Click to read all about coronavirus →
From Poverty to Middle Income Status A Boulevard of Broken
Africa's long suffering people are
all too frequently caught in the crossfire of rampaging wars, millions
afflicted with diseases, preyed upon by greedy despots and prevented by corrupt
leaders and bureaucracies in a kleptocracy from obtaining basic schooling,
medical attention, and any semblance of economic opportunities.
look at the socio-political and economic environment in Ghana today reveals a
horrifying picture. There is massive corruption, staggering poverty,
unemployment, poor education, deteriorating infrastructure, and general degree
of hopelessness among the youth who feel very disappointed and let down by
their political leaders. According to the 2007 World Bank Human Development
Index, almost half of the national population live below the poverty line
surviving on less than a dollar per day. And as many as over 75% live on less
than $2.oo a day. The economic conditions felt by the ordinary Ghanaian are
poorer than ever.
However, Ghanaians are resilient. They have learned to survive. They look after
one another, too, and altruism flourishes amid surprising circumstances of
adversity. What does political independence mean to ordinary Ghanaians?
Independence was supposed to make life better but what do we see around us?
Half a century of independence has brought nothing in terms of real development
in the country.
many parts of the country, hundreds of kilometers of colonial roads have
disappeared, schools and clinics are in dilapidated state and social
infrastructure have been allowed to collapse. In 54 years not even a single
kilometer of railway line has been constructed and the one the colonial rulers
left have been allowed to deteriorate and collapsed. Something is definitely
wrong and needs to be put right now.
country is in deep crisis and the biggest problems at hand now are corruption,
poverty, and unemployment. Several decades ago, may be you could live with an
economic growth rate of 3.5% per annum, meanwhile the labour force in the
country is growing at 5% per annum and creating unprecedented labour tensions
and the result is a huge unemployment problem among the youth. More than half
of the jobless rate in Ghana today is accounted for by people in their 20's and
30's. This is very alarming. Figures are hard to get by but it is abundantly
clear that about six out of ten University graduates this year are without jobs
not to count Secondary school and Technical School graduates.
is no system in place to absorb new graduates into the workforce as new
graduates are left on their own to fend for themselves. I was moved to tears
the other day as I listened to a forty something year old University graduate
giving a testimony at church for landing his first job. He was so happy and
thankful to God for giving him his first job. Obviously I was happy for him too
because he counts himself so lucky to have a job while many of his colleagues
were still searching. But at 40? In many places, at 40 you are already a senior
manager not starting your first job and there is no cause for celebration. Just
how far a young Ghanaian graduate would go to get a job? The answer is from
anywhere to everywhere. That explains the sad story of some Ghanaian stoways.
They assumed rightly or wrongly they can find jobs abroad if they can't get one
at home. And do you blame them? The need to create new opportunities is more
crucial than ever. The dilemma facing us now is not only that more than 200,000
people join the job market every year, but that many of them are well educated
and naturally have higher expectations. Lack of job after the first degree
force some people back to school hoping that if they get a Masters degree
things would be better but they come out to meet even a tougher job market. How
can we take care of our youth as a nation if we don't care whether they are
getting the right experience at the right time? The fear of the unknown has
kept many Ghanaian graduates from foreign universities staying abroad. They are
scared they may not get a job if they come home. The jobless rate rose as
"positive change" and “better Ghana” failed to create jobs for new graduates
entering the job market but helped those in government to develop "pot
bellies". Since there is an absence of a viable private sector in Ghana,
the onus of creating jobs fall squarely on the shoulders of the government, and
government needs to create about 400,000 jobs annually if the unemployment rate
is to reduce. The government must take the lead in economic development and not
leave it to a non existent private sector.
I have written on this one before. The issue of corruption in government needs
to be tackled head on. Just paying lip service to the slogans of “probity and
accountability” and "zero
tolerance" fools no one. Many Ghanaians are of the believe that the
perception of corruption in government, and corruption that comes to the open
are just a tip of the ice berg.
Why hasn’t the government investigated and punish all the corruption in the
previous administration? Unless we tackle governance and accountability we are
not addressing the real issues, we are not tackling the bread and butter
issues. To tackle corruption adequately, I recommend the setting up of a
government accountability project, a private watch dog group to ensure
accountability on the part of the government. The current accountability office
in the presidency is a mere window dressing designed to hide and protect
corrupt officials and their deeds. The Economic and Organized Crime Office and
CHRAJ, however well intentioned they may be, have been rendered powerless and
That is why a private watch dog group is preferred. The current maintenance of
law and order and prevention of corruption is systematically flawed. There is
also a need to install Inspector Generals in every ministry reporting to a
Public Integrity Commissioner (PIC)( a post created by Parliament) who will
have the power to refer corrupt officials for prosecution. The installation of
Inspector Generals, and the creation of a Public Integrity Commissioner are
important steps to fight corruption and cronyism which in turn will help
strengthen democratic institutions.
But before that we need to strengthen Parliament to make it perform its duty of
checking executive power and also controlling the national purse more
effectively. Our constitution is so flawed. It has concentrated all powers in
the hands of the executive branch of government seriously constraining the work
of Parliament. Our President under the 1992 constitution is just too powerful. He
has the power to hire and fire everyone in Ghana, and also to order or not to
order a probe into everything. If he doesn't do it nobody can do it. Parliament
must and can have the power to probe executive acts. And the judiciary must not
only be seen to be independent but must act so.
Again, government needs to downsize. The current size of the government is too
big and costly, in fact over bloated. Japan runs the World's second largest
economy with just 17 ministers. How come a country like Ghana has over 50
ministers and deputy ministers not counting the nephews and nieces who double
as special assistants, aides and spokespersons. What for? We need fiscal
discipline. The people are overburdened with taxes while government displays a
great deal of fiscal indiscipline. The government needs to create the right
business atmosphere for industries and businesses to thrive so that they can
compliment government efforts at creating jobs. Elsewhere taxes are cut to spur
growth, but in Ghana, an economic team that lacks fresh ideas always look up to
increased taxation as a way of generating revenue. Government needs to simplify
taxes, lower tariffs on imports, and clear away red tape to encourage
entrepreneurial skills. Too much taxes stifle growth. You don't need to be a
prize winning Nobel economist to know this.
priority should be to do everything possible to wage a battle against poverty,
raise living standards, and encourage businesses to thrive. Some 10 million
Ghanaians live on less than one dollar a day, this is unacceptable and a shame.
Ghana's poor are less inclined to vote than the middle class because they have
kind of resigned themselves to fate, that no politician nor political party can
make a difference in their lives, thus virtually guaranteeing that their discontent
would not prevail on the election day. Elections 2000 and 2008 were the turning
points and just as there was a yearning for change in 2000 and 2008 that drove
the people to the polls, I can sense the same yearning for a change now and
that will show in Election 2012. The Ghanaian electorate is growing impatient
with the incompetence and greed of our political leaders.
The author is a senior social and
political analyst and policy strategist who lives, writes, and plays in Tokyo,
Japan. Your views and comments are welcomed; email@example.com
Send your news stories to and via WhatsApp on +233 55 2699 625.