Development Discourse with Amos Safo: Our attitude is killing our economy

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Amos Safo is a Development and Communications Management Specialist, and a Social Justice Advocate.

In the past, debate on why Ghana and Africa continue to face economic recession and rising unemployment were largely blamed on poor policymaking and leadership failure.  Currently, economic analysts are discovering that negative attitudes may be critical to our failure to resuscitate our economies and to create jobs for the youth.

In the light of the above assertion, I will review recent opinions shared on social media on how our negative attitude is destroying our economy and our individual wellbeing. The central theme of the submissions is our tendency to blame everyone, but ourselves for our individual challenges and general economic difficulties.

Economic front

On the larger scale, we import substandard products, fake drugs and expired baby foods unfit for human consumption, we are destroying the environment and water bodies through illegal mining aided by the Chinese and other expatriates. Recently the Food and Drugs Authority disclosed how palm oil vendors mix the product with artificial colours to make it attractive to consumers, while the sellers make huge returns.

What’s more powerful people are stealing from widows, orphans, and refugees; we annex their property and destroy their endowments and entitlements because they lack power to defend their rights. Yet you and I have the nerve to complain about economic difficulties and leadership and governance failure.

Some politicians purposefully manufacture lies and manipulate the minds of the ignorant masses to win power to enrich themselves. In fact, propaganda has become integral to the political game plan in Ghana that, it is even used by some pastors to promote their political cause.

Worse still, our architects, engineers and contractors build substandard roads, schools, houses, hospitals, for profit at the expense of human lives. Equally, our politicians and public servants loot the state and dump the booty in Dubai and Mauritian banks.  Our politicians have bought expensive buildings in Dubai and other European countries, while floods are destroying our poor settlements in Ghana.

These politicians and contractors and suppliers are not members of Boko Haram, they are Christians, church members, Muslims, husbands, wives and sadly youths, who are touted as leaders of tomorrow.  Sadly, society hails such wicked people for getting rich quickly without questioning their source of income.

Righteousness and morality

At the societal level, we pervert justice and pretend we do not know right from wrong, just to serve our selfish interests. We take bribe and pay bribes to affect the cause of  judgment, to give what others don’t deserve to them, receive what is not rightfully ours, to keep quiet, while the innocent suffer, to deny those who deserve what is due them.

In fact, there is so much hatred flowing in our blood, and we openly demonstrate our hatred against individuals and groups because they don’t share our views or refuse to worship you. We pursue power and titles if it means running down competent people and even killing them.  Yet, we piously fast and pray the whole year, hold night vigils to cast out the demons and our perceived enemies, without recognizing that the actual problem is us. We are the actual devil that need to be exorcised.

What we need to appreciate is that God has equipped us with the mental power to do things right to glorify HIM. For that reason, God, will not descend from heaven to build our society for us.  The power is   in our hands to make our societies and nations become heaven or hell.

Unfortunately, we have chosen the path of destruction, to promote greed and to be self-centred, rather than promoting the general wellbeing. Small wonder that we litter the streets and environment and unashamedly pressurized the government to clean it for us. More disturbingly, some decision makers demand sex from vulnerable and innocent ladies in the name of helping them to pass examinations or offering them Jobs.

Deadly virus

In a video circulating on social media, Rev Samuel N. Mensah passionately offered reasons why Ghana is in its current downward state, despite being endowed with abundant natural resources. Rev Mensah, who was addressing his church members pointed out that Ghanaians have become deadly viruses, who are infecting ourselves. Overtime, I have admired the courage of Rev Mensah, for persistently preaching against sin and promoting repentance, unlike other preachers who dwell on prosperity and miracles.

In the sermon, Rev, Mensah highlighted relevant aspects of an article he read, in which the writer reviewed a discussion he had with six business owners and potential investors. The discussion was on why the investors were not keen on investing in  the real sectors to create jobs for the youth.

The response of the investors unpleasant.  One of the CEOs was reported to retorted that the very youth who are “shouting no jobs, no food are all thieves.” One of them, then took time to explain his plight. According to him, as narrated by Rev Mensah, he runs a manufacturing business and the biggest challenge he faces is not electricity or infrastructure, it is getting honest people to manage the business.

“Everyone we hired appeared to be on a mission to steal money from the company.” The staff inflate invoices, often recording less units produced, with the intension to steal. The business man lamented that the worse part of the phenomenon is that every theft he uncovered was not done by an individual staff, but involved several staff from production to sales, finance and even to top management who collude at various stages of the chain to defraud the company, rather than working to sustain it.

Orchestrated stealing

He said, there was a year he overhauled the top management three times because of the persistent stealing of money. Consequently, he resorted to using competent and honest expatriate Indian management. “Initially, I thought they were very expensive to hire, with all the visa, immigration fees and accommodation.

