PROPERTY OWNING DEMOCRACY – THE IDEOLOGICAL ROAD MAP TO ECONOMIC SELF-RELIANCE


One of the two main political parties of Ghana today, the New Patriotic Party, like the UP before it, draws its philosophical breath from the bosom of a property-owning democracy. Sadly, there has been a lot of kerfuffle over what is a property owning democracy, and so terrifying has the debate been that it has been widely left to those who don’t believe in it to ‘define’. In fact, some have gone as far as to equate it with feudalism: a system of landholding and contractual servitude, common throughout Europe in the 8th century through medieval times and certainly before the advent of democracy, whereby the landless majority provided labour and military service to a landlord in return for the use of his land, and the feudal landlords controlled the regions sometimes with a weak monarchy. You may ask yourself, what has this go to do with J B Danquah’s property owning democracy — introduced for his 1960 campaign platform (or manifesto) for the only multiparty elections held in Ghana under the First Republic, which, instructively, used universal adult suffrage? Well, the detracting definers turn it on its head by claiming it means limiting the right to vote only to those who own property. As to the bizarrely oxymoronic question of how an anachronistic system of government that limits the right to vote to the landed gentry (feudalism) can be described as a democracy, our detractors conveniently ignore. It is what Danquah’s contemporary, Archbishop John Kojo Amissah of Cape Coast would call “ideological contradiction.” This bastardisation, one concedes with some collywobbles, has not been hurt by the charge that after eight years in office the NPP could not hand over a set of keys to a single affordable home built by it of its philosophy for the people.

So, can members and sympathisers of the NPP describe themselves as disciples of Danquah’s ideology of property owning democracy? I believe they can. This is because the NPP used its maiden two-terms of eight years in office deliberately to set the foundational process; the work ahead should not be underestimated, nevertheless. Certainly, a lot more could have been done in those eight years; the NPP could have been bolder and clearer in glorifying what it claims to believe in and, by that, won a lot of praise. But, before we begin to talk about what the NPP stands for or what it has seemingly wobbled on and its relevance to the contemporary Ghanaian praying for an escape from the grinding mills of poverty, let us take a short peep into its main rival in the competition of political ideas for Ghana for building a brighter future or a better Ghana – i.e. the National Democratic Congress and its professed ideology of social democracy. Permit me to do so with a knee-slapping parable of my own.

Question:

How many social democrats does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer:

Three to form a group called Alliance for Accountable Opposition to Restore Darkness (AFOARD); two to prepare an inflated bill for the attention of National Security for the cost of bulbs for all; one enterprising individual to pick up the cash and suddenly forget about the redistributive concept of take-and-share; two hundred disappointed foot soldiers to seize and take control of the rundown state-owned bulb factory, and one to surreptitiously sneak behind the rest to order a cheaper bulb from capitalist China.

CAPITALISM AND POLITICAL FREEDOM

You are probably surprised that I describe China as a capitalist state. But if the kind of global economic colonialisation being effectively, aggressively, unstoppably pursued by China is not capitalism then what is, I wonder. China, the second largest economy in the world, is a capitalist state because I see capitalism as a neutral economic paradigm that works with any political order that does not get in its way. Indeed, it can be predicted with some optimism that capitalism will gradually eat away the authoritarian political super structure, and manifestly so by 2022. As Milton Friedman said in defending his decision as economics adviser to Augustus Pinochet, who in 1973 overthrew Salvador Allende, the democratically elected President of Chile, “Freer markets lead to free people.” Indeed, Pinochet was not the only dictator who was to be consumed by the raging fire of economic liberalisation. In Ghana, by being forced by the prevailing harsh economic realities to make a u-turn to subscribe to the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) and the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), including the Financial Sector Adjustment Programme (FINSAP) from 1984, Chairman Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings and his Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) had unwittingly but obtrusively opened the floodgates to political liberalisation, as well. Capitalism, as an economic ideal, can survive under any political regime, at least for a flexible period of time during its early consolidation stages, based, of course, on several prevailing cultural factors and phenomenal settings. But, it would eventually lead to greater civil liberties for the people. I, therefore, define capitalism as the capacity and ability to create to/or capitalise on opportunities. A nation is capitalist when it has the what it takes to capitalise on opportunities. Based on the low capacity and ability of Ghana or Ghanaians to capitalise on, at least, both domestic and regional economic opportunities, a property owning democrat would struggle to call Ghana a democratic capitalist state because we believe that the capacity and ability to capitalise must be democratised for mass participation for true capitalism to take place. Thus capitalism does not necessarily abhor a certain level of protectionism; in fact, it has historically welcomed it if it helped a nation to better capitalise on opportunities.

Permit me to customise a story in stressing the point that capitalism is really a natural thing. Dela, the daughter of a very rich friend of mine in her final year at the University of Ghana, was very convinced she was a socialist. She believed in higher taxes for government to take money from the rich and spend it on the poor, i.e. the redistribution of the wealth created by some for the rest. Her father’s affluence and his conservatism embarrassed her, seeing him as evil, selfish and greedy, who would do anything to grow and protect his wealth. To her, it was vulgar opulence.

“Dad,” she screamed with frustration one day, “Do you have to own three expensive cars and three big homes when there are people who can’t even afford three square meals a day!” To Dela’s utter disgust, her father simply replied, “Even those of us who can afford it don’t eat three times a day! Too busy! Welcome to socialism!”

Her father saw pain and pity in her eyes and quickly changed the subject!

“How are you doing with your studies?” He asked her.

She answered rather haughtily that she had 6 As. Dela added, without prompting, how hard she had to work to earn that, studying constantly, forgoing any semblance of social life.

Her father, looking impressed asked, “How is your friend Esi doing?”

She replied, “Esi is struggling. She never studies. She parties all night and sleeps during the day. She failed in three subjects and has to resit.”

“Why don’t you go to the Dean’s office and ask him to deduct some of your grades to give them to your friend who has to resit without you. That way you will both have the same grades and resit but fewer papers together and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of grades.”

She couldn’t believe her father could come up with such rubbish and fired back in anger, “That’s a crazy idea, Dad! How would that be fair!? I’ve worked really hard for my grades! I’ve invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Esi has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!”

“Welcome to capitalism, my dear,” he said.

Human kind is innately capitalist. But, the most fundamental point here is that both young women were handed an equal opportunity by society (or by their folks) to study in the same institution to build a future for their individual selves. Once the opportunity was given to both of them it was left to them to use it resourcefully for their own benefit. Thus, in order to build a property-owning democracy here in Ghana, the opportunity must first be created for a greater number of people to be able to take advantage of it.

