IMANI's 2016 Pre-Election Report: Whoever Wants to Win Election Must Pay Attention.
Published: July 18, 2016
Readers will recall IMANI published its 2012 pre-election report it themed “The Threat of Decay: An IMANI Pre-Election Report”. Four months into 2016 elections, IMANI provides a comprehensive and detailed policy-focused report on the state of affairs in the past four years and suggest how identified gaps should be filled in the next four years.
The election year of 2016 comes at a very pivotal time in the history of the 4th republic. This election is just after the first constitutional review activity done in 2015. It also comes right after the Ghanaian economy has begun a slow recovery from a two-year energy crisis that has slowed down economic growth. Significant in this dispensation has been the need to rely on the Supreme Court to clarify certain landmark cases related to governance and corruption, which still remain key attributes in determining the suitability of a political candidate. Against this backdrop, expectations of the nation hinge on a matrix of intermingling objectives that they view as crucial to determining a winning candidate for the 2016 elections, and the preparedness of that candidate to tackle pertinent issues that will arise.
The discussion of governance presents a myriad of sub-themes which have piqued the interest of many-a-voter. The aftermath of investigative journalistic work by journalists like Anas Aremeyaw Anas and Manasseh Azure Awuni have focused the spotlight increasingly on abuses of office by various office holders. This has also emboldened civil society pressure groups like OccupyGhana and others to pick out topical issues for discussion in the general public space.
These dominant themes have created an increasing following that is constantly monitoring the barometer of perceived corrupt practices by public officials. Voters expect any upcoming government, be it the incumbent or an incoming one to take the issue of corruption very seriously and with a very swift and firm hand.
Public confidence in most government and state-appointed officials has been eroded with successive reports of flagrant scandals involving massive impropriety. As a matter of fact, the inability of Ghana’s parliament to accelerate the passing of the freedom of information bill almost a decade and half, compared to the speed with which the same parliament passed multi-million dollar bills overnight and intended to pursue a communication bill that was designed to eavesdrop on electronic communications clearly indicated to the interested public that where there is motivation, the legislature can indeed rally around and pass bills.
In similar vein, pressure groups like the Citizen Ghana movement have opened the gates to challenges to the right of disclosure by public officials of documents that hitherto were not available for public scrutiny, in relation to the bus branding contract. This level of awareness means that voters are really now very interested in outcomes of good governance more than ever before. Governance will be seen to only advance with the passing of the Right to Information Act, as well as the ability of the next government to swiftly deal with the inability of the Auditor-General to bring the hammer down on abuses that have been discovered, of which excesses are into billions of cedis.
Summary Decision Points:
Attitude to Corruption
Attitude to Culpable Parties
Active Prosecution of Culpable Parties
Restitution (Auditor-General, Branding, Woyome)
Legal Empowerment to Right of Information
Insulation from victimization
Perhaps, the most important success factor in the 2016 elections will be matters of the pocket. The turbulent nature of the domestic energy situation exacerbated an economy smarting from the effects of all-time high crude oil prices. Another major niggling negating factor was a fall in the international price of cocoa, one of Ghana’s highest foreign exchange earners. For any economic management team, this is a murderous cocktail of negative externalities that will sink most countries into distress. With expected revenues from oil falling by as much as 45% from a high or $110 per barrel in 2014, to $75 in the latter part of 2015, and further falls to around $50, representing 3 year lows, the projections of oil based revenue have diminished. It is quite obvious that Ghana was relying too much on proposed oil revenue without looking much into diversification of the economy, almost falling prey to the Dutch Disease in the process.
A juxtaposed comparison with the oil-led growth during the boom years of 2012 – 2013, where oil-led growth was around 7.5% of GDP (nearly 15% of total GDP in 2011) shows very interesting insight into the performance of the economy. Sharp drops in combined growths from 13.5% in 2013 to half of that in 2014, and the shrinking of growth further to 4.9% and a projected 3.2% in 2016 is a clear indicator of poor year on year growth in GDP, in spite of increased government debt from both local and international capital markets.
The depreciation of the cedi by over 20% in 2015 made an even bad situation worse because imports became even more expensive to procure, industries dependent on imports and petroleum had ballooning costs, and in 2016 these wounds have deepened by what in some cases is a threefold increase in energy bills.
