Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shame of the Nation Address

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Fellow Ghanaians, the President has given 'The State of the Nation Address', his supporters and party members are applauding him. But listening to some ordinary Ghanaians on the streets and on social media, it is easy to tell that they are not impressed. Others have simply described it as 'business as usual'.

As a citizen of this great nation, I am invoking my rights under Chapter 12 of the 1992 Constitution to express my views on the state of affairs of our country.

And before anyone questions my right to have a contrary view to the President on the state of affairs of our country, especially those who would demand to know what I have been doing to make the nation any better, I will not hesitate to point to such individuals, who are  also exercising their rights to free expression that I have been making in my view what is my 'widow's mite' of contributions to this country as a journalist. I am indeed making sacrifices in the line of duty to keep citizens informed, educated and entertained by breaking important news, writing and exposing some of the dangers in our society to alert citizens and to call for solutions to them. All these I have done for over four years without receiving compensation. While on the contrary, experts who are paid to solve the nation's problems, apparently look on helplessly, and in some instances unconcerned, while the majority of our citizenry suffer needlessly from lack of some of the basic necessities of life like potable water, sanitation facilities and inadequate electricity power supply.

Fastest growing economy

After 56 years of independence, it is shameful for Ghana to be in this current condition. The country was the fastest growing economy in the world in 2011 with a GDP growth rate of 14 percent. When the 2012 estimates are concluded, the country is expected to grow above 8 percent. While the numbers are looking good, there are no visible impacts of this growth on the majority of Ghanaians. There are no direct impacts on the standard of living of many Ghanaians.


Some sources elsewhere put foreign direct investments into the country in all the sectors at $32 billion and supported with investments from the oil sector. Revenue from oil, even though contributing a mere 1 percent of GDP has significantly contributed to this growth,and yet the country of about 24 million people can't find alternatives or solutions to its energy crisis. Despite this growing level of FDI into the country, the manufacturing sector is literally dead. FDI inflows into the country haven't stimulated appreciable growth in industry to create jobs.

Water and Sanitation

Water and sanitation facilities are inadequate, endangering the lives of 1000s of children under the age of five every year.

Currently, 19 out of every 100 Ghanaians openly defecate daily, either in the morning or evening or both, bringing the total figure to about five million a day, and  according to figures released by the Water and Sanitation Programme of the World Bank in April 2012, Ghana loses $79 million annually as a result of open defecation, making the country the fifth highest among 18 African countries analysed by the Bank.

The development charity, WaterAid, says although from 1990 to 2010 the population of Ghana grew by 9.4 million, only 2.3 million people secured access to sanitation over the same period.  In total, it says nearly 21 million (86%) out of Ghana’s 24 million people are without access to a safe improved toilet, while almost 50% use shared latrines and 19% practice open defecation.

In the last couple of months water is being rationed in the capital, just as electricity power is.

Uncompleted donor financed projects

The government applies for loans and grants to do projects that would improve the quality of lives of Ghanaians, but these projects are not completed on time, because government officials assigned to these projects are not working, they are playing what we call in Ghana 'delaying tactics' for reasons best known to themselves. The World Bank recently expressed its frustration with the government when it published the status of projects and programmes it is sponsoring in the country. About 50 percent of projects expected to be completed in three years are still uncompleted up to five years since they were started, some are even running into eight to nine years and meanwhile, $1.5 billion approved by the Bank for these projects are still sitting idle in accounts. This is only what is known from the World Bank. If all the other development partners would be bold enough to reveal the state of affairs of projects they are financing, it would not paint a good picture of the state of affairs in our country.


Despite the increased knowledge about the role of energy in industrialization, it is curious seeing the current distressing situation where power is rationed irrationally in the country. Small businesses can't grow to make the necessary impact on the economy because of the lack of regular supply of energy. In some places power is available fewer days in a working week, far and in-between during productive periods, denying small businesses the opportunity to be productive.

The country rushed to start commercial production of oil when plans could have been made to trap and use the natural petroleum gas from the oil field, just as Trinidad and Tobago has done, making it the world's leading supplier of gas. The country depends on the Akosombo dam which was built more than four decades ago, which has exceeded its capacity. A couple of thermal plants that have to depend on the irregular West Africa Gas Pipeline, have been shut, because the West Africa Gas Project has been out of order for some months now due to some accident offshore. The thermal plants can't be powered because gas is not flowing from the pipeline.

Businesses and citizens are bearing the brunt of what can arguably be called poor leadership, as most people have to sleep in the dark. There is also shortage of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), and most families are unable to cook food - an obvious possible situation that can lead to deforestation as some people might be compelled to return to using charcoal or wood fuel for cooking.

