Mr. Chairman, our distinguished former Headmaster, Mr. RT Orleans Pobee, the President of the Adisadel Old Boy’s Association, Mr. KojoYankah, distinguished invited guests, Santaclausians, ancient and modern, acknowledging in particular members of the most dynamic year group, the 70’s club, ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a unique privilege and honour for me to be asked to deliver this year’s RT Orleans Pobee Lecture, particularly, following in the footsteps of distinguished Santaclausians who have performed this task in previous years. Let me also use this opportunity to thank you Mr. Chairman for your very kind introduction.
Ladies and gentlemen, to quote the familiar inscription on some of the commercial vehicles plying our roads, “Wonders shall never cease”. In the year 1965, in his Commencement Speech as Headmaster, Mr. RT Orleans Pobee reported rather proudly that for the first time in the history of the school, among the new batch of students being admitted, was a nine year old boy from Kumasi, and that he was making special arrangements to provide him with a feeding bottle since he was a long way away from home.
Today, it has become necessary for this small boy to testify about the Headmaster. Indeed wonders shall never cease! There are a few people who have made significant contributions to shaping my life’s journey, and I am proud to count Mr. Orleans Pobee as being one of them. He gave me an opportunity to play in the Premier League when clearly I was under age, and since then I have never looked back, and have always succeeded in punching above my weight. I am most grateful to you, “Paa Colo”.
The choice of my topic for this lecture has been informed by three key considerations, first, the qualities of the man we are celebrating today; secondly the very essence of the Adisadel spirit and tradition; and thirdly, the task of dealing with the “key challenges of our time”. The common denominator underpinning these three considerations is Leadership.
Any society or organization that fails to secure the future of its next generation is bound to disintegrate over time. The key requirement for realizing this objective is Leadership, and it is within this context that we must place the contribution of Mr. RT Orleans Pobee in securing not only the future of Adisadel College as an institution but also the future of many Santaclausians.
Paa Colo was a powerful leader. There could be no better testimony of the qualities of this man as a leader than what is contained in the statement made earlier by Snr KojoYankah. He refers to qualities such as “his uncompromising attitude toward Discipline, his passion for Excellence in academia as well as in social life, his foresightedness and ability to resolve conflicts, and his proven commitment to Fairness, Justice, Selflessness, Determination to succeed, and high sense of Integrity”. This is what leadership is about. Let us also remember the fact that Paa Colo was only in his thirties when he was appointed as Headmaster. At that prime age, he had to superintend over a diverse team of high caliber teaching staff, many of them expatriates, at a time when Ghana was still struggling to consolidate its position as a newly independent country. Paa Colo was not only an administrator and a teacher; he was also a consummate counselor guiding young students on how to lead exemplary lives both on and off campus. One can remember how he would strike fear in students when we were waiting for our examination results, by quoting from one of his favorite hymns “the judge will come with speed and each man’s deeds be known”- obviously taking a swipe at those who had substituted hard work for pleasure. Paa Colo without doubt, worked tirelessly to secure the future of the next generation of Santaclausians.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me now move on to the second pillar of my lecture- the spirit and values of Adisadel. It will not be out of place to describe our great school as a Leadership Academy. The Adisadel Spirit is what makes Santaclausians who we are- “Either the First or with the First”- vel primus vel cum primis. This is what leadership is about –striving for excellence! An essential component of the Adisadel tradition is working to secure the future of the next generation.
It is therefore not surprising, as has been alluded to earlier, that the present campus of Adisadel College was built with the sweat and toil of the pioneer students. The foundation laid by these pioneers is what succeeding generations of Santaclausians have built upon, to keep Adisadel still as the best or with the best. But going forward, what can we as Santaclausians do to take Adisadel to the next level in order to further secure the future of the next generation? Maybe the time has come for us to initiate steps to mobilize resources to develop a new world class, boutique tertiary institution infused with the Adisadel spirit and tradition, that will promote excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM education), which is where the world is now moving to. After all, Adisadel has the reputation of having nurtured one of the world’s most respected space scientist. This is food for thought!
Mr Chairman, having dealt with the first two pillars of my presentation, let me now move on to the third and final pillar- “Securing the future of our Nation”, by dealing with the “challenges of our time”, and to examine the role we as Santaclausians should be playing in this regard.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, if there is one word that I can use to characterize the current mood of our nation, it is the word “anxiety”- political anxiety, economic anxiety and social anxiety. It is within this context that the theme for this lecture becomes relevant. Amidst all these “anxieties’ what can we as Santaclausians and non-Santaclausians do to secure the future of our nation. In my humble opinion, what is required above all things is “Leadership”, and in this particular instance “Transformational Leadership”.
For us to secure the future of our nation, what we need is bold, visionary, and inspiring leadership backed by action, integrity, national consciousness and pride in our core values as Ghanaians. This is what transformational leadership is about. Our vision must be to build a prosperous, modern, industrialized country, which is peaceful and stable, with a well-educated and healthy citizenry who have equal access to opportunities, without prejudice to political affiliation, gender, age, ethnicity or religion. Ghana is confronted with many challenges, and in order to secure the future of our nation, we need a comprehensive solution, with different components that reinforce each other. For the purposes of this presentation however, I would like to focus our attention on only three key areas. The first is the Economy. It is no longer a matter of public debate that our economy is in distress. It is characterized by high levels of debt which are unsustainable, high inflation, high interest rates, a weak and unstable currency, and a multiplicity of taxes and levies.
