Tuesday, October 14, 2008
By Bright B. Simons & Franklin Cudjoe
As Ghana prepares for general elections on December 7 2008, IMANI, one of Ghana's truly independent think-tanks has successfully steered media attention away from boring political campaign promises to asking the real question- What is the financial outlay for achieving the promises politicians keep running their mouths on? IMANI's Development Director, Bright Simons, has featured on major Ghanaian media with politicians discussing the issue.
The second part of this media campaign can be read here
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The question explicit in the title of this article is directed at the political parties aspiring to govern this country.
We are by no means ignorant of the fact that nations are infinitely more complex than businesses. Nor are we by 'business plan' referring to those multi-year 'development plans' favoured by certain 'political visionaries' ONCE THEY ARE IN POWER.
We use 'business plan' generically to refer to any espousal of a plan of action that also contains some financial figures by means of which the viability of the plan in question can be evaluated.
In the context of the political parties we are addressing, we are inquiring whether their MANIFESTOES, in their currently released or about to be released forms, are viable plans of actions.
You will appreciate our point better after you have read the underlisted 'promises' made
to the electorate by the various political parties vying for our votes:
-Provide free secondary education to all pupils in an extension of the current FCUBE program.
-Provide free tertiary tuition to all qualified students.
-Provide free electricity to the masses by means of 'permanent magnets'.
-'Grow' donkeys in sufficient numbers to transform the agricultural capacity of the North, in an integrated pastoral system in which the donkeys provide both free 'fertilizer' and mechanization-substitutes.
-Mobilise internal resources to the tune of $840 billion, up from the current ~$7 billion. On a comparative basis, this means Ghana's GDP during the tenure of this party will be ~$2 trillion, making the country the 5th wealthiest in the world – richer than the UK and France.
-Construct a pipeline from the newly discovered Western offshore oil fields to the North as part of an integrated petroleum complex. Figures from comparative endeavours elsewhere in the world (taking into account the geographical and industry context in Ghana) suggests a project outlay of 5 to 8 billion dollars (definitely greater than the current combined national expenditure).
What we find worrying is that when journalists choose to scrutinize these plans, even in the superficial manner they usually adopt, they ask a generic 'how will you do it' question, thus providing enormous room for politicians to ramble long-winded strategies containing even lesser content than the original statement of purpose.
It is not sufficient for a political party to 'cost' the individual initiatives they are proposing, something most of them are not even bothering to do anyway. They must produce a COMPLETE pro-forma budget which demonstrates what the opportunity cost for each initiative will be by showing the source of budgetary receipts alongside the inventory of expenses. A manifesto without such a pro-forma budget cannot suffice as a proper statement of intent.
Nearly all political schemes are feasible in a certain context. The true measure of feasibility comes when all the schemes are hung together and their costs summed up against projected inflows of resources to determine whether the overall political program is viable or not.
It may be entirely logical to argue for the entire northern corridor to be turned into an irrigation belt in order to feed a proposed cereal industry, but the question is whether in the inevitable trade-off that must occur for that to happen we are happy to sacrifice low public debt, NHIS concessions or the school feeding program in view of the expected levels of tax gain and donor aid.
It is true that not all our compatriots are capable of following detailed assessments of political programs, and that only a few even bother to read manifestoes. But that is why the Media exists. That is why, like most other societies, an academic elite subsists on the backbreaking labour of manual workers and other economic producers. It is the duty of such to transmit sophisticated analyses in forms accessible to the general population. But the quality of what they convey will, obviously, be coloured by the substance of what they receive from politicians.
Our argument is further that calls for an 'issues-based' electioneering campaign are empty demands unless we place a greater emphasis on improving the quality of manifestoes as actionable statements of intent. What constitutes an 'issue' is ultimately a subjective decision over which reasonable people can disagree.
Objective politicking, on the other hand, cannot proceed in the absence of some form of figure-based analysis and commentary.
We call on the Media and Civil Society institutions in this country to join us in a loud demand for all political parties to supply pro-forma statements of national accounts for, at least, their first term in office alongside, and correspondent with, their manifestoes.
