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12 - 19 March 2008 
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George Hagan and New Policy-Making

George Hagan (chair of Ghana’s National Commission on Culture) laments that Ghana is ill-nurtured, hence the challenges it finds itself in.

The problem does not stem from the fact that Ghana was created by the British, but the failure of post-independent Ghana to draw policies from the values of the 56 ethnic groups that form Ghana. Fifty years after independence, Ghana is still grounded in its ex-British colonial self. It doesn’t matter whether its policies are made in Accra: they do not reflect the values and experiences of Ghana. Elites like Y.K. Amoako have observed that to the detriment of Ghanaian/African values, the African region is the only area in the world where its development values are dominated by foreign ones.

This has created a crisis of values, confidence and trust in the development process. The thoughts of development at the rural level are different from the ones at national level, making the country unbalanced and the structures for development disharmonious.

Ghanaian policy-makers ought to either mix or juggle the neo-liberal values with traditional Ghanaian ones at the national level. Hagan observes that “policy makers” need “to incorporate the positive dimensions” of Ghana's “culture into national policies.” Hagan wants to see traditional Ghanaian values being used openly in policy-making such as  the anti-poverty programme and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The MDGs (made in New York) should reflect Ghanaian values and experiences to solve the Ghana’s problems.

Hagan argues that “… law makers should not ignore culture and “leave it at the bottom of the ladder but consider maintaining the positive aspect and integrate them into "our policies." Hagan stated this to some of the powerful institutions involved in Ghana’s progress - representatives from some key Ministries, National House of Chiefs, and regional development commissions. By this act, Hagan has challenged these institutions to rethink their policy-making and practices and come out with policies that simultaneously reflect Ghanaian traditional values and its neo-liberal, Western heritage.

The idea is not to go back to any pristine ancient values; but to draw from these values, and mix them with the global neo-liberal ones for greater progress. How Ghana can draw from such rich history and traditional values rests with its bureaucrats, policy-makers and the emerging civil society. As the German sociologist Max Weber has critically explained, whether seen as “structure and regulations to control activity” or “interpretation and execution of policy,” a new interpretation of Ghanaian bureaucracy, as the key executor of policies, as the ears and eyes of Ghanaians’ development concerns, and as the innovative intellectual playground of Ghanaians’ progress, should be informed by Ghanaian traditional values in relation to the global prosperity architecture.

Here, Ghanaian bureaucrats become magicians, juggling Ghanaian traditional values with the ex-colonial, global development ideals. In the same context, in the reinterpretation of Ghana’s progress, the bureaucrats become alchemists, mixing Ghanaian traditional values with the global development principles. The idea is to balance the traditional resources and the ex-colonial, orthodox ideals in the Ghanaian development process so as to give confidence to Ghanaian values as development fodder and correct many an historical and policy errors.

The idea is to reconstruct a new bureaucracy, which grasps  their traditional values and the global prosperity ideals. Right from Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad; Japan’s Akio Morita; South Korea’s Gen. Park Chung Hee; Taiwan’s Gen. Chiang Kai-shek;  Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew or China’s Deng Xiaoping, the ability to mix the traditional with the Western neo-liberal for progress is noted. No doubt, despite some rifts between their traditional values and capitalism, the Asians’ march to prosperity since 1949 is derived from their elites’ capacity to merge their traditional values with the neo-liberal development paradigms.
Ghanaian policy-makers need not go far to practice Hagan’s suggestion; they can learn from Botswana. With independence from Britain in 1966, Botswana’s development wisdom and humility is seen by its humble elites’ ability to mix its traditional values with the dominant global development ones. In The Political Foundations of Development: The Case of Botswana, Scott A. Beaulier and J. Robert Subrick explain that compared to most sub-Saharan states, Botswana has not only steered clear of the “African Growth Tragedy” but has successfully implemented growth-enhancing policies that are driven by its elites’ ability to blend its “traditional sources of authority” with its ex-colonial and the global prosperity values.

While Botswana has been able to draw from its traditional institutions for prosperity in the last 20 years, Ghana, which prides itself as the “Black Star” of Africa, is yet to demonstrate Hagan’s incorporation of Ghanaian traditional values into the neo-liberally dominated policy-making domain for better development of Ghana.

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
Expo Times Independent Sierra Leone

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