Former President John Agyekum Kufuor has said as part of efforts to fight the illegal mining menace in the country, the people must be empowered to engage in legitimate mining activities.
He said inasmuch as the country must fight galamsey to protect the environment, it was also important for the citizenry, especially those in mining communities, to benefit from the mineral resources.
“We must sit back and think out a policy that will make the people feel that, truly, they are stakeholders in the resources. As it is now, people do not get a share in the resources; but if we do it right, business people will get a fair share, the people in mining communities will have their share and the state will also get its share,” Mr Kufuor added.
He further said criminalisation of galamsey, without a deliberate effort to empower the people to legitimately benefit from the natural resources, would be counter-productive.
Former President Kufuor said this when he took his turn at the dialogue series of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), where he shared his thoughts on the importance of building the private sector and wealth creation.
The event, which was held at his residence at Peduase, near Aburi in the Eastern Region, lasted about three hours.
Mr Kufuor said it was imperative for the government to implement policies that would help the private sector to thrive, particularly businesses set up by citizens.
“When we talk of private sector growth, it should not be lip service. The private sector should be elevated and empowered to grow,” he said.
According to him, a deliberate policy that would grow businesses and create legitimate wealth for the people would not only improve their lot but also contribute to the growth of the economy.
Citing Nigeria as an example, he said that country had deliberately created billionaires who had gone ahead to open big businesses which were now household names, generating massive employment for the people.
“Nigeria will give the oil block to a Nigerian. When it turns out that there is oil, major oil players will chase after him and, in the end, such a person will have equity in big oil firms and become a billionaire.
“Let us, therefore, encourage our people who want to make it in trade, industry and other economic ventures. They will create wealth and they will use the wealth in this country; employment will follow and more development will happen,” Mr Kufuor added.
The former President also touched on the need for the country to build strong institutions that would fight injustice and safeguard democracy to help achieve national goals.
“We must build institutions and also act as stakeholders — that is where true democracy evolves from. I do not believe in strong men; we need strong institutions,” he said.
Tracing the history of the country from independence, Mr Kufuor said it had always had an identity crisis and seemed not to know how to resolve its peculiar challenges.
“When I got the opportunity to become President, I said we needed to identify our identity, we should not be copycats.
“What do we want as a nation? If we are a nation, things such as tribalism and religion should come second place to the humanity in us,” he said.