With utmost anxiety and dark clouds hanging over our heads, due to the self-inflicted insecurities and financial problems we foisted on ourselves, Ghanaians ushered in the year 2023. In spite of the economic difficulty, Ghanaians started the year with a lot of optimism and a tinge of some saving grace. However, the economic indices being churned out appear to have dampened their resolve. The slim hopes of a resurgent Ghana Cedi against the major currencies would be sustained evaporated into thin air leading to the acclamation of the Ghana currency as the weakest in the world. The worst was to hit Ghanaian households with the Ghana Statistical Service official release of inflation, which stood at a frightening 54%.
Ghana is going down this slippery slope because of excessive borrowing, weak and sloppy fiscal and monetary policies. Our reckless and excessive borrowing, wasteful spending, and corruption have crippled our economy. A worst performing currency reverberates through an economy where increase in fuel prices increases prices on everything due to its multiplier effect. In our Press Release issued on July 22, 2022 we posited that we were poor because our political leaders made certain choices. Economic mismanagement and corruption are the choices our leaders make when they are given the opportunity to manage the country. These choices have led us into this miserable economic mess. We still believe that it is disingenuous for President Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo government to argue that exogenous shocks (the COVID-19 Pandemic, and the Russia-Ukraine war) caused the harsh economic conditions we are currently facing. Our neighbors (including Cote d’Ivoire and Togo) faced the same global challenges but their citizens are not facing one-tenth of what Ghanaians are experiencing. Current Auditors General’s Report makes one wonder if there is ever any light at the end of the tunnel for mother Ghana? Is our government learning anything or up to the task of governance? This New Patriotic Party (NPP) government has chalked the enviable distinction of being the only elephantine government in the annals of history in Ghana. Ghanaians are shocked to the marrow to learn horrifying details of a scrapped government ministry which when operational was spending about GHS 976,000 a year but now subsumed under the presidency had seen its payroll ballooned to GHS 356 million, a whopping 375% increase. The COVID-19 expenditure reports were more disheartening: such as 26 ambulances bought for US $4. 05 million to be delivered by January 15, 2022 (over a year ago) were yet to be delivered; US $81 million worth of vaccines paid for was not delivered; the government bought uncompleted houses in Adaklu village for GHS 15 million using COVID-19 funds with the building reverting to the original owners in 25 years; Senior management staff of Ministry of Information paid themselves GHS 151,500 as COVID-19 risk allowance without approval of the Chief of Staff; and pathetic conflict of interest deals with the Minister of Finance Ken Ofori Atta’s Enterprise Insurance fleecing the State of millions of cedis in dodgy insurance cover for health workers under the guise of COVID-19. With these plethora of corruption and incompetence, and no one being held responsible, one begins to ask, “Is someone in charge of this government?”
Since the last quarter of 2022, prices of goods and services have risen by 350%. The air is filled with despair and despondency across all spheres of our country. There is total collapse in all spheres of life and loss of hope and resignation to fate: from environmental degradation led by the galamsey menace; sand wining in the country and its illegal export to our neighbouring countries; dubious contract awards; dodgy procurement processes; and the continuous carnage on our roads to mention but a few. Think Progress Ghana calls on the government to once and for all solve or show signs of dealing with these problems in Ghana. There is no need to continue paying lip service to institutionalised corruption, destruction of our forests, farm lands, polluting our waters and destroying marine life. We cannot sit unconcerned with a collapsing health care system because the needed funds for medical personnel, equipment, and consumables have been channeled to unproductive sectors and the bigger chunk stolen through corruption. The result is that our hospitals instead of being places of healing and full recovery have become places of no return even for conditions amenable to medical intervention. We hope this year government embarks on a comprehensive review of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) so that chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, surgeries, and cardiac issues, although on the schemes package, can be treated effectively. Currently, the tariffs paid for these services and drugs are unrealistic, and patients have to pay out of pocket for most of their medications. For example, medical bills for those on prescription drugs costing GHS 500 a few months ago now cost GHS 3,000. A monthly Blood Pressure Tabs of 28 which was GHS 375 is now GHS 1,000. This is causing many patient defaults and worsening the burden of non-communicable diseases. With the increase in the number of chronic kidney diseases the NHIS must as a matter of urgency, involve dialysis in its package to aide Ghanaians who suffer this condition. We are heading to the precipice where the poor cannot afford to be sick!!!!!
