Opinions of Mon, 3 Jan 200522

The North Should Be The Cornerstone Of NPP's Anti-Poverty Program

?Ghana?s economy is doing very well, it is far better than my country?s,? the stranger said. ?Foreign investors are flocking to Ghana than to anywhere else in Africa with the possible exception of South Africa.? The quote was a snippet of a conversation I overheard in a Ghanaian accountant?s office last month.

For Ghanaians who have not known good economic times since the days when the British pound was the national currency, it is tremendously uplifting to hear total strangers fawn over the nation?s robust economy. For a fleeting moment, you cannot help but feel ebullient about your country.

But deep in the recesses of your mind, one thing is amply clear; either the strangers are blissfully ignorant of the harsh economic realities on the ground in Ghana, or they may have read too much into the statistical gabble of economists and the tortured musings of policy wonks.

The above scenario is all too common these days whenever Ghanaians run into nationals from other African countries whose economies are tethering. They mean well, these fellow Africans, after all, Ghana?s economy seem to have taken off?.outperforming other regional economies in an astonishing short time.

However, the ?super-charged? Ghanaian economy has not translated into prosperity and wealth for all Ghanaians. The beneficiaries are few; government officials and their cohorts in the business arena. These are the ones who can afford to dine on the best steak in town and still come up with enough money to dispatch their wards overseas for recreation and fun.

But for the unfortunate millions who have been left behind by the economy, survival is a daunting chore. Ghanaians are indeed hurting.

No where is this more acute than in the large swath of land to the north of the Volta river?..the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions?.of Ghana where poverty rates have hit the stratosphere. The problems of these regions are well documented. I am not bleating for the north, but if I was pressed for one word to describe the area, it would be desperate.

In the best of times, the north has always lagged behind the rest of the nation and despite good efforts by governments to lift the north from its perennial last place things have not changed much.

With many private and government-owned industries shuttered for lack of equipment or due to benign neglect, unemployment remains very high: anecdotal evidence reveals that for every ten northerners eight are out of work.

This disturbing piece of information reinforces the need for fairness and equality in the distribution of national resources and for a dramatic change in policy towards the region. Ironically, it also signals the slow and painful death of the region.

Spurred on by tantalizing tales of plentiful jobs in the overcrowded and bustling metropolis of Accra, many of the unemployed have trudged to the capital only to have their dreams fizzle in the searing heat of downtown Accra.

Critics would point to the region?s perennial instability as the cause of all its problems. But that assertion is as preposterous as it is shallow; many parts of the region have been relatively calm for decades, but have seen little development.

Yes, northerners have a lot of work to do; dependence on government largesse cannot provide answers to the region?s problems, but in the same vein the government cannot turn away from the pressing needs of the area.

All is not be lost yet. There is hope on the horizon. In fact, this is an opportune time for the NPP to renew its commitment to inhabitants of the region by extending a helping hand despite the area?s political allegiance.

The government should, if it has not already done so, make the northern region the cornerstone of its anti-poverty program. Neglect represents a significant threat to democratic values.


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