An open letter to the Special Development ministry

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Mavis Hawa Koomson

Ghanaians have shown their displeasure concerning the budget of the Special Development ministry.

Whereas a lot of commentators are concerned about the bloated figures in the budget, I’m more concerned about the intentions of the ministry and what it intends to do. The ministry per its plan for 2018 shows they have an opaque aurora about development.

Development is a good change (Chambers, 1997). Amartya Sen also defined development as Freedom (1999). He argued that development is about the expansion of citizens capabilities.

Hence the Special Development ministry’s aim should basically be about the expansion of citizens’ capabilities in order to make good change in the country.

Development therefore consists of the removal of various types of “unfreedoms” that leave people with little choice and little opportunity to make them realize their full potentials.

Interestingly, a critical look at the budget of the Special Development ministry has little to do with “real development.” Rather, it depicts an amalgamation of the duties of the ministry of health, industries, sanitation, water and works ministry.

It is relevant to note that the purpose of development is to eradicate poverty and improve lives. Does the budget solves this puzzle?

Duties of the ministry

The Development ministry therefore does not need huge amount to operate but rather has a herculean task to strategically coordinate, influence and liaise with other sector ministeries and the National Development Planning Commission to facilitate developmental policies, instruments, initiatives and to further supervise and see to their implementation.

The Development ministry in its subsequent budgets should consider these five thematic areas if it want to make impact in the country.

First of all, developmental initiatives should solve a major problem that can improve the lives of people. Unemployment reduction initiatives should be highly considered.

The ministry should build a strong entrepreneurial ground which will serve as a springboard to promote entrepreneurship. It should focus on building business incubators and co-working spaces across the country. This will promote startups to grow. This has been tried and tested in other countries like US (Silicon Valley), China (Shanghai), Mauritius and even Kenya. Ghana can also make difference.
Secondly, the Special Development ministry should invest in innovative technologies. It is sad to realize that a budget in excess of Ghc1 billion had no portion dedicated to innovation and technology.

Development is impossible in today’s world without innovative technologies driving the economic affairs of the country. Ghana should therefore innovate or die.

Thirdly, the Development ministry should focus on boosting trade and how locally produced goods can be well branded for domestic consumption and exportation. This will drastically reduce the balance of payment deficits the country faces.

They should think of how it can successfully convert our natural wealth (resources) into shared prosperity in a diversified economy with competitive advantage. A board/committee should be set up to oversee and formulate implementable policies and ideas to boost areas where Ghana enjoys comparative cost advantage in order to make Ghana relevant on the international market.

Fourthly, the ministry should set up Capacity Building Centres across the nation to train the youth (working force) to be more productive.

The ministry’s focus should be on young graduates in order to make them more effective after tertiary education. This will enable them commercialize what they’ve read in School and make them efficient and relevant to the job market . Doing this means young men and women will no more be job seekers but job creators.

Lastly, the development ministry should design and work on leveraging private financing and investments for economic and community development. This will ensure the establishment of more venture capital firms, growth funds, angel investors etc who will serve as better medium of financing for startups, businesses and other developmental projects or duties that the banks have refused to do.

Many ideas do not see the light of the day due to financial challenges. Creating an alternative source of finance other than the traditional method will rekindle the enlightened and spark an entrepreneurial revolution in the country.

When the Special Development and Initiative ministry focus on these areas, we will be able to create a conducive environment for development. It is important to note that development is a process rather than an outcome.

In conclusion, in the words of Acemoglu and Robinson, in their book, “Why Nations Fail,” he argued that poor countries are poor not because of their geographies or cultures or because their leaders do not know which policies will enrich their citizens rather, poor countries are poor because those who have power make choices that creates poverty.

Ghana is on the crossroad and I believe the Ministry for Special Developments and initiatives shall be guided by the principles of development.

By: Frank Kwesi Hayford
(MPhil. Industrial Finance and Investments, KNUST)