I am happy to welcome you here this evening. They say, I believe, that if you have something important to say, don’t risk losing it in the digestive tracts of a hungry man. Now that you seem to me to be carefree and relaxed and in a mood of conviviality, “you’ll have no scandal while we dine, but honest talk and wholesome wine."
Gentlemen, you are the representatives of industry and commerce, and constitute a vital part in the economic life of Ghana. I would like to take advantage of your presence here tonight to have a good look at our common problems.
As you know, we have had some problems in our foreign trade and balance of payments. The unsatisfactory state of world markets for cocoa and for some of our other major products made it necessary for us to tighten our belts. For those of you in the business community, your contribution to this effort has consisted mostly of having to keep within regulated limits, the amounts which you could transfer abroad or pay out in dividends. In addition, we look for steps to reduce our imports on goods in order to prevent the balance of payment crisis.
We know that the reduction in imports has in some way affected your business, but I can assure you that the decision was taken in the interest of the nation, and especially of the national economy of which you form a part.
We know at the time that the measures we took would impose some restriction on all of us. Even those of us in the Government have felt the stress and strain of the limitations which the world financial situation imposed on our activities, but in spite of this, we must recognise the fact that these limitations were necessary in order to protect the strength and stability of our economy.
I am happy to say that as a result of the sacrifices made by the people of Ghana, by the Government and by you, the members of the business community, the financial situation has now stabilised. There has been a radical improvement in our balance of international trade, and the country’s reserves have shown a healthy recovery. But this does not mean that the time has come for us to relax. Our economic position needs to be still further improved, particularly in the new period of development which we are about to enter with our Seven-Year Plan.
In the past year or so, while we have adopted these vigorous measures to protect Ghana’s economy, we have had to experiment with a number of devices in order to achieve our aim. I am fully aware of the difficulties which some of us have encountered owing to the changes that have to be made from time to time. I would like to say, however, that the Government of Ghana stands by the principles which I enumerated at the last Budget with regard to investment, and which I repeat here:
"The Government will continue to encourage private investors to establish and operate in Ghana. Our Government has no plans whatsoever to take over industries in the private sector; it is neither its wish to do so nor its aim or policy. When private investors enter into fields where state enterprises operate, they will compete on absolutely equal terms without discrimination”
Gentlemen, we must be frank and honest about our intentions and motives. There should be no secret doubts in the relations between us. We can only co-exist on the basis of absolute frankness. We, on our part, welcome every honest investor who wants to work for his equitable profits, but we shall not tolerate anyone who seeks to direct what political course we should follow. Any Government, or, for that matter, any organisation which invests in, or gives a loan or assistance to, another country like our own must on no account interfere directly or indirectly in the internal or external affairs of that country. If any attempt is made on the strength of such credit, loan, aid or assistance to interfere in the political, social, economic, cultural and military affairs of our country, then we shall consider that the motives under lying such activities and operations have a neo-colonialist character.
Perhaps between the theory and practice, there may have been some mistakes made in the application of the rules and regulations. I wish to say, therefore, that if any such mistakes have been made, they have been made in good faith and with the best of intentions.
In order that such mistakes may not be repeated, I have instructed that the rules and regulations should now be put on a firm and clear cut basis. You all know what is required of you, and I am confident that you will accept these in fairness and good spirit, and thereby contribute to the economic growth of Ghana. I am happy to say that an Investment Bill is nearing completion and is expected to be introduced shortly into Parliament. This Bill, when it becomes law, will provide legal backing to Government’s policy with regard to investment and also, at the same time, define the nature of concessions which the Government proposes to make to investors.
Gentlemen, perhaps it will be a good thing for me at this juncture to say something about our hopes for the future. We are in the process of establishing a society in which men and women will have no anxiety about work, food and shelter; where poverty and illiteracy no longer exist and-where disease is brought under control; where our educational facilities provide our children with the best possible opportunities for learning; where every person uses his talents to their fullest capacity and contributes to the general well-being of the nation.
In order to attain these objectives, we have accepted the socialist pattern of society, believing that at a certain level of economic growth of a less-developed country such as Ghana, State enterprise can co—exist with private business interests, provided certain rules are observed on both sides.
I have stated elsewhere that:
"There are circumstances in which the import of foreign capital is of benefit to the importing country, especially in the case of the emerging developing country where large-scale sources of capital accumulation is small and not so easy to mobilise. Foreign capital is thus useful and helpful if it takes the form of a loan or a credit to enable the borrowing country to buy what it needs from whatever sources it likes, and at the same time to retain the control of the assets to be developed?
"One of the worst things that can happen to less-developed and emerging countries is to receive foreign aid with political and economic strings attached.
“These aids are very often wrapped up in financial terms that are not easily discernible.
"Foreign investment made in an emerging and developing country by a foreign company in order that such company can make a profit, has nothing to do with aid. This does not mean that a developing country may not find it advantageous to make a contract with a foreign company for the setting up of, say, a factory or an industry."
"Real aid is something quite different. It consists of direct gifts or loans that are given on favourable terms and without strings attached."
"The problem therefore is how to obtain capital investment and still keep it under sufficient control to prevent undue exploitation and how to preserve integrity and sovereignty without crippling economic or political ties to any country, block or system. In other words, can state enterprise and private enterprise co-exist in a less-developed country? I say yes, provided they both conform to the general framework of the overall plan made by the State."
As I have said earlier, our ideas of socialism can co-exist with private enterprise. I also believe that private capital and private investment capital, in particular, has a recognised and legitimate part to play in Ghana’s economic development. We are consistent in these ideas. I have never made any secrets of my faith in socialist principles, but I have always tried to make it quite clear that Ghana’s socialism is not incompatible with the existence and growth of a vigorous private sector in the economy.
Gentlemen, I need hardly say that Ghana expects you — indeed, Ghana invites you — businessmen, industrialists, bankers, manufactures and investors, to play a significant role in this economic growth and development.
Let me end by saying — and I say this with emphasis and sincerity that those of you who will be investing in Ghana will be investing in a very stable country; a country united; a country determined to make progress; a country determined to industrialise; a country determined to mechanise and diversify its agriculture; a country dynamic and honest in its intentions and consistent in its policies.
Look around the country for yourselves. Invite your business friends to come here and see with their own eyes the happy atmosphere pervading everything we do; the stability we rightly boast of; the buoyancy of our economy and the happy relationships existing among all races who live here. There can be no better assurance to investors than these. Tell them not to be taken in by the mischief of a section of the press in Europe and America.
And now, Gentlemen, let us stand and drink a toast to the progress and prosperity of trade and industry in Ghana.