At independence, Ghana’s economy was regarded as the best among the newly independent African countries. The government of the country’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, embarked on ambitious infrastructural and educational development initiatives to further strengthen the economy. Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product was about on a par with those of countries like Malaysia and South Korea. Today, in part four of our series on Ghana’s independence anniversary, we focus our attention on the country’s economy since independence.
Nii Moi Thompson a Ghanaian economic consultant says that “Compared to other British colonies, we are actually far advanced in terms of human resource development, for instance, that is educational opportunities. A lot of these educational achievements were actually made in two periods in the early to mid nineties…. And then there was the huge break and then more aggressively under Kwame Nkrumah starting from 1951,”
He said the first president embarked on an ambitious plan that put Ghanaians at the center of the stage in terms of development. “As a matter of fact, the desire to develop Ghanaians as the key ingredient for development was such that in 1951, Kwame Nkrumah introduced the accelerated education plan that led to the creation and the establishment of schools across the country. As a result of this ambitious program, we had on a per capita basis, the highest university expenditures in the world,” he said.
Thompson bemoaned the lack of a long-term plan necessary to improving the economy.
“The singular feature of the economy since 1960 is that we haven’t had any systematic plan for development as such. We have short-term crisis management frameworks, which sometimes they mistakenly call plans. So for instance currently, we have Ghana reduction poverty strategy 1, and then Ghana reduction poverty strategy 2; it has no long-term frameworks for development,” he said.
Thompson said the lack of long term plans for the economy has resulted in a weaker-than-expected economy.
“So the end result is that even where we’ve been successful in some areas, in the end it hasn’t really translated into the kind of rapid and equitable growth that would lead to social development, rising incomes and satisfied ways of living. We haven’t quite done that,” he said.
Thompson said an attempt was made by President Jerry Rawlings’ administration to boost the economy, but he said it didn’t gain support.
“Vision 20/20, was actually crafted by the NDC (National Democratic Congress Party) in the mid-1990’s. And it would have been a very good program for development. Unfortunately, it lacked the kind of political commitment and direction that other program did. For instance, the seven-year development plan under Kwame Nkrumah and other plans before him, where Nkrumah took a personal interest in this plan,” he said.
Thompson said Ghana could have done better. “Economically, we haven’t done well. The statistics (in comparison to other countries that gained independence at the same time) don’t show a positive story…. In 1965 we had a per capita income of $190; South Korea had a per capita income of $110. Today, Ghana has a per capita income of $480; South Korea has a per capita income of almost $20,000. So on the basis of that you can conclude that economically we haven’t done well. A lot of the industries, for instance, that were set up by Nkrumah as the basis for launching Ghana’s economic growth were destroyed...in the name of this new-found religion of private sector as the engine of growth,” he said.
He gave his thoughts on what’s necessary for development. “To start with, we would have to put people at the center of development, not property. If we develop people, development would naturally follow. In fact, the few statistics we have do confirm that…people with higher education in Ghana tend to earn the most…. So if we are really are serious about raising incomes...for the vast majority of Ghanaians, then the focus should be on human development,” he said.