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Article: The paradox of leadership: Economic policies and political turmoil

While leadership can catalyse significant progress, their legacy depends on their ability to navigate the complex interplay of forces

In the early 1960s, South Korea was a nation grappling with poverty, political instability, and the aftermath of the Korean War.

Amid this turmoil, Park Chung-hee rose to power, implementing transformative economic policies that laid the groundwork for South Korea’s remarkable economic boom.

Despite his success in fostering economic growth, Park was assassinated in 1979, a stark reminder of the complex interplay between visionary leadership and political volatility.

Park Chung-hee’s economic reforms

Park Chung-hee’s presidency marked a turning point for South Korea. His economic policies, often referred to as the “Miracle on the Han River,” included the following key initiatives:

Industrialization and Export-Led Growth: Park focused on developing heavy and chemical industries, transitioning South Korea from an agrarian economy to an industrial powerhouse.

Five-Year Economic Plans: These plans prioritized sectors such as steel, shipbuilding, electronics, and automobiles, creating a robust industrial base.

Infrastructural Development: Massive investments in infrastructure, including transportation and energy, facilitated industrial growth.

Educational Reforms: Emphasis on science and technology 

These policies catalyzed South Korea’s rapid economic growth, transforming it into a developed nation. However, Park’s authoritarian rule, characterized by political repression and human rights abuses, fueled opposition.

His assassination by his intelligence chief in 1979 underscored the political instability that can accompany rapid economic transformation.

Ghana’s contemporary economic vision

Drawing parallels to South Korea’s transformative journey, Ghana under the leadership of President Nana Akufo-Addo and Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has embarked on a series of ambitious economic and social policies aimed at propelling the nation toward sustained growth and development. Key initiatives include:

1. One District, One Factory (1D1F): This policy aims to establish at least one factory in each of Ghana’s districts to boost industrialization, create jobs, and diversify the economy.

2. Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ): This agricultural initiative seeks to increase food production, ensure food security, and create employment opportunities in the agricultural sector.

3. Free Senior High School (FSHS): Ensuring access to secondary education for all Ghanaian students to build a literate and skilled populace.

4. STEM and TVET Education: Emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, along with Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), to equip the youth with skills relevant to modern industries.

5. Automobile Assembly Plants: Leading automobile manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Nissan, and Toyota have set up assembly plants in Ghana, bolstering the manufacturing sector.

6. Vaccine Manufacturing Centre: Establishing Ghana’s first vaccine manufacturing center to enhance healthcare and pharmaceutical self-sufficiency.

7. Tourism Initiatives: The “Visit Ghana” and “Beyond the Return” programs aim to boost tourism, capitalize on the African diaspora, and enhance cultural ties.

8. Agenda 111: An ambitious plan to build health facilities in all districts lacking hospitals, ensuring nationwide access to healthcare services.

9. Drone Delivery Services: Utilizing drones to deliver medical supplies to underserved towns and villages, improving healthcare access and efficiency.

10. National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS): Sustaining the NHIS to ensure timely payments to healthcare facilities providing NHIS services, bolstering the health sector’s capacity and reliability.

Digitising the economy

A pivotal element of Ghana’s contemporary vision is the digitization of its economy. The digital transformation agenda includes:

1. E-Government Services: Streamlining government services through digital platforms to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accessibility.

2. Mobile Money and Digital Payments: Promoting financial inclusion and reducing reliance on cash transactions through widespread adoption of mobile money services.

3. Digital Infrastructure: Investing in broadband connectivity and ICT infrastructure to support digital services across the country.

4. E-Health Systems: Implementing electronic health records and telemedicine to improve healthcare delivery and management.

Economic ambition and political realities

Both South Korea’s and Ghana’s experiences illustrate the challenges of implementing far-reaching economic reforms in politically volatile environments.

Park Chung-hee’s assassination, despite his economic success, highlights the potential for political backlash against transformative leaders, especially those who adopt authoritarian practices.

In Ghana, while Akufo-Addo and Bawumia’s policies have been largely well-received for their potential to drive economic growth and development, they also face significant challenges:

1. Political Opposition: As with any sweeping reforms, these initiatives have met with political resistance and skepticism from opposition parties and segments of the populace.

2. Implementation Challenges: Ensuring that ambitious programs like 1D1F and PFJ are effectively implemented and yield the intended benefits requires robust management and oversight.

3. Economic Constraints: Financing these large-scale projects amid global economic uncertainties poses a significant challenge.

4. Social Stability: Maintaining social stability while pursuing rapid economic changes is crucial. The government must address concerns about equity, corruption, and the fair distribution of benefits.


The trajectories of South Korea under Park Chung-hee and Ghana under Akufo-Addo and Bawumia underscore the delicate balance between ambitious economic policies and the need for political stability and inclusiveness.

While transformative leaders can catalyse significant progress, their legacy ultimately depends on their ability to navigate the complex interplay of economic, social, and political forces.

Ghana’s current path, marked by bold initiatives, holds promise, but its success will hinge on inclusive governance, effective implementation, and the sustained commitment of all stakeholders to the nation’s development goals.

John Bart Addo

The writer is the secretary of the Columbus, Ohio chapter of the New Patriotic Party in the United States (NPP-USA)

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