THE SOLUTION TABLETS FOR GHANA ‘FAINTING’ ECONOMY

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THE SOLUTION TABLETS FOR GHANA ‘FAINTING’ ECONOMY

I am not a medical practitioner, and I cannot claim to know much about medicine either. The best interaction I had with medical profession was during my ‘O’ level days when I took Biology as one of my science subjects during my school certificate examination. Aside from that, I like watching some medical programmes like Dr. 90210 on cable television and occasionally when I feel tired and I need to go to the hospital for some medical check-up are other occasions that I can say I see what medicine is all about.

Medicine is a profession so many people like. Most parents always prefer their wards to go to the university and study medicine or pharmacy as a course.

After reading much about Ben Carson, the retired American neurosurgeon and columnist, He wrote some nice books like “ The Gifted Hands” and “Think Big.’’ I became so thrilled about the profession and the kind-heartedness of the people that practice the profession.

When a person goes into coma and needs revival, traditionally, what we do is to look for some bucket of water and pour on the person who fainted to get him or her revived or get some flexible item to fan him for some air so that s/he can come back to life. Sometime it may even get so crude to the extent of forcing any hard object, like spoon within the reach of rescuers into the mouth of the person to prevent him/her from swallowing the tongue and subsequently passing- on from that state of coma.

For medical personnel who know the ABC of reviving a fainting person, they don’t approach it in that crude manner instead; they allow the victim to sit down in a particular position that would allow him/ her to have access to fresh air. This is more scientific and result oriented.

Looking at our economy and the approach we are adopting to bring it back on its feet, it looks to me like we have been attempting to revive the ailing economy using the “crude and traditional” approach described above in order to resuscitate the Ghana ‘fainted’ economy.

Why fainting (syncope)?

Fainting, “blacking out,” or syncope is the temporary loss of consciousness followed by the return to full wakefulness. This loss of consciousness may be accompanied by loss of muscle-tone that can result in falling or slumping over. Fainting is differentiated from seizure, during which patients may also lose consciousness.

Fainting is a sudden loss of consciousness, usually temporary and typically caused by a lack of oxygen in the brain. Sometimes syncope may be just that – a fainting episode with no medical importance. On some occasions, however, it may be caused by a serious illness, condition or disorder. Every case of fainting should be treated as a medical emergency until the cause is known and signs and symptoms have been treated. Anybody who has recurring fainting episodes should contact their doctor says medical experts.

What are the signs and symptoms of fainting (syncope)?

A symptom is something the patient senses and describes, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor notice. The hallmark sign is evident to anyone around – the patient passes out, faints, and suddenly losing consciousness.

The following signs and symptoms may precede a fainting episode. A feeling of heaviness in the legs, Blurred vision, Confusion, Feeling warm or hot, Lightheadedness, dizziness, a floating feeling, Nausea, Sweating, Vomiting, Yawning.

When a person faints, the following signs may be evident: The individual may be falling over, the patient may be slumping, and the person may be unusually pale. There may be a drop in blood pressure; there may be a weak pulse.

If you look at Ghanaian economy from this medical (syncope) point of view, you will agree that the economic health of the nation is suffering from all the signs and symptoms mentioned above.

The Chief Medical Director (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning) and its medical support team including the Chief Matron (Bank of Ghana) have to come up with serious diagnoses to explain what we have to do to stop this repeated fainting of the economy. I don’t think they should allow the wailing and crying of ‘’sympathizers’’ that is Ghanaian public to confuse us of knowing what to do.

The issue is that our “medical officers” cannot afford to throw their hands into the air and allow things to get worse than this as it happened to Brazilians’ defense against their German opponents when they conceded seven goals in a world cup semi-final match. In a competition the country hosted to the utmost disbelief of their supporting home fans after spending colossal sum of money to prepare for the world event tagged we are ‘Brasil’.

We should be able to save our people from the trauma of seeing things degenerate to the level of disrepair as if there is no solution in sight or nobody cares. We must sense from the people in power that this government cares,and it is God that cures.