It is worth acknowledging at this point that, in recent years, at least, a few people have taken their time to define the ideology, including Nana Akufo-Addo, Franklin Cudjoe of Imani, myself in a few articles, and most recently, on Sunday, 7th November, 2010 to be precise, Dr Kingsley Nyarko, an Accra-based Educational Psychologist. Dr Nyarko starts by first telling us what a property owning democracy is not. “A property-owning democracy is not the insatiable desire for property by politicians or public office holders to satisfy their egoistic desires as people like Mr. Pratt always insinuate.” He moves on, “What then is a property owning democracy? A property owning democracy is hinged on the political philosophy of John Rawls, a 20th century political philosopher. In his work, Rawls sought to develop a concept of justice that is relevant to a democratic society.” Rawls distinguish five kinds of regimes viewed as social systems, complete with their political, economic, and social institutions: (1) laissez-faire capitalism; (2) welfare-state capitalism; (3) state socialism with a command economy; (4) property owning democracy; and finally, (5) liberal (democratic) socialism. To him the most important feasibility conditions of the five regimes above is whether they can stand the test of protecting rights and justice. Are the institutions of these regimes right and just? Can their institutions be designed to competently realise the declared aims and objectives of a chosen regime? Can the people be relied on to comply with the basic structures and rules of the regime? To him, the first three alternatives fail the test of justice, straight away.

While Dr Nyarko is right in saying that property owning democracy is a concept attributed to the American moral and political philosopher, John Rawls, who died in 2002, it was, however, Dr Danquah, who died in 1965, who introduced the concept 11 years before Rawls did in his magnum opus, A Theory of Justice in 1971. Ironically, that book on property owning democracy is now regarded as “one of the primary texts in political philosophy.” Thus, in Dr Danquah, Ghana can lay claim to a philosopher who first articulated and for the adoption of a political party the ideology of property owning democracy.

In the 1970s, it was not only the neo-liberalism of the Chicago School of economics, led by Nobel laureate Milton Friedman (the intellectual architect of the free market policies of Republican US presidents) which inspired the privatisation drive of Thatcherism. It was only after Rawls’ brilliant work on the democratisation of ownership of property that Margaret Thatcher, the legendary British Prime Minister, who is responsible for the most significant expansion of Britain’s middle class in the last century, used it to socio-economically engineer the most democratic government policy of home-ownership that the world had ever seen within the shortest possible time, until China from 1998. It is interesting to note that after Thatcher, the social democrats of ‘New’ Labour, premier Tony Blair and Gordon Brown took extra policy steps to expand the democratisation of property ownership, with Gordon Brown saying in 2007, “this time the promise of a property owning democracy must be open to all those wanting to get on the housing ladder for the first time.”

This is a concept that I am yet to see evidence to the contrary that Dr Danquah, indeed, first popularised it for the adoption of a political party in the 20th century, the century of universal adult suffrage. And, it would not be the first time that he had been denied credit for something that he championed.

DEVELOPMENT IN FREEDOM

Again, this is not the only occasion that the Danquah-Dombo-Busia group has been denied credit for originality. In 1992, the newly formed party, built from the ashes of the UGCC, UP, PP, PFP and UNC, restated its principle that freedom is the primary end, as well as the means to development, with the wellbeing of each and every individual as both the goal and means of development. In other words, the new party, the NPP, viewed civil liberties and human rights as, in fact, conducive to economic growth and intrinsic to the objective of development. Accordingly, the party chose as its motto, ‘Development in Freedom’. It is healthy to note that six years after the NPP motto was out-doored here in Accra, the Asian development economist, Amartya Sen, wrote his seminal book, ‘Development as Freedom’, which won him the 1998 nobel laureate. Thus, with his work, he subsequently but unconsciously articulated the theoretical framework for the NPP’s motto.

In 2007, President J A Kufuor, during his state visit to the United Kingdom, proudly announced at various forums in London that the NPP effectively is introducing a new paradigm of development for the developing world, in contrast to the Singaporean model of benevolent dictatorship. He announced this as “Development in Freedom.”

Excited by this, I wrote an article to add some articulation to what the President said. I said, “Mr Kufuor recognizes that Ghana is at a stage of her development where the state cannot choose not to interfere in some climateric areas.” Citing the social interventions that the NPP was busily rolling out at the time, I wrote, “Development in freedom only works when there is equity in opportunities. Access to education and skills are essential freedoms because they enable the capability to self-consciously choose the life one has reason to value.”

The NPP’s motto is built on an unyielding belief that political and social freedoms are both inherently desirable. Thus, individuals are not free if they are hungry, illiterate, ignorant homeless and in squalor. This has been the ideological driving force that has kept the Danquah-Dombo-Busia family going for more than sixty years. As the 2012 flagbearer of the NPP stated recently, “On that fateful Saturday of 4th August 1947, when the founders of Ghanaian nationalism met at Saltpond to initiate the process for national independence and freedom by the establishment of the UGCC of blessed memory, Danquah, its moving spirit, spelt out clearly its goals: a Ghana free from foreign control, and a Ghana that nurtures and respects the freedoms of its citizens, in his words, our ‘ancient liberties’.”

GHANAISM – THE CONCEPT OF GHANAIAN PATRIOTISM

Nations that have attained greatness often do so spurred on by a deliberately deep sense of patriotism. It was with this in mind that the Da Rochas inserted “Patriotic” right at the heart of the newly (re)constituted party in 1992. Their intention was for the party to lay a bonafide claim to the zenith of Ghanaian nationalism. Exactly 30 years earlier, on 30th April, 1962, from his preventive detention cell at H Hall, Ussher Fort Prison, Accra, Dr Danquah, the man whose scholarship gave our nation the name Ghana, spoke more on what he called Ghanaism. He writes, “the United Party of Ghana, the party to which I am proud to belong, is dedicated to the ideology of our Ghana nationhood and would readily uphold Ghanaism as the greatest ideal and inspiration of all true born Ghanaian thinkers, or Ghanaists.” Danquah argues, “the philosophy of Ghanaism is in the blood of every true born Ghanaian, being in fact the essence of our nation’s very soul which is immanent in the five-fold concept of Ghana’s humanist and patrician personality, a personality uniquely realised in the unity of Onyankopan (God), Oman (State), Abusua(Family), Odehye (Patrician) and Amansan (humanity), a five-fold concept activated in the five-fold ideology of (1) Theism, (2) Patriotism, (3) Patriarchy (or Matriarchy), (4) Freedom (of choice), and (5) Humanism. The dominance of these in the Ghanaian personality constitutes the driving or motive forces need not be fully highlighted in any one action, but they operate all the same in due proportion.” He describes “The supreme ideology of Ghanaism” as “The grand and dynamic idea that from our ancient and medieval ashes we should create a modern state in the Guinea lands.” It is this spirit of patriotism that should inspire today’s generation to carry on and on the wings of development in freedom.

Dr Danquah recalled that “on the 13th and 14th March, 1948… during certain discussions by five of the ‘Big Six’ around a table in the spacious courtyard of the Kumasi Central Prison when, among other things, the present colours of the Ghana national flag [of red, gold and green, with the black star] were decided upon (initially for the use of the UGCC).” It was, therefore, joy revisited, when on the day that the NPP launched its 2008 manifesto at the Kumasi Cultural Centre I saw virtually every single one of the party faithful gathered there waving both the national and party flags. It was based on the need for a psychological injection of patriotism in our development body that the flagbearer was keen on this concept of “I Believe in Ghana.” The NPP must see it as its birthright and duty to bring back to Ghanaians the verve of nationalism that brought us political freedom in the 1950s.

