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17 May 2014

The price of leadership failings in Ghana .

This article will examine some areas of leadership failings in tackling our problems and the price Ghanaians are paying for these failings.
It will also offer some tips on how these failings can be addressed. It has to be said at the outset that the article is not about failings of any particular political leadership. It is about failings of all leadership—be they past or present.

Undoubtedly, Ghanaians are facing a multitude of severe economic and social problems. It is like all imaginable problems have come together simultaneously—power interruptions, water shortages, poor sanitation, poor health care, violent crime, traffic congestion, poor public services, high cost of living and corruption—to mention a few.

It has to be said that these problems are not all of recent origin. Some may be, but others have accumulated over years and decades. Without doubt, however, they are begging for solutions.


There is a great burden on our leaders to address these problems. That is what we elect them every four years to do based on promises in their manifestos.

It appears, however, that once our leaders get into office, they refuse or fail to deliver. This failure is attributable to lack of appreciation of the problems or incompetence or lack of political will.

When we demand solutions to the problems, our leaders unleash on us a barrage of “all-knowing” communicators to play down the gravity of the problems and offer a range of excuses. This is not acceptable.

In this first article, I want to focus on four of these problems: sanitation, utilities, traffic congestion and corruption. Follow-up articles will look at other problems.


My major problem is Sanitation—particularly, the filth in Accra.

This is not because I have any expertise on the subject, but it is just because I can’t stand it! In this modern world, how can anybody justify the filth in the Central Business District (CBD) of Accra—with open and choked drains and refuse dumped all over the place? Is this not a gargantuan eyesore?

Don’t we see that it poses a major health hazard? Don’t we have a sense of shame about what foreigners who visit these places may think of us? The legitimate question to ask is: Where is leadership in all this?


In particular, where is the AMA leadership? What will it take to clean the CBD? We are often told the reason is lack of money. But should we buy this? Why can’t AMA be more innovative in mobilising resources to tackle the problem? How about levying the people doing business in those vicinities? How about floating municipal bonds—with possible initial Government guarantee?

They cannot just sit down and expect manna to come from the government or donors. We have able-bodied young men and women roaming the streets doing little to nothing. Why can’t we gainfully employ them to clean the city and pay them for it? They will earn an income as a result and the city will be clean.


Let me go on next to utilities. Erratic power and water supply has become part of our daily lives. It inconveniences domestic consumers and damages personal property. It disrupts industrial activity and erodes our domestic output.

We are told that the problem has to do primarily with inadequate installed production capacity. But this problem has been with us since time immemorial. Even in his time, Kwame Nkrumah anticipated that power capacity will have to increase to meet the demand of a growing population. Therefore, he planned beyond Akosombo, including starting the Kwabenya nuclear facility.

The problem is that successive governments failed to invest in production capacity, which has now fallen far behind demand. We need to invest more in production capacity. But we cannot do this by relying on foreign loans alone. We need to look inward also to generate needed resources. And the first port of call should be the budget.


We need to cut Government’s recurrent expenditure drastically to free resources for capital expenditure. We cannot do this effectively until we trim the size of the public sector—including government itself and possibly Parliament, if it is not too late to do so.

We also need to expand the tax base, reduce the spate of exemptions, and tackle tax fraud and corruption. Further, we need to think outside the box and exploit other innovative means of raising more development resources.

Possible vehicles to this end include: issuing domestic development bonds, promoting remittances and tapping other diasporean capital.

Another excuse offered for erratic utility supply is inadequate tariffs. While we understand that utility companies need to recover their costs to be able to provide uninterrupted service, we are also aware of the gross inefficiencies in the sector. These relate to: unacceptably high distribution losses, delinquent bills, thievery and corruption.

The PURC has a responsibility to ensure that the utility companies reduce their inefficiencies to the acceptable minimum so that their justified costs can be reflected in higher tariffs. Consumers cannot accept to pay higher tariffs for inefficiencies clothed in the form of costs.

Traffic jam

Next is Traffic Congestion. In the first place, many of Accra streets do not befit the city’s purported status as a “Millennium City.” Given the nature of the streets and the growing number of vehicles, traffic congestion is bound to increase if nothing is done about it. But there is a lot that can be done—little steps that can make a big difference.

The first is to clear hawkers off the pavements. AMA has undertaken this exercise in the past only to relax—ostensibly out of political expediency—and to allow them to return. Why can’t this exercise be sustained? AMA has enough underemployed staff to police and enforce the exercise. Another major obstruction on the streets is truck pushers.

They have no right being on the streets and somebody should act to take them off. If you go to more civilised jurisdictions, you do not see people pushing trucks on the streets and obstructing traffic. All loads should be carried by approved vehicles.

Another obstruction and nuisance that one encounters on the roads from time-to-time is broken-down vehicles. Why don’t we make it mandatory for people to tow away their broken-down vehicles within the shortest possible time.

In default, the police should quickly tow broken-down vehicles to designated locations and surcharge the owners. Then you have the ubiquitous ‘tro-tro’ drivers who cause so much congestion and nuisance on the roads.

Why not relocate ‘tro-tro’ stations off the streets where necessary? And, also, why not provide designated stops so that ‘tro-tros’ cannot just stop anywhere to drop off or pick up passengers.

Then there is the problem of frequent traffic light breakdowns that also cause traffic jams. Here, you have the power outages to deal with as well as quality and maintenance, all of which are begging for leadership.


And last but not least is the mother of all problems (or is it evils?) —corruption. Corruption is endemic in the country.

We do not need Anas Aremeyaw Anas to tell us this. We see and encounter it all around us—in DVLA, the police service, passport office, customs, immigration, the judiciary, lands registry, other ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs)—indeed in almost the entire public service.

Corruption enriches a few and impoverishes majority of the people. If we allow one or two people to line their pockets with millions of state money in the name of judgement debt—or whatever—we impoverish millions of people who go to bed hungry on a daily basis, or cannot afford to pay for basic medication, or pay school fees, or afford decent accommodation.

When our leaders put up mansions in a short span of time, when we know that their official incomes cannot allow them to do that, they deprive Ghanaians millions of money that would otherwise have benefited them. They lose public trust and confidence. And we need leadership to deal with it. There is a need for several layers of corruption overseers and enforcers.

A preventive mechanism would be to install an independent corruption auditor in every public institution from central government to local governments — such as the US Inspector-General system. EOCO and CHRAJ should be made independent and sufficiently resourced to investigate and prosecute corruption —at all levels without fear or favour.

Ghanaian citizens should be encouraged to report corruption anonymously to these agencies without any fear of victimisation and be rewarded as necessary.

The problems facing Ghanaians are crying for urgent solutions. We have every right to demand performance and accountability from our leaders. “Boyz abre.” I will be back.

The writer  Dr. J.K Kwakye is a Snr. Economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Ghana

Writer's email: jkwakye@ieagh.org


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