Bright B. Simons & Franklin Cudjoe are affiliates of IMANI and www.AfricanLiberty.org
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
By Franklin Cudjoe & Bright Simons
Accra: -- Despite the breakdown of UN climate-change talks in Bali last December, the same themes were still being pushed at last week's meeting in Ghana--but now developing countries have begun to question the effects on the world's poorest. Read more here
Monday, July 14, 2008
Bright B. Simons & Franklin Cudjoe
Six weeks from now, a conference is supposed to take place in the West African country of Ghana that its organizers and participants claim will transform the aid process for the better.
But don't be fooled by the slogans and slick marketing, the Aid industry has no intention of changing its game, and its worst critics are in actual fact its best friends.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
By Franklin Cudjoe, ACCRA, GhanaTuesday, July 8, 2008
Special to The Japan Times
"For too long, ordinary Africans have struggled to get ahead because ofpoor governance, corruption and a general lack of economic freedom; the G8would only perpetuate these policies with its well-intentioned, yetill-practiced policies on debt forgiveness."
Visit The Japan Times to read full article
Friday, June 20, 2008
Friday, May 2, 2008
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
By Franklin Cudjoe
ACCRA, Ghana -- Should poor governments be allowed to break drug patents for humanitarian reasons?
That question is front-and-center at a major public health conference sponsored by the World Health Organization that started on 28 April in Geneva.
Top-notch policy experts from around the world have gathered to make formal policy recommendations about patents to Third World governments struggling with disease. Many will claim that patents allow Western drug companies to keep drug prices artificially high, and that patent-breaking is a cheap and easy way to get poor patients the drugs they need.
They're wrong on both counts.
For starters, the drugs needed in the developing world aren't patent protected. A 2004 study published in the journal Health Affairs showed that less than 2 percent of the 319 prescription drugs on the WHO's Model List of Essential Medicines are actually under patent.
What patients in the Third World need aren't patent-busting bureaucrats, but more roads, doctors, hospitals, nutritious food, and good sanitation. When roads are in disrepair, it can be particularly difficult to reach rural populations, where disease burden is highest. In places with no electricity, temperature-sensitive pills often go bad before anyone can benefit from them. Refrigerated Coca-Cola vans have been shipping polio vaccines to the hinterlands of Cameroon, because most roads are unmotorable.
Even if roads were available and medicines were donated, they must be prescribed by qualified medical staff. Patients will also need good drinking water and a good meal to enhance recovery from disease. However, the doctor-patient ratio is abysmally low and close to 60 percent of Africans do not have access to good sanitation and many subsist on less than a dollar a day.
Patents are actually a critical part of the solution. They protect the financial incentives that drive pharmaceutical companies to create innovative medications in the first place.
It takes an average of US$800 million and 10-15 years to bring a new drug to the market. Patents ensure that pharmaceutical companies can recoup that enormous investment.
If countries start breaking patents, though, firms lose out on sales. And they're less able to finance the development of new cures. That's a blow to the public health efforts of all countries, rich and poor. Ghana's health Minister told me that he fails to see how people could hold antagonistic positions against pharmaceutical companies, because in his own words "if drugs are being made, then people must be sick somewhere-it is not for charity".
Poor patent enforcement also gives rise to potentially harmful copycats.
The generic pharmaceuticals manufactured in the developing world often don't comply with international safety regulations. Low-quality and counterfeit drugs are common.
The WHO estimates that 10 percent of the world's drugs are counterfeit. Patent-theft is making the problem worse.
It's also important to realize that drug companies are not as blindly self-serving as many anti-patent groups portray them to be. Global pharmaceutical companies have worked for years with groups like the WHO and the UN Children's Fund to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases plaguing the developing world.
Just a few months ago, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck donated $450 million in medicines to Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world. These sorts of philanthropic efforts are less likely if drug companies start struggling just to break even.
Many important steps need to be to taken to improve medical care in the Third World. Despite what the health activists are saying, stealing drug patents and stifling the creation of life-saving medicines is not one of them. It seems that a sensible route to take would be dialogue with pharmaceutical companies for differential pricing for developing world markets while making every effort to improve the well being of citizens. Open, decentralized and transparent government, lower trade tariffs, free speech, the rule of law, relaxed business entry and exit rules, property rights, and freedom to contract and freedom from contract would be important to help poor citizens buy their own health insurance against diseases.
Franklin Cudjoe is executive director of IMANI Center for Policy and Education, a think-tank located in Accra, Ghana. He spoke at the IGWG conference in Geneva on 28-29 April, 2008.