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Has the country ever been fixed?

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Thu, 6 May 2021 Source: Kwaku Badu

As I have mentioned elsewhere, demonstrations, grouching and censuring are part and parcel of democracy, and therefore no one should be penalised for exercising such rights.

It is also true that we choose to partake in the universal adult suffrage to elect a leader in anticipation that the said leader will put policies and programmes in place to impact the lives of the citizenry.

Currently, Ghana is experiencing economic challenges and the social media lovers have their democratic right to nag and beseech the current administration to put things in order.

That being said, the economic meltdown is not Ghana specific, but it is rather a global crisis due to the insidious coronavirus.

Some of us, as a matter of principle, will commend the Akufo-Addo’s administration for efficiently moving the economic growth from a meagre 3.4% under Mahama’s administration to around 8.6% and reversing the inflation from 15.4% to 7.5% in a little over two years in office.

Indeed, but for the pernicious coronavirus pandemic, Ghana’s economy would have advanced tremendously under the able leadership of President Akufo-Addo.

Dearest social media enthusiasts, let me crave your indulgence just a moment longer to pose: has the country ever been fixed? If so, who messed it up?

I have always held a firm conviction that discerning Ghanaians made a catastrophic mistake by voting the NPP administration out in 2008 general elections, as Ghana, as a matter of fact and observation, was heading towards the right direction following the eight years of prudent governance by Ex-President Kufuor’s administration.

But in spite of all the advantageous programmes and policies that put the country in a highly favourable economic position, discerning Ghanaians disastrously bought into the NDC’s propaganda and voted out the NPP administration in 2008.

We cannot deny or ignore the fact that all over the world, prudent and pragmatic governments, more often than not, manage to improve upon the economic fortunes of their respective countries if they are allowed to stay in power a bit longer.

In Rwanda, for example, the officeholder is elected by popular vote every seven years, who in turn, appoints the Prime Minister and all other members of Cabinet.

Suffice it to emphasise that Rwandan current president, Paul Kagame, has been in power since 2000 and has managed to transform the country’s economy.

In fact, Rwanda has undergone rapid industrialisation largely due to the implementation of pragmatic policies and programmes over a sustained period of time.

In Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, who returned in 2018 as the head of the opposition coalition, and the oldest Prime Minister at 93 years old, stabilised the Malaysian economy from 1981 to 2003.

Tun M, as Mahathir is called by his supporters, oversaw a period of rapid economic growth and development in Malaysia during his first long stint in office.

In the United Kingdom for example, the Labour Party assumed power from 1997 to 2010 under two separate Prime Ministers, Tony Blair from 1997 to 2007 and James Gordon Brown from 2007 to 2010.

As a matter of fact, Blair and Brown did their utmost best and managed to stabilise the UK’s economy until the Labour Party lost power to the Conservative Party in 2010.

But to every rule, there is an exception, and this is no different in the case of Ghana.

Regrettably, in Ghana, since the attainment of independence from the British on 6th March 1957, the NDC tradition (PNDC and NDC) had governed the country more than any other government one can think of. In fact, that tradition had governed Ghana for approximately 27 years out of Ghana’s 62 years with a little to show for.

Ghana’s Fourth Republic is 339 months old (as of 6th May 2021).

The day-to-day management of the country within that period had been a shared responsibility between the National Democratic Congress (NDC), whose share of the governance is 192 months and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), who has also governed the country for 147 months to date.

If we go down memory lane, when the late President J.J Rawlings completed his 96 months democratic rule on 7th January 2001, he packed up as directed by the Ghana’s 1992 Constitution.

The effervescent President John Agyekum Kufuor then took over the presidency from the late President J. J. Rawlings on 7th January 2001.

President Kufuor unfortunately had a tough time in office initially as there was not much funds left in the national purse to plan anything meaningful.

Disappointingly, the late President J. J. Rawlings’s total rule of 228 months (military, 132 months and democratic, 96 months) administrations only managed to destabilise Ghana’s macroeconomic indicators.

The late Rawlings’s administration indeed adopted a seemingly calamitous Economic Recovery Programme (ERP), which was introduced under the auspices of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The vast majority of tangible national assets, including the state owned enterprises were allegedly sold to friends and families for pittance.

In practice, the apparent unfavourable Economic Recovery Programme culminated in a catalogue of hardships. And, on top of the harsh programmes and policies which threatened the economic fundamentals, the population had to brace itself for food shortages, a situation which was comparable to the concurrent Ethiopian famine that resulted in millions of deaths.

Perhaps more than anything else, the initiation of the Programme of Action to Mitigate the Social Costs of Adjustment (PAMSCAD) did not improve the unfortunate situation as untold hardships permeated many households.

Starvation, so to speak, visited the vast majority of Ghanaians, and as a result developed hideous collar bones which the humorous Ghanaians renamed as “Rawlings Chain”. That was indeed the pernicious extent of the hunger.

Ghana was then declared as Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC). The fact of the matter is that the newly elected President Kufuor had a tough decision to make, by either embracing or rejecting the HIPC status.

However, the forward thinking President Kufuor chose to swallow a bitter pill with a view to getting over the malaise. He thus pragmatically embraced the HIPC status in 2001.

As a matter of fact and observation, the benefits of the HIPC were unprecedented during former President Kufuor’s administration, from (2001-2008).

The fact of the matter is that macroeconomic indicators begun to stabilize and Ghana’s debt stock was significantly reduced by about $4 billion within that period (BOG 2009).

