I have come across bits of quotes gleefully shared like confetti by NDC chaps on social media platforms. The quotes from the NDC’s star economist (sad that my good friend Adongo has lost out on this), Prof John Gatsi seeks to respond to the seminal digitization sermon eruditely delivered by His Excellency the Veep, Alhaji Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia.
In one quote the good Prof noted “there is a difference between financial inclusion and financial empowerment. People don’t enjoy enhanced payment systems (digitalization) without the ability to earn sustained incomes.” This is one of the instances when one is compelled to use just three words; silence is golden! That the Prof failed to take advantage of this is both troubling and puzzling. There is no suggestion anywhere in the brilliant presentation that attempted to equate digitization with financial empowerment. Even the laziest of readers will quickly notice that the super intelligent Veep competently demonstrated the links between digitization and sustainable incomes, jobs and prosperity through several pathways. His Excellency DMB in one of his humorous punches once made an audacious claim that the NDC people do not read. Whilst we keep laughing at this nobody least expected that this will apply across the board in that party to even include people who make a living out of reading.
The Prof, as we say it here, opened himself out for any questions. Take a read of another quote. “Digitalization is only relevant if it helps the economy to realise basic needs.” Here, I will say that the Prof answered himself. It is too bad that he failed to even read the very introductory parts of a piece he was reacting to. In the introductory part, the Vice President eloquently puts it this way: “unfortunately, many people still do not appreciate the link between digitization and economic development. I have heard some people ask why I have abandoned economics for digitization. Far from abandoning economics, the reality is that in this era, if you don’t digitize you will not have much of an economy, PERIOD! Indeed, a digital policy is economic policy!” If Prof Gatsi’s haste was to ‘say something’ to massage the dwindling egos of party footsoldiers that may be excused. Otherwise, his attempt is at best needless, and at worst, a shocking embarrassment to his fans.
Years back when people talked about the economy and productivity the central thesis clustered around labour and capital. Even as a layman, I have since come to appreciate that there is fluidity in these factors. They have since expanded to include time, the knowledge economy, big data and many others. Years to come digitization will define what the economy is. I conclude this piece by reference to one profound statement he made in the presentation: the most important factor of production will be data. I will plagiarise this and say the most important asset in Ghana’s political space now is His Excellency Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia.
Dr. Bawumia is clearly ahead of time!
By: Seth Osei Darko