Ghana is a country full of developmental prospects. The country is endowed with both natural and artificial resource potentials for development, although the developmental challenges facing the country are more complex and pronounced.
For instance, the country became the hallmark of health, political and humanitarian challenges in the 1980s which resulted in the massive migration of its populace to neighbouring countries and other continents in search of greener pastures. These subsequently resulted in our leaders seeking help from Bretton woods institutions help fix the socio-economic and political problems.
Although the past decades have seen the country improving with a new hope of development gaining currency and prominence, the developmental process is neither smooth nor continuous. While some areas are progressing, others are retrogressing. One of the driving forces behind the slow pace of development can be attributed to the top-down approach in the execution of developmental projects.
The developmental process in the country over the years has been following a specific trend with the top-down approach being the most prevailing and persistent framework of executing developmental plans. This has been a peculiar feature of all governments who continuously dumb their contradictions at the feet of the citizens. The citizens hardly decide on what is of interest to them although they have representatives in parliament who do so on their behalf. The importance of the implementation of any community project should not be underestimated.
Community development is a strategy towards the growth of nationalism and to stimulate economic development. The main thrust of community development is participation, initiation and self help by the local people, a venture undertaken by the national government as part of its developmental agenda. This is a move towards drawing local initiative and decision making in executing national policies at the grass root.
Community participation is a mechanism for improving major decisions in the planning, formulation and implementation of developmental projects. Involving the community in program or project implementation is a step towards contributing to the best possible development and operational decisions. However, one of the significant challenges to Ghana’s development is its top-down approach to the implementation of development projects or programmes by our leaders.
A major problem is the lack of communication between leaders and citizens in the whole process of projects formulation and implementation. This is a canker that has continuously marred the well being of the local populations as governments have implemented programs against their interest that results in misplaced development projects. Information flow often circulates in one direction in which beneficiaries are at the receiving end. It is more or less a master-servant syndrome.
Our leaders believe that since they have been elected into power, their duty is to come up with projects or programmes and implement them whether the citizens are satisfied or not they do not care. Leaders are always quick to carry out projects in name of fulfilling campaign promises without looking into what is necessary for a particular area. All past governments of the country including both military and democratic elected governments have failed and to a large extent to have hastened to carry out projects unilaterally in order to get officials elected to office or to gain gullible voters. Governments often act abruptly without assessing the needs of communities and problems and the systematic planning mechanisms to solve such problems. They often neglect the social conditions, policies and agency services of the beneficial communities which often times makes these projects or programmes irrelevant and inaccessible to the local people.
More importantly, leaders do not consider the complex and changing circumstances and the number of people involved in constructing projects. Most of the projects implemented lack adequate planning, communication between leaders and community members. The long run consequence is that projects are built with huge sums of money without being utilized. Projects are forced on the throats of people without involving them to build projects that reflect their needs. Most projects fail in Ghana because the project scopes are not fully appreciated and understood by users.
The problem is that Ghana is undergoing a slow pace of development while at the same time undertaking misplaced development projects. The inadvertent consequence of such unplanned projects/programs includes the evacuation of indigenous people making them loose their livelihood, state funds directed away from other pressing development projects. Meanwhile, there is a possibility for solving the challenge of misplaced development projects/programmes Ghana finds itself presently.
Most significantly, the unnecessary expenses, pollution, the creation of poverty, corruption, can be avoided. In the presence of this case meaning having this problem and possibilities of ensuring a smooth developmental process will be a difficult task. What then is the just solution?
To put this into perspective, we need to understand the concept of justice. Justice like development is a buzzword since its meaning varies from one individual to another although there is no one way for considering one act as justifiable or good. According to Sen (2009), justice can be understood in two different ways: Transcendental Institutionalism Perspective (TIP) and Realization Focused Comparison Perspective (RFCP). TIP aims to identify just institutional arrangement for a society.
It suggests that justice should be perceived in terms of organizational arrangements such as institutions, regulations and behavioral rules in which the active presence of which would indicate justice is being done. Sen posits that those concern with the Realization Focused Comparison are “often interested primarily in the removal of manifest injustice from the world that they [see]” (p. 7). Their focus is on actual institutions, actual behaviours and other influences (Sen, 2009).
