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Currently I am in the grind of transcribing 38 recorded interviews I had when I was in Ghana last year. These interviews range from 30 minutes to 120 minutes in duration so it is a lot of work. But the grind of it is most often made worthwhile when I get to listen back on very exciting and sobering things I talked to people about. So today I was transcribing one of the interviews I had with a hotel owner when I realised that we are all to blame for the state of the Ghanaian ecomini. Remember that my research interest is on tourism but somehow most of my interviews touch on big national issues.

This is what the person said word for word,

“…Yes, that is it but the waste is what you have to look at it first. You go to one office at electricity, office like here you have about 4 desks there, then you have about 8 or 10 people working in the room, that work trust me, an European or American person will put 2 people there, pay them well and they’ll do it better and they’ll save about, look at Vodafone now, they are now doing better than Ghana Telecom but they’ve managed to cut the staff more than 50% so look at the quantum of money they are saving and they are working more effectively than before. So the waste in Ghana is the problem, if anybody comes to office, look at National Health Insurance now, look at the quantum of people that are working and then the salaries that they are getting but they can’t pay the suppliers. So they’re not looking at these areas, these are the areas they have to look at. Why do you have so many people in the National Health Insurance? You don’t need them, you seriously don’t need them. Because I am a minister, I have to get my girlfriend there, I have to get my girlfriend aunty there, I have to get my uncle’s person there and everybody is pushing and then at the end of the day they will, the government will tell us that all the money it’s getting about 80% is going to salaries. Have you sat down and then think that do we need all these people to be employed? …Plus ghost names, they are waiting for IMF to come and tell us that we have to cut down staff, I mean its common sense”

– Hotel Owner in Ghana, Interview on 03/11/2014

So how did I get to my interpretation that everyone is to blame when he cites ministers and governments? Well, it got me thinking about people who work in offices where they just go, sit around, read newspapers, play on their phones and then at the end of the month go and cash their salary. I mean they know that there is nothing for them to do in the office, there is no work but yet still they happily will go and claim their salary for zero work done and zero contribution to national revenue. Yet these same people will be the first to complain about the state of the ecomini.

The worse bit is when this person got the job through the pushing of some ‘big wo/men’ in ‘big places’ rather than on merit. It might not be you but you sure know at least one person who got a job because he or she is the son of the friend of the uncle of the cousin of someone. You also know that this person draws salary but does absolutely nothing in the office because there are people already doing that work or there is simply no work to be done – except maybe paper pushing. What do you tell such a friend? “Oh you are so lucky” or do you say “I think you should quit this place and look for a more productive work where you can contribute to the national cake”. Of course it is easy to judge some might say. But think about all those ’employed people’ in the public service who add very little to the national cake in terms of productive work but yet still draws from this cake. If we as their friends don’t tell them “this ain’t helping” then are we not all to blame for the state of the ecomini?

…now I have to get back to completing the interview transcription…