Earlier in 1928, An Epistle To The Educated Youngmen of Akim Abuakwa, Danquah made a passionate appeal to the youth of the Gold Coast not to see a conflict between national pride and the assimilation of positive aspects of a foreign culture. He encouraged the youth to enrich Ghana’s culture to a higher level by embracing things foreign that could enhance society and their love for nation: “… to maintain unimpaired the desire to rise from progress to progress and to seek means for bringing about these conditions of life which, without leading us to sacrifice our national pride and unity, will on the other hand lead us to embrace the higher culture. In all this there is nothing that necessarily compels us to permit the shackles of an outworn civilization to prevent us from seeing the light ahead of us … “

DEFINING PROPERTY OWNING DEMOCRACY

Let me have a crack at defining property owning democracy and its relevance to Ghana’s quest to defeat poverty and empower the individual to self-fulfillment. I opt for self-fulfillment as opposed to self-reliance advisedly because we live today in a world of interdependency, so the focus for the self must be fulfillment and not reliance. Rawls has done an excellent job in defining it. What one can do is to place it in a local setting. He describes the fundamental goal of a property owning democracy as to realise in the basic institutions of the state the idea of society as a fair system of cooperation between citizens regarded as free and equal. To do this, those institutions must, from the outset, put in the hands of citizens generally, and not only of a few, sufficient productive means for them to be fully cooperating members of society on a footing of equality.

Before delving deeper into defining property owning democracy, let us listen to these words of ultimate concession from the architect of the 31stDecember Revolution, Chairman Rawlings, delivered on national radio on August 28, 1983 and reproduced in the September 12, 1983 edition of the West Africa magazine:

We can no longer postpone the time for halting the populist nonsense and for consolidating the gains of the past 20 months and making a noticeable leap forward… Production and efficiency must be our watchwords. Populist nonsense must give way to popular or unpopular sense… Many of us have spent too much time worrying about who owns what. But there can be no ownership without production first.

In the words of Dr Bawumia, “Rawlings’ rejection of ‘popular nonsense’ reflected a recognition of the simple truth, that revolutionary rhetoric and ‘mobilisation’ are by themselves inadequate vehicles for growing and sustaining an economy.” (See ‘Monetrary Policy and Financial Sector Reform in Africa – Ghana’s Experience’ by Dr Mahamudu Bawumia). But Rawlings’ so-called rejection of ‘populist nonsense’ was, in itself, an endorsement for property ownership. Picking up from where the four-month ‘June 4 Revolution’ of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) left off, the PNDC, which overthrew the democratically elected government of Dr Hilla Limann, began by effectively criminalising profitable entrepreneurship or free enterprise. “Furthermore, Citizens Vetting Committees (CVCs) were empowered to investigate people ‘whose lifestyle and expenditure substantially exceeded their known incomes’. Specifically, anyone with more than 50,000 ($1,250 at the prevailing black market exchange rate of some 50/$) had to appear before the CVC to explain how they acquired it… The wealthy became the targets of a vindictive Public Tribunal system.” (Bawumia, pp37-8)

Rawlings had, in my view, been forced by the inadequacies of his populist, socialist policies to understand that, when all the whipped up emotions of envy and anger boil over and simmer down, the concern of the masses, individually, is that they have been left out of the ownership cake. They have been made to spend time worrying about who owns what rather than how they themselves can be empowered to also aspire to owning a piece of the cake, per se, through efficient production. Rawlings was being made to recognise that to take away from those who produce, as a redistributive measure, is to kill the hen that lays the golden egg. Soon there would be nothing left for the rest to share. Rather, how do we get the masses to take part in efficient production, for them to use their earnings to acquire assets of their own, with the assurance that their personal property rights shall not be disturbed by any arbitrariness?

How did the NPP or the Danquah-Dombo-Busia group end up adopting a property owning democracy as their basic philosophy? In that same write-up in which Danquah propounds his theory of Ghanaiasm, he goes on to say, “I mention next the seven [leading] members of the United Party of Ghana with whom I share a common policy to liberate the energies of the people for the growth of a property owning democracy in this land, with right, freedom and justice as the principles to which the Government and the laws of the land should be dedicated in order specifically to enrich the life, property and liberty of each and every citizen.”

He continues, “This policy, subsequently confirmed under the leadership of Prof. K. A. Buisa, Parliamentary Leader of the United Party of Ghana, is still the kingpin of UP’s liberal motivated policy under the present Parliamentary Leader, the Douri-Na, Chief S D Dombo, MP. The UP members I mention in this connection are [sic] (iv) R B Otchere, MP, (v) B F Kusi, MP, (vi) B K Adama, MP, (vii) Abayifa Karbo, MP, (viii) Jato Kaleo, MP, (ix) A W Osei, MP and (x) S D Dombo, MP.”

In setting a clear distinction between the ideological platform of a property owning democracy, on which the UP stood, as against the Convention People’s Party’s constitutional, socialist dictatorship at the time, Danquah writes in his 1962 letter to the Clerk of Parliament, “These seven [leading members of the UP] are some of the men who stood by me as Presidential Candidate in the crisis of the Presidential Election when Ghana was led by the men in power in 1960 to opt for an authoritarian constitution, in which all the powers of the people are placed at the mercy and disposal of the President of the new Republic as against the democratic constitution which came into force on March 6, 1957 (Ghana’s Independence Day), under which Parliament was supreme and could, as the sovereign legislature of a Parliamentary democracy,throw out any government or executive by declaring by its vote to have lost confidence in the Prime Minister or his Cabinet, a power that now, tragic to relate, no longer belongs to the Parliament of this very unhappy land of Ghana, but belongs to only one authority, the President who, under the Constitution, is not bound to take any one’s advice (not even Parliament’s advice), but is authorised to act on his own authority, at his own will.”

In the October 2009 edition of DI Quarterly, the journal of the Danquah Institute, I wrote an article, Are Danquah-Dombo-Busiasts Really Elitist? In it I note, “Former President John Agyekum Kufuor was quoted in an interview recently saying that voter choice may not always be rational because the New Patriotic Party (the party of the Danquah-Dombo-Busiasts) did ‘much more’ for the majority of Ghanaians than the National Democratic Congress, who have styled themselves as ‘social democrats’ managed to do in 19 years… [Yet], the political opponents of the Danquah-Dombo-Busiats have always been better at saying, ‘Ghanaians don’t need a president who is arrogant and looks down on them. They need a president who stands up for them. One who feels their pain.’ These words were successfully used against a man who for more than 30 years (more than any of his rivals in the 2008 contest) dedicated his time, money, energy and intellect to fighting for the cause of the masses – Nana Akufo-Addo, an Akyem aristocrat. Yet, the statistics [again] clearly show that, since the end of the First Republic, no government can boast of implementing the kind of social interventions that the ‘elitist’ big-man friendly NPP did in 8 years under President Kufuor, an Ashanti aristocrat.”

