Consider a pimple – a whitehead to be exact. Over the course of time – a week perhaps – you see and feel it erupting slowly, breaking through the surface of the skin with powerful stealth until it blooms and settles on your face with opaque grotesqueness.
Frantically, you begin to stab at it, vehemently cursing the offensive acne with all your might.
How dare you show up on prom night/ my wedding day / during my job interview! This is most inconvenient and inconsiderable indeed!
So it is with Presidents and politicians.
Take John D. Mahama for instance. Like all presidents before him, and certainly all that will follow after him, the failures and/or successes of his beloved Ghana will be thrust at his feet in contempt or upon his shoulders in celebration. They will say “Mahama built us roads and bridges!” or they will say “Mahama was a thief who robbed the country blind”.
In truth, John Mahama is responsible for neither the country’s failures nor its successes. That burden belongs to his cabinet, either elected or appointed. These are the women and men who are truly responsible for the state we find Ghana in today. The “Ghanaian experience” means different things for different people. For some (meaning few), it means a life of immense wealth and luxury. For others still, it is a life riddled with strife, want and lack. Neither of these things are Mr. Mahama’s doing. He is merely a pimple – a whitehead. Attacking or praising him is to no avail. If we are to correct Ghana’s image, we need to look beneath the surface and root out the infection manifesting as a blemish.
That infection is Rashid Pelpuo.
I’ve always wondered who the imbeciles that were ruining the land of my birth were, and now I know. No one man or woman is capable of ruining an entire nation. You need the implicit assistance of 23 cabinet ministers, 10 regional ministers and all their deputy ministers in order to collapse a nation; or in the case of Mr. Pelpuo, Minister in-charge of Private Sector Development, express assistance.
I know very little about Ghana’s government. I’ve never taken an interest in politics. I was groomed to be suspicious of all politicians and to treat them with the contempt they deserve. If you’ve seen one politician in Ghana, you’ve seen them all: and they are all swathed in crook’s clothing. This year, I have chosen to eschew willful ignorance about the inner workings of my native country’s government, and now I’m beginning to regret that decision. The cogs, I have discovered, are largely rusty and ill-fitting. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the person of Rashid Pelpuo.
Mr. Pelpuo first caught my attention when I was forwarded this article on PeaceFmOnline (http://business.peacefmonline.com/news/201305/164557.php). It was entitled: We Won’t Protect Local Business Against Competition Says Gov’t.
Of course my interest was piqued immediately. The slant of the title alone was very damning, and one has to wonder what government official of a such fledgling economy would have the gall to admit that the government would tacitly allow foreign companies to overrun local business.
In the article, Mr. Pelpuo reportedly opines that the government of Ghana would not relent to requests by local businesses to protect them from the rampant influx and influence of foreign competition. In his rebuff, he advised local business owners “to endeavor to offer their best to enable them withstand the competition or at best, undo it.”
This is where I got stuck. I skimmed through the rest of the article, frantically searching for a hint of redemption in Mr. Pelpuo’s regard. Surely, someone who holds the title Minister in charge of Private Sector Development ought to hold the capacity to understand that vast majority local Ghanaian businesses are in no shape to compete against multi-national conglomerates? These organizations come flushed with capital, technology, investor backing and in some cases, the backing of their own governments. How is a Ghanaian Mom & Pop shop supposed to compete against that?
In discussing the abysmal utterances with others, I found that they were equally aghast.
What Mr. Pelpuo suggests in itself is not inherently asinine. It’s actually good business advice. If you want more people to buy your product, then you need to offer them your best. However, this advice falls under the category of marketing and advertising (at best), and does nothing to further the cause of implementation. And for local business owners and manufacturers to compete effectively against foreign companies, they will need government assistance in ways Mr. Pelpuo has probably not thought about.
Despite the hype and propaganda, Ghana is not yet in the position to protect itself from the effects of foreign oligopolies; and as usual, it all comes back to failed and crumbling infrastructure. As @geoessah points out:
For those of you who do not live in Ghana, the true test of any of our newly constructed roads comes during the rainy season, when torrential rains are literally capable of washing away entire sections of a street over the course of a few months. Why these roads are so fragile comes down to an age-old plague: corruption. A contractor gets the bid to build a road, several officials get their share of the money that is supposed to be invested into the road, a few of the workers may siphon off coal-tar and gravel to use at home, and the result is a shoddily built road. Happens every year.
In this instance, which repeats itself in industries all over Ghana, the industrious and hardworking tomato farmer spends the growing and harvesting season getting his crop ready for market. As he loads up his produce, he discovers to his dismay that his cargo is stuck on the road in the middle of the country due to poor road conditions. He is unable to get his goods to market and fill orders. He devices a work around, perhaps sending his tomatoes in smaller batches. Now the transportation costs have gone up. He has no choice but to pass this costs along to the consumer, who in turn does not understand why a tomato with a short shelf life and nearly rotten should cost so much. Enter the government’s alternative solution: Let’s not fix the roads. Let’s rather do a deal with Monsanto and offer the public genetically modified tomatoes with a shelf life of 2 months. We know just how to spin it! This is what they are eating in America. It’s better for you than our local foods anyway… because it’s from America, land of prosperity.
I did some digging around on Rashid Pelpuo’s background to find out what made him such an authority on Private Sector Development. You’re going to love this.
Abdul-Rashid Pelpuo has a degree in Education from the University of Cape Coast and later earned a Masters in International Affairs from the same institution in 1998. He entered the parliament of Ghana in 2005 on the NDC ticket and was appointed Minister of Youth and Sports in 2009 after the resignation of his predecessor. He was replaced by Akua Dansua after a cabinet reshuffle in 2010, to be appointed deputy Majority Leader in Parliament instead.
Fair enough. What deals has Mr. Pelpuo brokered to make him an authority on Private-Public partnerships and development? I could find none. What I did find was a number of rants calling for Chris Brown’s arrest for smoking weed on stage, a denial that he owns a fleet of cars, and other inconsequential things. Whether this is a failure of Ghana’s media to report on his achievements or an indication that he actually has not achievements outside of an unexplained trajectory through the ranks of government, I cannot say. But what I do know for sure is that this man and all those of his ilk are ruining the country through their unabashed hubris and willful ignorance.
We need true experts who have demonstrated a capacity to work with players at all levels of development in order to get Ghana working, not just some guy with a Master’s degree offering platitudes about private citizens “offering their best”.
I’m sure if we dug through the backgrounds of all of our parliamentarians, we would find them woefully lacking in the capacity to hold their posts. Rsahid Pelpuo just happened to catch my special attention (and ire) at the moment.
We cannot afford nepotism, favoritism and 30 other isms in this juncture of Ghana’s development. We are in a new century for Heaven’s sake – with phones that talk and cars that can go under water! Can we get some people in office who know how to at least draw up policy to encourage our student population to get a footing in the technology race? I’d do a handstand if a leader would open his/her mouth to admit that they were even thinking in that direction, instead of waiting for private citizens to do it on their own… otherwise, what do we need government for?
Tell me if I’m wrong ↓