Two Years Of Better Ghana Agenda
Its two years since the Better Ghana Agenda and a time to take sober reflections of the stewardship of President John Evans Atta Mills and his Government. The good people of Ghana trusted the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and so voted it in 2008 into power. It was a bright sunny afternoon in January 2009. The new President –Prof John Evans Atta Mills- had just taken the oath of office amid joy and celebrations. Ghana had again successfully carried out a peaceful change of Government. As a perfect student in the school of democracy, Ghana has done it again with perfection. Peaceful and successful change of Governments in a turbulent West African Sub-region is no mean achievement. The World has Ghana in focus. The Global village was beginning to classify Ghana as an island of peace and a beacon of hope in Africa. Ghana on the other hand is determined to remain a pace setter and a tower of democracy and the rule of law in Africa. CONTRIBUTIONS OF FORMER PRESIDENTS This favourable Global image can best be attributed to the good people of Ghana but importantly also to former President Ft Lt J.J. Rawlings, former President J.A. Kuffuor, and last but not the least to President John Evans Atta Mills. In 2000, the then President JJ Rawlings handed over power to respect the decision and results of the Electoral Commission at a time when members of his Government and Party were crying foul at the results declared by the Electoral Commission. Similarly former President J.A. Kuffuor defied all odds and threats from his own Party to accept the decision and results of the Electoral Commission in 2008. Last but not the least; it was the peace pipe of Professor J.E.A. Mills that prevented serious turbulence after the NPP had allegedly rigged the 2004 elections. To all three personalities we say “ayikoo” for the wisdom that motivated your decisions. HANDOVER IN 2008: During the hand over in December 2008, Ghana as a Nation had several aspirations and ambitions. Aspiration to remain a beacon of rule of law and democracy. Ambition to become and remain the Gate Way to West Africa. The ambition to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The ambition to become a member of the middle income group of Nations (thank God we are) and above all the ambition to fulfill the NDC manifesto promises for a Better Ghana. But first, of all, let us briefly review the legacy of Kufour`s administration. In December 2008, after 8 years rule, the former president Kuffour`s administration, left behind an impotent and distressed economy controlled by heavy debt, uncontrolled spending, rocketing inflation, high fiscal deficit, depleted foreign reserves rising interest rates and massive arrears across all sectors of the economy. The public debt of $ 8 billion was the highest in the history of Ghana. This is amazing, when one consider the $ 4 billion which was written off by donor countries. Indeed the total public debt would hypothetically have been $ 12 billion without the write off by donor countries. Social vices such as corruption, illicit drug trafficking and armed rubbery were the order of the day. Daylight robbery had become part of everyday life. Needless to say that the police of the day was virtually helpless against the perpetrators of these vices. These were some of the problems staring at Prof Mills, whom Ghanaians had voted into office to find solution to the mess created by the Kuffour administration. . An astute Professor of Law, a brilliant revenue administrator, an efficient and experienced former Vice President, Prof Mills knew, that the solution to the mountain of problems left behind by former President Kuffour would lie in the applications of innovative prudent policies relevant to the peculiarities of Ghana. His first priority therefore was to strive to achieve fiscal consolidation. PRUDENT ECONOMIC POLICIES To achieve fiscal consolidation and stability, arrears and commitments left behind by the NPP Government were assessed, to help devise a credible “Arrears Clearance Strategy.” A thorough examination and review of the taxation system at all levels was carried out. Attitudinal change of the people to all tax obligations to the state –the Mills administration noted- was necessary to consolidate the economy. The President therefore personally directed the actions against the cocoa smugglers and corrupt officers of CEPS, IRS and GAPOHA in Tema, where leakages in Government revenue had been detected. The reduction of cost by reducing concessional borrowing as well as monitoring the external debt indicators was one of the many applied mathematical strategies of the brilliant law professor. He exercised fiscal discipline to reduce the cost of domestic debt and to limit increases in public sector borrowing requirement. As a result, domestic interest rates were reduced leading to the rolling over of existing debt at lower cost. This strategy led to lower interest cost and the freezing of resources for productive expenditure. With this Prof Atta Mills’ Government had put in place, interventions that are consistent with the medium term objectives of the country; that is to sustain growth for development and job creation. These and other prudent policies carried out by the NDC Government brought the chronic imbalances in the country’s fiscal situation under control. These chronic imbalances have hitherto been the root cause of the