The freeze in capital meant very little in terms of local savings and therefore local investments. Most government activity was in the way of heavy borrowing, with some borrowing rounds being undertaken just to pay off previous debts.
Unless there is a radical shift in the fundamentals, most small businesses are not going to expand and consolidate but will rather go into barebones mode, where deformalization will be essential for survival. This will even make tax and revenue assurance all the more difficult as businesses virtually run off the grid. A very clear prelude to some of these tax regimes are very opaque petroleum usage taxes purported to reduce the debt of Ghana’s state-owned Tema Oil refinery (TOR) and other parastatals. It is very interesting to note that the pegging of the fund to which the petroleum levies go to do not clearly declare their receivables and exactly what they target in terms of debt reduction. Based on the current track record in terms of taxation policy, should the ruling government still remain in power, it must with tact and speed reverse the very retrogressive taxation schemes it has adopted annually to raise revenue. The opposition parties must assure every Ghanaian, local and international investors that they will chart a new consultative path to defining the limits of what can be efficiently taxed to spur economic development. Simply put an optimal tax regime must define develop any political ambitions to raise more revenue.
Again here, obvious discrepancies in spending by Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that get ignored mean that there is very little motivation to rein in on profligate and unnecessary spending. With the Auditor-General’s reports for instance, we see that within the years between 2009 and 2013 alone, over GHC 5 Billion ($1.2bn) has been lost to “irregularities”. Compare this with the fact that the country has gone on the market for Eurobonds worth $1 billion around the same period. Between 2012 and 2014 a total of GHS 5,940,767,187.09 ($1.6bn) was officially reported missing or misused between 19 Ministries, Departments and Agencies, 18 Public boards and institutions which fall under 18 Ministries, 10 Polytechnics and Pre-University Educational institutions in 10 regions of Ghana. $1.6 bn can end Ghana’s perennial electricity poverty. It can double the economic value of one of Ghana’s 10 regions. It can free Ghana of all donor support in the delivery of good drinking water. Donors have been taking up 80% of our water bills for some time now.
What makes a bad situation worse than the 70% debt to GDP ratio is the dogged insistence and dependence on bonds as a means to fuel the spending of the government. It appears that there is still no restraint in this regard. If anything, the adamant refusal to cut off a lot of waste in national spending and the raw devil-may-care attitude will not bode well in the very near future.
In the midst of all of this, the wage bill still takes a huge chunk of budgetary expenditure. In fact, rumours of a new Eurobond around just to help finance public sector wages indicate an increasing lack of creativity to tackle this burden. The diversification of some of the national payroll sector activity and the devolution of activity like healthcare and education to the regional and district level, coupled with some local level management will actually do much to benefit the government if it rather invested into creating a sustainable system and the right structures for the implementation of such a model.
Any significant shifts in the international market prices of any of Ghana’s major exports will doom the nation to near insolvency. A whole litany of mishaps and ill-advised government expenditure means that intended benefits from most of these bonds will not materialize, thus negating the reasons for going in for these instruments in the first place. If nothing at all, the yield and interest that new offers on the market offer should be a pointer to the unjustified risks. Ghana’s last bond sold at 10.74%, which at that rate for a sovereign bond is higher than domestic interest rates of about 112 countries in the world.
A radical shift in the philosophy of government expenditure will be the only savior to our fiscal malfeasances. The Ghanaian government can only make progress if it decides to slash spending on many unproductive areas and reduces the size of its government. There cannot be any way the centralized administrative process will work with its multiplicity of loopholes which are even more difficult to find because of the size of government operations. The government should have the will to clamp down on spending malpractices by its agencies and enforce the recommendations of the Auditor-General by empowering it to take the necessary legal action to remedy the recorded violations, else there would only be more of these that will bleed the nation further.
What perhaps has been forgotten is the threat of Ivory Coast as a destination not only of foreign direct investment, but also of industrial poaching. Just as in the 80s the government was suffering from cocoa smugglers, in the past two years, but in a more legitimate fashion, La Cote d’Ivoire is actively wooing industries and investors to set up shop in its shores. Just 500 kilometers from Ghana, and an hour’s flight away is an economy with far more competitive perks, where cost of doing business is a fraction of the same cost here in Ghana.