The prospects of a major recovery have to be examined with some caution, simply because Ghana has been running an artificial economy for decades. The structure of the economy has remained relatively unchanged since independence. The increase in the contribution of the services sector to GDP making it the largest component of our GDP does not reflect a fundamental structural change, since Ghana still effectively remains dependent on the primary sector for over 80% of its export revenue.
To secure the future of the Ghanaian economy, a number of far reaching policy reforms would have to be adopted. First our economic development philosophy must shift from one dominated by public sector financed development expenditure, to one driven by private sector investments and public private partnerships, with Government providing incentives to the private sector. This is the only sustainable way of reducing the high levels of public debt.
Secondly, our tax regime must be completely restructured to reduce the effects of taxes, duties and levies on production, and rather scale up the incidence of taxes on revenue and profits. This is the only way to promote competitive production.
Thirdly, Government must significantly reduce domestic borrowing from the banking sector to finance public expenditure by (i) eliminating waste and plugging leakages in public sector financial management (ii) substantially reduce the level of corruption in the public sector, and (iii) introduce efficiency in the management of the government treasury. The combined effect of these measures, will not only release more funds for commercial lending to the private sector, but will also reduce the level of interest rates.
Fourthly, the Bank of Ghana must review its policy of inflation targeting, and significantly reduce its policy rate as a shock therapy to force interest rates down and reduce inflation. The high level of interest rates in Ghana is one of the constraining factors in making our private sector competitive.
Last but not the least; Ghana must reorient its economic development agenda to make Ghana an export led economy, and take concrete measures to reduce the level of imports, particularly of consumer goods that can be produced competitively in Ghana. This is one of the most effective ways of stabilizing the local currency, by enhancing export revenues, whilst reducing the outflow of foreign currency.
Mr. Chairman, another priority area to focus on, in order to secure the future of our nation, is job creation. A survey conducted by the World Bank indicates that about 48% of Ghanaian youth are currently unemployed. In addition, every year thousands of young graduates join the labour market. Whilst there are many approaches to tackling the problem of unemployment, one of the most sustainable ways for creating jobs is to enhance the level of industrial and agricultural production. In this regard, there are a number of policy proposals that will promote industrial development and agricultural transformation, including the following:
Removing import duties on raw materials and machinery for industrial and agricultural production
Reducing other taxes and levies that increase the cost of production for manufacturing, including but not limited to the Special Import Levy
Abolishing the 17.5% VAT on Financial Services
Reducing VAT for micro and small enterprises from the current 17.5% to the 3% Flat Rate originally introduced to support small business development
Reducing corporate income tax rate from 25% to 20%.
Establishing an Industrial Development Fund, as an omnibus fund to finance critical industrial support interventions.
Promoting the development of selected strategic large scale anchor industries, to serve as growth poles for the Ghanaian economy including the following; Petrochemical, Iron and Steel, Integrated Aluminum and Bauxite, Industrial Salt, Vehicle Assembly, Manufacturing of Machinery, Equipment and Machine Parts.
Reviewing the energy tariff policy to reduce the cost of energy for industrial production and business related activities in general.
Restructuring the operations of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority to enhance export diversification and take advantage of market opportunities under ECOWAS, Continental African Trade, EPA, AGOA and South- South trade.
Promoting a “One District One Factory Policy” (the District Industrialization Programme), under which every district in Ghana will be supported by Government, through public/private partnerships, to establish at least one major industrial project, based on the natural resource endowment or economic potential of each district. This will ensure an even spread of industrial activity throughout Ghana, and create massive employment opportunities in rural communities.
Facilitating access to dedicated land spaces in every Region for the establishment of multi- purpose industrial parks, sector specific enclaves, and enterprise free zones.
Providing a comprehensive programme of support for the production of selected agricultural products to be used as raw material for agro-processing (Tomato, Cassava, Maize, Oil Palm, Cashew, Cotton, Selected Fruits, Groundnuts, and Rice etc).
Refocusing the operation of public research institutions to provide R&D support for selected industries, as well as providing specific incentives for the establishment of R&D laboratories by the private sector.
Establishing an independent Port Clearing Facilitation Agency (excluding Customs) as a One-Stop institutional mechanism to support import and export trade, and reduce port clearing charges.
Supporting the operations of the newly established Ghana EXIM Bank to facilitate access to financing for export development.
Mr. Chairman, the third area of focus that will help secure the future of our nation is Education. Some of the policy proposals to be considered are: Maintaining a focus on early child education, particularly at the Kindergarten level
Extending basic education to cover both JHS and SHS, which shall be compulsory and free
Privatizing some of the top tier second cycle schools including Adisadel College, and handing over management responsibility to the PTA and Old Students Associations.
Prioritizing Technical and Vocational Education and making them more responsive to the needs of Industry and the private sector in general.
Deepening private sector participation in the provision of tertiary education by providing incentives to private investors.
Providing a comprehensive programme of support for the training of teachers, and enhancing the welfare of teachers in general.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I would like to conclude my presentation, with a “Call to Action” for all Santaclausians, to rise up to the challenge of working to secure the future of our dear nation. Many Santaclausians have excelled in their various fields of professional endeavor, but today, I am calling on you to extend your skills and experience to the field of political leadership, in order to secure the future of our nation. I recall the role played by distinguished Santaclausians such as Komla Gbedemah and Kojo Botsio in the first Republic, General Afrifa in the post Nkrumah era, Kojo Yankah and Ato Dadzie in the PNDC/NDC era and many more. As our School Ode says “Others have labored and we share the glory. Ours is to do exploits and add to their gain’
Up Santaclausians , Let us Stand up to Honour!
God bless Mr. RT Orleans Pobee, God bless all Santaclausians, God bless Adisadel and God bless Ghana. I thank you.