We have seen that the traditional approach of pouring water, blowing some air into the face of the economy by releasing some quick money to pay the oil marketers for them to resume supply of fuel from their action of No Money No Fuel episode of last few weeks.  Secondly, forcing some hard object like 17.5% VAT down the throat of the people to generate additional taxes for government in order to keep the economy running at least for now cannot solve the massive challenges we have at hand.

The need some level of ingenuity that is ‘’economic surgery’’ on the part of the medical team to prevent the economy from experiencing lock-jaw permanently and God forbid bad thing, that it would be pronounced dead.

Let us attempt to look at some of the symptoms and signs that suggest that the economy has fainted before we approach the problem with a solution in mind like professional medical personnel. If you look at the description above, a symptom is something the patient senses and describes, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor notices.

It is a common knowledge that there is high rate of unemployment in the country; inflation is on the rise every day. As I am writing this article, Government statistical department has given the current inflation rate at all time high of 15%. The Monetary Policy rate is raised to 19% by the MPC just last week. The exchange rate is hovering around Ghc3.5 to a dollar in the parallel market; there is huge amount of infrastructural deficiencies in the system, arrears of statutory allocations to NHIA, GETFUND, District Assembly Common Fund etc. persistent increase in fuel prices and other utilities like water and electricity bills.

Recently, government suspended increase in VAT rate from 15 to 17.5% and inclusion of banking services in vatable items e.tc after a huge outcry by many banking services users. These are some of the signs that the economy is experiencing a huge drop in blood pressure, which is one of the symptoms of Syncope.

What should we be doing at this time to revive the ailing economy? 

We need Leadership Response

First thing first: there is need for our President to bring his leadership skills to bear and restore public confidence in the leadership of the country.  Quickly, this can be done by giving message of hope backed by action but must go a step further than the usual state of the nation address. It should be tagged a ‘state of the economy address’ with actionable agenda, thus getting the people to quickly put some ‘early wins’ under their belts.

Let me explain this further, Mr. President should play the leadership role that biblical Moses played when the people of Israel were at the wilderness, when food and water became a serious issue of concern just as we are experiencing in today’s Ghana.

There have been serious complaints and murmuring among the people like the Israelites did to Moses in the wilderness. Some people are even calling on Mr. President to step down and resign honorably to save the ‘ship’ of the country from heading towards total collapse. There is no reason for such calls for now; I think the endurance level of some of our people is very low. What I think they should be asking is what solutions should Mr. President deploy that would take us out of this wilderness of economic hardship?

The call on Mr. President to step down is not new, when Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, people gathered together and demanded for other gods. ‘When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”  (Exodus 32:1)

In order to give quality advise to our President, I did some deep study of my Maxwell Leadership Bible and I got some stuff that are relevant and quite germane to our situation and these steps I will recommend to the leadership of our country. This talked about;

THE LAW OF NAVIGATION: PLANNING AND STRUCTURE

As a good leader, Moses methodically arranged the tribal camps in the wilderness. He set the tabernacle in the center and arranged the priests around its four sides (North, South, East and West of the country). Then he symmetrically distributed the Twelve Tribes (In our own case Ten Regions) around the priests and Levites, (Regional Chief Executives) with three tribes on each of the four sides.

We would do well to plan and organize as Moses did.

  1. Plan to plan. Give time for planning and organizing because we know as a student of management that Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Planning is winning.
  2. Determine your primary purpose. What’s the big picture? What are you trying to do?
  3. Assess the situation. Understand where you sit before trying to develop a strategy.
  4. Prioritize the needs. Make sure the team agrees on the most important goals.
  5. Ask the right questions. Ask about market, leadership, revenue, reporting, and evaluation.
  6. Set specific goals. Write goals that are realistic, measurable, and convincing.
  7. 7.   Clarify and communicate. Communication links planning and implementation.
  8. 8.  Identify possible obstacles. Mentally walk through all you are trying to pull off.
  9. 9.  Have an open-system approach to your planning. Be sympathetic to your environment.
  10. 10. Costs and due dates of projects.
  11. 11. Monitor and correct. Progress is like a canoe trip; constantly adjust your course
  12. 12. Study the results. Evaluation prevents stagnation and exaggeration.