In the medium run, the best metric of Ghana’s apparent lack of commitment in incentivizing businesses to thrive will be the quick rise of La Cote D’Ivoire at Ghana’s expense.
Summary Decision Points
Business Friendly Regulations
Attractive business climate
Revenue and Taxation
Debt, Debt and more debt
Cutting down wasteful spending
Prudent fiscal measures and Auditor-General’s recommendations
Income Inequality – wide gap between rich and poor
The Mahama-led NDC government has sought to salve some of the smarting wounds of very poor growth in manufacturing by energizing one of its main campaign promises – to restart the Komenda Sugar Factory. It has therefore commissioned the factory such that for all intents and purposes, it is fully functional. Perhaps, the mode of deployment of the factory is symbolic of the nature of almost all the 4th republican governments of Ghana so far.
Most of the drive towards industrialization in Ghana has been ill-timed, without the creation of economies of scale and an ecosystem to support industries. Very recently, the debate was even further sparked when the opposition party NPP leader also publicly declared to facilitate the creation of a factory in every district, 216 of them in all districts in Ghana.
This however isn’t an alien phenomenon as governments in the fourth republic recognize this through one intervention or the other. The rural enterprises programme which was launched in Mankessim in the Central Region with the objective of scaling and mainstreaming district based small enterprise support system is a typical example. Under this programme, IFAD, AfDB and GoG were to provide US$185 million for supporting 600,000 rural poor Medium Sized Enterprises (MSEs) in 161 districts and municipalities across the country between 2012 and 2020.
The model was to ensure the establishment of 36000 new businesses and strengthen 70000 existing businesses to scale up to profitability periods in their life cycles. It should be mentioned that this followed from an M&E report from IFAD confirming the relevance, efficiency and effectiveness of the previous phases of the Rural Enterprises Project which ended in 2010/11. Given that this project has travelled half of its life, it should be safe to conclude that its contribution to the total productivity basket measure against the objectives of the programme should have been enormous by now.
Again, the small scale industrialization initiative (SSDII) of the Ministry of Trade - a 5-year rural based industrialization programme which is to benefit all 216 administrative districts of Ghana is one worth mentioning. Under this, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and its implementing collaborators are to apply the Public Private Partnership (PPP) framework and the Corporate Village Enterprise (COVE) model in establishing commercially viable companies in all the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs). MOTI proposed in 2014 that the 216 MMDAs will be covered in the following structure: 30 in Phase 1 (2014), 48 in Phase 2 (2015), and 46 each in Phases 3 (2016), 4 (2017) and 5 (2018) respectively. The funding for the setting up of the SSDII-PPP Companies will come from equities by the respective MMDAS and private investors at the districts.
With the following key milestones envisaged under the SSDII, over 258,000 Ghanaians, especially those in the districts/rural areas will benefit from both direct and indirect employment, over GHc471 million (US$174 million) worth of exportable and locally marketed value added goods or products will be produced and sold, a total of GHc278 million or US$ 103 million, will be required from Government (1.31%), MMDAs (39.48%) and private investors (59.21%) under shareholding/equity contribution arrangement for the 5-Years SSDII Implementation Plan and that of the REP and the other policy frameworks such as the Private Sector Development Strategy (PSDS II 2010-2015), the incoherence of government policy towards solving the industrialization problem immediately surfaces.
These initiatives have been running concurrently since 1995 to date and have delivered little than desired results as the country has virtually nothing to show on “rural industrial development” if the numbers on industry output, value chains in Agriculture, job creation at the local level, rural urban drift and corresponding penalty, value received from non-traditional exports among many other indicators are anything to go by.
The question is don't we have too many districts? Average GDP of 160 million dollars and average population of 120,000 people per district does not allow for effective economic decentralisation. The districts are too small and weak to serve as viable units of industrialisation. The marketing, legal, design and engineering skills needed to succeed require larger aggregates of economic activity than $160 million dollar enclaves to support. So the smart thing is either to focus on the regional level or to create new local units of about $1 billion of economic activity. We certainly do need radical and fresh thinking about how to spur higher value creating activity in Ghana. Capacity is still too low in the economy.
