Ghana needs radical constitutional reforms …as we seek economic support from the IMF
Times are, indeed, very hard and Ghana our beloved country is not what it used to be in the past. The country is now more than a hell, with things beginning to fall apart and if we do not take care, very soon, the centre will not hold, with apology to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart novel. As of now, it is the fervent prayer of every Ghanaian citizen that our hope in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) economic bailout, will yield a positive result within the shortest possible time, so as to lift this country out of the economic mess it finds itself.
GMA SECRETARY’S ASSERTION
As the current General Secretary of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), Dr. Titus Kofi Beyuo, once pointed out in a television programme recently, “The state of Ghana now, is like a patient at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of any health facility with all the supporting breathing instruments on him or her while gasping for breath. As soon as these health supports are removed, it means that is the end of the patient Ghana”. That is exactly the situation in which Ghana finds itself in at the moment, as it battles for breath of survival.
Indeed, without mincing words, Ghana is in a state of coma and unless something extra-ordinary and urgently is done to revive the shattered and downward trend of the economy, the possibility of this country becoming doomed, cannot be ruled out. The leaders have been overwhelmed with the challenges the country is facing hence taking an advantage of the IMF bailout which does not come easily but with certain harsh conditions. Currently, the country is in a difficult situation, saddled with high cost of living and severe hardships. Prices of goods and services are astronomically high, people have grounded their cars due to high cost of fuel, motorists, especially public transportation, are finding it difficult to break even, due to increase in spare parts and other lubricants. Landlords and prospective developers are complaining bitterly due to the high cost of building materials such as cement, iron rod, sand, stone, roofing sheet, floor tiles among others.
PLIGHT OF PUBLIC SECTOR WORKERS
Currently, public sector workers are facing severe difficulties as their take home pay cannot sustain them and their dependants. The high inflation rate coupled with the high cost of living, has eroded the monthly salaries of workers, thereby deepening their woes and making them impoverished. People’s health conditions are deteriorating faster than it used to be as they find it extremely difficult to access medical facilities due to underlying poverty and lack of funds. The situation we find ourselves in now, is just too bad and uncomfortable to say the least.
Even though President Akufo-Addo and for that matter the government, has admitted that we are in a terrible economic crisis, nevertheless, it keeps laying the blame at the doorstep of the COVID-19 pandemic which rocked the entire world in 2019, causing a lot of misery and havoc as well as the Russian-Ukraine war which affected the importation of certain goods and services from those two countries by nations which relied on them for survival. The government’s defence that the situation was a global challenge, has been debunked by economic think tanks in the country, arguing that it was a failure on the part of the government and its appointees to put proper structures in place to curtail the difficulties we find ourselves in at the moment. According to them, people placed in positions of authority have failed to manage the economy in the right perspectives.
CALLS FOR THE DISMISSAL OF FINANCE MINISTER
The recent call by both the Majority and Minority caucuses in Parliament to the President to sack the Finance Minister, Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta and the Minister of State in-charge of Finance, Dr. Charles Adu Boahen, who was recently dismissed by the President on grounds of corruption allegation against him, attests to the fact that, those put in charge of our economic management, are not performing to expectation, hence the economic downturn. If MPs from the ruling party, the NPP, are calling on the President for the removal of personalities who are managing the public purse, then there is a systematic failure in government which needs to be addressed. As we speak now, there is a censure motion pending against the substantive Minister Ken Ofori-Atta which will be debated in parliament by the full house.
As of now, some of the economic challenges the country faces are unemployment, corruption, inconsistent economic policies, poor human capital development, poor health system, crime and terrorism. Our major problem is the rising debt which stands above 80 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is projected to reach 104 per cent by the end of 2022. The country has been thrust into debt distress as 70 per cent of its total revenue must go towards debt servicing. The GDP rate in Ghana is expected to reach 72 billion dollars by the end of 2022, according to Trading Economic global macro models and analyst expectations. However, some financial analysts have suggested that in order to revamp the economy, we need to support private sector growth in strategic export oriented sectors but not limited to agriculture and agricultural processing services to ensure greater export, garment and apparel production and light manufacturing.
SOLUTIONS TO THE ECONOMIC PROBLEMS
It is also suggested that to confront the graduate unemployment situation in the country, a youth programmed fund should be created to fund start-up businesses for the youth. Government should also encourage young people to pursue technical education. We need to promote transparency and access to information. We must create funding and strengthen agencies to prosecute corrupt cases. Children must be given access to quality education, while at the same time ensuring basic health care for all Ghanaians.
The large size of government has been a thorny issue which is posing a serious threat to the country’s advancement since it serves as a drain to our meagre financial and economic resources. For now, most Ghanaians are suggesting that, there should be a drastic reduction of ministers to a maximum of between 10 and 12, while at the same time merging some of the ministries to take up other duplicating and similar roles. Some people have also argued that, until the economy is put on a sound footing, the position of District Chief Executive, should be suspended, while we allow the respective regional ministers to take up their roles and functions in their respective jurisdictions to cut down cost and conserve resources. It is also being suggested that the current number of 275 MPs should be reduced to at least 200, and this means we have to review our Constitutional requirements.
ADDITIONAL ROLE FOR VEEP
A suggestion is made that in view of the financial background of the current Vice President who is the Head of the Economic Management Team, he should be given an additional responsibility as Minister responsible for Finance, with at least a competent deputy to manage the finance portfolio. The argument being put across is that, “your area of expertise that made you to gain the position in government must be put into practice”.
These are, indeed, fine and pragmatic suggestions from a section of Ghanaians which must be seriously considered at this time of the country’s history when it is confronted with a lot of challenges and, therefore, needs various and varied solutions and interventions to our problems, as we try to access the IMF facility to put our economy in good shape. All we need at this critical period, is a referendum that will encourage Ghanaians to pool ideas, irrespective of party affiliations to hit the ground running. Ghana is at a crossroads and we need all hands on deck to resuscitate our ailing economy once and for all. Once the government has admitted that, we are in economic crisis, this is the time to call on Ghanaians to support government’s efforts in revamping the ailing economy.
TRIBUTE TO DR. KWESI BOTCHWEY
This article will not be complete without paying a special tribute to the Prof. Kwesi Botchwey of blessed memory, a former long serving Finance Minister in Ghana and who until his death, was so passionate about the turn of events in Ghana and had been speaking a lot about the country’s economic downturn and professing tangible solutions for its recovery. He would be sorely missed by Ghanaians for his rich ideas on the economy. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
Contact email/WhatsApp of Author:
By Charles Neequaye