Budget deficit

It is a painful ritual the country has to go through every election year. The dust on the 2012 election has barely settled and the government is known to have overrun its budget. Provisional figures show a government budget deficit of 12.1 percent of GDP, which is over 80 percent of the target of 6.7 percent of GDP. This has led to downgrades of the country's credit outlook by ratings agencies Fitch and Moody's.

Fellow Ghanaians, as hard working and law abiding citizens, we deserve better than these and we must demand higher quality leadership from people at the helm of affairs in our great country.

The police

The Ghana Police Service, which has the constitutional mandate to check crime, has sadly become part of the problem. Bribery is rife among Police officers and the service is so slow to respond to alarms on crime, situations that seem to have emboldened criminals who have become brazen in their approach, attacking and robbing citizens at will. Speak to most victims of crime in this country and they will tell you horrible tales of their experiences when they called on the Ghana Police to report their ordeals. Most leave the stations feeling like they are the criminals. Our police men and women show little empathy for victims of crime, especially victims of domestic and sexual violence, even though a special unit in the service has been created to deal with such matters.

Education and Health

Fellow citizens, Ghana's education system used to be among the best in the world. Sometime ago, the Queen of England was reported to have wanted her son, Prince Charles to come and study at the University of Ghana, but the University couldn't admit him because of the demands for his accommodation and security issues. He requested to use an entire floor.

In those days, graduates of even our basic education system were sufficiently and effectively well educated and functional, but that can't be said of most of the products of the system today. Products of our education system have virtually no ethics, always looking to cut corners and make quick bucks.

Education facilities have become inadequate, either as a result of poor planning or mismanagement. The morale of teachers is generally low.

A UNESCO report on education shows that comparing Ghana to South Korea, the country’s education sector has stagnated.

In a summary, the report says “‘Whilst both countries had a similar starting point in the early 1970s Ghana has lagged behind since then. The Republic of Korea began to expand its secondary system rapidly in the 1970s, but in Ghana the secondary education gross enrolment ratio stagnated at around 40% for another thirty years.”

The report attributing Ghana’s lack of progress in education as partly due to the result of economic problems, said it was also because of insufficient investment in education or linking of economic planning with skills development policies.

The same report shows that a large population in Ghana can’t read a sentence after leaving school as recently as in 2008.

“In Ghana, for example, over half of women and over one-third of men aged 15 to 29 who had completed six years of school could not read a sentence at all in 2008. A further 28% of the young women and 33% of the young men could only read part of a sentence,” it says.

Our health facilities have been left to crumble. Most medical facilities do not have basic equipment to work with, and even though the country spends millions of dollars in training medical professionals, most are often not motivated enough to stay in the country to work.

The health insurance scheme introduced in the country and hailed across the world is likely to grind to a halt, riddled with mismanagement and corruption it is faced with possible bankruptcy, a World Bank report has warned.

Fellow Ghanaians, I can go on and on to talk about nepotism, cronyism, the inability of the state to confront public sector corruption head-on, the poor performance of state prosecutors in trying cases of fraud against the state, the financial mismanagement and waste in the system, the indiscipline in the army as expressed in soldiers attacking and assaulting police officers, the carnage on our roads.

Having mentioned that, the Road Safety Commission, has sometime ago announced a beauty pageant in response to the increasing road traffic accidents in the country. The Commission believes that a beauty pageant can help reduce road traffic accidents in Ghana.

More than 1,800 people die annually while 14,500 people are injured through accidents on the country’s roads. The socio-economic costs of road accidents are estimated at 1.6 per cent of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and the Commission believes that a beauty pageant will offer solutions.


Another canker dissipating our energies and resources is the hydra-headed beast called partisanship. Ghana is so partisan that the President during a meeting with Ghanaians resident in Ethiopia in January 2012 mentioned the issue which is a major challenge to our moving forward. Most people are given important public sector positions not because they are competent, but because they are political party members and the party they belong to is in power.

People belonging to opposing parties are not expected to make their views known on national issues.
Supporters of ruling parties praise everything governments do, whether it serves us well or not. They see nothing wrong with their governments and see everything wrong with the opposition and it is the same with the opposite side. This conduct is our bane.


Fellow Ghanaians, I would not want to say anything further, as you are all probably aware of the shameful condition our dear country is in.

Patriotism is dead. Killed by our leaders. As we look at our leaders, we do not see patriotism, we see partisanship and pursuit of selfish and personal gain, as such citizens are compelled to emulate these - conducts that are further sinking, holding back our collective development.

But hope is not lost yet. Like the proverbial phoenix, we can rise again from the ashes, only if we so desire, by changing our ways, by letting our laws and institutions work, by paying our dues to the Motherland.

God bless our homeland Ghana.

Thank you.

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