Following from both perspectives although both standpoints constitute a substantial lens for analyzing justice, I will apply the Realization Focused Approach of understanding justice to address the situation of a just development strategy and the reasons behind this. A just development embodies the rules of society, the legal systems and the processes that decide on access to, settles conflict relating to power, the available resources, political and civil rights. A just development in sense has the rights and interest of the public at heart which in long run will ensure the well being of all. This is with regards to the following;
Firstly, it will not only promote the realization of the rights to development but also the rights based approach to development.
To illustrate this, according to article 2:1 of the Declaration on the Right to Development, “the human person is the fundamental subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development” (UN 4 December, 1986). Given the above fact, there is the possibility to entertain the concerns of everyone through public discussion especially the grass root as echoed by the rights based approach (Uuvin, 2010) and the Realization Focused Comparative Perspective. Public discussion is an important means of reaching out to every part of society. In public discussion, there is the possibility for people to raise reasons why they consider a development strategy justifiable or not. For example, they will have the opportunity to talk about the values they attach to their cultural heritage and the obligation for any development strategy to consider this. Meaningful development can therefore be achieved when people be and do what they want to be and do. This whole process becomes a just one since everyone is involved.
Also, it will help remove manifest injustice in relation to the development strategy. For instance, the strategic interest and practical needs of women (Moser, 1989) will be taken into consideration since women lack equal rights with men in many countries where the rights-based approach has been particularly useful for feminists/ women’s movement since its occurrence in the 1990s. According to article 1:1 of the Declaration on the Right to Development, “the right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized” (UN 4 December, 1986).
This will ensure gender equality as well as the empowerment of women considering their multiple roles in society. And enable women to achieve equal control over the factors of production and participate equally in the development process. According to Pincha (2008), when gender issues are not given ample attention in development, existing gender –inequities will continue to be perpetuated. Thus, the development strategy becomes a just one since there will be for sure minimization and if possible elimination of injustice.
Again, there should be cooperation between the state and citizens which is a hallmark of the rights-based approach. With this cooperation, there will be the elimination of obstacles to development in which the citizens will cooperate with the state to generate development projects/programmes. According to this understanding of rights based approach to development, it means in our case, there will be room for cooperation between the indigenous people and the state concerning the construction of projects.
It is believed that this cooperation will help in removing possible obstacles from the side of the indigenous people based on mutual understanding which makes the whole process a just one. It becomes a just one since development will be achieved in its entirety meaning first and second generation rights which in other words mean social, economic, political and civil rights will be realized.
As indicated earlier, the realization focused comparison perspective of justice advocates for “social realization” in a sense there is an end result which passes through lawful processes benefiting the society concerned ultimately. In the light of this, what I am insinuating is that the implementation of projects/programmes will pass through lawful processes (where everyone is accountable to his or her action representing the government and there is transparency), there will be the possibility for compensating all the budget cuts incurred during the construction of projects through income generation after the finalization of the projects.
I, therefore, argue here that the slow pace of Ghana’s development can be accelerated when resources are channelled to the right course through public engagement. There needs to be, if not, a complete departure from the misplaced development projects the country has been experiencing over the past decades so we can make significant turnaround in our ecomomic fortunes as underline in the aforementioned. Such a move will help eliminate the most pertinent barriers to development and respond to the interest of citizens in a more appealing way. Achieving a just development is positive thing based on the principles of solidarity, equality and respect for all citizens.
This will further galvanize efforts towards eradicating poverty and promoting development as a national agenda. Looking forward, it is imperative for Ghana to strive harder towards its vision of a unified development. This vision demands a transformative framework with a much broader outlook and context specific development strategy. It will be interesting to see how community projects or programmes will be implemented in the next couple of years.
Watch out for more intricate exposition on Ghana’s half century-old development quagmire in my next sequel in the coming weeks.
By: Gervin Ane Apatinga
Memorial University, Canada