As a country we seem to be losing our sense of perspective as regards our future, which means that we may be compromising the prospects of generations to come for jobs and livelihoods. For a start there are so many white elephant type projects that have been undertaken at great cost and are not yielding the returns that were expected, and are not benefiting in any way the population at large – an example much flagged is the sports complex at Cote d’Or. On the other hand there are the enormous sums that have been diverted in the matter of procurement of medical supplies, and the opacity about the so-called Safe City deal. All of this add up to the piling debt that the country faces. And if we add the catalogue of wastages that another Annual Audit Report has flagged, we are literally sitting on a powder keg that will explode any moment if we do not come to our senses before then.
We are not out of the Covid crisis despite the falling curve, that’s for sure if we go by what is happening elsewhere even in the developed countries where experts are warning that they have to be prepared for further surges despite the vaccine rollouts and other measures being implemented. Moreover, social and law and order problems continue to plague us when we would have expected that there would be a better sense of responsibility among people in these already strained moments that we are going through.
We were already on the EU black list, and there is no saying when we will be cleared of this tag. On top of that we have adjudged by a Swedish agency as being among the top ten countries in the autocracy group. To add insult to injury, Reporters Sans Frontiershas downgraded us by five ranks.
And now government has come up with a proposal to amend the ICT Act against which there has been an uproar in the population, with those in the know drawing attention to the many controversial points in the paper that has been circulated. Although the public has been invited to make submissions about the proposed changes, too little time has been given for same.
We believe that there is some justification for an oversight mechanism to regulate social media content, as is happening in several jurisdictions. We must keep in mind, however, that they are in the big league and in a position to put pressure on the social media platforms – in our case mainly Facebook – in case the latter are in breach of the country’s domestic laws. The fact that Facebook has not even bothered to respond to the request by ICTA for comments on its proposals should alert us to the need to be doubly cautious about how we go about setting up our local oversight platform. Any sign that it is intended to curb drastically the freedom of expression and to manipulate content in a repressive manner will impact further our international image.
We know the negative impact that this can have on investments and investors, and it behoves the leaders to therefore keep all that well in mind as they take sensitive decisions for the country.
* Published in print edition on 23 April 2021
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