Crucially, until the question of reliable and cheaply available electricity is comprehensively answered, the issue of industrial growth is very much unattainable ideal. It is still quite clear that there is a huge variance between what industrialization actually is, and what the policy designers in the various parties perceive it to be. This is problematic in the perspective of the voters as it has tended to confuse them a great deal in appraising and appreciating choices to be made in this regard. It is also clear that political parties benefit from this confusion to cite numerous moribund factories as purely achievements in an industrialization drive.
A great chance to revive Ghanaian industry is going to be lost because of misdirection of priorities.
Summary Decision Points:
Industrial ecosystem prioritization
Easy importation of inputs
Focus on facilitation
Innovative Decentralization based on Data and Metrics
A discussion on Ghana’s immediate future will never be complete without addressing perhaps the most influential sector of the economy that has been responsible for the nation’s industrial and productive fortunes over the last decade or so. Energy provision, or more specifically adequate energy production in relation to demand has become a recurrent influencer in Ghana’s drive towards sustained economic growth.
Key trend indicators for example show a cyclic flow of electricity usually with shortages around the months of May and June since 2008/2009. Between 2012 and 2016, the President of Ghana has made not less than 25 public statements promising to end Ghana’s electrical energy woes. The truth is that, while the energy generation capacity has increased, it has not increased commensurate to demand.
What aggravates the current situation is the fact that the anticipated $1 Billion Chinese loan (out of $3bn) to aid infrastructure in the energy sector materialized rather late, delaying the full operation of the Aboadze Gas plant by over 18 months. Even with the plant coming on stream, Ghana has had to depend on erratic supply of LNG from Nigeria.
The bid to stave off the acute electricity shortage, even more opaque dealings involving the state through the Ministry of Energy and other technical solutions providers have been brokered, involving the procurement of power barges. Apart from the fact that the power barges arrived later than anticipated, the government negotiated a deal far from beneficial either by other options available or by benchmarked parameters. Estimated annual payoffs will be in the region of US $120 Million, whereas the government owes existing suppliers in excess of US$1.5 Billion. This is even on a measure deemed as “temporary”.
Independent power providers and the privatization of the ECG, the retailer of Ghana’s electricity sector, will be very crucial if there is going to be any sustainable flow of power eventually. While domestic and residential power usage has risen to 50% today from 36% in 2000, it might not just mean an increase in residential use, but a decline in industrial consumption due to the prohibitively high cost of electricity and other fuel sources, compared to other countries like Nigeria and La Cote d’Ivoire. If solutions that are sustainable and more cost-effective are not deployed soon, it could cost the nation a decline in industrial activity and hence a loss of jobs.
The question of energy and fuel policy are also worthy of note. With the elimination of subsidies, it will be interesting to note the purpose of various taxes and levies on pump prices of fuel, considering that crude has not risen significantly in the last 8 months, whereas the ex-pump prices in the same time period have increased by some 15%. While these could be attributed to foreign exchange fluctuations, it is also pertinent to examine what the government wishes to do with the fuel related levies that make for over 50% of the ex-pump prices.
Demand for energy for transportation and other activity is going to rise, especially if there is any revival in the fortunes of the industrial sector. Note that the mining sector’s demand has reduced, thus freeing up their consumption, but overall, with new technology and dependence on electricity, demand for diesel and petrol will not only be exclusively for transportation, so it remains to be seen how these gaps will be filled by the provision of more affordable electricity.
It is hoped that a more open and less restrictive regime on solar technology be aggressively pursued. This means exemptions of duties and taxes on solar batteries and panels and ALL accessories, as against the policy that exists at the moment that are far from coherent. It is expected that the existing restrictions that insist on solar providers having to register before practicing their trade does not bode well for ease of entry into business, which means that favored companies could easily corrupt what is a crucial space. An open approach will ensure that cheaper and newer technologies in alternative energy would be explored and the marketability and suitability of these will become the right competitive advantages to build up such a nascent but crucial sector that could potentially fill the gaps in national grid energy shortfalls.
