Not that it is terribly important, but if you are among the few Ghanaians who follow the affairs of civil society – government relations, you’ll probably have had occasion to ponder:
Is IMANI being selective in its criticism of the NDC?
Does it seek to favour the NPP in its commentary?
If these questions are of some interest to you, and they probably aren’t since you have more important things to worry about in your crowded life. But if indeed they are, then no matter your prior perceptions you need to confront the evidence.
What does the evidence show? It shows clearly that the answer to both questions is NO: IMANI is neither biased against the NDC nor biased towards the NPP.
IMANI seeks to find out what the expert consensus is on any particular matter of extreme national importance, find the best available evidence, and then work hard to influence public opinion. It is an important role because subject matter specialists are themselves often unwilling or unskilled in taking on the political class by engaging the public directly, even when members of the political class are taking the nation for a ride. That is why so many sound solutions never find their way into public policy, i.e. the cost to politicians of ignoring sound evidence is STILL not high enough.
Thus, since its founding by Franklin Cudjoe in 2004, strictly as an advocacy organisation, and NOT as an academic research institution, IMANI has done everything it can TO RAISE THE COST of ignoring sound evidence, for politicians, civil servants and other government functionaries and institutions.
It has seen one term of the NPP and one term of the NDC, but obviously it has been operating longer under an NDC administration (since it was not founded on 1st January 2004).
What is its record in terms of engagement with the two parties on equal basis? Exemplary!
1. IMANI criticised the party’s approach to eZwich, insisting that the POS terminals should not be sold to merchants in order to quicken their spread, and that the platform should simply offer a core module for e-commerce and e-money innovators to deploy services on top of it. So vociferous was IMANI that when the new government came into power in 2009, the Bank of Ghana sought the organisation’s input in its goal of revamping eZwich.
2. IMANI criticised the NPP for its railways policy, arguing that its strategic partnerships with the likes of KAMPAC etc were unlikely to yield much fruit. It proposed the separation of the commercial cartage opportunity from the infrastructure opportunity. Government should simply float an infrastructure bond to put in place the arteries and thus incentivise local users of the network – mines, timber haulers etc – to own parts of the *hubs*. Once a commercially sound system was in place external investors can come and BUY INTO it. Expecting strategic investors to put together our entire railway system on a greenfield basis won’t lead to much. The new govt has continued to make exactly the same mistakes.
3. Under the NPP, IMANI opposed the GNPC decision to ‘fast-track’ oil production. Many of the sub-optimal decisions taken then affected the sector. When the new govt came, they did NOTHING to reform the GNPC’s strategy. They retained the technical core, and put their people at the top. The results are with us today in respect of delayed production, botched gas plans etc.
4. IMANI quarrelled incessantly with the NPP on national identification policy. We literally became a thorn in the flesh of the NIA, even though we had very high esteem for Prof. Attafuah. We criticised the inability of the Authority to implement a ‘national identification backbone’ so as to forestall the duplication of ID cards we see today.
5. IMANI criticised the NPP vigorously about delays in financial regulation reforms, the lack of progress in re-evaluating elements of regulation where Ghana continues to lag behind such as deposit insurance, bankruptcy, securitisation etc. In the area of financial sector deepening, we met the Ghana Stock Exchange and told the bosses to their faces that just sitting there in the hope that an ‘alternative investments markets’ approach for smaller companies will solve the problems of subscription is sheer vanity.
6. IMANI was so critical of Aluminum policy under the NPP that some people thought we were in cahoots with those who favoured Togbe Afede against Dr. Charles Mensa/Mr. Nick Armateifio in that titanic industrial contest. We had absolutely no such interest.
7. Single spine – IMANI disagreed with the approach recommended by Co-En, the consultants, and described the setting up of the Fair Wages Commission as putting the horse before the cart. IMANI instead suggested more devolution of pay policy to frontline managers so as to benchmark performance with compensation more accurately. IMANI also argued that improved pay can only be possible if the public sector is rationalised and oversight devolved in certain critical areas like health and education.
8. Energy tariff policy, IPPs, and Tema Oil Refinery
No need to elaborate too much here, as the controversies are still fresh in recent memory, but one can list:
2. CDB Loan
4. Slow Disbursements of Donor Funds
5. Slow pace of public sector reforms, and continued cracks in public payroll management
7. SIM Card registration
So the evidence is clear. IMANI fought longer and more intense policy battles with the NPP than with the NDC.
Why then has the tone of the relationship between IMANI and the NDC appeared to have been so much more acrimonious?
Very simple: the NDC’s own posture to advocacy organisations seeking to mould opinion through persuasive argument.
The NDC is a party that favours mass movements than civil advocacy, especially of the think tank variety. They are deeply suspicious of non-governmental organisations that are not ad-hoc movements but rather INSTITUTIONS. In recent years, the NDC’s communications strategy has been dictated by a group of latter-day wannabe cadres who have added insecurity to this historic bias towards mass movements and against institutionalised advocacy. Just look at their style even on Facebook. The issue is therefore less what organisations like IMANI say about the NDC and the NPP, but how the two parties CHOOSE TO REACT.
I will elaborate.
When I was in student politics in the late 90s, I was struck by the inability of NDC functionaries to treat NUGS with respect. They struggled to appreciate the organisation’s legitimacy. Even left-leaning organisations like ISODEC when they opposed government policy (like ‘water privatisation’) struggled to get any respect from the NDC. The attitude was almost like: who elected you folks? What’s your business trying to scrutinise us? We are the party of the masses, how dare you question us!
The NPP on the other hand has shown itself to be more comfortable with the notion of institutional advocacy. The two most prominent NPP elders in the 90s and early 2000s, Messrs R.R. Amponsah and B.J. Da Rocha, were civil society enthusiasts. In fact, B.J. Da Rocha spent years at the Institute of Economic Affairs gleefully annoying NPP government functionaries by issuing strong comment in both private and public about the government’s policy in a wide range of areas. Reform of the justice system was one of his favourite trump cards, and he never ceased to whack government ministers on the head with it.
In fact, NPP sympathisers went as far as set up a party-affiliated think tank of their own.
To understand the intolerance of the NDC for IMANI ( which seems to be changing at least from the second part of 2015)
, and especially the conduct of their latter-day cadre-wannabes, you need to look at the difference in posture the two political parties have towards institutional advocacy. That is furthermore why the NDC also feels antagonised more so than the NPP by professional bodies such as the Ghana Bar Association, the Ghana Medical Association and even organised labour.
If the acrimony had been directed just at IMANI, the thesis above, while interesting, would have been suspect. But there is no doubt that many other advocacy organisations, except those that studiously avoid criticising government policy, have been the target of the NDC’s unease with the whole notion of institutionalised advocacy.
There is no doubt that the NDC will prefer adhoc organisations that portray themselves as mass movements, the likes of the CJA etc. But institutions like IMANI won’t go away. The party just need to appreciate that reality and learn to live with it. Ghana’s fate is in the hands of all of us. God bless.