these Briefs, and if these ‘painful truths’ would provoke the desired reaction from those in power and those with the positions to lobby and influence these people. With reference to the opaque budgetary system, Ms. Ofei-Aboagye suggested that a good place to start in reforming the system would be with the District Assembly Common Fund. She also called for more research to be done to compliment the Briefs on the middle class and FBAs in Ghana, as these were two neglected areas in her opinion. Ms. Ofei-Aboagye additionally touched on the problem of the middle and upper classes in Ghanaian society claiming to represent the poor through various civil society organizations. She commented on the traditional institutions Brief, pointing out that Chiefs can create trouble for elected officials as well as being an aid to governance, and the need to find a way for District Assemblies and Chiefs to work together for the benefit of their communities. Ms. Ofei-Aboagye then declared the Policy Briefs officially launched.
Prof. Joseph Ayee, Dean of Social Science, University of Ghana, Legon
Before making his final statement, Prof. Ayee invited the audience to ask questions of the assembled panel.
The first came from a journalist from The Independent, asking whether the panel thought the Briefs dealt with the ‘human resource’ problem in Ghana. The panel pointed out that the papers did say a lot needed to be done about raising the level of awareness amongst the general public regarding political and developmental issues (and even what kind of ‘development’ they wanted), and that the technocratic skills of people in Parliament needed to be raised. The second question to the panel concerned the role that academics can play as ‘drivers of change’, and if they were making enough effort to make a worthwhile contribution. One opinion coming from the panel was that it was the role of academics to analyse and give possible solutions, and nothing more than that. It is up to the Government of the day to decide if they wanted to act on their recommendations, and perhaps academics in the past had become frustrated at the lack of action on the part of powers that be and stopped making the effort to try and lead constructive change. They did note that these Briefs were an example of high quality research that needs to provoke a debate amongst policy makers and activists, with these groups then pressuring the Government to look at the policy recommendations. The panel did also question the seeming unwillingness in Ghana to demand excellence, particularly in education and the public sector. A dependence on Ghanaian nationals educated abroad to fill certain posts was unhealthy, as this contributed to the low levels of attainment amongst people coming through the system at home. A culture of acknowledging and rewarding excellence needs to be brought back into the Ghanaian way of thinking.
Two further points were made from the floor. Firstly, that it may be that the Constitution of the Fourth Republic itself actively promotes neo-patrimonialism, with excessive powers invested in the President. Secondly, an audience member pointed out that Ghana did not actually possess a national economy like the ‘Asian Tigers’ over which it had effective control, but it instead was still strongly directed from outside and thus constrained in its development efforts.
The final question from the floor questioned the fact that the Briefs only seemed to focus on groups with ‘visible’ power, and did not seem to consider ‘lay’ groups at all. In addition, the psychological dimensions of the positions that these people occupy in society were not addressed. The panel acknowledged that although there was mention of the microenterprise and informal sectors in the Briefs, perhaps these social groupings had not been considered enough as ‘drivers of change’. As regards the psychological dimensions, the panel submitted that although the research team had been multi-disciplinary, it had not had expertise in this specific area and it had thus been neglected.
In his closing remarks, Prof. Ayee firstly stated that it is very important to remember that Ghana had inherited most of her institutions, from the political to the economic and even the university system. Amongst immediate practical concerns of day-to-day operation, it had perhaps been forgotten that Ghana needed to reflect on how these sysems work and why, bearing in the mind the historical legacy. Finally, he asked what are the objectives of public policies? He speculated that, firstly, they must promote the public interest. As the history of Ghana showed that no-one has been particularly interested in this, people who were needed to be produced from somewhere. Secondly, public policies must solve problems. He contended that the past was littered with grandiose sounding plans and even constitutions, but that these had for the most part failed to deliver what they had promised. Government had to rise above petty partisanship to finally provide what they are supposed to for the people.
The Chair gave thanks to all who attended, and the launching was brought to a close.
These Policy Briefs have resulted from collaborative research and analysis conducted by a multi-disciplinary team from the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDDGhana) and the London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in 2003 and 2004.
Historically informed and less technocratic, the Policy Briefs take a fresh look at where Ghana is coming from, where it actually is, and where it may be headed. They analyse the key characteristics of the Ghanaian political system and its policy making and management processes, as well as institutions at both national and local levels. They also identify broad positive and negative “drivers” and more specifically, likely “agents” for change and assess the mechanisms, structures, incentives and potential for them to influence positive change. Implications are then analyzed and entry points for influencing policy making and implementing pro-growth policy change identified.
Together, these Policy Briefs seek to provide an overview of how social, political and economic forces have interacted in the country, and with what effects. On this basis, they attempt to clarify the incentives and capacities that may be expected to limit or drive change in Ghana in the medium term – taken as the next ten to fifteen years.
The information contained in these Policy Briefs was obtained from published research and other writings, key-informant interviews, and the understandings about different aspects of Ghana that members of the research team have built up over a long period of involvement with the country in different capacities.
The team members were David Booth, Richard Crook (both of whom are internationally well-respected social science scholars and development specialists), Robin Luckham (who has taught at both the Law Faculty and Department of Political Science at Legon) and Tony Killick (an internationally famous development economist, who has been an economic advisor at the MOFEP and taught in the economics department at Legon), all working under the auspices of ODI and Prof. Gyimah-Boadi and Nana Adowaa Boateng at CDD. The research benefited extensively from the nputs of other Ghanaian scholars and specialists – Kwamina Daisie, Seth Anipa, Prof Joseph Ayee, Dr William Ahadzie, and Professor Addo Fening as well as many others (from academia, the professions, public bureaucracy, business, and elsewhere), who made themselves available for extensive interviews and directed us to relevant materials. The research was funded by DfID (Department for International Development) through the ODI.