Perhaps, a local model that has been able to discharge this via beneficial private-public approach is the Community Water and Sanitation model which involves both private and public stakeholders in the provision of rural water. Such a model could easily be adapted to run alternative and renewable energy solutions.
Countries like Germany, Norway and quite a few states in the United States have been able to promote solar and other alternative sources of energy to the extent that they have surpluses. These require huge capital expenditure but do not require the same amount of expenditure to maintain over their lifetimes, as well as the fact that they are sustainable, clean and green. Without opening up the private sector and municipalities to engage in such, the nation might lose on such a cheaply available raw material for renewable energy.
Summary Decision Points
Temporary vs Permanent Solutions
Alternative Energy Sources
Renewable Energy Development
Sadly, in the last few years, this sector has been viewed almost like an abandoned orphan in the focus of government related activity. Just over 50% of the nation’s labour force relies directly on agriculture for livelihood, yet over the past 3 years, however, it is alarming to note that the annual contribution of agriculture to GDP has reduced by over 12% since 2009. This means that farmers are earning less from the practice of agriculture.
Cocoa trees are already growing very old, and more are below peak production levels, yet new cocoa seedlings are not meeting the right level of demand to replace older trees. Very little has been done to energize and assist small-scale farmers and boost food sufficiency in Ghana. Over GHS25 million was wasted in the form of agricultural assistance to farmers via the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), and while the loss has been written off due to drought, it is interesting that California, a state in the United States, with its worst drought in 1,200 years, still is able to produce ALMOST at the same levels.
At the same time, a bulk of agriculture based spending has been on poverty reduction strategies. These will never be productive as the focus on agriculture should be more on a drive to increased production and mechanization, and not just mere poverty reduction. Between January and September 2015 for example, 90% of the actual expenditure in agriculture was for poverty based programmes.
A rather more businesslike approach to agro-based policy is very important to keep agriculture afloat and not gain marginal increases in growth annually, considering its very important position in the national narrative. This will require programmes that are centered on motivation for increased mechanization, more scientific methods and a growth and export driven philosophy. It is surprising for instance that out of 180,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer required for the subsidy program in 2015, only 90,000 was distributed. This shows a poor attitude towards yield improvement measures that would rather be more cost-effective and business focused.
A better way will be cross-sector facilitation between the ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Agriculture to see agriculture more as a fuel for local small-scale industrialization and not just poverty alleviation. Private sector players could then be incentivized for investments in the sector in areas with good growth prospects. This can fuel the micro-level industrialization as well as energize that part of the raw material feed as part of that ecosystem for food sufficiency, export activity and agro-based industrial growth.
Summary Decision Points
Production-based Financing v Poverty Alleviation Financing
Better variety seeds
Focus on Feeder Farms for Industrial Raw Materials
Income levels of most economically active Ghanaians are low. A major characteristic of past Ghanaian governments has been one of promising, and in some cases, delivering myriad social interventions aimed at poverty alleviation, among other pressing issues that ail the common Ghanaian. Of the major promises that Ghanaians have listened to over the years, issues related to stipends for the poor, like the LEAP, school-feeding project, stability and sustainability of health insurance and other related mother and child issues still remain paramount. Most Ghanaians have gained directly or indirectly from most of these schemes, and will expect subsequent governments to improve on these offerings, especially in the areas of education and health, which constitute expenditures that most disposable incomes at the family level are spent on.
In light of huge budget expenditure on education, and the subsequent hemorrhaging of the national kitty just to keep social interventions alive, it will be very interesting to see how support of activities like school feeding and other higher stake interventions are handled.
A clear example of such failures and the flagrant wastage of funds are the GYEEDA, SADA and more recently the scandals at National Service Secretariat and the implementation of several National Youth programs like Youth Enterprise Agency and others. There has been no metric to clearly identify their significance and value for investment. Social programs have to have measurable outcomes and have to be treated like all other investments, with valuations on resource inputs to clearly determine whether the outcomes provide value for money.
