#FixTheCountry: Government’s effort is commendable – Economic Policy Analyst
I have monitored the development of the creeping tale of a suppose inertia by successive government in addressing the development needs of Ghanaians. #FixTheCountry.
While there are genuine concerns by some citizenry over some challenges in the past few months, a group of people with political motives have latched onto these genuine sentiments to launch a political onslaught on the Nana Addo Dankwa government.
I do not intend to hide under a façade of neutrality to push an agenda, as some will always do. Neutrality is an elusive adventure of cowards. I have watched the evolution of neutrals into partisan players, an experience that has kept me tiptoeing whenever I am passing by a supposed neutral.
The neutrals come as objective and patriotic while those with political affinity are seen subjective autopilot of political doctrines. But the cancerous ignorance with which some of the so-called neutrals speak and the consistent inconsistencies in some of their expositions make me want to religiously observe my treatise of informed subjectivity.
This is a discourse I will be glad to revisit in the future but for now, lets talk about the weltering disaster of a campaign by some citizenry.
I am not going to play naive to the role of leadership in steering national development. Everything starts and ends with leadership. The quality of leadership is crucial to determining the development of the nation, the transformation of the misery of the people into opportunities and the shepherding of the destiny of the nation.
While acknowledging the indispensable role of leadership in addressing our socio-economic malaise, we must not be oblivious of the role of citizens.
Relevance of social movement
Social movements are the stimuli to the advancement of democracy. But as democracy is advanced, social movements become matured and contribute meaningfully to the governance process. Ghana has had several variants of social movements, the famous in the 4th Republic being the Kume Preko.
These movements have shaped our democracy. Nonetheless, an appreciable level of intellectual modernisation is required to make social movement contribute meaningfully to development.
Intellectual modernisation cannot be said to be present without a tremendous diffusion of the knowledge of the citizenry about their environment and increased awareness about the economy of their country.
Balanced and fair assessment of national issues and informed advocacy are expected of the citizenry. Not knee-jerk, uncoordinated and amoebic campaigns for development. The FixTheCountry campaign is an amoebic campaign that lacks shape and form. It is too general and where specifics are provided, no evidence is given to back the claims.
You cannot have the goodwill of the forest when you set it ablaze in pursuit of the rat. A government that has pursued policies and programs to ameliorate the suffering of the people has every reason to be disappointed when the very people benefitting from such programs discount all those efforts into a Hash Tag.
Breeders of Social Movement- FixTheCountry
There are genuine dissatisfactions of citizenry that can breed dissatisfaction. The gap between aspiration and expectations, disequilibrium of wants formation and want satisfaction, generates a kind of social frustration.
This social frustration is what has culminated into the current campaign by some Ghanaians. Samuel Huntington (1968) succinctly captures that the demands on the government and the expansion of political participation to enforce those demands are products of the social frustration.
This is the more reason why we must take the frustration of the people seriously. I cannot be prosaic about how people feel currently because I am acutely aware that the extent of social frustration is proportional to the level of political instability.
However, I cannot also be insensitive to the context and efforts of people we expect to act.
The oddity of this current movement is expressed in what I read online in Myjoyonline.com news portable. “[t]he protest, which has been dubbed, “FixTheCountry’ is to vent their spleens over what they describe as a failure on the part of successive governments to improve the lives of the citizenry”.
Successive governments have worked to improve the conditions of the citizenry, which must be commended. Temporary challenges ought not be universalised in a way that discredits the life-changing interventions of government.
What has government fixed?
Successive government have fixed one or two of the many challenges that a developing country like Ghana is bedevilled with. The FixTheCountry campaign in a recent promotional flyer stated depreciation of the cedi, high cost of living, corruption, abandoned projects and mass unemployment as the reasons why they are embarking on that campaign.
I feel banal responding to all these allegations of government inertia. It is however well and good to put on record that successive governments have worked to improve on the performance of the country in respect of the listed issues.
a) Government fixed the economy pre-COVID and fixing cost of living. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, government restored the overall stability of the macro economy that was in disarray. Inflation was reduced from 15.4% in 2016 to 7.9% at the end of December 2019, the lowest since 1992. The current inflation rate of about 10.3% is impressive on two accounts- it is five percentage point lower than the 2016 figure and also a good performance on account on inflationary pressures imposed on economies by COVID-19 pandemic.
The average increase in the cost of water and prices of petroleum is the lowest for the first term of any government since 2008. Prices of petroleum increased by only 8.25% between 2017-2020 in contrast with an increase of 29.5% between 2009-2012 according to the National Petroleum Authority. Free water and subsidized electricity were also provided for households for a year.
The recent increases in the prices of cement and iron rods are wholly external because of the global increase in freight charges and the increase in the prices of cement clinker. It is therefore disingenuous to blame the hikes in prices on government when the factors are external to the government.
b) Government is fixing the cedi depreciation. In fixing the macro economy, government has fixed the emaciation of our currency against the global vehicle currency, the United States dollar. Ghana’s currency would, ordinarily speaking, have been written off if government had not fixed the speed of oxidisation of the currency.