persistent high inflation. The result of these measures have now brought significant reduction in the debt burden and reduced risk of debt. It has helped to bring confidence in the micro economic environment. Confidence in the micro economy reduces competition between Govt. and the private sector on the money market for credit. Consequently business would avoid the “clouding-out effect” of the money market. The result is higher productivity and growth. AHIEVEMENT: Two years in office, President Mills despite diverse challenges, has made significant progress. The economy has shown strong resilience and stability. The GDP growth is 4.1%- 4.5% compared to the sub-Saharan African growth of 2.0%. The fiscal deficit has reduced significantly from 14.5% of GDP on cash basis at the end of 2008 to 9.7% of GDP in 2010. Inflation has trended downwards in sixteen (16) consecutive months, from 20.74% at the end of June 2009 to 9.38%. This is the lowest inflation since the last two decades. Gross international reserves of US$ 3,973.0 million in 2010 has exceeded three months of import cover compared with reserves of US$ 2,036.2 million at the end of December 2008 which could barely cover 2 months of imports. The Cedi has strengthened and appreciated by 0.1%, 2.2%, and 5.4% against the US dollar, the pound sterling, and the euro respectively. The size of the economy has become bigger, and releases from the Ghana Statistical Service clearly show that the Mills administration has been able to return the economy to a path of sustainable growth, visibly crossing the transition from stability to accelerated growth. Ghana has entered the middle-income bracket of world economies with a gross domestic product (GDP) of GHc 44.8 billion. INVESTMENT BOOM: According to the Ghana Investment Promotion Center, Ghana attracted 312 investment projects valued at GHc 1.59 billion from January to September this year (2010). Foreign direct investments (FDIs) constitute GHc 1.37 billion of the value of investment, a significant increase over the GHc 156.34 million recorded in the second quarter of 2008 -during Kufour`s rule. According to the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, the total estimated value of the last quarter’s newly registered projects gave a significant increase of 159.32 % over the GHc 156.34 million recorded in the second quarter of 2008 -during Kufour`s rule. SOCIAL INTERVENTIONS: There is a conscious effort to put money into the pockets of Ghanaians by extensive distribution of free school uniforms and free exercise books across the country. Currently 3,470 schools under trees are relocated into 3,470 three- classroom/and six- classroom blocks; while the infrastructural facilities for Senior High Schools are being expanded. The school feeding program is undergoing radical and limitless expansion. We now enjoy 50% increase in capitation grants. The responsibility allowances for Head teachers have been increased. The Government is also paying 20% of basic salary as allowance to teachers who accept posting to rural areas. The government has set apart 4 million GHc as expenditure for scholarships for science and mathematics students. The NDC Government has broadened the Students Loan Trust to cover all tertiary students including those in nursing and teacher training institutions. There is already an expansion program in place to address the perennial problems of inadequate accommodation for students and staff in public Universities. Not long ago provision for free education for disabled children was made. As I write plans are far advanced in the establishment of two new Universities in the Volta region and Brong Ahafo Region. The Government of President Atta Mills is also determined to build an airport in the Volta Region by 2012. WAGES AND SALARIES: The NDC Government led by Prof Mills has shown its commitment to improving the living conditions of Ghanaian workers. On assumption of office, the minimum wage was increased from 2.655 GHc to 3.110 GHc. The Government again fulfilled a manifesto promise of reviewing the existing taxes to favour the average Ghanaian. In order to achieve this, the tax free threshold was increased from 240 GHc to 1,800 GHc per annum. This means that workers earning less than 1,800 GHC do not have to pay taxes. The government also increased the price of a bag of cocoa by 35%. The increase gave the farmers 138 GHc per bag of cocoa. Again in fulfillment of a manifesto promise the Mills led government established a social security fund for cocoa farmers. As if these interventions were not enough, the NDC government also fulfilled yet another manifesto promise of implementing the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS). It is important to note that the SSSS which was too hot for former President Kufour to implement in 2006 has now been successfully lunched and implemented by the Mills administration. The SSSS has undoubtedly increased the salaries of Government workers and so improved their welfare. EMPLOYMENT/JOBS In the employment sector jobs are being created at all levels. Data available indicate that sometime in February 2010, the Minister of Finance was before Parliament to announce that the Government had provided financial clearance for 26,529 new jobs in the public sector. Out of the number, 14,206 were recruited into the educational sector, 11,714 for the health sector and 609 jobs for the remaining ministries, departments and