Poverty of Thought
The cause of Africa’s underdevelopment is poverty of thought. Poverty thought is occasioned by corruption, greed or welfare for the political class and education. In pondering the source of Nigeria’s misfortune or underdevelopment Chinua Achebe, finds the seminal absence of intellectual rigor in the political thought of the founding fathers as the cause.
Like Nigeria, Ghana’s economic misfortune is attributable to the lack of rigorous political and economic thought. The greed or welfare for the elite political class has led to the structuring of a government of the people for the elites. The people’s participation is required merely to cast votes to sanction the elitist government in the eyes of the world.
So, it follows that while Ghanaians celebrate and yet, to fathom what independence meant for them, the leadership perusing the colonizer’s books retained for themselves the welfare package hitherto enjoyed by British emissaries to the colony (the Gold Coast). As such, nothing changed for the Ghanaian since independence merely secured a change from foreign to domestic domination. The economic dynamics stayed unaffected for the masses the new masters were no different.
The retained colonial emissary treatment of indigenous Ghanaian leaders meant that the political elites—ministers, directors and related political appointees live at the expense of the people. Whereas the details of the welfare package are veiled in secrecy, available information leads one to risk saying Ghana spends at least a quarter or so of the national budget on welfare for the political elites.
Spending a quarter of the budget on welfare is only part of the problem of poverty of thought. The chuck of the influence comes from the elite uneconomic lifestyle of benefit without the burden of cost. In other words, the lifestyle afforded Ghanaian leaders by the colonial welfare benefit defies the notion of incentive as the regulator of rational human behavior.
Over time, the elimination of incentive in the personal economy of the political class led to the erosion of the rational economic sense hence, poverty of thought in the macro economy. The poverty of thought results somewhere between unfamiliarity with the process of wealth creation and time spent enjoying the unearned comfort.
The key to understanding the analysis thus far requires understanding the economic notion of incentive. Unlike the average Ghanaian, the politician lacks the occasion to experience the poor economy as to stimulate the exercise of cost and benefits inquiry to derive rational outcomes. Assuming there is agreement that the relationship between the micro and macro economy is direct. Then, it follows that the absence of rational choice in the micro economy of the political class will inevitably manifest at the macro economy level.
It is not surprising, therefore, that, the vast amount of national resource waste occurs at the level of leadership. This is simply because the cost factor of life is often obscure to the political class. Thus, they negotiate loan or trade policy terms and conditions without regard for inherent cost. The trouble is much a function of capability as it is a disassociation from the micro economy.
Suppose we agree that practice makes perfect. Then it is safe to rationalize that, the economic underdevelopment of Ghana derives directly from the failure of the Ghanaian political class to practice at the microeconomic level. In other words, the lack of practice to earn a living deprives the political class of the opportunity to perfect the act or the thought process necessary for sound macroeconomic policy.
The enrichment of thought in the political space requires education aimed at both the leadership and the people to demand an end to the immoderations of benefits at the top. I will examine the role of education a driver of poverty. For now, it pays to state that, the lack of education or awareness of the effects of elite welfare benefits has led to the normalization of an uneconomic behavior that hounds Ghana’s development potential.