Monday, March 14, 2011

Metamorphosis – The Eliot Spitzer Way

I just finished watching Eliot Spitzer’s CNN hit show ‘In the Arena’ on CNN. Since the show started, I have never ceased to admire the eloquence, oratorical skills and the debts of intellectual knowledge Mr. Spitzer displays on TV. Although the show is currently not the top rated cable TV news program, most people agree that it has broadened the quality of intellectual discussion on TV. For me, Mr. Spitzer’s performance on the show makes him a star that is bigger than any ratings the show has garnered so far. He has acquired a faithful audience for his show and his performance is no different if not better than most of the television anchors today.  Yet it surprises me to think that this was the man who was so ruled out by many of ever having a public career just recently. When his scandal hit the airwaves three years ago I was one of the many people who hastily concluded that Mr. Spitzer has dug himself a hole so deep and wide that not even the saving Grace of Christ can give him a second chance in the public domain. I am eating ‘humble pie’ right now because he has metamorphosized so drastically and endeared himself so much to the public that you cannot recognize the Eliot Spitzer who stood pitiful on national TV admitting to patronizing high end prostitution and the Eliot Spitzer who sits gracefully in the anchors chair on CNN brilliantly discussing and analyzing the many important issues of American politics. 

For those of you who know very little of Mr. Spitzer, here is a little background. Eliot Spitzer a product of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton and also Harvard Law School. After a stint in private legal practice, Mr. Spitzer was elected the 63rd Attorney General of the State of New York. As the AG of the State of New York from 1999 to 2006, Eliot was so successful in pursuing white color crime and other civil wrongs that he was labeled the Sheriff of Wall Street. Although he made many enemies as he relentlessly pursued the fat cats on Wall Street, he endeared himself to the ordinary people of New York and the country. It came as no surprise when Mr. Spitzer was sworn in on January 2007 as the 54th Governor of the state of New York after a successful electioneering campaign. By December 2007, although his approval rating had taken a dive as a result of dealing with a number of divisive policies like gay marriage and immigration, he was still very popular in the Democratic circles. With a good educational background, a stellar public service record and a sharp intellect, many people mentioned him as a possible future Democratic nominee for president. In fact by February 2008 some pundits were already tipping Eliot Spitzer as one of the front runners for vice presidential candidate if Obama was lucky to clinch the Democratic nominee for President.   

All these came crushing down when the New York Times reported in March 2008 that Eliot Spitzer had previously paid up to $15,000 for high priced prostitution services. A couple of days after the initial report, like the proverbial dog with his tail between his legs, Eliot Spitzer, flanked by his visibly shaken wife were broadcasted live on cable TV to the entire world announcing his resignation. The fall was very devastating especially as the weeks and months that followed was filled with daily commentaries, innuendos and parody of the Spitzer scandal. Contrary to what many people thought, Eliot has managed to save his marriage and he has gradually worked his way back into the limelight. There are even rumors of a possible run for public service again.

Watching him on TV a couple of minutes ago, I couldn’t help but think to myself that the guy is a chameleon – maybe a good chameleon if there is anything like that. He has been able to adapt so well to his new life. One thing I have quickly learned in my rather young existence is that life and its circumstances are full of twists and turns – a lot of surprises. You fall when you least expect – and the fall can be very distressing and life threatening when you go down from such a great height like Mr. Spitzer. One thing that I have also realized is that the successful people are those who are able to get up from a fall, wipe their tears, straighten their dresses, deal with the embarrassment and then get right back on the road again. Although I pray that I never experience the humiliation and disgrace people like Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Clinton have experienced in their lives, I pray that I develop their kind of tenacity and hardwork which helped them to get back on the road of success after they has fallen so hard.   

Sunday, March 13, 2011

2010 Population Census in Ghana

The statistical service in Ghana announced recently that current population of Ghana is close to 24.5 million.  This figure will strike most readers as nothing to write about because as far as populous countries go, Ghana is nowhere near any of those ‘big’ countries. However, if you consider the 24.5 million people now living in Ghana and the number of people who lived in Ghana in 1957 you see a staggering population growth that will surely make any demographer palpitate. From a figure of a little over 5million in 1957, Ghana’s population has seen an astounding increase of over 390% to its current figure. At a time when most developed/rich countries are recording negative or less than 1% population growth rate, Ghana’s population growth rate stand at almost 2%. Interestingly, the current census revealed that there are 12.4 million males as against 11.8 million females. In a culture where males are implicitly encouraged to ‘see’ other women other than their wives, one can only conclude that more babies are in the offing. (High birth rate remains the largest culprit to population growth in Africa)  

Following the discussion on the census, some analysts seem to be arguing that the 24.5 million figure should be seen as a ‘glass is half full’ scenario. They claim that after all more people means a wider tax net, a bigger market pool and more people to contribute to the development match of the country. However, I wonder how these benefits can accrue to the nation when the figures clearly show that majority the population is below the age of 25. I wonder how these people, many of whom are in the unproductive age, are going to contribute to a bigger market pool when they do not have any real purchasing power. How is the tax net going to widen when they have no income in the first place? On the contrary, the evidence points to a higher rate of urbanization confirmed by the springing up and growth of shanty towns which themselves have becomes islands that create and export all the vices and evils you can think of that fights against development.

I believe the consensus is that the current demographic figures are serious cause for concern. At this unsustainable level, there is very little chance that any attempt at real economic growth will make a dent in the stagnation of the nation. Interestingly, these figures are not peculiar to Ghana, but they form a broad trend that is symptomatic of population growth of African countries. From Nigeria to Kenya to Zambia, we see an average of over 2% annual population growth within the last 30 years.  Within eastern Africa, not even the wars within the Congo Basin and high HIV/AIDS deaths have been able to slow population growth. 

In Africa, much of our notion of family size is cultural. And I am afraid not much can be done to change how we think about the size of families. We have been socialized from birth to think that it is the place of every woman to have children and many of them. For the men, you have to have a child to pass on your genes. Thus the typical African man will have kids with or without his wife. And they will keep on producing until they have a son, as if to say daughters are defective beings. Our culture has for a long time celebrated large families and we continue to do that today. Even when people are living in abject poverty, their prowess for having many kids has been praise by society.  For me accelerated access to education (specifically tertiary education) by females is one of the surest ways to reduce the rate of population growth. Let us give women something they can aspire to so that their lives will not be all about having babies. Research has shown that in almost every society, highly educated females have a lower birth rate than their less educated compatriots. As for the average African man, he cannot be trusted. No matter how educated he is, he still sticks to his basic instincts of producing and producing.