In addition, as a result of the HIPC initiative and prudent borrowing, Ghana’s external debt stock actually declined from $6.1 billion in 2000 to$3.8 billion by 2008 (BOG 2009). It was “unprecedented” achievement, so to speak.

It is also worth pointing out that the average GDP growth of the NDC from 1993-2000 was 3.8% while that of the NPP from 2001-2008 was5.2% with economic growth reaching 6.3% in 2007 (GSS 2008).

As it was expected, former President Kufuor successfully completed his first term in office (four years), having managed studiously to stabilise the macroeconomic indicators.

Subsequently, the good people of Ghana handed him the mandate for another four year term following a keenly contested presidential election on 7th December 2004.

It is, therefore, not an understatement to point out that former President Kufuor’s pragmatic policies reaped tremendous results. Nevertheless, due to time and space limitations, I will only enumerate on a few of his wonderful achievements during his tenure in office.

1. Helped moved Ghana from HIPC status to Lower Middle Income status.

2. Ghana received a debt relief of around $4 billion, spreading over 20 years period.

3. Built numerous infrastructural projects, including not less than 5 interchanges. Nonetheless President Mahama said back then that the erection of infrastructural projects is only an exercise in mediocrity.

4. Discovered oil in commercial quantities before handing over power to the late Mills (Ghana has since received over $3 billion in revenue).

5. Increased the economic growth from around 3.5 in 2001 to around 8.4 in 2008.

6. Quadrupled Ghana’s GDP to $28 billion by 2008.

7. Introduced free Maternal Care.

8. Implemented National Health Insurance Scheme.

9. Introduced Metro Transport System.

10. Implemented School Feeding Programme.

11. Introduced the National Youth Employment Programme, known as GYEEDA.

12. Implemented the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty.

As I hinted earlier, the list of former President Kufuor’s achievements is not exhaustive. Nonetheless, due to time and space constraints, I would not be able to list all of them at this point in time. But all that I can state is that, former President Kufuor did so much to improve on Ghana’s economic fortunes.

President Kufuor exerted dint of critical thinking, worked strenuously for eight solid years, laid an auspicious economic foundation and retired honourably. He then passed on the baton to the late President Mills on 7th January 2009, following his victory in the second round election on 28 December 2008.

It must, however, be emphasised that the late President Mills was extremely fortunate to have inherited a very good economic foundation laid by the effervescent President Kufuor and his equally hard working team.

Take, for instance, three years after former President Kufuor’s NPP government discovered oil in commercial quantities, the late President Mills had the joyous task of turning on the valve at an offshore platform in December 2010 to pump the first commercial oil.

And, lo and behold, Ghana joined the petroleum exporting countries. And believe it or not, Ghana started to export crude oil and thus boosted the economic growth.

The economy grew from around 8.4 per cent to around 14 per cent by 2011 and Ghana thus reached the Lower Middle Income status.

“Ghana has come a long way and is the world's fastest growing economy today-2010.

“Ghana's economy is growing at a blistering 20.15 per cent, says Economy Watch.

“Blessed with rich reserves of natural resources, Ghana has suddenly turned around and is now speeding along the growth path.

“Ghana is oil-rich, has large gold and diamond deposits, and has a booming tourism industry” (Economy Watch 2010).

So, who said that the propitious economic foundation laid by former President Kufuor and his team was not the main contributory factor in the Ghana’s economic upsurge?

Regrettably, however, the late President Mills capitulated, got carried away and somehow allowed the create loot and share cabals in his government to have their way. The incompliant cabals began to dip their ‘thievery’ hands into the national coffers.

The conspiratorial plotters even managed to allocate judgement debt amount in the national budget (purported to be around GH600 million), with the sole objective to create, loot and share. Do you remember Woyome’s GH51.2 million scandalous judgement debt payments?

There were numerous undeserving judgment debt payments, including the $30 million judgement debt payment to the Waterville, the dubious $325,000 to ISOFOTON, GH51.2 million to Woyome, and a lot more reported to be totalling a staggering GH800 million.

Apparently, things started to fall apart. It went from bad to worse following President Mills sudden and mysterious death in July 2012. The conspiratorial plotters then had a field day leading to the 2012 general elections.

It is, therefore, worth stressing that President Mahama and his NDC apparatchiks went berserk in their desperation to cling on to power. Thus they broke all conventions. Many government departments spent over and above their allocated budgets.

The general belief back then was that they bought votes with the tax payers’ money. They nonetheless clung on to power following the controversial election on 7th December 2012.

Suffice it to state that their victory came with huge costs to the state.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, many observers harbour a strong view that Ghana’s economic downslide came about as a result of the unbridled bribery and gargantuan corruption scandals that took place under previous administration.

The previously single digit inflation and budget deficit doubled astronomically. The GH9.5 billion debt which former President Kufuor and his NPP government left in 2009 rocketed artificially to unpronounceable figures. Our total debt ballooned to GH122.4 billion as of December 2016.

But before the insidious coronavirus, the Akufo-Addo’s government efficiently raised the economic growth. Ghana’s economy grew provisionally by 8.5 percent in 2017 compared to 3.7 percent in 2016 (Ghana Statistical Service, 2018).

I will therefore venture to state that if President Akufo Addo managed to keep most of his 2016 and 2020 Manifesto promises, I will daresay that Ghana will reach somewhere.

Columnist: Kwaku Badu