The article gives a long list of pro-social justice policies, supported by an ever-expanding economy, including record hikes in minimum wage, 40% increase in wages in real terms, big falls in poverty rate, expanding access to rural water from 57% in 2002 to 57% in 2008, etc. In conclusion, I remark, with the World Bank estimating that half a million more Ghanaians will fall below the poverty line (at $1.25 a day) between 2009 and 2010, reversing the trend of progress over the previous decade, “For the next two years, the fiscal restraints will be deeply felt by Ghanaians. The government has committed itself to a review this year aimed at reducing the number of zero-rated VAT items and convert domestic zero-rated VAT items… This list goes on and on… Recently, the NPP amended its constitution to allow over 115,000 of its members, mostly at the grassroots, to take part in electing the party’s presidential candidate. The others, ‘leftist’ populist parties use not more than 2,000 delegates to choose their leaders. Whether by circumstances or by virtue of the NDC’s lack of strong sincere attachment to any ideology, the NDC are once again in office signaling left and turning right. But will the NPP that drove high speed on the left side of the ideological divide still allow itself to be branded as elitist and not for the masses?” The truth is that the NPP had no choice but to be aggressive in pursuing a joint policy of making the Ghanaian market economy freer, while deepening social justice.

JOHN RAWLS ON AIMS OF PROPERTY OWNING DEMOCRACY

This has always been the credo of the Danquah-Dombo-Busia group; not an elitist concept, catering but for a small class of well-to-dos. According to John Rawls’ Justice as Fairness, published in 2001, one of the main aims of property owning democracy is “to prevent a small part of society from controlling the economy, and indirectly, political life as well…” The way to tackle this, property owning democrats believe, is not by redistributing income to those less well-off through high taxes against the main economic producers, but rather by establishing a society of opportunities, through the facilitation of the widespread ownership of assets and human capital (i.e. creating opportunities for education, training and skills for tor a pro-generational expansion of access to wealth and a systematic bottom-up approach of gradual, progressive, suitable degree of equalisation of class differences). According to Rawls, the intent is not simply to assist those who lose out through accident or misfortune (although that must be done), but rather to put all citizens in a position to manage their own affairs on a footing of a suitable degree of social and economic equality. (Rawls, 2001: 139).

John Rawls is considered as probably the most important political philosopher of the past century. His theory of justice set the agenda for debate in mainstream political philosophy for the past forty years, and has had an important influence in economics, law, sociology, and other disciplines. While, like Danquah before him, Rawls’s principles of justice do provide philosophical support for the redress of existing inequalities and for the substantial redistribution of resources, it is incorrect to say that he favoured welfare state regimes in anything resembling their current form. In fact, like Danquah’s opposition to Nkrumah’s state capitalism, Rawls was a strong critic of what he termed “welfare state capitalism” and an advocate of an institutional alternative. That institutional alternative is what Danquah introduced in 1960 as “property owning democracy.” Rawls goes ahead to point out that, his hostility to a welfare state capitalism, where people rely on handouts, but a society that provides every individual an opportunity to acquire the tools and skills for self-serving enterprise. In fact, Rawls sees property owning democracy as an alternative to the capitalist welfare state.

AKUFO-ADDO ON NPP’S PHILOSOPHY

Ladies and gentlemen permit me to take the liberty to quote copiously from that famous speech delivered by the then Foreign Minister, Nana Akufo-Addo on Tuesday, 28th August 2007 at the Alisa Hotel, ‘Why I Want to Lead Ghana to the Next Level.’ I’ve chosen this speech because I believe it explains with adequacy the concept of property owning democracy as introduced by his great uncle and founder of his political tradition, Dr Danquah.

“The philosophy and programmes of the NPP remain the most formidable proposition in the political market of our country. In the eyes of the great man who founded our tradition, Joseph Boakye Danquah, a property-owning democracy for a free, independent Ghana could never mean luxury for an elite at the expense of the poor. His vision was to spread the benefits of private ownership to the majority of citizens, not just a rich and privileged few; to democratise the opportunity to accumulate capital as the surest way of ensuring the dignity of each individual. This is why the policy of the NPP government has been to clear the ground for the purpose of inviting every Ghanaian to climb the ladder of competitive achievement. Without many players, markets fail to deliver quality at the best price. Without everybody on board, our democratic ship risks sinking under its own domestic weight…”

I can stop here and we can all go home satisfied with this lucid definition of a property owning democracy and the individual liberty of the Ghanaian. But, there is more that Akufo-Addo said on that day, which clearly established the social justice hinges that hold the ideology together, rooted in values that are predominantly home-gown.

Danquah saw property ownership as a means to enhancing the dignity of the Ghanaian. The idea is to grant the opportunity for the people to become individual shareholders to a portion of the country’s wealth, which each controls, exclusively. That can be done by rolling back state capitalism and empowering more and more the individual. Akufo-Addo says, “What we need is a political economy that serves our people, by building a strong bridge from the times when big government did everything, to a future when people are entrusted with self-governance. We need to follow the wisdom of our forefathers; we need to mould our economic system to our particular instincts for individual freedom and social justice. Hence, Danquah’s insistence that the purpose of governmental action should be to enhance “the life, liberty and property of each and every citizen”.

Nana Akufo-Addo goes on to link this social justice concept to, what I will term, the patrio[t]-capitalist wing of the ideology, which, in my view, makes it whole: “But we cannot get anywhere without sufficient financial resources. And to grow these financial resources, we need to look more and more to ourselves within Ghana and among Ghanaians in the Diaspora than we have in the past. We need to develop and pursue a clear policy of Ghanaian Economic Empowerment. To do so, we should not be shy of introducing policies that look, first and foremost, after our own people at every level of our economy. We must pursue a proactive but pragmatic agenda by picking, stimulating and increasing the number of Ghanaian winners in all sectors and build champions of industry who can compete anywhere in the world. We do so not by turning our backs on the process of globalisation, but by making use of its rules and regulations in such a way as to enhance our capability and capacity.”

He is at pains to point out that his concept of Ghanaian Economic Empowerment does not mean discriminating against ‘non-Ghanaian’ operators in our economy. “You don’t help your people by taking from those who are serving your people and making profit for themselves. They have also become our people. You help your people by resourcing them to be able to compete freely and fairly. The market potential is far greater than what we have so far realised. Our task as politicians is to make sure our people have the capacity to participate on every front. We can’t afford to compromise on this venture.”

45 years earlier, Dr Danquah criticised the CPP state capitalist model, which was, ironically, relying on revenues raised from the toil of individual, private cocoa farmers of Ghanaian origin. Danquah says, “I personally see nothing traditional in the idea that Ghana should, with her eyes open, or her eyes half-closed, repeat this soul-searing experiment [of Russia, China, Cuba], by leaving Ghana’s big business in the hands of foreign privately owned firms, aided and abetted by a Ghana Capitalist Government in no way experienced in trade or business, whilst the Ghanaian himself, whether big brained or not, is to be restricted and confined to ‘small trade’ or ‘small business’ in a small way.’ Surely, it ought to be evident that to confine or limit the energies of a people to ‘small business’ as a general economic policy is to sterilise instead of energise the people’s economic capacities. The purpose of Government is not to block or control but to liberate its people’s energies – economic, intellectual, moral and spiritual. This was the policy I advanced in the 1960 Presidential campaign, and I will stand by it.”

The programme for developing northern Ghana in those early days of our independence, drafted by Dombo, Bawumia and others of the Northern Peoples Party, but never really implemented, acknowledged the need to create a foundation of social justice and enterprise. Again, the slogans of Dr Busia’s Progress Party embolden the social justice underpinnings of the Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition:

  1. To every Ghanaian a job
  2. To every work security
  3. To every family a decent meal, a decent home
  4. To every person equal opportunity and social justice
  5. To every individual the essential freedom of speech and expression, freedom of movement and association, freedom of conscience of worship
  6. To all Ghanaians progress.

