Friday, May 21, 2010

Ghana’s fanciful employment figures

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics” – Mark Twain


For all the noble efforts of successive governments, the population of the Republic of Ghana remains guesswork, estimate ranges from 20 to 26 million people.

More than few eyebrows were raised when a Minister in the government’s propaganda outfit, Ministry of Information (those in opposition think of it as more of dis-or mis- information), claimed that the one plus year old President Mills government has succeeded in creating one point six million – yep, 1.6m, jobs.

Whilst government mouthpieces went to town to trumpet this apparently unprecedented achievement, those opposing the government scoffed and use some very uncharitable and (unprintable here) words.

Many arm-chair psychologists, who knew about such things, opined that the young minister had imbibed too much from the potent brew common in his part of the country. Many are those who blamed it on his youthful exuberance that comes with childlike eagerness to please authority figure.

To get the low down on things, I went to the ministry at the Ministries area of Accra and spoke with the government Chief Spin Doctor.

“By taming the almost embarrassing joblessness problem, your government certainly deserves a huge applause.”

“Thank you, my brother. I wish more of our citizens show the same patriotic zeal like you. You see, governments all over the world are peopled by human beings like you and I. We also need to be appreciated. We don’t mind to be criticized when we erred, but we should also be praised when we get things right.”

“But one million, sorry one point six million, jobs created within one year, that is hugely impressive. That means you have managed to put about seven percent of our people to work (depending on whose figure we are using). And all within the first year of your administration! That certainly deserves huge kudos.”

“It is not as hard as people thought. The problem here is that our people are so used to governments not performing. They are so used to politicians not keeping election promises that they have become totally cynical…”

“Do you blame them?”

“No, no, it is not a matter of blaming them. We are not in the blame-game business, not at all. I was just explaining that because past governments have failed to deliver does not mean that the Mills Team will also fail. Mr. President is a man of integrity who keeps his words. Don’t forget that he’s also an upright Christian.”

“What is that supposed to mean? I don’t remember that the last time Ghana had a Muslim or a Traditionalist as president.”

“No, no! There are Christians and then there are Christians.”

“Let’s not get into intractable religious arguments, what is the population of Ghana?”

“What?”

“How many people do we have in Ghana?”

“Why, you are directing your question to the wrong person. I am the PR Chief here and not the government statistician.”

“Oh!”

“Yes! I don’t see the relevance of the question.”

“The relevance is that many people I talked with have problem with the figure you released about job creation. Most of them are of the opinion that a nation that does not even know its population cannot make any credible statistical pronouncements.”

“Put that down to the skepticism our people have developed over the years. Not that I’d say that I blame them. Years of unkempt promises by our leaders have deadened our people’s perception of what good governance is all about. Team Mills is set to change all that.”

“With all due respect, sir, we are not in the soap-box here. You haven’t answered the question of how we could know the figures of job created when we do not even know how many we really are.”

“Why should that be so daunting, my friend? It is simple arithmetic, really! My three year old daughter should be able to add it up.”

“Oh, three year old counting to 1.6 million, she might yet make the Guinness Book of Records. That’s just by the way, sir. What figures would your three year old daughter be adding together to get that grand sum of one point six million people put into employment by your government?”

“And with due respect, I must say that I find these inquisition rather juvenile. It is a just simple matter of tabulating the figures provided by all the agencies, organizations, companies and other bodies with which the government has had dealings since the inception of our administration.”

“And they came up with the figure of one point six million created jobs?”

“That and more. You see, the government is focused, very focused on our agenda of creating a Better Ghana. We do not allow the antics of our detractors to shift our attention.”

“Wow! Do you mean to tell me that you have created more than one point six million jobs?”

“We are talking about ancillary and other stuffs. Surely the grand total will be magnificently higher. We deserve great kudos rather than all these endless inquisitions by our political enemies.”

“I am sorry you felt that way, but most Ghanaians find such figures simply fantastic. They also wonder why such massive job creation is not reflected in diminished number of young people braving traffic accidents in scorching sun to sell bric and bracs from Europe, Asia and America. We also do not see any industrial or manufacturing factories employing any tangible number of Ghanaians. And one point six million people earning and spending will also reflect positively on the income, and we are simply not seeing that. Are we not talking phantom figures, sir?”

“You see how people continuously lump apple and oranges together to get pine-apples! Have you ever considered the simple fact many of those young people you see selling on the streets might also have a second or even a third job, and that selling on the street is just supplemental to their main job or jobs?”

“Really?”

“Don’t look so skeptical, my friend, it is known to have happened?”

“Oh!”

“Yes, yes sir! I can tell you as a matter of fact that I was doing three jobs during my student days in Britain. I was a cleaner in the morning, transformed into a factory worker in the afternoon and at night yours truly was morphed into a security man and in between winks I had to study for my exams. And please don’t let us talk about doing oral presentation on ancient grannies who have lost all their marbles.”

“Hmm… Why do I have the feeling that you are flying off a tangent. Ghana is not Britain; the question remains what evidence do you have to support your assertion that over a million jobs have been created by your government?”

“Why do I have the feeling that you came here with pre-conceived ideas and that you are simply not prepared to listen? Ask yourself how many infrastructural projects are presently ongoing in the country and how many hard-working Ghanaians are engaged there. You can also strain yourself a bit to find out how many roads are been constructed; don’t imagine that Martians are doing the jobs there either. And certainly it is bona-fide Ghanaians who are engaged in the gigantic rural electrification projects that are taking place across the land. How about the revamped agricultural sector, how many Ghanaians are engaged in striving to provide the foods that adorn our tables…”

“I thought that most of the foods we eat are imports. Rice from Thailand, unwholesome chicken and turkey stuffs from Holland, mad-cow parts from Britain, swine feet from Brazil, tomato paste from Italy…”

“Don’t be such a killjoy, sir. Do you know how many tractors this government has procured for our farmers?”

“I am afraid that I do not have the figure.”

“You see! If only people will do a little original research. And why do people always forget that our beloved county will soon join the league of oil producing country?”

“How does that add to the figure about job creation when it is said that only few jobs will be actually created in the oil sector?”

“Said by whom?”

“Oil exploration and exploitation is a very specialized field and it requires specialists few of whom are Ghanaians…”

“But are you not forgetting about the support staff, cooks, gardeners, houseboys and you don’t expect all the oil workers to hit town with their wives, they certainly will need…”

“Are you really counting prostitution among the your supposedly created jobs?”

“Why are you looking so aghast? What’s so odious about it?”

“You cannot be serious, sir! Counting Ghanaian prostitutes among your much touted job creation figures!”

“So what if those drilling our oil find our women beautiful, comely and are prepare to engage their services? What on earth is wrong with that? Or are you suggesting that our neighbours should be allowed to collar that lucrative segment of the down-stream part of the oil industry?”

“I rest my case.”

Wise saying:

" Never use both feet to test the depth of the sea." - African proverb