Rear Admiral Mathew Quashie—Ghana Navy
The global economic downturn, which has been brewing for a while, is said to have slowed its effect on the United States, Europe, and the developed economies of the world from about mid-2007. Developing countries, especially in Africa, had expected to be insulated from the crisis, but since the world economies are interdependent and inextricably linked, it has become abundantly clear that many such countries, including Ghana, cannot escape or profess to be immune to crisis spillover effects.
While the extent of its impact cannot be easily assessed, there is no doubt about the ways in which the downturn is affecting developing countries. The effects include substantial reduction in foreign direct and equity investment, a decline in tax remittance from immigrants working in developed countries, and substantial reduction in export earnings resulting from the decline in trade. This is especially so in the case of commodity exports, given that non-oil commodity prices are expected to fall with lessened demand. Further, aid budgets are likely to be under increased pressure.
As a result of these factors, it is expected that our gross domestic product growth will decline significantly. Competing demands on the national budget from various economic sectors are likely to be exacerbated. Budgetary allocation for defense in general and for the navy in particular is likely to be significantly reduced. Ironically, this occurs at a time when there is increased demand on the navy to guarantee enhanced maritime security for the nation's socio-economic development.
In Ghana, the focus of national security had been primarily land-centric, but recent developments have forced a paradigm shift as government, opinion leaders, and stakeholders increasingly recognize the wide-ranging benefits of a secure maritime environment. The recent events that triggered the awareness include the increasing use of the Gulf of Guinea for narcotics trafficking from South America to Europe through West Africa and the serious depletion of fishery resources as a result of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. These became major issues during the last national democratic elections. A most important development concerning Ghana's ocean domain is the recent discovery of oil and gas reserves in large commercial quantities off the western region of the nation.
This discovery has attracted much public attention, heightening the expectation that the anticipated windfall will impact positively on Ghana's economic fortunes and ultimately ameliorate the effects of the global economic downturn. Though a welcome news item, the maritime-security implications-including possible terrorist attacks and criminal activities such as hijacking-could threaten the oil industry. Other concerns include pollution, fishery interference, and accidents. The lessons to be learned from other countries in the sub-region are obvious.
It is against this backdrop that the Ghana Navy needs to position itself strategically to meet the challenges presented. This is the basis for a review of our maritime strategy, naval operations, and force structure to protect and defend the maritime territorial integrity of Ghana in support of national objectives for peace, stability, and prosperity. The maritime strategy focus of increased security involves two primary objectives: an effective level of maritime domain awareness and providing naval capabilities to operate effectively at the right place at the right time.
We are not oblivious to the fact that policing the sea requires more than the capability of any one individual nation to deliver. Our maritime strategy is therefore centered on effective collaborative efforts that require a combination of national, international, regional, private-industry, and stakeholder support to provide information/intelligence, platforms, professionals, and protocols necessary to secure our maritime domain against transnational threats. Our strategic objectives therefore include the following:
- Maintain the navy and the fleet, in particular, at a high level of operational readiness capable of responding to the national call at short notice.
- Maintain well-trained and highly motivated personnel at optimum manning levels at units and commands.
- Remain adaptable to change and keep pace with global technological advancement.
- Pursue non-traditional approaches to funding and resourcing the navy, including strong stakeholder collaboration in partnership with key players in the maritime industry.
- Develop an integrated IT-based logistics support and planned maintenance system for the fleet to enhance ship availability.
- Intensify both bilateral and multilateral cooperation with allied navies within the framework of the African Partnership Station.
- Pursue sub-regional maritime cooperation with sister navies through joint training and exchange of information and visits to enhance safety and security.
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