You are here: Home Review 2010 Table of Contents Press Releases Working Group on Building States and Markets - Markets and global institutions must be accountable just like politicians, says former Ghanaian President

Working Group on Building States and Markets - Markets and global institutions must be accountable just like politicians, says former Ghanaian President

 

Markets should not be allowed to monopolise power and should be accountable to the public, just like politicians in a democracy. Global institutions that safeguard the interests of markets should also be held properly to account. That will be the main argument made by Jerry John Rawlings, Former President of the Republic of Ghana, speaking at this week’s 2010 Global Economic Symposium.

Reflecting on his time in government and the lessons for the recent global financial crisis, Mr Rawlings will also argue that the one-size-fits-all notion of democracy needs updating. Countries should make use of culture- and location-specific models of democracy to ensure that the interests of the public are best served.

His speech will make the point that the de-monopolisation of global markets and market processes will strengthen small African markets and help impoverished communities to participate in democratic processes and to access social justice.

 

Localise democracy to strengthen moral fibre for development

Jerry John Rawlings

We live in an interdependent and shrinking world. The convening of this particular Global Economic Symposium makes that message very clear. The lingering effects of the recent global financial crisis create a context that has made dissemination of that message more than necessary.

The difficult process to reach understanding on such new global challenges as climate vulnerability only serves to reinforce that message. In the meantime, other age-old challenges continue to haunt us. We recognise that food, clothing and shelter are not the only basic needs; we also need education and health care for all of our people if we are to realise universal economic development and build lasting global peace.

We also need social justice. Without justice, we cannot protect and strengthen the moral fibre of our societies. Without moral fibre, our human civilisations cannot stand.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thirty years ago, I was at the helm of a revolutionary transformation in my country, Ghana. When I say ‘revolution’, I am talking about a public uprising to restore the values that underpin our society. I am talking about the people’s refusal to accept corruption of the moral fibre of a nation.

By what some might call a strange twist of fate, I could also be considered a key participant in a wave of economic liberalisation that swept across Africa and other parts of the developing world.

Today we reassess the merits and demerits of some of the economic theories that governed the day. The recent global economic crisis demands in particular reassessment of the relationship between markets and states.

In those days the preference of the world’s economic gurus was for more market and less state. The state in Africa was considered to be too strong, and the market too weak. Arguments arose to reduce the size of the state. Encouraging the market to take the lead in development became almost synonymous with democratisation.

I personally doubted that competitive elections would of themselves bring development. Nevertheless, the spirit of the times demanded that we pay more than lip service to the demands for greater democratisation of society. I therefore threw myself into the forefront of the struggle to return Africa to democratic rule. Putting aside my personal doubts, I subjected myself to the ballot box, introduced electoral reforms and oversaw changes in the constitution of Ghana that limited the presidential term to two, beginning with my own term in office.

Today, and with the benefit of hindsight, we are at greater liberty to call into question the one-size-fits-all notion of democracy. What makes a model of democracy succeed in one part of the world and fail in another? Are there cultural-specific or location-specific models of democracy that can ensure that people on the ground have their say and contribute to designing models of social and economic development? Are there local systems that we can call on to ensure that democracy is not an alien concept?

I say yes.

Today it is widely acknowledged that the ownership of development processes is a critical question. Who owns the process largely determines the outcome. I believe that the kind of democratisation that will unleash global economic development must exist at many levels.

Yes the state must be democratic and accountable. Since leaving office I have made it my business to ensure that the state protects these qualities. But markets should not be left to monopolise power and they too must be accountable. And global institutions that safeguard the interests of markets need also to be held to account. Effective systems of accountability depend on broad participation.

Whereas reduction of the state has done little to strengthen markets in Africa, de-monopolisation of global markets and market processes will arguably strengthen small African markets and therewith the ability of impoverished communities to participate in democratic processes and to access social justice. Broader participation in locally determined democratic processes will protect and strengthen the moral fibre of rich and poor, which in turn will produce better development outcomes.

Back to Press Releases

Back to Table of Contents