Feature Article of Wednesday, 30 October 2002
from the Ghanaweb
Accomplishments of Rawlings As Seen 3 years Ago

Jj&QueenEliz
Posted on the Ghanaian Discussion forum "Okyeame" early September 1999

There have been persistent requests from several netters ------- to list what -------- Rawlings achievements. If the requests are motivated by party political considerations then I rest easy. If however the requests are motivated by a genuine belief that Rawlings has no achievements to his name, then I suspect the little glow over Ghana in recent years is about to go out with a change in Government should that occur in year 2000.

It is simply not possible for any Government, however bad, to be without accomplishments. Nkrumah provided an educated manpower, a self-sustaining Ghanaian pride and an industrial base for a modern state. The NLC and Busia laid the foundations for a modern democratic culture while the much maligned Acheampong can be credited with laying the foundations for Ghanašs entrepreneurial culture. Limann embodied all the good of previous Governments - a liberal democracy, a free enterprise economy with a social conscience and a fiercely culturally proud government free of arrogant nationalism.

From each previous Government we should pick the good and move on. In my opinion political opponents of Rawlings while politicking about the Rawlings shortcomings should, for the sake of the country, mentally note those achievements on which further progress could be made. A mental attitude that sees no good in an enemy is self-destructive, worse it creates martyr of opponents when history is written and critics are harshly judged.

I am forcefully reminded by the political history of Ghana where the vindictiveness and determination of succeeding governments to be different held Ghana back for years. When the NLC overthrew Nkrumah, it dismantled just about everything associated with him, ostensibly to wipe off all memory about him. It disposed of state enterprises when cooler heads were suggesting that at least for the more important ones, the NLC should have sought to restructure them into more efficient units before disposing them to its cronies. That way the original intentions of providing services, gainful and useful employment etc would have been preserved. As it turned out the enterprises were stripped of real estate and the precise purpose or need for the services were discontinued. Then after Limann was overthrown, economic policies went with him only to be revitalised in 1983 under IMF supervision.

I am of the opinion that unless we carefully note the good things Rawlings has done, we are likely to repeat the mistakes of the past by dismantling policies, out of ignorance , the rationale of which we would not have had the benefit of knowing outside Government. It is in this context that I attempt to list what I consider are the accomplishments of Rawlings on which as a nation we can build on. And of course where Rawlings has made mistakes or what clearly are failures we should simply avoid them or resolve not to repeat them.

In my opinion the clear achievements of Rawlings lie in the prolonged political stability of Ghana, agricultural production, educational reforms, financial sector liberalisation and development, tourism development, industrial stability and Foreign relations. That it is in most of these areas that Ghanaians widely disagree about Rawlings achievements is a measure of how Rawlings has challenged our minds. That itself is an achievement. I deal with each of the above separately and consistent with my elected approach I will suggest how we can advance on what good the present Government has done.

1. Political stability

Non Ghanaians readily associate Ghana with political stability. Without doubt, in my mind, Ghana has been the most stable country in Africa in the past 20 years. This is no doubt due to the essential military characteristics of the Rawlings Government since 1981, characteristics which became less obvious as the government became more self confident in security management and with the ushering in of the managed Democracy in 1992.

The political stability cannot be divorced from the personality of Rawlings. He is by far the strongest, most pragmatic and most politically astute leader we have had. The only politician who comes anywhere close is Victor Owusu. All others - Nkrumah, Afrifa, Busia, Acheampong and Limann fall in the category of visionaries, idealists, philosopher kings. There is something in the Ghanaian that produce the latter type of leaders. Strong leadership however has its down side. Strong leaders do not develop successors. Rawlings by his strong leadership is therefore going to leave a vacuum in NDC leadership. In addition strong leaders often have their way, when their way is good the country benefits, if not the country suffers.

The task for a future non-NDC government or a post Rawlings NDC Government is how to provide strong leadership for the country, and not necessarily in the Rawlings mode. The other is how to disengage the military from domestic security and from politics without alienating the military and compromising national security. The latter will broaden participation in government and governance. I seem to believe that all solutions to our problems can be provided by the human resource in the country but that some are holding out because the system is not accessible to them or seem too exclusive.

2. Agricultural production

It is in this area that I think Ghanaians have short memories. It was only in 1983 during the bushfires and poor rains that we were rudely awakened from our slumber regarding our backward food production and distribution systems. Dr Isaac Adjei Marfo as Agric Minister turned this around and the ensuing Agricultural policies have ensured food sufficiency up to now during which our population has increased significantly. In addition we have restored the cocoa sector which however never enjoyed the high prices in the Acheampong era. When Adjei Marfo became Presidential advisor on cocoa affairs he worked hard on means to add value to cocoa. I dont know how successful he was.

The task for a future non-NDC government or a post Rawlings NDC Government is how build on this and create export markets to neighbouring African countries.

3. Educational reforms

As a person who went to school and never left it, it is probably in this area that I could say much. For brevity let me say that the JSS/SSS concept is the greatest single educational reform of the Rawlings Government. I note that the major criticism is on implementation and finance, deficiencies that should be corrected rather than abolishing the concept. Despite this criticism the VC of the University of Ghana was recently reported as saying that the JSS/SSS concept has produced more science students eligible for enrolment at the University than previously. I welcome this trend toward restoring some balance in Science and Arts graduands and would argue forcefully that this is why Kumasi Legon should receive more funding than Accra or Cape Coast Legons.