Mr. President should remember that, anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course. You are the leader no matter the hue and cry in the system, the buck stops at your desk.

Mr. President should, as a matter of urgency, address the nation by stating steps being taken to revive the ailing economy. This must be specific and actionable with a short time frame using SMART rule (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Realistic and Time Bound) as a performance measurement. Our people want to hear some message of hope like Moses did when he came down from Mount Sinai with two tablets of the testimony in his hand. Our own equivalent of tablets of testimony can be called “tablets of solution” for the ailing economy.

The Tablets of Solution

Some of the “tablets” to be administered now is how to work with the RCEs (Regional chief Executives) to create a minimum of 1,500 jobs per Region in the next two to three months through Agricultural Support Action Project (ASAP). Government can do this by earmarking Ghc300m from the expected Cocoa money and Euro Bond facility. This will be a practical demonstration to the people that government has genuine plans to reduce unemployment in the country.

Immediately, this will create about 15,000 jobs in the agricultural sector for teeming population of unemployed youth. With an initial grant of Ghc20,000 per youth farmer in their respective regions, this will open up so many regions in the country and encourage self-employment among our people. The money should not be seen as a national cake to be distributed along party lines; it must be made available to all interested people and repayable within the first three years. Consequently, you will expect to see each youth farmer employing additional 2 to 3 people to take the total number of employment opportunities generated to about 60,000 within the following 10 months.

Government should look at the possibility of making the economy run 24/7 for the next two years. Increase productivity is always the solution to any recession. If we are able to increase the productivity level of everyone in the country by about 50% above the current level, we could bounce back to full economic stability within the next two years. What we have to do is to ensure that electricity, water and security is running 24/7 in all major city centers around the country while people go about their day or night duties as if they are all working during normal day.

We can start this 24/7 project with Government MDAs. This will open up opportunities for additional jobs to be created for more people and by so doing expand the economy further. Expectedly, the question people would ask is how we get money to pay the people running night-shift when we are still struggling to pay day workers. That should not be anything of concern at all. If the productivity can be measured and the people are working not sleeping on duty, the money will come from the service they render to the public and consumers who derive benefit from services provided.

The $3 billion Euro bond and cocoa money if converted to cedi at the current rate of exchange will provide government with something over 9 billion cedis. This is a huge injection to the economy, but the issue is not in the quantum of the money injected, it’s the correct application of the fund that is important. The expected cash injection is capable of turning the situation around for the country within one year if well managed. I would expect that Government will plan utilization of this money adequately to ensure that it brings desire benefits to the economy and the people.

How can we do that?

About GHc 300m can be earmarked for the ASAP that will benefit almost 15,000 people who will be employed in the next couple of months to increase food production and reduce unemployment as a matter of priority as already stated above.

Another GHc 200m can be allocated as an intervention fund to bring back to life companies that are going through financial crisis.  We can call it Ailing Industries Intervention Fund (AIIF).  We can do this by identifying ten major companies with strategic national importance to the country to benefit from the intervention fund with average of Ghc 20m as soft loan to each identified companies. This amount must be repaid back within 3-5 years from their operational profits.

The companies to be supported must have capacity to employ average of 500 to 1,000 skilled and unskilled people within the next one year after the injection. This will give provide additional 5,000 to 10,000 jobs to 45,000 with the youth farmers’ programme.

Finally, I don’t think Government should embark on any new building project whether schools, roads or airport from this money. What I think they should  do is to carry out an inventory of all government on- going projects and prioritize the ones nearing completion and release fund for them to be completed within the next few months. All statutory allocations backlogs to MDAs (NHIA, GETFUND, and District Assembly Common Fund) should be released immediately to enable them settle all arrears due to their suppliers and vendors. This will demonstrate government sincerity in honoring its obligations. A Maintenance culture should be brought back to the fore to put our roads, hospital and other infrastructure back in order, instead of embarking on new ones that we may not have immediate cash to complete.

Let me conclude with this instructive quote by one of the Americans revered philosophers’ Benjamin Franklin he said and I quote Friends and neighbors complain that taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might the more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly.’’