Post-Colonial Economic Legacies in Ghana and India

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When surveying the international arena, it is immediately evident that certain countries are closer to the ideal type of a just society than others. Investigations and explanations of this observation that fail to take into account colonial relations and their lasting legacies miss a crucial part of the puzzle. In examining the cases of Ghana and India in their contemporary context, we encounter an amalgamation of factors resulting in their current underdeveloped (as Gunder Frank terms it) states. Following Gunder Frank’s analysis, this will be a primarily economics-centered discussion with obvious political and sociocultural aspects; the merits and drawbacks of such an economically deterministic theory will not be addressed specifically – hopefully, the reasons for such an approach will become evident as the argument progresses. Undeniably, the evolution of both countries following independence took place along with remainders of colonial structure that had lasting effects on the functioning of independent economy and society at large. To claim that they were the only factors at play is simplistic, however. Traditional modes of living, ineffective government, drought and natural disaster, militaristic and nationalistic tendencies, and global political climate also have played a role. In light of and with full acknowledgement of this confluence of factors, I propose that the primary reason for both of these countries’ relative (to the West, not each other) underdevelopment is their location within a metropole-satellite power dynamic that subverts their national needs to those of primarily Western economic concerns, with present-day economic differences between India and Ghana being explained by their unique geographies, traditional values, and most importantly, post-independence governments (Chazan and Pellow 1986, Fitzgerald 1967, Gunder Frank 1966). These Western concerns have taken such wide-ranging forms as altruistic ideologies of development, IMF and World Bank projects, international trade blocs, aspects of urbanization, and many more (Ranganathan 2003).

The economic prospects for India and Ghana today look vastly different by many conventional measurements. India is often presented as a burgeoning, rapidly modernizing country that is soon to compete with the likes of China and the U.S, while Ghana (if spoken about at all) is the site of instability and regression (Herbst 1993, Vicziany 2005). India’s GDP is in fact increasing rapidly each year, while Ghana’s is stagnant by comparison (Vicziany 2005, World Bank 1984). Foreign investment in India is rising while investors see little incentive to finance ventures in Ghana (Raj 2006). Outside the economic sphere, Indian government is relatively stable compared to seemingly continuous Ghanaian upheaval (Herbst 1993). These are legitimate observations with explanations that will be subsequently elaborated. But to what extent are these observations only partial representations of complex dynamics that are more similar in many ways than conventionally thought? Upon giving due credence to basic concerns such as food, water, healthcare, and housing we can begin to see the ways in which these two countries are similar. Once we have established the nature of these fundamental similarities, we can begin to understand their relationship with each country’s economic history. This will give us a basis upon which to explain possible differences that we encounter between the two countries.

Both India and Ghana are agriculture-based economies with histories deeply rooted in subsistence agriculture (Hopkins 1973, Philip’s 2008). After the sharp decline of cocoa prices in the 1960s led to crisis in a Ghana that depended on revenue from exporting cocoa to purchase imported foodstuffs, Ghanian policy shifted towards more self-sustaining agricultural practices (World Bank 1984). Cocoa still being a major part of Ghana’s economy not only shows the overall failure...
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