*Presidential Special Initiative
Story: Richmond KEELSON
Ever since Today started looking back into NPP policies, many have contacted us to find out why we are doing this. We believe that journalism is not just about today’s happenings or a look into the future. Sometimes, we must look back to see the path the nation and its people have travelled on.
As the Fourth Estate, the media must do research, understand what’s happened in the past and sometimes compare what happened before to what’s going on now. We must take a critical look at where we have been sometimes. This is our charge. Without politically censored lenses. After all, It is the writer-philosopher George Santayana who wrote that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
During his swearing in as President, Nana Addo DankwaAkufo-Addo tasked all Ghanaians to be citizens, not spectators. We are on it.
All over the world, governments especially in the 1980s pulled back from direct investments in commercial business activities – finance, investments, industrial etc. Divestiture, privatization were some of the labels used to describe the wave.
Some viewed the wave as a collapse of state capitalism and the rise of the private sector. Given its expressed leanings towards individual property ownership, the first NPP administration in the Fourth Republic was expected to toe the line and trail blazed by the Conservatives in the UK.
Today’s research on Margaret Thatcher research shows that she paved the way for transforming a “command economy”into a “free” one. She erased a situation where losses of state-owned enterprises were about £3 billion a year, to increasing the government treasury by about £2 billion. British Telecom was sold through a public offering. British Airports Authority was privatized. So was British Gas. The question is, why did a “conservative” property owning people’s party the NPP start a policy that would cause government to lead potential job creation and essentially pick winners? Was there a socialist influence? Or was it a response to the need of the people for job producing enterprises? Experts tell us that perhaps the PNDC and the NDC did more privatization than the NPP Administrations have done so far.
The Kufuor Administration’s foray into enterprise development was named PSI, for Presidential Special Initiatives.
Mr. Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen was made Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development (PSD) and the Presidential Special Initiatives (PSI), by President Kufuor.
The influence of Mr. Kyerematen on the PSI can be best told by referring to Wikipedia when it writes:
“ In 2003, Alan Kyerematen was appointed as the Cabinet Minister with responsibility for Trade, Industry and the President’s Special Initiatives (PSI) with additional responsibility for Private Sector Development (PSD). In that capacity, he spearheaded the development and implementation of innovative programmes which have become new strategic pillars of growth for the transformation of the Ghanaian economy. Concrete manifestations of these special initiatives  are:
* An $8.5 million state-of-the-art factory, which produces high grade industrial starch from cassava for export to key markets in Europe, Africa and Asia. The starch initiative created over 10,000 jobs and piloted a new innovative approach in rural industry development based on the concept of Corporate Village Enterprises. In addition, it was considered as a model in linking developing countries into the global supply chain through industrial agro-processing. The first industrial starch company was certified as a global supplier of high grade starch to Nestle operations worldwide.
* The construction of a multimillion-dollar enclave within the Tema Free Zone, dedicated to garments manufacturing for the export market by Ghanaian entrepreneurs. The enclave is also being extended and converted to accommodate similar facilities for Furniture Manufacturing and an ICT Park, thus converting part of the Free Zones into a multi-purpose Industrial Park.
* The major component activities implemented include the establishment of Export Trade Houses, the establishment of a “Furniture City” at Tema – an enclave for manufacturers of wood export products, the establishment of product galleries to promote Made-in-Ghana goods and the establishment of a Technology Innovation Center for Capital Goods Manufacturing.
* The revival of the Oil Palm industry in Ghana, achieving a phenomenal growth in seedlings: supply rose from 250,000 seedlings per annum in 2001 to 4 million as at the end of 2004, from twelve nursery sites. Programme initiated under which over 102,000 hectares Oil palm plantation is being cultivated.
* Mobilizing new investments to expand Salt mining operations in Ghana and provide a stable raw material base for the development of a caustic soda industry to feed other manufacturing industries. Ghana’s non-traditional export sector has grown from $400 million in 2000 to the level of $800 million in 2005.
* The roll-out and implementation of the Districts Industrialisation Programme, a comprehensive programme for rural industrialization involving the setting up of at least one medium-sized factory in each administrative district in Ghana.”
Critics of PSI point to the Ayensu Starch Factory based in Awutu Bawjiase to justify their insistence that government does not belong in direct business. In 2020, Workers of the factory demonstrated against managers of the company over allegations that the company was not doing much to make the struggling firm viable. The workers, together with some farmers who are the main suppliers of cassava to the factory, asked government to take back its 70% shares sold to investors. The workers and the farmers say the company has not seen any major face-lift since the takeover by private investors. Some of the workers want government to take over the company and bring it under its One District One Factory initiative.
The Government of Ghana launched a programme in 2002 called The President’s Special Initiative on Distance Learning (PSI-DL) which pre-recorded and broadcasted math, English and science lessons on national television for junior high and high school students.
Elizabeth A. Asante writing on the topic “The Case of Ghana’s President’s Special Initiative on Oil Palm” wrote: “How can a programme fail when it is initiated and instituted by the most powerful politico-administrative elites of a country? Launched under the auspices of the President and Government of Ghana in 2001 and monitored by an Inter-Ministerial Facilitation Team, programmes coming under the President’s Special Initiatives (PSI) had grounded to a halt by the end of 2007. This study analyses the politics of policy formulation and implementation with regard to the President Special Initiative Oil Palm project under the NPP government. It focuses on the idea of ‘political settlements’ to illuminate how combinations of fractionalization, divided coalitions and/or consensus among different contenders for power combine with other structural limitations to accelerate the failure of pro-poor policies.”
In the midst of the implementation of this policy, we compared ourselves to Nigeria, Malaysia and others as good and bad examples. We must now ask ourselves if the PSI on Oil Palm has bequeathed to the nation the intended benefits.
In the future, Today will revisit the PSI projects and bring to our readers their positive and negative results. In all of this, we also intend to dig back into the past to the numerous state enterprises established by the Nkrumah Administration.