On Tuesday, 11th July 2017, Dr. Ha-Joon Chang, a renowned economist and Director of the Centre of Development Studies at the University of Cambridge, delivered a lecture at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). The theme of the lecture at the IEA policy forum was ‘Destiny or Policy? – Development Prospects for Ghana.’
In his opening address Dr. Charles Mensa, Board Chairman of the IEA, welcomed Dr. Chang to Ghana and the Institute. Dr. Mensa set the tone for the forum by providing guests with a brief background of the keynote speaker and his bestselling books – which include ‘Bad Samaritans’ and ‘23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism’. Dr. Mensa went on to explain that after 60 years of independence, Ghana has not fared well when compared to some of its counterparts who had similar level of development at the time of independence.
Dr. Chang began his presentation by challenging conventional development arguments. He strongly maintained the view that blaming the African Growth Tragedy on meta-structural factors such as geography, climate or natural resource curse is flawed. Dr. Chang argued that many meta-structural factors were present in today’s developed countries; moreover individual experiences of African nations such as the growth of landlocked Ethiopia and Rwanda also counter meta-structural arguments.
The second half of Dr. Chang’s presentation focused on the need for developing countries to adopt protectionist policies in order to grow. The Cambridge academic outlined evidence to suggest that all of today’s rich countries – including Britain and the USA – used protectionism for substantial periods of their development. Dr. Chang suggested developing countries like Ghana, where necessary, needed to protect and nurture infant industries in order to witness economic development. However, he maintained that while protection is necessary, nations must invest sufficiently in order to raise productive capabilities. In conclusion, Dr. Ha-Joon Chang underlined the idea that underdevelopment is not a destiny – rather, policies make the most difference.
The policy forum was well attended by key stakeholders including senior government officials, academics, representatives of civil society organisations, officials of the main political parties, religious and traditional leaders, members of diplomatic corps and the media. Among the dignitaries in attendance were H.E John Agyekum Kufuor, former President of the Republic of Ghana; Hon. Yaw Osafo Maafo, Senior Minister; H.E Kim Sungsoo, Korean Ambassador; H.E Andrew Barnes, Australian High Commissioner; Mr. Sam Okudzeto, Member of the Council of State; Nii Okaidja III, Gbese Mantse and Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Martey, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, amongst others.