Prof Addae Mensah also flagged the possibility of establishing a college of Health Sciences and mentioned among its components, the study of Dentistry, Medicine, Medical and Biological sciences technologists, nursing and Allied Health. Such college should be privatised with a certain percentage reserved for overseas students. I will find time to develop this argument.

Tertiary education reforms in any country originate from academics themselves. The Rawlings Government has done the right thing by not imposing reforms on the tertiary sector as it has done on first and second cycle education. The government has not however projected sufficient vision for the tertiary sector nor provide incentives and encouragement to reforms that will save it endless financing of the sector.

The task for a future non-NDC government or a post Rawlings NDC is how to make the JSS/SSS concept realise its full potential and how to realise long overdue reforms in the tertiary sector. The other task is how to articulate formal education with requirements in the workplace. There are several ways to go about this but I will skip it for the moment. Finally I see the wisdom of --------- efforts at distant education as much needed to supplement rather than supplant or overwhelm the formal face to face education in Ghana.

4. Financial sector reforms

It was not long ago that transferring money outside the country was a herculean task. There was this insecurity that if people could readily do so there would be capital flight and the economy will collapse. Well the Cedi became freely exchangeable with other currencies and civilisation did not come to an end. Financial sector reforms under Rawlings are too numerous to list here and its a measure of our timidity that we had to be guided into those financial sector reforms by the IMF. I suspect there is scope for further financial sector reforms although I must add that a country self confident in its economic intelligence would be more relaxed and prepared for such reforms.

5. Tourism development

There is a saying that tourists know more about other countries than their own. Hence most Ghanaians in Ghana, and to a lesser extent expatriate Ghanaians, may be not aware of our tourist potential. Tourism is built mainly on historical sites of interest, entertainment and leisure including wildlife, beaches, exotic foods, shopping etc. Tourism may be associated with education as with overseas students and scholars, attendance of conferences, with regional and international events. Good weather, especially if over much of the year is desirable. A hospitable people is always helpful.

No one will doubt that given the foregoing ingredients of successful tourism, the tourist potential of Ghana is enormous. There has been significant development and interest in tourism in Ghana under Rawlings. The emphasis appears to be on Ghana as a major origin of the Slave trade and our tourism promotion has been pitched at our historical and cultural heritage.

A major part to this tourism promotion, under Rawlings is the strengthening of relations and solidarity with Africans in the Diaspora in particular the African Americans. But this relationship goes beyond tourism - we give each other strength in believing in ourselves as Africans - that nebulous condition that powers growth. The initiatives the Rawlings Government has made in Diasporan relations - in the Panafest festivals, business relations, in citizenship laws are laudable.

The task for a future non-NDC government or a post Rawlings NDC Government should be to diversify out tourist development, improve infrastructure and physical development and to continue to attract visitors to Ghana through staging international events of all sorts. Our wildlife should receive extra attention.

6. Industrial stability

It is in industrial relations that success of the Rawlings government is most baffling to me. How does a government that oppresses the working class with harsh economic policies get away with it.

I suspect the Government has been largely successful in persuading the Unions that the economic policies are good for them, at least in the long term. But there must be more to it. And here we must go back to the ideological relations Rawlings forged with the Unions in 79 and 81 which persists today. Along the way there has been sweeteners and some economic gains, the most obvious being the bribe the Government gave the civil servants prior to the last elections, against IMF advice and which the IMF singled out as the one most important factor that somewhat derailed or slowed economic growth up to date. It can also be validly asserted that Rawlings has thoroughly infiltrated the Union and has good industrial intelligence. This is probably why Strikes fizzle out so quickly in Ghana and never really trouble the Government.

I will propose a provocative explanation for the relative industrial stability under Rawlings. There is something in the condition of the proletariat and lupen proletariat that makes them more readily accept oppression by ideological soulmates. Till they cannot take it anymore and, if the means exist, exercise their voting power. But it takes a while to reach this point because to perpetuate the deception the Government does a lot of good political and solidarity work on the ground.

Whatever the reasons for the ineffectiveness of Unions, future Governments should study carefully the levers, the machinations, the courtships and various means that Rawlings has used to keep the Unions at bay. Not so much as repeating the more deceptive aspects but to evolve an industrial policy that will not sabotage future government economic policy.

7. Foreign policy

Ghana presently enjoys diplomatic clout out of proportion to its geopolitical significance. This is largely due to historical reasons and our over representation in the UN Bureaucracy. But it is also due to what I may call the Rawlings posture. The in-your-face approach of Rawlings may cause domestic problems, in the brinkmanship of international relations that approach is probably what gets others to take you seriously. I suggest the Rawlings posture is what sets the context in which cooler heads could skilfully and successfully negotiate with international bodies and press Ghanašs interests.

But perhaps it is in the area of regional and African diplomacy that I believe Rawlings deserves credit. I will summarise the overall approach as one in which Ghana sought to be influential rather that aiming to upstage others. Rawlings cautious retreat from the close relations with Ghadafi which attracted problems was, on a governmental level, in our best interests. Ceding leadership to Nigeria in regional affairs made both diplomatic and economic sense. Ghanašs role in regional peace initiatives and providing shelter for people displaced by war was admirable. Ghanašs courting of Francophone countries and in particular Miterrand went a long way to ensure good neighbourliness. The recent signing of the West African Gas project must be seen a a product of the climate of goodwill among West African nations.

Future governments must maintain the momentum set by this project and devote our most energetic efforts to West African economic integration.


The author is a native of Ghana, and a social commentator based in Melbourne, Australia.
Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.




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