Dr Busia’s policy, ‘Towards Social Justice’, implemented by the PP was about his vision of “a new Ghanaian society based on the principles of social justice.” In fact, according to one of Busia’s critics, the Nkrumaist/NDCist Prof Kwaku Danso-Boafo (now Ghana’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom) in his book, The Political Biography of Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia, “Prime Minister [Busia] and his party sought to crush the citadels of the privileged society created by the colonial administration,” adding, “one area in which the PP government seemed to have achieved remarkable success was in rural development in which the government sought to prevent the drift of young men/women to urban areas in search of non-existing white collar jobs and to boost the cocoa industry by embarking on (1) an expanded programme of feeder road construction and maintenance (2) an enlarged programme for rural water supplies to be operated by the Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation with an increased subsidy from the Government (3) an extensive preventive medical care to the rural population [and] (4) an elaborate rural electrification programme.”

DANQUAH’S CONCEPT OF EVERY GHANAIAN AN ODEHYE

The NPP may not be often heard as condescending or patronising to the masses but at the heart of its philosophy is a perpetual enhancement of the wellbeing of the people and this stems from the party’s natural respect of the dignity of every individual Ghanaian. Danquah, in his Akan Laws and Customs(London, 1928), describes every Ghanaian citizen as an ‘odehye’ – a royal of the land of his birth. Every Ghanaian is a freeborn, with no sustainable antecedents of slavery or servitude. He used the Akan conception of birth without notions of illegitimacy and with free will to extrapolate to define the Ghanaian. Thus, once everybody is born free, they must also be free to own property either by himself or with others he chooses by his own free will. The notion of servitude is, therefore, inconsistent with an odehye. Danquah was of the view that no Ghanaian was a common man and he used language and sociology to argue this view. “It is doubtful”, he writes, whether there really is a common term for the neo-social clothing of ‘common people’. It has been suggested elsewhere that awiemfoo-mma means ‘common people’, but the general opinion is that it means simply, the simple folk, or people with simple habits. Another term, nihumafoo, is often suggested as meaning ‘the common people’, but that word is used to signify persons who are neither priests, nor medicine-men, or their attendants, i.e. ‘laymen’.”

For those who say Danquah’s property owning democracy is feudalist, should read the irony in what he saw as feudalist. Referring to Nkrumah’s dawn broadcast, Danquah says, “Every morning at 5.30 am, the Osagyefo (? Osaagyefo) salutes the people of Ghana on the radio asAdehyeman-mma. ‘Patricians.’ i.e. or noble born peoples. He does not applyto Ghanaians any socialistic or foreign term like ‘common people’ or even bourgeoisie. He does not do so because he must know that such foreign terms, born of feudalism, or the aftermath of it, do not belong to the traditional Ghanaian society, composed as it is, at all levels, of true adehye, a people born of free parents into free families… [O]ne cannot imagine the President of Ghana addressing the people of Ghana as damuofi-foo-mma. We certainly are not that. We are adehyyeman-mma.”

Indeed, Busia’s 12-point manifesto, as Leader of the new Opposition UP in October 1957, culminating all the so-called regional and ethnic parties, aptly captures the principles, values and ideals of the Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition:

  1. To build on the foundations of our traditions and culture a true parliamentary democracy, and to see that it is practiced by whichever party is in power.
  2. To see that the Constitution as by law established is upheld and strictly adhered to.
  3. To preserve by deed and words the fundamental rights and liberties of the individuals, and to secure true freedom and justice in accordance with the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
  4. To uphold and maintain the institution of chieftancy and the rights of people to their lands, and to ensure that the chiefs play a democratic and effective part in the development of Ghana.
  5. To ensure equal opportunity for all to develop their talents.
  6. To develop the productive use of the country’s resources.
  7. To encourage investment of capital by creating confidence at home and abroad through stable and efficient administration based on government by persuasion [not by coercion].
  8. To maintain the independence of the judiciary, uphold the rule of law based on reason and natural justice and ensure that everyone is equal before the law.
  9. To help in the liberation of colonial territories to full independence and in schemes for the rapid development of Africa in general and West Africa in particular.
  10. To settle by negotiation and agreement problems created in Africa by the arbitrary imposition of imperialist frontiers.
  11. To maintain the position of Ghana as a useful member of the British Commonwealth and of the United Nations, to build up high prestige for Ghana in the comity of nations.
  12. And to dedicate ourselves to the service of our country and humanity.

It is important to make these historical references to the present to establish the fact that the Danquah-Dombo-Busia group has been the only group that has remained true and consistent with its philosophy, principles and values. It is worth repeating that of all the major political groupings in Ghana – Nkrumaists, Rawlingsists, Danquah-Dombo-Busiasts – it is only the NPP that has remained steadfast to its core ideology.

For example, in 1969, the 12-point manifesto of the PP, inter alia, stated:

  1. Ensure that increasingly the control of the economy shall be in the hands of Ghanaians
  2. Pursue policies towards the greatest welfare of the people
  3. Extend healthcare and decent housing to all the people
  4. Improve the quality of education, relating it closely to the needs of the country and providing equal opportunities for all
  5. Exploit to the full our immense natural resources
  6. Bridge the gap between the urban and rural communities…
  7. Promote rapid and sustained economic growth, maintaining a proper balance among the various sectors of the economy.

And, the NPP does so by limiting Government to what it can best do, including helping those who potentially can but hitherto can’t to join those who are. This was the principle that summed up the social policies of the Kufuor administration. Thus, Akufo-Addo maintains, “I believe that if Government focuses on what it is elected to do – providing leadership and good public services – the Ghanaian will be free to go about his or her lawful business. We do not believe in taking power away from people. We trust that people are capable of managing their own affairs, if only politicians will trust them to do so. Our job as politicians is to ensure that the state provides the people with a quality environment of law and order, physical infrastructure, social services, sensitivity and quick responsiveness to needs, and a regulatory environment that allows free and fair competition. These are policies that make lives better. These are policies that underpin the NPP’s vision of development in freedom.”

I propose, and with clear evidence both in theory and practice, that the ideology of the Danquah-Dombo-Busiats is the best option for not only Ghana but for accelerating the delayed advancement of the entire African continent. It is what will deliver the masses of Ghanaians from poverty to prosperity. It is what will ensure sustainable peace and free Africans to make their fullest meaningful imaginative contribution to the advancement of human kind and all that is earthly worthy. Its belief in the free movement of people, free trade, free enterprise, rule of law and the principles of democratic accountability can be stretched to Danquah’s concept of regionalism (which led him in the early 1920s to become the founding President of the West African Students Union (WASU)) and the greater continental dream of African unity, to push the long-awaited integration project to truly manifest.

Let us go back to Akufo-Addo’s speech delivered three years ago at the Alisa Hotel: “After thirty years in frontline politics, the more I travel around the country canvassing for votes, the more I see the urgency in waging and winning the war against poverty. To achieve social justice for every Ghanaian, whether rural or urban dweller, the only logical step to the next level is to intensify our efforts in pursuing a development agenda that is broad-based, inclusive and sustainable. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. Fairness is essential or we cannot play ball at all. All Ghanaians have a right and duty to engage in and profit from the country’s economic growth. Thankfully, the NPP has shown, through our policies in education, health, youth employment, small loan schemes, to name a few, that we fully subscribe to the notion that government has a responsibility to provide all its citizens with skills and opportunities to create their own wealth.”

