Response – Downsizing Government in Ghana

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In his opinion editorial titled “Downsizing Government in Ghana”, Mr. Cudjoe purports that since Ghana and South Korea’s GDP per capita were at par in 1957 juxtaposing the two economies by virtue of their past parallel economies is a sound argument.

Patrick Johnsson

It should be noted that while South Korea was occupied by the Japanese for less than 50 years years, Ghana was occupied by Europeans for about 400 years! While Ghana gained its independence from the British on the 6th of March 1957, South Korea had gained its independence from the Japanese some ten years earlier, that is, on the 15th of August 1945. The factors that led to a more successful South Korean economy on one hand and a less successful Ghanaian economy on the other hand are very much related to colonial policies.

It should also be noted that 1957 as a date is vague as we do not know if the Ghanaian economy was still solely dependent on the British economy. And even if the Ghanaian economy was not dependent on the British structure the time difference would be too short to measure any real difference between the colonial and post colonial economies.

If Ghana started from scratch from 1957, why not compare it to a country that had started from the same time (1957) and one that had undergone the same economic process. The common ground between Ghana and Korea is that both agree to the fact that their colonial masters were excessive in siphoning off natural resources and doing little to make standards of living better. But after independence Korea had something to begin their lives with… Production! While the colonial economic system in the Gold Coast (Ghana) is likened to a raubwirtschaft (robber economy), following the indiscriminate extraction of raw materials and directly shipping them off to production industries in Europe, the Japanese believed that having production closer to the source of raw materials was more beneficial. This decision prompted the construction of heavy industries in Korea. Even if the Japanese siphoned off Korean resources it is agreed that part of their industrial legacy later became a driving force for the Korean economy.

I believe that both Mr. Cudjoe and I accept the fact that democracy has come a long way and Ghanaians have learned the hard way to understand, accept and respect democracy, a process some of our African neighbours are still undergoing. It should be noted that generally, the pre-eminence of traditional systems in a country shortly after the adoption of a democratic system remains strong and is changed only with time. The French abolished absolute monarchy in 1789 and tried separating the church from the state, but a hundred years later France was still being haunted by a succession of emperors who had ironically fought in revolutions to bring change, which was felt in 1905. Development takes time, especially when moving from traditional to conventional systems. And we learn from mistakes to make things right.

On the other hand, I think that besides learning from the mistakes of his predecessors Pro. Atta Mills is left without much choice but to cut down on spending given the present global economic crises.

This rejoinder is not meant to discredit Mr. Franklin Cudjoe’s point of view. I simply would like to point out that the flimsy historical support of his opinion editorial, the Ghana-Korea juxtaposition, is only acceptable if the two countries had undergone the same political and economic policies during colonial rule, in which case we would have the undisputable authority to compare their varying post-independent economic successes and failures.

Original Op-ed: Downsizing Government in Ghana

Write to: Patrick Johnsson

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