Even though I don’t live in the country, Ghana is never far from my mind. The proximity of the state of the country to my consciousness has everything to do with remittances, relaxation and eventual retirement. Although I do not call the country my permanent home, I have invested a lot in its development indirectly, as have thousands of Ghanaians who live abroad. The Kufuor administration even went so far as to name remittances from the Ghanaian diaspora as a major contributor to GDP growth and encouraged the Diaspora to send even more money back home for the cause of development. These claims and calls did not come without controversy, however.
Like any “investor”, I have been doing a great deal of thinking about the impact of my money and what kind of return I can expect. Hitherto I had thought of myself and any other working Ghanaian as a cabal of Angel Investors, whose sole function is to blindly (albeit sometimes grudgingly) provide funds and resources to our dependents on the continent without expecting anything in return. It turns out I was wrong. We were ALL wrong! In 1996, the ruling government DID promise us something in return…they just never talked about it much. There was indeed a vision laid out for the running of the country, however I’m sure they hoped we would all forget if they kept mum on the matter.
When I was in college back in the 90’s, I heard some talking head mention something about Vision 2020 and development goals. Ghana was supposed to be on par with the Asian Tigers – or whoever the competition du jour was – according to the man speaking. I filed that information. Fast-forward nearly 20 years later and there is unrest everywhere, from nursing protests, TUC strikes and the Occupy Ghana demonstrations. The concerns are valid and they are very real.
In conversation, the phrase “Ghana is hard ooo”, followed by the forlorn sucking of teeth is uttered from perspiring, hardworking people every day. All these people want is the Better Ghana they were promised. But what does that look like? For some, it’s just a chance to garner and complete a quality education. They can take it from there. For others, it is food security and a life without fear of where one’s next meal will come from. For another it’s a thriving business in an environment where people are empowered to patronize said business. Others still just hope to have their own home one day. Ghanaians want what anyone else in the world wants. Stability, health and happiness. This is what Vision 2020 was supposed to give every Ghanaian citizen.
I came across a document online that outlines what was supposed to have been achieved in Ghana over the course of 25 years, from 1996-2020. I was compelled to search for it, because I have yet to hear any politician from NDC or NPP talk about a real plan for how to move the country to middle income, and more importantly, self-reliant status. The only things Ghanaians get on a consistent basis from either party are platitudes and finger pointing. Sometimes that finger comes right back to the citizen with leaders demanding that citizens do their share. Well, sir (and it’s always a sir), where is the reciprocity? Everyday Ghanaian life is naught but a series of sacrifices. Our children die in hospitals where there is no water and electricity. There are only 4 oncologists in the whole nation, operating in only TWO cancer centers (Accra and Kumasi). People have no choice but to defecate in the open because each successive government has failed to provide the amenities that would give these folks basic human dignity. What, I ask again, is left for them to give?
The poorly written document that contains the Vision 2020 goals can be found HERE It reads like a wish list and has no concrete plans to guide it, and though riddled with fluff and thoroughly banal in its execution, it makes a fascinating read. I mean, someone actually took the time to put a dream on paper…and that dream would have been glorious if only we have the leadership to execute it. It talks of abolishing customs that hinder the advancement of women; about using science and technology to solve socio-economic problems; and about providing power to the entire nation using the most modern methods available. There’s even a Green agenda in there as well, with talk of reducing pressure on forests for wood fuels and setting up models for biogas use in villages. By the year 2020, Ghana was to have been a utopia. But what do we have instead?
Now we have entire woodlands destroyed as people desperate for a living hacked down trees and gutted whole forests in search of gold. The toll ‘galamsey’ (informal mining) has had on the environment has been catastrophic. Ghana was once a global provider of timber…now the country imports it. If your child is lucky enough to go to school, he/she will have to sit in shadow or risk being feasted on my mosquitoes as they do their homework under streetlamps or at banks. One of the most dangerous things a woman can do in many parts of Ghana is get pregnant, as maternal health is so abysmal that a sub-chief who had previously worked abroad as a veterinarian visiting KATH said that he wouldn’t let his dog give birth there. And as far as women’s rights…well, you know about my good friend Nelson Baani and the non-apology he has offered in conjunction with an absence of any sort of reprimand from his bosses.
That’s not to paint a completely bleak picture though. There are some very nice restaurants, a new highway the leads to the Western Region and of course, the Accra Mall – the city’s jewel – a jewel mired with snarling traffic and accessible by a labyrinth of roads that look like they were designed by a lunatic schizophrenic. There is development in Ghana, but it is nowhere near the level we were (secretly) promised or what the architects intended. These are mere trinkets when we were pledged a crown glittering with jewels.
This is what makes scandals like GYEEDA, SADA, the CHRAJ spending scandal and a litany of other incidences wherein thievery and corruption are the hallmarks. These monies were to be used to make Ghana great. It was for the citizens and generations to come. Vision 2020 promised that all Ghanaians would be free from crushing, abject poverty by the time my children came of age. Whoever takes control of power in 2016 will then have 4 years to make it happen. But the reality is, I don’t think most political or civic leaders are even aware of this document’s existence, let alone the plans it contains within. One of our complaints as Ghanaians is that we have visionless leaders. That’s not true. Rawling’s NDC took the time to create a vision and it was his party – if none other – that should have endeavored to make that vision a tangible reality. What we have is a group of gluttonous sloths, wholly and solely committed to engorging themselves on the suffering of the people, but they are not ‘visionless’.
That much, we can all see.