The irony of ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’

Abandoned District Police Headquarters in Japekrom (BA/R).

In “Dead Aid”, Dambisa Moyo made headlines by calling for a freeze of donor assistance to African governments in the next five to ten years claiming that aid has not worked because it has propped up dictators, fostered corruption, and entrenched poverty and that “Africa not only has little to show for more than $1 trillion in development aid over the past 50 years, but is worse off because of its effects in distorting economies and encouraging bureaucracy, corruption, and dependency.” The gist of Moyo’s contention, which does not differ from that of Ayittey (2006) in Africa Unchained, was that aid only props up and entrenches corruption in all its forms in Africa. Great propositions.

At least, we are reminded of the actual meaning of INDEPENDENCE. Nonetheless, the developing world and Africa in particular CANNOT do without international assistance in the next 10 years.

After six decades of independence, African countries still have school kids learning under trees, lacking chairs and tables, using chalk when lucky to have supplies, hospitals without beds and ambulances, inaccessible roads, lack of drinking water in many communities and Police officers sharing single rooms with their kids.

In Ghana, recent developments have drawn parallels between the above whimsical expectations of doing without aid in developing countries and upholding the real meaning of “independence” of the Nation State. Used as a rallying call for mass mobilization and spiced with foreign exploitation by African nationalists, the aid industry has but served as a penicillin to ease the pain of colonial exploitation, albeit its covert continuation of the north-south geopolitical order to sustain the global developmental status quo.

Since the recent change of Government, a new mantra, Ghana Beyond Aid has surfaced to the delight of donors who have started assessing their savings when Ghana exits the unenviable Aid-recipients list.

Whilst waiting for what appears to be the daily prescriptions of the Ghana Beyond Aid syrup, I bring to the fore practices that could undermine the President’s effort at repelling Aid.  No more aid, yes!! After all, Aid is the shameful receipt of other Nation’s Taxpayers cash to buy 4×4 luxury cars that are seldom found on the streets of the donor countries. If Ghana doesn’t need other nationals’ tax that should be good news for the Germans, British, Australians etc., and we can proudly absent ourselves during the next roll call for “shitholes” when the kindergarten teachers slumber.

Postulating that the President’s cabinet is yet to gain an in-depth appreciation of the mantra Ghana Beyond Aid, recent efforts by Kojo Oppong Nkrumah to the effect that, the mantra is not indicative of “we don’t need aid” further muffles the populace. Given the inability of government to define the structural contours of the mantra since it was officially made public in November, I respectfully ask, what does Ghana Beyond Aid means?  

As a student of Policy, one of my areas of interest has been Public Expenditure Tracking. Basically, I follow how much of governments development fund from the central government gets to consumers at the point of consumption of development projects.

During a recent visit to my home district, the Jaman South District of the Brong Ahafo region, a conspicuous District Police building and its accompanying officers bungalow caught my attention.

Abandoned Residency for the Police in Japekrom (BA/R)

Located in Japekrom, the said District Police edifice was built by the District Assembly with TAX from the salaries of workers in Ghana. Permit my ignorance if it was from donor funds (Aid). As a proud Ghanaian who desires not to wash my dirty linen in public, I promise not to hazard a guess of the cost of these structures, but one thing is for sure, the documented cost could put up a double of the same structures.

Yet, it is quite astonishing that after completing the project some 4years ago, the Police Service, who claim to be poorly housed, in the district has for NO GOOD reasons found it beneficial to use the facilities.  Interestingly, the sponsoring agency, the Jaman South District Assembly is rather giving justifications why the Police cannot move into the facility they planned, allocated funds for, and built for the police. Effectively leaving the buildings to rot.  

 Shamefully, the Police are still in a rented building paid for by the public purse.

In Karl Deutsch’s argument the system of communication proves a “nerve of the polity” and any breakdown of the nerve may cause dysfunctional impact in the performance of the polity causing governance decay, and yes, the Member of Parliament, Yaw Afful and the Head of the District Assembly, Alhaji Abuu, have not been able to communicate the reasons why Taxpayers money must go waste. In the words of Bernie Sanders, when the least qualified men are at the helm of affairs nothing surprises. Obviously Ghana Beyond Aid risk joining the archives of political rhetoric. This is because, in Africa and Ghana in particular, there exist a distant gap between what politicians say (could be policy prescriptions) and what gets done.

The foregoing narrative points to the disconnect between the policy orientation of the central government and the decentralized structures at the regional and district levels which creates what Lippmann (1922) refers to as a ‘pseudo-environment’. Likened to a disjointed articulated truck whose driver is heading to Kyebi, whilst its carriage comfortably leads a procession en route Drobo in the Jaman North district.

Lastly, I suggest a policy reorientation session for our policy makers and implementers, including all political appointees, and I am prepared to submit a paper on the domestic consequences of Ghana Beyond Aid should taxpayers cash continue on the wasteful path as the district Police offices and bungalows in Japekrom. Our Finance Minister must however note that our donor partners have started editing their transcripts per the Ghana Beyond Aid cadence and thus, development aid (towards Government’s Budget) needs a rethinking.

As the president requires of us, We Must Believe in the psalm “Ghana Beyond Aid”, Yes, I believe. But does your appointee in the Jaman South District understands what the mantra means? And what next, Mr. President?

By Kwaku Yeboah

Email: [email protected]

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