Summary Decision Points
Value for money
Clear Metrics of Benefits
Termination/end-point of support
GENDER AND INEQUALITIES
One of the most encouraging points around the issue of gender is that of the near parity of enrollment of girl children in primary schools, which is in tandem with SDG benchmarks and targets. However, there is still a lot of inequality around wages in the informal sector, which engages 80% of Ghana’s labour force. From 1991/92 to 2013, the share of women in wage employment in non-agricultural sectors was still no more than 30.5%, which is just an improvement of 0.7% from 1991/92. This is a very disappointing development which shows that despite a lot of awareness on rights of women, economically, they might not be any better off than they were in aggregate terms in the early 90s. Perhaps this trend also reflects in disappointing metrics when maternal mortality issues are investigated. While Sustainable Development Goals established that by 2015 maternal mortality should be in the range of 54 deaths per 100,000 live births, the figure is still 3 times that of a 2015 rate of 164 deaths per 100,000 live births. When women are poorer, they are unable to independently take care of their maternal health issues even with the intervention of programmes like the National Health insurance scheme, as the healthcare factors are a composite of different economic and social factors. Increased income levels however empower women to solve some of these problems related to anaemia, nutrition, basic ante-natal care and adherence to medication and diet instructions as well as easy access to healthcare facilities.
It is indeed disheartening to note for example that women’s healthcare issues are still not a national focus; over 40% of Ghanaian women are anaemic. Juxtaposed with child mortality rates for under 1 and under 5 children, it is evident that there is a very strong correlation between women’s well-being and major social issues related to their nutrition, welfare and vulnerable infants.
Income inequalities are on the micro scale biting very hard on Ghanaians because of the deformalized nature of the economy, and the fact that over 80% of the economy is not a formal one. While poverty reduction goals have been met, poor wage and work conditions mean that there isn’t enough protection against able-bodied people who enter the job market. This can only perpetuate the status quo and make it very difficult for the poverty barrier to be crossed easily, as self-improvement and skills training will have to give way for basic survival.
District and rural authorities should be able to develop the capacity of the informal sector to improve earning capacity of their constituents through engagement of transparent stakeholders for skills development, money management and the creation of cottage industries to help with self-sufficiency and market access for products with added value.
Skills Development Programs
Nutrition and Health
Support for Informal Business Models
Protection of informal businesses
Micro-level poverty reduction activities
Infrastructural Development has been a major election expectation since the birth of the nation. As one of the most obvious legacies of a government or regime, they have been at the core of most manifestoes. The current ruling government in its Green Book lists multiple infrastructural developments from roads, bridges, sports facilities and other such related activity as their contribution to the infrastructure stock of this country. Most governments in Ghana are hailed the most for their addition to the stock on infrastructure, and it is high on every voter’s list. Particularly, estimates by the Finance Minister in November 2015 posited that Ghana needs to spend at least US$1.5 Billion annually in order to address some of the infrastructure deficit. This is plenty to go in in terms of expectations.
Critical in this sector will be the creation and expansion of routes that link agriculturally productive areas of the hinterlands to urban and peri-urban markets, which would then open up such areas for more aggressive agro-based activity. Processing and low level manufacturing could also be assisted in the hinterlands by better road networks, which open up such areas for more commercial activity.
Many voted officials, especially at the parliamentary level bear the brunt of the dissatisfaction of voters by losing their seats at election time.
Disappointingly neglible railway lines have been added to the existing line since independence. The expansion of the bigger urban enclaves, Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, show clearly that an intra-metropolitan railway system will easily assist in the movement of people and goods in and around the cities in a more predictable manner, while easing road congestion. What remains to be seen is the commitment to the expansion of railways.
In the wake of recent scandals where monies for the advancement of railways rather got diverted into the branding of buses, it would have been very important for policymakers to have fully showcased how much equivalent investments into railways would have benefitted the nation. However, the focus shown on railways has been very negligible by most of the parties, hence not presenting itself as a factor “sexy” enough to command the attention of voters. A sure winner in the discussions around infrastructure will be a very solid and actionable railway development plan that will have good coaches and supplement air transport across the country.
Overall, electrification has expanded rapidly, and the expansion of water especially in Accra and Kumasi serves as a basis for voters in these areas to expect more. Provision of rural water in other deprived areas has been very commendable, and voters will not expect anything less from all the major candidates.