agencies. In Parliament was also the Minister of Food and Agriculture who is facilitating the establishment of block farms and agri-business envisaged to create jobs for 450,000 youth. This project has already created 47,000 jobs. In the road sector, capital intensive interventions including feeder roads and highways contracts had generated 2,000 jobs. Jobs from the regions including the greening Ghana Initiative of the Govt., a-forestation projects, has developed 51,000 hectors of forest plantation. The program which was lunched in February 2010 by President Evans Atta Mills at Abofour in the Ashanti Region, has so far created 40,000 jobs in districts across the country in the area of seedling production, land clearance, planting and other tending activities. Rice plantation projects, the beach sanitation projects by the Ministry of Environment and national housing projects have created 955,000 jobs. The oil and gas sector including shore based support workers in the oil sector have so far created 8,000 jobs. According to the National Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) investments projects created 116,014 jobs in various sectors. AGRICULTURE: In the agricultural sector the NDC manifesto promises are being realized. The Govt. has established the National Food Buffer Stock Company Limited (NAFCO) to hold food security and intervene in the market where necessary; to purchase, preserve, sell and distribute foodstuff. Hitherto excess produce from farmers had led to post harvest loses coming from absence of effective storage facilities. The NAFCO, fully owned by the government will guarantee farmers specified income by providing a minimum guaranteed price and a ready market for their produce. It will raise the level of agricultural production and so make Ghana the bread basket of the sub-region. This will ensure security for farmers and insulate them against losses resulting from anticipated increases in production. State institutions such as schools, military, hospitals and prisons will be able to draw their food requirements from the NAFCO. Statistics show, that in 2009, the total domestic production of maize amounted to 1,369,600 metric tones as against the demand of 1,224,600 metric tones, indicating a surplus of 145,000 metric tones. Such surpluses were absorbed by NAFCO and released during the lean seasons. The Agency in the course of the year took over and rehabilitated the 12 warehouses of the erstwhile Ghana Food Distribution Corporation to increase its storage facilities. Production and storage projects are being supported by a network of irrigation programs and rehabilitation of numerous irrigation projects across the country. The second face of the rehabilitation of the Tono irrigation project has been completed and effort to rehabilitate 30 other in the Greater Accra and Volta Region has started. The construction of 500 boreholes for irrigation and agro processing in all ten Regions is in progress, while studies to activate the Accra Plains irrigation project which can irrigate 150,000 hectares have been completed. This is part of the block farms agro business envisaged to cover several thousands of hectares to create jobs for 450,000 youth. The importance of tractors in large scale farming has been factored in. A deal with the Indian Govt. to produce 1,000 tractors and establish a fertilizer plant in Ghana has been sealed. Large acres of rice cultivation farms have been dotted all over the country – from Ho, Aveyime up to the North. Prominent among them is the Aveyime rice project site which is currently producing 4,800 tons of paddy rice yearly. An additional 300 acres are being cultivated to increase the present production. The decision of the World Food Program (WFP) to purchase 1,433 metric tones of local rice worth $780,000 is a big relief for farmers and a plus point for the NDC Government. YOUTH IN AGRICULTURE: The youth in Agriculture Program (YIAP) is being expanded by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to cover livestock farming, agriculture and agribusiness to create more job opportunities for the youth. The YIAP which has hitherto contracted only one block farming in six regions has now been extended to all the ten regions. Under the YIAP program, 12,000 hectares of maize, rice and soybean had been cultivated while 47,000 people had been gainfully employed. This program will be expanded to cover all the four components in the ten Regions. As if this is not enough, the President in his wisdom has directed Ministers, political leaders, council of State, members of Parliament and Municipal and District Chief Executive to engage in one agricultural venture or another. NYEP: The National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) is a rock upon which the future welfare of the youth of this nation stands. The NYEP is a force that pulls the unemployed youth into the center of employment and training. In Accra alone the following has been accomplished : Training and Employment as City Guards (100 people) ; Community Policing Assistant (280 people) ; Health Extension Workers (800 people) ; Youth in Hairdressing (1000 people) ; Youth in Dress Making (750 people) ; Mobile Phone Repairer and Computer Assembling (4,400 people) ; Youth in Road Repairs (800 people) : Community Education - Teaching Assistants (247 people) ; Dental Training (50 people) ; Youth in Prison Service (300 people) ; Mosquito Spraying Gang (231 people) ; Zoomlion Dustbin Revenue Collectors (330 people) ; Youth in Film Making (220) people) ; Grass Cutter Rearing (35 people) ; Youth in Airport Security (25 people) ; Youth in Afforestation (220 people) ; Youth in Fire Service (700 people) ; Youth in Migration Service (1200 people) ; These figures are from October and has since increased since new batches have been recruited and trained in November and December. Current figures can be obtained from the NYEP-Accra Metro Coordinator Mr Ekwaw Acquah. What was carried out in Accra was replicated in the other ten Regions. Data on National level can be sought from the office of the National Coordinator – Mr Abuga Pele. OTHER VITAL PROJECTS: There are several other projects which have been activated by the NDC administration. These include the expansion of the electrification network. This expansion will benefit the Northern part of the Country with the construction of 161 KV transmission line linking Tumu, Han and Wa. The 742 kilometer project will then transfer energy from Han in Ghana to Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Fasso and Sikasso and Bamako , both in Mali. In a five year capital intensive investment program, the Ghana Grid Company Limited hopes to upgrade facilities of the Company at the cost of $ 1 billion. This will include construction of transmission lines, installation of transformers and other substation equipment. The electro-mechanical equipment at Achimota, Tema and Malam substations will be upgraded. 66 MVA transformers to Malam will be added and a third bulk supply at Adjirgano will be constructed. In Kumasi, a second bulk supply point (BSP) is being constructed to take up the growing load in the city. In the meantime a second transmission line between Kumasi and Obuasi is in operation. While a 330 kV coastal line is under construction between Aboadze and Tema to be completed in 2011. A strategic investment plan by the Ministry of Water Resource, Works and Housing has also been drawn up. The project will ensure that the country achieves the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The plan which costs $ 850 million will cover water supply to predominantly poor areas of the population. The Ministry intends to construct desaltation plant at Teshie to purify sea water for Nungua, Sakumono, Tema, Teshie and surrounding areas.. To show deeper social commitment, the Government has gone into further agreement with the Korean Govt. to construct 200,000 housing units. This project is expected to provide jobs for contractors, artisans, consultants and building material suppliers. The STX-Group of Korea which will undertake the project will also build various industrial plants. The activated Northern Star Tomato Factory, the Brazilian Govt. Biotech project for the production of cassava varieties, the mass production of soya beans are all projects meant to increase sustainability and to create jobs in the “Better Ghana Agenda”. The SADA initiative which is meant to transform the North into the food basket of the country and an Industrial centre, is a demonstration of the government`s resolve to bridge the socio-economic gab between the Savannah Region of Northern Ghana and the rest of the country. The Government has earmarked $2.85 billion for road infrastructural development in the country. Phase one of the projects estimated at $1.9 billion and scheduled to begin in 2011 will include the construction of three Interchanges at Teme, Ashiaman and Afienya roundabout. Using the loan facility secured from the Chinese Government, massive infrastructural face lift will be carried out in all the major cities in the country. To begin in 2011, is the major railway line from Nsawam through Kumasi to Paga in the North. HEALTH: The health needs of Ghanaians are very crucial to the NDC government. As a result, the Mills administration has not only improved the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) by paying all debt inherited from the NPP Government, but has also introduced the concept of regenerative health, which is a more preventive way of ensuring good health. In order to make the NHIS meaningful and effective, the NDC government has collaborated with EUROGET to build ultra-modern hospital facility in Wa, Twifo Praso, Konongo, Tepa, Nsawkaw, Salaga, and Madina just to mention few. SUMMARY: There is every indication that the Better Ghana Agenda is on course, gathering momentum to accelerate in 2011 described by the president as “year of action”. The all time low inflation figures (9.38%) show stability in the economy. The implementation of the SSSS, the free school uniform, free exercise books and the limitless expansion of the school feeding program, are all measures to put more money into the pockets of the average Ghanaian. The 3,750 six classroom blocks, the free health care for pregnant women, the ultra modern hospitals being built across the country, the establishments of social security system for farmers are all visible evidence of the solid social systems being built by the Mills administration. The interventions to modernize Agriculture, the construction of 200,000 units of flats at affordable cost, testify that the Better Ghana Agenda is on course. Certainly the average Ghanaian is now better off than he/she was before the NDC was given the mandate by the good people of Ghana.
Source: Tuokuu, Francis Xavier
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