There is an aspect of Dr Bawumia’s book which has been quoted copiously to suggest that the author meant Ghana’s two main political parties are not what they profess to be but that they may have more in common than they wish to admit. But, I am not so sure if that is what the author intended to communicate. In my view nothing has the NPP done is inconsistent with their philosophy. Simply because a property owning democracy has an inbuilt social justice element. Apart from creating an environment which saw the economy in general and the private sector, in particular, driven by important finance sector reforms, experiencing significant year-on-year sustained record growth, cumulating in 8.4% GDP growth rate in 2008 (per the revised, rebased GDP rate), Dr Bawumia says, on top of that, the 2001-2008 period also saw a significant increase in social spending aimed at protecting the poor and vulnerable in society. This was reflected in initiatives such as the:

• National Youth Employment Programme –providing opportunities and jobs for the youth to get a start in the job market

• The School Feeding Programme to provide food to pupils in basic schools

• Capitation Grant to make education affordable and accessible

• The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to provide accessible healthcare to the population. The NHIS provides free healthcare for children below 18 and the elderly over the age of 70 and HIV positive individuals now receive highly subsidized anti-retroviral medicines.

• Free maternal care for all pregnant women under the NHIS.

• Introduction of a Metro Mass Transit transport service for urban to provide subsidized transport for commuters and a free bus ride for basic school pupils in Ghana.

• Introduction of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme under which welfare grants are paid to the

extreme poor.

These public interventions were made possible by the significant growth in the size of the economy and the attendant increase in tax revenue, fiscal space provided by debt relief, as well as donor support, he says. “…one cannot help but notice the irony of the free-market oriented NPP government implementing policies that were to some extent more social democratic in orientation on the one hand, and the “social democratic” government of the PNDC/NDC on the other hand adopting a free market approach in the management of the economy under IMF guidance. One can only hope that this is the beginning of the forging of a ‘Ghanaian Consensus’ on the management of the economy across the political divide” (Dr Bawumia, 2010, pp 194-5).

Thus, there is room for forging a “Ghanaian Consensus” in the area of economic policy. However, the fact that the NPP focused on significant improvements in the social sector, and managed, for example, to nearly double enrolment at the basic level, polytechnic level and the public university level (from 42,000 to more than 90,000 in seven years, for example) is very much in line with the party’s ideology of creating a society of opportunities. The property owning democracy concept works on the basis that let us not focus on the size of the cake but rather on expanding the size of the wheat fields so that we can grow more, harvest more, have more flour to bake bigger cakes and make other flour-based foods.

Whichever spin one puts on it, social democracy is a political philosophy dedicated to creating a socialist society by democratic means, even if by gradual erosion of an existing capitalist system. Okay, let us be charitable and call what the NDC professes to be a Bernsteinite welfare state capitalism. How does this define the National Democratic Congress? From 1983 to 2000, the (P)NDC, under President (Chairman) Jerry John Rawlings signaled loudly left and turned extremely right, causing some ideological and practical confusion and collusion in the process. Thus, until, 2003, nobody really knew what the NDC believed in except in a kind of ideological yo-yo which swings with the wind.

But even since Dr Obed Asamoah, the party’s chairman until he was hounded out in 2006, ‘branded’ them social democrats in 2003, their return to power has also imposed the party’s lack of ideological congruence. It is this kind of antilogical acrobatics that had President Mills announcing in his state of the nation address this year that his Government’s focus this year was on social housing, only for them to turn full circle to sign a $10 billion agreement for 200,000 housing units, most of which were to target a smaller social group with access to the mortgage financing market, effectively excluding the majority of working people. The NDC believes in what one may describe as Synthetic Socio-Populism. The NPP should not relent in its quest to intensify the process of making the majority of the electorates increasingly middle-class, aspirational andconsumeristic, while instilling an instinctive sense of social justice.

PRESIDENT KUFUOR’S RECORD ON PROPERTY OWNERSHIP

The perception is that President Kufuor did very little to realise the concept of a property owning democracy. It was the butt of campaign jokes that besides grand mansions that deepened the perception of only the few getting richer, the disciples of property-owning democracy (NPP) could not boast of a single completed affordable home for the masses in 8 years. But, is this a fair assessment of the structural arrangements which the NPP was putting in place? I was one of President Kufuor’s major critics then on this matter but I believe faced with several competing priorities, he did his best to lay the foundation for the construction of a property owning democracy. Initially, in its second term, after using the first four years to free the economy from debt and bring back confidence, the NPP committed but a modest amount of government funds to address the nation’s housing shortage with GH¢30 million ($35m) for the construction of affordable homes across the counter. With access to private credit growing in an expanding economy, the private sector was providing an average of 40,000 homes a year. Some 3500 affordable flats were under construction at Borteyman and Kpone in the Greater Accra Region (1,500 flats), Asokore-Mampong in the Ashanti Region (1,192 flats), Koforidua in the Eastern Region (400 flats), Tamale in the Northern Region (400 flats). The construction of an additional 1500 affordable housing units was starting in Sekondi, Takoradi, Sunyani, Cape Coast, Wa, Bolgatanga and Ho.

For the future, the NPP said, if re-elected for a third term: using the first phase as a pilot scheme, it was aiming at a partnership with local estate agents that would generate thousands of housing units a year, many of them for renting but run by private estate developers, with tax and other incentives from the state; construct at least a combination of 13,000 units of decent, social and affordable housing across the North; establish a more vibrant mortgage culture to provide the loan facilities for more Ghanaians to own their own homes; name every street and number every property within our first term; create a new Department of Infrastructure and Physical Planning to ensure better land use and spatial planning in our cities; and, ensure cleaner streets with the development of 20,000 sanitation (Tankase) inspectors per year for the next five years in partnership with the private sector. Supported by a Housing Bond and a mix of funding instruments, it would have been an ambitious self-financing mass housing project. This was a programme if believed and voted for and implemented could have surely modernised Ghana and directly connected the NPP full-square to the needs of the so-called ordinary Ghanaian.

In fact, Kufuor’s programme was not that different from the Conservatives from 1979, except they got a third term! The Tory government managed to build a property-owning democracy in the United Kingdom because the state had in decades past built ‘Council Housing’ for rent to the working class, which they were later encouraged to purchase, at subsidised prices, with the help of mortgage financing.

How different was the preparations made by Kufuor different to that made by Margaret Thatcher from 1979 to 1987?

In June 1987, Times reporters Christopher Ogden and Frank Melville interviewed the just re-elected (for the third term) Prime Minister of Britian, Margaret Thatcher. Her responses showed a clear and deliberate policy of property owning democracy. She made a profound statement that property must not be reduced to just home ownership. Owning assets, intellectual property, saving accounts, and company shares should all be considered as in fulfillment of the ideology. Below are excerpts from the interview:

Q. How do you interpret the election?

A. It means that the policies we were pursuing, which we put openly and frankly before the people, were thought to be right for Britain. They were policies which were a partnership between government and people — namely, we do the things which only governments can do, running the finances in a sound way, keeping inflation down, cutting controls and giving tax incentives. And we got the response in an increasing enterprise and competitiveness from the British people. And that produced a higher standard of living.