What needs to be taken into consideration therefore is what plans are being outlined for a sustained growth in the water sector, while maintaining the gains already made. This will mean also doubling down on wastage that comes from poor maintenance activity and illegal connections, which rid the water provision companies of significant amounts of revenue.
Overall, there should be a more decentralized approach to infrastructure development. The investments and the activities involved have very far reaching implications for the localities involved that requires that these investments are suited more towards providing better ecosystems for productivity to support local economic activities.
Summary Decision Points
Sustained Investment in Infrastructure
Quality of Work against Contract Valuation
Advancement of the Rail Sector
The core theme of education in 2012 lost NPP its most significant traction. Its bold introduction of the free senior high school for all junior high students (Free SHS) Program got a lot of scrutiny that led to an unconvincing defense of the strategy with relation to the resources available from a feasibility and implementation perspective. The Mahama government on the other hand promised 200 day schools. While this promise has not been fulfilled in its entirety, a few of them have been commissioned to date. By the time of the elections, only about 40 or 50 of those 200 schools will have been commissioned, which by the standards set by the government is a 25% pass rate.
The promise to build two other universities, the University of Health and Allied Studies, as well as the University of Natural Resources, have been delivered. The government has also decided to convert 10 polytechnics into technical universities with the view to increasing focus on advanced technical education.
Unfortunately, these intentions, however desirable on paper, are not going to have impact even in the short or medium term because of a great lack of capacity to run these schools. There is very little strategic focus on developing a vibrant curriculum. Teachers themselves are very ill-equipped to teach students, most of them being the worst performers in school and choosing teaching as the last option.
IMANI had previously suggested systems where communities had more control over the recruitment, monitoring and evaluation of teachers, as well as school management at the local level. These would ensure better accountability and results as reporting systems will be scrutinized better and school results would reflect the aspirations of the localities, as such training them in either skills for life after school that is suited to the community, or for better higher education.
Until there is some urgency in the quality of actual content of education delivered to children and students, Ghana’s abysmal ratings at the juvenile level in areas like math and science, where they were the bottom in 76 countries across the world by OECD in 2015 is quite telling of the dire situation. Most of the graduates of that 2015 generation will be unleashed on a tottering nation with very little in terms of employable skills, quantitative and qualitative aptitudes and skill sets. This will not only present itself as a huge burden on the economy, but to businesses who will have to spend considerable amounts of resources to retrain them to make them even manageable.
This is also a time when vocational and technical education is far easier and has a higher potential to create more small business opportunities due to increased access to technology and cheaper and better ways to scale from technical vocations. Funding for studies in these areas will mean the best pool of capable young people who can earn incomes right out of school, and a market for the rapidly burgeoning service industry in Ghana, which would also depend on a lot of this skilled workforce.
A large pool of poor quality labour also then creates a disincentive for any aggressive industrial development as a minimum level of skill will be required to run today’s and in effect the future’s more sophisticated industrial applications and factory lines. This is an area where the more competitive countries of Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Rwanda will outshine Ghana.
Quality of Education
Education for Employable Skills
Strategic Plan for Innovative Education
Technology Driven Vocational and Technical Education
Concrete design of Secondary Education to ensure value
STEM Education development
More Rigorous Teacher Training
Encourage Private Sector participation in Education
Decentralized Education for Community-level management
The last four years has been one of the most challenging in Ghana, where the promise of crude oil production and a vibrant global economic scene was not taken advantage of. Ghanaians have woken up to a nightmarish cocktail of underachievement and wastefulness. While some gains have been made in the provision of education and a few roads and bridges, the overall macro effect has been tepid.
The next four years will even be more challenging as most of the problems that cropped up from the previous four have not been effectively solved. To make matters worse, there are also legacy issues, some stemming from before the current NDC regime took power; wasteful spending, corruption, poor accountability and the penchant for grandiose projects with almost no energizing value to the economy being prioritized.
This report has been inspired by our commitment to a peaceful and policy-focused elections as well as the entire civil society in Ghana and the gracious support from OSIWA and the Ford Foundation in West Africa. It may be republished in part or whole as long as attributions are appropriately made to IMANI.