We call on government to be transparent with Ghanaians with what is happening in the country as regards issues relating to “haircut’ debt restructurings, who is affected, and time duration. It is time to admit failure of some social intervention policies such as school feeding programs, free Senior High School (SHS), planting for food and jobs to mention but a few. It is disheartening to look at meals served to our children under the free SHS policy. It is better to inform the citizens rather than the inconsistent narratives that are fed to the citizens. There is jittery as private and corporate bond holders are faced with terminologies such as “Haircuts” “debt restructuring” etc. We are concerned how government embarks on spending and borrowings without consultation with the people’s legislature, for example funding of cathedral to a whopping hundreds of millions of cedis, which money could be channeled to more productive endeavours. Governments, we believe should not be in the business of building cathedrals, which better be left to religious bodies.
Think Progress Ghana is alarmed at the seemingly scarcity of staples – a sign of looming hunger lurking on the horizon as the costs of basic foodstuff have reached unprecedented levels. Many families with children cannot enjoy three square meals a day. For example, rather than address the structural deficiencies in food supply the just resigned Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, decided to apportion blame to market women by converting the Ministry to a market? This was a classic display of lack of knowledge as to why the problem persists because solving problem fundamentally requires identification of the problem which the Minister failed to do. We cannot fathom how the economic meltdown will affect the country with possibilities of layoffs, outright dismissals and consequent effects on the citizenry not the least our vulnerable women and children and pensioners. With collapse of the economy and worst currency in the world it is just a matter of time that other financial institutions, private service and industrial sectors begin to collapse or lay of thousands of workers. For how long can it take government to continue printing money to pay its workers?
Going forward we propose the following:
1. The government should adhere to a strict fiscal program to restore and maintain debt sustainability. Government should reduce the number of Ministers to 30 including deputies, collapse some of the duplicitous ministries, get rid of deputy CEOs at state institutions, drawdown on the number of Presidential Staffers. The massive savings from this restructuring running into billions a year can be allocated to more productive sectors.
2. We call for a complete review of some of the government’s flagship programs such as Free SHS and develop relevant and appropriate funding mechanism. We support free access to education for the poor and the vulnerable in our society as enshrined in Article 25 of the 1992 constitution. Those who can afford it should be made to pay. The government should design and implement mechanisms to identify the needy and grant them access to free quality education.
3. Design and implement policies that will let the private sector work. Jobs are best created by businesses and entrepreneurs, not by government but the latter must create the enabling environment.
4. Hold leadership accountable for their decisions and actions and there should be zero tolerance for incompetence and corruption. We are at a loss at to why the Finance and Health Ministers are still at post. Even NPP MPs asked the President to fire the Finance Minister.
We commend the legislature for stepping up to the plate and performing its role. We hope the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MPs continue to play their roles consistently as watchdogs. It is unfortunate and disappointing the NPP MPs are in foot and lockstep with the government. In spite of this economic meltdown we consider it callous and insensitive to still allocate billions of cedis to unproductive economic activities such as the Cathedral, which we were promised years ago that it would be funded through private donations. We commend the NDC MPs who through their eagle eyes and diligence were able to reallocate these funds
We conclude by suggesting to government to desist from the idea that “we have the men”. It should embark on marshalling experts in the various endeavours irrespective of their political, ethnic or religious affiliation to help steer the affairs of state out of the perilous state we find ourselves. Long live Ghana and Long Live our Republic.
Professor Anthony Mawuli Sallar
Executive Director, Think Progress Ghana