At an annual average depreciation of 8.14% based on the Bank of Ghana’s data, this is best management of the Cedi in the first term of any government since 1992. This fix by the government has impact on the living standards and cost of living of ordinary citizen because a trader at Mallam Atta market could charge you in Cedi while thinking in dollars in the words of Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia.
c) Government is fixing businesses. Government has fixed one of the problems to private business in Ghana- reduced the cost of credit from an average bank lending rate of 32% to 24% between 2016 and 2020. Again, about 15 taxes that were counter productive and/or put pressure on consumers of various goods and services were reduced and in some cases scrapped off completely. Prices of most important imported goods reduced by 30-50%. The removal of the 17.5% VAT on domestic air travel for instance, increased affordability by 24% for many Ghanaians to the Ghana Investment Promotion Center.
d) Government is fighting corruption. Corruption is an old menace and calls for its complete elimination is a good. The cost of corruption is so huge on developing countries like ours and we should all be concerned. But we have come far with our administrative and legislative measures in fighting the canker. The setting of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, increased budgetary allocation and releases to anti-corruption institution and the commitment of the Attorney General and Minister for Justice have boosted the fight against corruption and the prosecution of public officials. Over 20 millions Ghana Cedi judgment refund has been secured and the successful legal defense of the state has also saved the country from several millions of judgment debt.
e) Abandoned projects. In what appear to me that as the lack of information by the campaigners, government has completed several projects started in the previous government across the various MMDAs and commenced new ones. One does not need to belabor point. Readers can visit https://deliverytracker.gov.gh/projects for more information about what projects government is undertaking.
f) Government is fixing mass unemployment. Many graduates are released from the universities with limited job opportunities. It is something government and private sector actors must fix. But we should not also forget that government has employed 750,000 people into various public sectors. To solve the graduate unemployment problem, 100,000 graduates were placed under the Nations Builders Corpe (NABCO) programme.
g) Government is fixing our education system. A single most important fix by the government is the massification of secondary school education. The disruptive nature of the free SHS policy and the cascading of barriers to schooling are on a scale we have never witnessed since independence. Ghana witnessed the highest increased enrolment ever following the implementation of Free SHS and the accompanying track system.
Juabin (2020) in a study state that “[t]he free senior high school policy is one of best social and economic intervention policies that openly affect both parents and students of senior high schools…the study finds the introduction of the free senior high school policy as a relief to the financial burden of parents, especially guardians from rural and peri-rural settlements. Not just that, a few other public members who are fortunate, can now keep body and soul together through employment creation”. Prior, the famous education scholar and researcher Esther Duflo and others had underscored the importance of free secondary education with experimental evidence from Ghana.
Successfully, the framework towards an effective Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in Ghana has been set up. The fund for research and innovation has commenced with the bill already gazetted. This will produce the critical mass of citizenry who will provide solutions to the problems but not those who will talk about the problems.
When was the last time you heard schools have postponed reopening or Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) threatened to close down schools over non-payment of feeding grant? Government also increased capitation grant of pupil by 122%. Indeed, whenever man achieves an aspiration, there is something more he would desire!
A barrel of ink, a trillion reams of papers and a lexical fortification is what is required to tell the story and the success story of the government in the education sector. I reserve that for another day.
h) Government has fixed and fixing security. Security is the chief enemy of mortals says William Shakespeare. So, government would continue to invest in the safety of Ghanaians. In the past four years, government recruited over 14,000 police personnel, increasing the Police-To-Citizens ratio to 1:808. Police are being trained on cyber security. Police visibility has been enhanced with the training of 15,000 Community Police Officers. The protection of the territorial borders of the country by government is something that we must all be grateful for. The morale of the men has also been fixed with the increase and timely payment in the allowance of security personnel serving on UN Peacekeeping Mission.
The culminating effect of these interventions is that Ghana has been adjudged the most peaceful country Ghana has been ranked the most peaceful country in West Africa and third on the continent in the 2020 Global Peace Index report. Ghana is also low-threat location for terrorism, low threat location for Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence, and Ghana is at Level 1 of the US Travel Advisory in the 2020 OSAC’s Crime & Safety Report.
I am not the least suggesting that all is well. There is always a room for improvement. We have to end the housing problems, we must have an efficient transportation system and we must increase government transparency and work to ameliorate the impact of COVID-19 on businesses. But also citizenry must be honest, responsible and patriotic.
We should not also divorce the discussion from the global context and the constraints imposed on us by COVID-19. The economy of Ghana recorded a positive growth when many developed countries experienced negative growth. Yes, the shrink in the size of the global economy and the economy of Ghana would put pressure on the government.
The inabilities of government to mobilise expected revenue plus the surge in additional expenditure due to COVID fight are all strains. Likely, government knows the task ahead and has commenced the Cares Programme to ensure recovery within the shortest possible.
I therefore urge the citizenry to be more patient and support the government through this period of recovery.
The writer is an Economic Policy Analyst