Is Ghana’s first-ever Policy Fair a smart move?

VP John Mahama at the Ministry of Tourism stand. On the left is the Minister for Tourism, Zita Okaikoi.
*Source: Ghana Policy Fair Facebook page

On April 19, 2010, Ghana’s Ministry of Information launched a Facebook page dubbed “Ghana Policy Fair 2010,” an event that was slated to begin on April 27th through May 1st.

The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC)  reported:

The Ministry of Information will from April 27 to May 1, this year mount an exhibition of government policies, projects and tourism as well as other investment potential within the territorial boundaries of Ghana.

Peace FM Online also reported:

The Vice President John Dramani Mahama has asked all people with ideas and interest in government policy to take advantage of the ongoing Ghana Policy Fair.

The week-long policy fair which is a novelty in the country and on the continent is meant to educate Ghanaians on the various policy initiatives for national development.”

Mahama was quoted in the same report as saying:

“Government also expects that this fair will contribute in no small measure to bring the entire Ghanaian public aboard government’s better Ghana agenda. It will also provide the platform for the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies to account for their stewardship as Ghanaians long for information on Government activities and we expect that it will also drive investment and public private partnership in the implementation of some of these policy programmes that will be exhibited here.

The government’s Facebook page was freshly updated each day of the event.

Felix Amegashie, a member of the page wrote in response to a statement about the event:

Kwame Pianim was really impressive. I saw Hon. Felix Owusu Agyepong at the Fair Grounds…..Very patriotic of him. I encourage all persons all over Ghana and beyond to participate.

Samuel Tettey Ocansey also responded to another statement about the event being broadcasted live on TV:

Am watching it [and] it`s good that we have this policy fair, am learning.

And Gustav Kplom Asamoah wrote:

Thumps up!!!!!!Good idea….i hope its implementation becomes beneficial to the populace.

But not everyone Ghanaian has been thrilled with this idea. Ato Kwamena Dadzie, one of Ghana’s most outspoken journalists, in an April 29 blog post entitled, “The Policy Fair: Another Trivial Pursuit” had this to say:

I was amused beyond hysteria when I heard that government was planning to organise a policy fair. I scoffed at the idea because it didn’t make sense to me. But I thought my opinion would change when the event got underway. Three days into the policy fair and I am still at a loss as to why government is wasting the taxpayers’ money on such a pointless endeavour.

I have seriously pondered over the necessity for this fair even in my loo – where, incidentally, every silly idea tends to make sense. Unfortunately, the policy fair hasn’t quite made the grade even in my small room.

We are told it’s a fair to bring government policy closer to the people. It’s novel only in the sense that Ghana is perhaps the only country on earth where government officials feel the need to put policy documents on exhibition under the same roof. Once again, it seems, we’ve scored another negative first. And government officials are grinning, flashing their gums like the policies they are supposed to be exhibiting at the fair.

He further wrote:

Many other government officials and hirelings have said all they can to justify why we need a policy fair. Yet the whole thing still doesn’t make sense to me. Even if they crack my skull and force their justifications into my medulla oblongata, the idea won’t make any more sense than it has so far.

Two reasons may account for this: either the whole idea of the fair is crass or I am a nitwit for whom very little makes sense. The latter is quite likely but I can bet my last pesewa that the former is most probable.

However you look at it, the policy fair is a bad idea that is being forcefully implemented to throw dust into our eyes and give government something to boast about. We are “engaging the citizenry for a better Ghana”, government officials and members of the ruling party will say.

It’s almost like John Kufuor basking in the adulation of a partisan crowd at a so-called ‘People’s Assembly’ and turning around to claim that he opened up governance. He was also supposed to be explaining government policy to the ‘people’, right? But what good, really, did the ‘People’s Assembly’ do for the country?

Five years from now, mark my words, we will look back and realise that the policy fair was a worse idea than the People’s Assembly.

It appears Dadzie may not be the only person to think this fair is a waste of time. His post, however, received mixed responses.

David said:

So they can't simply put all this information onto a website for anyone who is interested to go and look it up? Instead people have to take time and spend lorry fair to attend a policy fair, for some information that will only be available temporarily? What a waste of time.

Rodney said:

Prancing about hysterically and pretending that because it is the first policy fair it means anything is most amusing. We already have the Meet The Press events where various sector ministries can wax lyrical about their policies. This is just another layer of nonsense that adds nothing, really.

But Somebody wrote:

Ato, I'm wondering if the word ‘fair’ is what is making you confused. Maybe they should have used ‘policy exposition’ to make this even look more serious than ‘fair'!!!! This is clearly an opportunity for government to interface more with the populace. It's another open space for receiving feedback from the populace and for the populace to learn some things and get informed. So I basically disagree with you that it's trivial. This is not trivial. We are in the information age after all. Yes electricity issues should be solved. Yes water crisis must be solved. But it's through policies that you have such solutions fine tuned for development. I don't care if it's a novelty or a tradition. The fact is that it's a useful thing and that is good. Kuffuor's ‘People's Assembly’, even if it was only a party event was another opportunity for Ghanaians to learn more about the govt. These things are just good. And there's nothing you can do but accept. So Ato, maybe it's the coka cola (lol).

Dadzie responded by saying,

You accept. I won't.


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