But now that the theft has been reduced to the minimum in addition to increased efficiency, the Indian management has turned out to be cheaper than the Ghanaian and African management. According to him, his biggest challenge was in getting honest people to handle huge sums of money.

What’s more the businessman revealed that his company spends a lot of money on CCTV and biometric scanners, which would have been unnecessary if the staff could be trusted.

“The dishonesty got so bad that at the point the employment criteria was no longer educational qualification or competency, but honesty. “At least competence and skills can be learnt, but once you are dishonest, you are dishonest.” “I pay huge money to security companies not to escort the money to the bank, but to ensure that the staff do not bolt with the money. Money spent on security companies is even enough to be declared as profit”, he lamented.

Now all the sensitive positions in my company go to the Indians, Africans are only allowed in non-sensitive positions”, the investor lamented. He explained that he used to criticize African investors like Dangote Group for hiring many expatriates, when there are many unemployed African youth. “Now I understand their painful decisions.”

Future investments

The commonest complain among the youth Ghana and Africa is unemployment, despite potential employment opportunities.  The businessman indicated that there are several African and Ghanaian investors both home and abroad ,  who would have loved to invest in Ghana or elsewhere in Africa, but the fear of  lack of honest people to manage the businesses is scaring them.

For instance, Dangote has the capacity to establish businesses in the capitals of the 53 African countries, however, the biggest hindrance is finding honest and dedicated African staff. Instead of investing in the real sector to create jobs, such rich people would rather invest in treasury bills and other government bonds to secure their investments.

Bureaucracy and corruption

Further, the biggest hindrance to Ghana’s development is bureaucracy and corruption in the public sector. Rent seeking for personal gain remains the bane of Ghana’s and Africa’s development. Rent seeking is a practice of public servants using their bureaucratic powers to create opportunities for siphoning money from public purse.

Apart from using unethical procurement practices to bilk millions of cedis out of state coffers, public servants often create private companies to which they subcontract government services and consultancies, thus denying the state the needed revenue. We know the salaries of most these public servants receive, but if you match their grandiose buildings, private investments, as well as the opulent lifestyles they live you might understand why the economy is suffering. Perhaps, only a few rich people in Ghana made it without stealing from the public sector.

As the businessman noted,” the only reason many Ghanaians haven’t stolen is that they haven’t gotten the opportunity to steal.” This mindset permeates both the public and private sectors.

Negative mindset

The worse mindset among many Ghanaians and Africans is that we justify why we have to steal from our employers, through a very backward proverb, “everyone makes a living form his/her workplace.”  You establish a small poultry farm and the staff will steal all the eggs; if they don’t steal the eggs, they will intentionally kill the fowls. You buy a car for a driver and he will overload it and run it down within months. Yours truly has suffered this negative mindset before.

In 2013, I decided to invest in the transport business. So, I obtained a loan from my bankers, using my salary as security. I bought a minibus for a driver who was unemployed. This driver who appeared humble at the time suddenly became arrogant and uncontrollable.  He would not bring my returns as agreed and even resorted to giving the bus to spare drivers after making his money in the day.

The bus started deteriorating until he crushed the engine for failing to change the oil for three good months; though he had taken money from me to change the oil. I bought a new engine and gave to a new driver, who even became worse than the first one. Within a week he burst four tires and the next week he drove the bus into water and also destroyed the engine. In fact, all four drivers who drove the bus in two years, surpassed each other in mismanagement and dishonesty. In 2015 I had no option than to sell the car, without recouping my investments.   Investors start restaurants and the workers steal the food and raw material.

Saboteurs

I shudder at the news that headmasters, bursars and matrons of some senior secondary schools are diverting food items supplied for the upkeep of the students. As a result, they are preparing terrible food for the children in a bid to  sabotage the Free Senior Secondary policy. Fact is that the policy has plucked one of the biggest avenues of public sector theft.  Yet, some of these saboteurs are among those clamoring for the government to fix the economy.

Ghanaian employees have a penchant for destroying Ghanaian owned businesses and public sector interventions. You employ the unemployed youth and they are the very people who run down the business, without realizing that they are killing their own future.

Ironically, the Indian workers are Hindus and not Christians, but they among some of the most honest and competent workers in the world. Sadly, 70 % of Ghanaians are Christians or church going, 17 %   are Muslims and pray five times a day.

In all, 92 % of Ghanaians are piously religious. Unsurprisingly, the huge corruption in our public and private sectors are perpetrated by both Christians and Muslims. So, what is the use of being a Christian or a Muslim or being religious when we continually fail the test of honesty, transparency and accountability?  Unless we change our negative mindset our economy will remain uncompetitive, and  unemployment will  continue to be the biggest development challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

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