Q. Why do people accuse you so bitterly of lacking compassion?

A. Some people think that to be compassionate and caring you have to talk a lot about it. We’ve always taken the view that you should be judged by what you do and not by what you say, and we’re prepared to be judged on that — any day of the week.

Q. What are the most important accomplishments of your first eight years?

A. First, we have reduced the fantastic number of controls that there were over the life of our society. The greatest driving force in life, which is individual energy and effort, was becoming really cocooned. Secondly, people do need incentives to encourage them to work harder, and if you take too much away in tax, then you will not get that driving incentive. Plus the trade union law…We now know that the spirit of enterprise is there. The economy is doing well and catching up with our European competitors.

Q. What are your plans for a third term?

A. I will extend opportunities to people who never had them before. As you know, we are building a property-owning democracy. Far more people own their own homes now. We are nearly up to the United States — not yet quite — but now one in five of our people owns company shares. Far many more people have savings accounts. That’s all extending opportunity ever more widely. End

CONVERGENCE OF DANQUAH AND RAWLS

There is convergence of thought between Danquah, who propounded this theory earlier, and Rawls who now wears the crown as the father of property owning democracy. Note, John Rawls, who died in 2002, became a Harvard philosopher, two years after Dr Danquah proposed a property owning democracy to the UP. Dr Danquah saw his concept of property owning democracy as steep in Ghanaian tradition. In criticising Dr Ako Adjei’s “support to the foreign, artificial and separatist or divisionist ideology of Marxist Socialism,” Danquah described it as “an ideology which, apart from its pernicious bent of trying to create classes in Ghana among equally born patrician communities, enunciates its sordid materialism by quoting and using, out of its context, the Pauline remark that “He who would not work shall not eat”, a materialistic outlook rejected by all but a few of the better known portions of the civilized world as inconsistent and incompatible with realistic needs and targets of the Christian ideal (‘The Sermon on the Mount’), or of the Welfare State, in which children, the sick and the aged are sought to be looked after even though they do not work.”

Dr Danquah believed that egalitarianism could only be achieved through the capitalist system. He viewed socialism as fatuitous and wasteful. “For evidence, there is to hand the incontestable fact that the three great nations which have achieved an industrial marvel after World War II, namely Western Germany, Italy and Japan, did so not on Socialistic or State Capitalist economy, but on the basis of individual initiative and free enterprise, guided by the free and intelligent hand of their respective governments.”

Both Danquah and Rawls had absolute respect for the values of liberty and equality in their understanding of the principles of justice. They both believed in the untrammelled right of individuals to profit from property holding or to enter into exchanges of any kind. But this can only happen if all citizens have an equal opportunity to aspire to positions, offices and (more generally) social advancement (the “principle of fair equality of opportunity”); and inequalities between citizens are to be limited to those which maximally help the least well off group in society (the “difference principle”) to also climb up. The NPP has been consistent to this solid principle of social good.

NPP’S NEW SOCIETY OF OPPORTUNITIES

To this end, the leader of the NPP, Nana Akufo-Addo, on Saturday, 14 August, 2010, laid out how he thinks this can be achieved in Ghana today:

Besides confidence in the electoral system, the ultimate test for our democracy is winning the enduring war against Africa’s old enemy — mass poverty. I believe we can only win this war by building a New Society of Opportunities. It means intensifying radically our efforts in pursuing the transformation and modernisation of our national economy, so that it could create jobs and prosperity for the broad mass of our people on the basis of social justice, the rule of law, respect for human rights, the principles of democratic accountability, and individual liberty and enterprise. This is the new paradigm of human development to which our generation is summoned. This New Society of Opportunities is what can realise the dream of the founding fathers that all Ghanaians shall have a right and duty to engage in, contribute to and profit from the country’s economic growth and wealth… Hence, we see it as the fundamental duty of government to create an environment that allows the individual to use that talent positively for the benefit of him- or herself, his or her family and society, at large. A critical element of that environment is the systematic encouragement by government of the culture and spirit of enterprise in all its citizens… A new society of opportunities, as we envisage, means establishing a system of governance that provides the very best of public services for every citizen, including an effective, humane public healthcare system, access to a secure and reliable justice system and unfettered access by all and sundry to a quality education in Ghana that rivals any in the world. It means also a governance system that helps unleash the energies of its citizens so that enterprise is appreciated and duly rewarded, not vilified and made the object of envy.”

Thus, a property owning democracy aims to economically empower the lesser well off not by taking from those who already have but by dispersing ownership of property as widely as possible through the creation of more wealth by giving more and more people the opportunities to participate across generations in the shortest possible time, protected by the rule of law and respect for human rights. The NPP does not envisage a society eternally divided between owners and non-owners of capital; but one which aspires to make everyone a shareholder of the society’s wealth. In the words of Akufo-Addo, “It is through the creative and productive impulses of free men and women that we can grow our economy, create jobs and thereby abolish mass poverty. Paradise can never be attained through force or coercion.”

In short, the NPP seeks to create a political economy consistent with basic individual liberties; provide substantially equal opportunities to all citizens; tackle inequalities but not by a centralised state socialism but by a private sector led economy that is allowed to create wealth and the tax revenues that the state can accrue from such free entrepreneurships shall be then invested in the social sectors to create greater opportunities for the lesser well offs. Danquah and Rawls were both convinced that a just society must, in some sense, be a market society. However, rather than leaving the control of capital to be concentrated in a few hands, the state must be proactive but not coercive in the process of democratising wealth. The believe in achieving it through a conscious policy that provides greater opportunities for free enterprise for all.

It has been captured as such: In the broadest possible terms, a property-owning democracy will be a market economy in which holdings of capital are widely dispersed across the population. The view is that fair equality of opportunity and limited inequality can be better achieved through a more broad-based distribution of initial holdings rather than by relying on the mechanism of “after-the-fact” redistributive taxation. A property-owning democracy would be a “regime in which land and capital are widely though not presumably equally held,” according to Rawls.

So far in Ghana, there are serious but surmountable checks against the creation of a property owning democracy. In Ghana, according to figures made available to me from GREDA, average price of a home, as a multiple of average annual salary is very discouraging. However, it is only discouraging because we do not have a vibrant mortgage lending culture, sparked by low interest rates. An average size of a home in Ghana is 375sq ft, bigger than the European average. Average cost of a house is $25/sq ft. In order to create a property owning democracy some of these facts must be factored into the equation. The average income of the majority of people with decent jobs is $211. This gives them access to a single bedroom flat, which can be priced at $9,375 on an annual salary of $2,535. Thus, the average price of such a home as a multiple of average annual income is equivalent to 3.69. The price of a two-bedroom house is $43,560, targeting middle-income earners, who are on an average income of $845 (annual income of $10,140), translates into 4.29 times of their annual income. A three-bedroom house for the upper middle income is set at $149,250. This translates into 5.8 times the annual salary, which is $25,353 at $2112.6 a month. That same accommodation will cost $600 a month to rent.

