2018 budget must address unemployment, economic growth – TUC
The greatest challenge confronting the economy is how to create decent jobs for the millions who are desperately seeking them, the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC) has lamented.
In a statement titled Proposals for the 2018 budget and economic policies of government, the union said: “We expect the 2018 budget statement to address this challenge in a more practical manner beyond the rhetoric.
“Stabilisation is necessary but not sufficient to deal with the employment challenge. There is a need to get the economy on a higher and sustained growth path that creates decent employment.”
It further grieved that a disaggregation of the country’s current growth figures indicate that the economy is driven primarily by oil and gas, and mining, which cannot be relied upon to address the employment challenge and other critical factors inhibiting growth.
In the first and second quarters of this year, GDP growth was estimated at 6.6 percent and 9 percent respectively, according to Ghana Statistical Service. The growth, which represented an increase of 1.1 percent over that recorded in 2016 for the same period, was however impelled by developments in the mining and quarrying sector, and oil and gas production, which recorded 188 percent growth.
The TUC – which acknowledged some progress made by government in stabilising the economy as contained its 2017 budget – added that despite the reasonable gains, some level of fragility remains.
The union cited government policies such the ‘One District, One Factory’, and ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’, among others, as those with the potential to create employment. These initiatives, it explains, could help grow agriculture and manufacturing if implemented in a practicable manner.
“The One District, One Factory, and Planting for Food and Jobs are good projects; however, these initiatives cannot be successful unless we make fundamental changes in our economic policies.
“Investors in these factories will first think of markets for their products. The domestic and West African sub-regional markets will be their first consideration, given the difficulty of breaking into the European and American markets.
“A review of our trade policy will therefore go a long way to support the ‘one district, one factory’ agenda and help create jobs. It is also important that Ghana works with other West African countries to secure the West African markets for our industrial ambitions. That is why Ghana should proceed with great caution in respect of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Any unilateral action will undermine our interest in the sub-regional market,” it recommended.
On privatisation of state-run enterprises, the TUC holds the view that selling strategic national assets is never in the best interest of Ghana.
“The argument that private participation will help revive the fortunes of such companies is a denial of faith in the people of Ghana. The government was elected with so much promise of solving the country’s problems. It must not take the easiest route, especially when that route betrays national interests. Governments are not elected to do the easiest things. Selling off state assets could be the easiest way around a problem. It added.
Among other things, the TUC proposed that the budget – which is expected to presented to parliament next week – outlines steps to: encourage commercial banks to reduce lending rates; increase funding for the Ghana Statistical Service to able to provide relevant information; address issues regarding low pensions while proper management of funds is emphasised; and, address weak labour administration in institutions.
“The 2018 budget and economic policy must consolidate the gains made, and propel the economy onto a rapid growth path that can create decent jobs in both the public and private sectors.
“The employment challenge remains the greatest of all the policy challenges facing our country. We expect the 2018 budget to address this challenge in a very practical way,” it concluded.