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Shut your eyes for moment, Jomo and let history take you 40 years back into time.  Imagine that we had since 1975 began implementing a programme of energy sector development that required by law, that every successive government use a percentage of annual revenues for the generation of a progressively graduated or uniform volume of megawatts of electricity to feed the national grid, would we have been trapped this galloping nightmare of an energy crisis?

Coincidentally the chronic energy crisis appears to symbolize the situation where due to lack of planning, a nation first appears to stagnate, and then starts to slide slowly back into time: The rationing of power in the power crisis of the mid-1990s was so austere that consumers received power supply for only 12 hours. More than 20 years later, nothing has changed. The republic is still firmly stuck in the same rut, with scheduled power rationing now next to impossible.

 

The sensation of a practical, national motion back into time has been playing out in the lives of our compatriots across the country due to the chronic power cuts of the past three decades without indigenous development scientists seeming to notice:

 

People in some parts of Ghana have gone back to relying on the standard Third World accoutrements for surviving without electricity: candles, mosquito coils, kerosene lanterns, dry cell batteries and hand fans woven from palm fronds. In many parts of the country, the fuel wood man has taken his axe to forest trees all over again and deforestation is creeping back with a singular venegance.

 

The never-ending electricity supply crisis more than anything else has taught us the importance of long term planning: So? So President John Dramani Mahama has launched Ghana’s 40-Year Development which like the case of the Israelites, is supposed to take us to paradise after a 40 year march through austerity, but hey, watch the questions tumble forth:

Did you say a 40 year plan? How many people are going to be around to eat the fruits of the plan? How many are going to be around, willing and capable of enforcing progressive official compliance with the plan? Whatever happened to the previous development plans we drew up, anyway?

A long term development plan makes sense in spite of the questions:  Throughout their development history, the developed countries of the West have kept looking decades ahead at every point of their development, forecasting, prognosticating, researching, calculating, weighing resources against population and demand growth, and all said and done, working out the mathematics of development with diligent care.  That is how come they are so many streets ahead of us.

Implementing a 40-year development plan while most desirable and necessary for sustained socio-economic progress is however going to be more complex than those who have drawn up the plan probably think:

For example, a point has been made to the effect that the rapid development of the Asian Tigers or Cheetahs or Leopards or whatever you call them, which many of our countrymen often refer to in discussing our own development aspirations, occurred in a conducive geopolitical environment. Such an environment has been lacking in most West African countries.

Most of the countries of East Asia have had relative peace and attracted development partnerships and investments. By contrast, West Africa has been a busy and bloody battle ground all the while the Tigers have been busy building their economies.

With the kind of rabid, divisive, uncompromisingly antagonistic, hateful and violence-prone partisan politics constantly at play in the republic you can only emphasize how much implementing a 40-eyar development plan is going to be dependent on an atmosphere of peace stability and investment from outsiders.

Otherwise a 40-year development plan backed by law is good. With such a plan, a new political administration cannot come to power, take a look at a development plan being implemented by the previous government and say, “Those Kweku Ananse Party guys drew up this plan? I hate their guts”,  and proceed to chuck the plan out of the window and draw up its own plan, which you may predict, will in turn be abandoned by the next government.

Energy of cause is indispensable but there is much more to the plan than energy: Key sectors like health, education, water supply roads, building infrastructure, agricultural development will be covered by the plan and that is what is going to make its implementation complex and challenging.

I am yet to see the policy document but media reports of the launch give the impression that the plan is rather very broad in context and there was a reference to its flexibility which would allow successive government to incorporate in it, their own development plans . The implementation of the plan we have been told, will be “binding” on successive governments. How can the flexible be binding at the same time, Jomo?