For example, through a commonly non-punitive tax regime. The estimated tax revenue for 2010 is 6 billion Ghana cedis (6,072,242,638) this translates into 13.55% of estimated GDP. Compare this to the OECD countries’ average of 35.9% in 2006. This ranges from 49.1% of GDP in Sweden and Denmark, 43.9% in Norway, 37.1% in the United Kingdom, 35.6% in Germany, 285 in the United States, 28.8% in Korea, to 20.6% in Mexico.

To accelerate the creation of a property owning democracy in Ghana will also call for some radical measures. For example, between 1920 and 1938 nearly £2500m (£73.9bn in today’s money, using GDP deflator) was invested in domestic construction in the U.K, resulting in about 4.3m houses being built – 1.5m in the 1920s and 2.5m in the 1930s. This meant that by 1939 one family in three lived in an interwar house. 2.5m of the new houses were built privately. This led to competition and a fall in prices and a boom of the mortgage sector as interest rates fell, resulting in a rise in home-ownership from 10% of families in 1914 to 31% by 1939.The Government of the UK, using the 1919 the Addison Housing Act required local government to build houses to be let to poorer working-class families.

Another significant measure, which developed countries everywhere have used is the demolition of slum areas. Slum areas, like Sodom & Gomorroh, tend to be potentially expensive but if only they are cleared. We can learn from others and be bold in clearing urban slums, which generate diseases, crimes and take away the dignity of inhabitants. An estimated 604,417 such slum houses were identified in UK by 1939, resulting in the demolition of 342,940 houses of them by that year. The UK’s 1930 Housing Act (or ‘Greenwood’ Act), for instance, gave local authorities the power to demolish properties that were unfit for human habitation, or posed a danger to health. They also had an obligation to subsequently re-house the tenants, which opened the way to the provision of council housing. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel in Ghana.

Even by 1992, home ownership were the following in the respective countries, Ireland (82%), Spain 80%, Norway 73%, United Kingdom 67%, Italy 68%, United States 59% and Japan 60%. However, home ownership has grown in these countries because of the high levels of incomes. In Japan for instance, the average price of a home as a multiple of average annual salary was about 8.62, Australia 3.36, United States, 3.00, United Kingdom 6.13, Sweden 2.99 and the Netherlands 1.80.

CHINA’S DEMOCRATISATION OF HOME-OWNERSHIP

For example, since 1997, China has made a structural shift from social housing, where the state owned and rented out the accommodation of workers to home ownership. As economic reforms deepened in the 1990s, China’s policymakers sought to privatise much of the publicly owned housing stock that had been previously rented from the state or state-owned enterprises (SOEs). According to a survey, in 1997, 36% of Shanghai’s population owned the homes they lived in, and that percentage has now risen to 82%, more than double. Also, 15% of urban Chinese now own second homes. Again, Shanghai leads the pack with 22% of respondents saying they own a second home. According to a study by theCenter for Housing Studies, Harvard University, China now has one of the highest homeownership rates in the world, largely as a result of the privatisation of public sector housing. Like, it happened in other more established capitalist states, the policies that promote ownership in China have required a significant commitment of government resources, both on-budget and in the form of forgone revenues from land use rights allocation, taxes and fees. China’s two primary homeownership-oriented housing policies are the Housing Provident Fund (Zhufang Gongjijin) compulsory savings scheme and the subsidised construction of ‘affordable housing’ (Jingji Shiyong Fang). China’s housing policy, like those of most countries, has welfare and homeownership components. Here in Ghana, welfare housing is virtually non-existence, even under a government of professed social democrats.

What has stopped us here in Ghana from implementing the equivalent of China’s Housing Provident Fund, for example? This is a compulsory housing savings plan with employer matching that which is modeled on Singapore’s Central Provident Fund, which, earlier, had led to a significant boost in homeownership there. A Housing Bond was proposed in the 2008 NPP manifesto and the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) recently called for one to be established. Beyond that, I have also proposed a two and half percentage rise in VAT to be ring-fenced for a Social Housing Fund, with particular attention to rural Ghana, the urban homeless and low income earners. In 2009, a total of Gh97,650,000 was raised in VAT. Gh121,820,000 is projected for 2010. A 2.5% increment on this year’s projected value would fetch Gh142,123,333. Imagine how many truly affordable rental homes this can serve, especially if the scheme is contracted to the private sector?

Ghana could depend on experiences from abroad if we are serious about spreading property ownership. In France, for instance, measures designed to facilitate home ownership have obtained some results. The “Home for 15 Euros a Day ” project, based on a charter passed with several partners – developers, builders and financial institutions, is popular among the French people. Reserved for lower income households, for the price of a conventional rent (e.g. 450 euros a month) during 20 years, they can become homeowners of properties valued between 160,000 euros and 185,000 euros, measuring at least 85 sq m and its ground of 250 sq m or more, through tax incentives.

Encouraging property ownership is one of the easiest ways of widening a nation’s middle class and imbuing a higher sense of civil responsibility in the people. Property owners don’t go about burning down houses. The responsibility of maintaining ownership can drive us all to work harder for ourselves, hence, for our country.

SPREADING WORTH GEOGRAPHICALLY

I end by giving us something to think about, without emotions, as we leave here. How can we best make our country small, in terms of socio-economic access and make it wider in terms of the areas of vibrant socio-economic activity? Is it not worth considering moving the political capital of Ghana to the geographical mid-belt of the country, say Kintampo, as a deliberate policy to stimulate economic activity in the north, bring the country economically closer, while at the same time, expanding the areas of economic activity to cover a wider area of the country’s geography and people? South Africa offers as a very interesting model, facilitated by the country’s constitutional arrangements. It has three capitals. Pretoria is the administrative capital, Cape Town is the legislative capital, and Blomfontein is the home of the judiciary. As the Federal Republic of Nigeria teaches us, the influence of Lagos as the commercial capital has not at all been adversely affected by the decision in December 1991 to move the political capital to Abuja. It has made a vast area of land that was hitherto of very little economic value become among the most valuable in the world, creating more wealth and expanding the socio-geographical reach of the nation’s wealth. Accra and the rest of Ghana, surely, can also benefit from such a future arrangement?

Thank you.

This speech was delivered at the Teachers’ Hall, Accra, before an audience of TESCON Members from the City Campus, University of Ghana on Thursday, November 12, 2010. The speaker is the Executive Director of the Danquah Institute (www.danquahinstitute.org).

 

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4 Responses to “PROPERTY OWNING DEMOCRACY – THE IDEOLOGICAL ROAD MAP TO ECONOMIC SELF-RELIANCE”

  1. i was really in impressed that day. i suggest this should be extended to other parts of the nation to educate party members

  2. It certainly was. The plan is to carry it around the country but the problem is money. You’ll be informed of the progress of the message. In the mean time you can continue to propagate this ideology.

  3. am very happy to choose a good and well educated party to support and i will never turn my back at npp and is simply because i will be happy to be the flagbera some day am in st. fracis xaiver in accra

  4. Good day! This is kind of off topic but I need some help
    from an established blog. Is it tough to set up your own blog?
    I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick.

    I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you
    have any ideas or suggestions? Many thanks

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