Interview with Bishop Robert Aboagye-Mendah

Bishop Robert Aboagye-Mensah, the Presiding Bishop of TheMethodist Church in Ghana, addressed Methodist Conference during apresentation on the Make Poverty History campaign. BishopAboagye-Mensah will be in Edinburgh for the G8 events, along withmany other Methodists and supporters of Make Poverty History.

Here is a transcript of Bishop Aboagye- Mensah in conversationwith Steve Hucklesby, Methodist Secretary for InternationalAffairs.

Steve Hucklesby: Most Revd Dr Robert Aboagye-Mensah, thePresiding Bishop of The Methodist Church Ghana. Bishop Ð you workedwith the Christian Council of Ghana for 5 years prior to yourelection as Presiding Bishop. How has the Methodist Church in Ghanaengaged with issues of economic justice such as debt relief andtrade policy?

Bishop Robert: People accept that such social issues area part of the gospel that we should proclaim. Such an understandingfits well with our Methodist understanding of socialholiness.

The Make Poverty History campaign is asking for a substantialincrease in aid Ð an additional $50 billion a year each yearbetween now and 2005 in order to achieve specific goals such asuniversal primary education or to make treatment available for allthose living with HIV/AIDS. There has been much recent debate aboutcorruption and government accountability. Can we be confident thatgovernments will be held accountable for their management of thismajor increase in development aid?

This concern is felt in Ghana too. We all in Africa feelthat there is a need for good governance. The drawing up of budgetsshould be supported by a democratic system that calls thegovernment to account. Leadership should not be given too muchpower. We in Ghana are happy that we are promoting the peer reviewmechanism in NEPAD ( New Partnership for Africa's Development) sothat our government will need to respond to recommendations fromother governments for improvements to our systems.

We need a very strong civil society. There are many developmentsthat could be mentioned for example in Ghana we have a nationalcommission for civic education that educates citizens about theirdemocratic rights and responsibilities.

The World Bank and IMF have in the past required economicliberalisation, for example the abolition of tariff barriers forcrucially important agricultural commodities in return for debtrelief or aid. Has this presented problems for people in Ghana?

You know where some of the World Bank and IMF conditionshave not worked especially the structural adjustment programme. Youcan see it like this. People talk about wanting a level playingfield and if you have free trade then the playing field is level.However, we have a saying in Ghana that if the giraffe and theantelope are standing on level ground their situation is not equalif all the leaves are high up in the tree. We do not have all theadvantages of the West the industry, the transport and the largecommercial farming. Therefore we are not equal. Sometimes theantelope needs to be lifted up to be able to compete on equalterms.

What we need is flexibility that enables us to developour own trade policies. At the end of the day we need fair tradenot free trade.