Ghana: 5 Reasons Why We should NOT Buy 5 Planes
By Gyasi K. Dapaa, Economist
1. We can’t afford it:
Ghana is not a self-sufficient economy. The fact is most of our most important public programs (like the National Health Insurance Scheme, School Feeding Program, etc) and our national budget breathe on foreign aid and debt. The question for us to ponder on is, can we eternally entrust our survival, sovereignty and destiny into the compassionate (yet strategic*) hands of western donors. Ghana has become fond of running up debt that has been deemed by development economists as reckless and odious: The NPP government, who complained bitterly about inheriting insurmountable load of debt, left Ghana with $8.1billion of debt, even though most of Ghana’s debt (via the HIPC program) was forgiven like a repented Christian; the NDC government has also almost doubled this debt just within a couple of years since they took office. As if this were not enough, the NDC intends to stack up the debt by a recent proposal to procure not 1 but 5 planes for the nation. Do our leaders not realize that we can’t stand in a beach sand of ants and scratch ourselves? Do they not realize the danger of entrusting our livelihood on other countries? If they did, they would have spent every cedi as if it were our last.
2. Even if we could afford it, there are 100 other more profitable investments:
As we all could agree, economic growth has been anything but significant in Ghana. Any development economist would be quick to point out that, with common sense economic principles, a small economy like Ghana’s could effortlessly grow by a double digit rate. Our malnourished growth is due to our suboptimal investment strategies. Politicians should learn to spend every national cedi as if it were our last and as if it were their personal money. Any hungry human being, with only 1GHC to spend, will not buy sardine, but will rather buy sustainable foods like kenkey, rice, etc. The same principle should apply to national investments. In our country where majority lives below the poverty line and where students are begging for breaks in fees, we need to invest in projects like education, micro-finance, agriculture, health, etc. 5 airplanes should be on the bottom of our endless list of priorities, in my opinion. And let’s not forget that economic security is even superior to military security.
3. Procuring 5 planes would crowd-out private investments:
If you ask any politician about how he plans to stimulate the economy, the first answer he gives is “through private sector growth”. These politicians don’t realize that every cedi borrowed is a cedi lost in the private economy. Hence, borrowing recklessly implies recklessly stifling the private economy and the national economy as a result. Economists have termed this phenomenon, The Crowding-out Effect.
4. Lack of Positive Externalities (Zero effect on unemployment):
If the government invested in physical infrastructural development (like construction of hospitals, or roads or schools, all of which the country is craving for), there would be several other benefits. For instance, cement owners, brick manufacturers, Ghanaian contractors and Ghanaian public as a whole will benefit from either increased revenue or increased job opportunities. I doubt if any of the mechanics at Kumasi Magazine have the technical capabilities to maintain an airplane. This implies cash would be flowing externally into already full hands.
5. It’s not in accordance with the Millenium Development Goal of Halving Poverty Rates by 2015:
Procuring 5 airplanes will not put food on the plates of Ghanaians. In fact, it would rather take away the little food on most people’s plates. The additional debt and interest that has to be serviced in addition to the significant maintenance costs of the airplanes will put enormous strain on the already overburdened government resources. Hence, government will be forced to cut down on oil subsidies (which are essential in keeping transportation fares in check) and to increase sales and income taxes on the poor Ghanaian worker who is struggling to barely balance his monthly household budget. Clearly, this 5-airplanes-move is anti-poor in the very least.
*Strategic because for every $1 of aid we borrow from the west, we indirectly pay back $4. It’s a capitalistic world; nothing is free.