I have for a long time being thinking of Ghana Land of My Birth (GLoMB) and how to find the ‘magic bullets’ to move the nation forward. This thinking sometimes gives me headaches and heartaches due to the sheer magnitude of what confronts us as a country. Between August and November, 2014, I have travelled more kilometres in GLoMB than perhaps all the combined kilometres I travelled while growing up. On 11th November, 2014 on a trip from Dunkwa-On-Offin to Kumasi and back, I had an epiphany – the lack of good roads/transport network system is what is blocking the pipeline of national economic development. This epiphany I now realised bears resemblance to my muddled thoughts when I travelled from Cape Coast to Dunkwa-On-Offin through Twifo Praso on Friday 7th November, 2014. During that journey my thoughts were on how the car was going to survive the battering of the bumpy road.
Good roads represent the most basic building blocks for national economic development. Look at the number of traders moving from place to place to buy and sell. Bad roads mean high fares which translate to high prices of goods and services. In some cases, goods do not move because roads are simply non-existent. Bad roads not only lead to increased prices of goods and services but also directly lead to other cost and pressures on what little resources are available. The pot holes and man holes that make our roads bumpy results in constant breakdown of vehicles, physical pain of passengers who will then put pressure on the health (insurance) system as well as divert what little money they have to buying drugs/medicines when they could use that money to support their kids in school.
Imagine a country in which the two biggest cities – Accra and Kumasi – do not have a proper and fully completed good road system all these years since independence. It has been close to 10 years since the last efforts to complete the Accra-Kumasi road but the road is still not completed in certain areas. There are no contractors working on the roads because they are owed by the government so they’ve just left – which is understandable. Where do they find the funds to complete the work?
What I find missing is a clarity about national priorities. Do we have priorities in GLoMB? Which area of the economy is being seen as fulcrum on which to build and link up other sectors? Are there actually plans in GLoMB? What role does the National Planning Development Commission play in this? – This will be a subject for another occasion but for now suffice to ask whether it should be a National Planning Development Authority.
I argue that the building of a modern road network in GLoMB ought to be made the number priority for the short and medium term development plan of any government. During the past 3.5 months of conducting interviews and accessing documents for my PhD research, I have constantly thought of GLoMB and how we can develop. For my bias, I thought tourism should be the fulcrum – I still think it should be close to the fulcrum – but now I realise that we need to move from A to get to B. If you’ve ever travelled to Kakum National Park (the most visited site in Ghana) as a tourist then it is likely you don’t want to go there again anytime soon because of the nature of the road. The A is basic infrastructure of a good road network system across the country and the B is tourism and anything else. If we can’t in the short to medium term add up rail, water and air systems to the transport mix, then we should concentrate on building up a solid modern road system.
The multiplier effect of a good road system in GLoMB is enormous – we don’t even need to pay consultants to know the benefits that will accrue to the nation when we sort out our road system. My dear Mum, Cece Akua (God bless her heart) who only finished elementary school has done the calculations. She tells me about the great benefits to be expected if the road to the village she travels to every week for trade [for the past 30 years] is tarred – less travel time, low cost of goods, high trade profits which might have enabled me to go to the boarding school during my Senior (Secondary) High School days rather than all the walking I did to get to school every day.
Sometimes I wonder whether GLoMB is not moving dynamically forward because of the simplicity of the things that need to be done. I am tempted to think that the managers of the economy expect and want to do grandeur things for their own self-image rather than do the simplest things that are necessary. You want Ghanaians to patronise Made in Ghana goods but the road leading to where most of our yams and rice comes from is in deplorable state. It is simple logic really, if imported rice is cheaper than home grown rice which is nutritionally richer, people will go for imported rice. But if there are good roads from rice growing areas to the market then we can expect local rice to be price competitive. Now think for a moment about all the food crop growing areas in Ghana and how good roads to market centres will serve them.
A single-mindedness on developing a good and solid road system across the country is to me one of the most simple things that any set of managers of our nation need to do above all else. What do you think?