Here is a background. On November 7, 2012, one month before the 2012 elections, IMANI authored the following under the title “GHANA: The Threat of Decay -An IMANI Pre-Election Report”. Below are 15 points and questions raised at the time. We will follow up with a second set of points and questions once we have received views from you. Now,
1.What do we mean by ‘reforms’ and ‘reform effort’?
You have probably heard the phrase ‘Guggisberg Economy’ too many times already. But it remains a blunt and relevant way of describing where we are, starting from the notion that for 100 years the structure of our economy has not really changed.
2. Ghana remains too susceptible to price cycles of specific raw materials on the international economy. To diversify the economy away from this over-dependence on a few commodities and still provide jobs beyond the imports-fueled informal retail and services sector, we will need to see growth in overall national capacity.
3. The government spends nearly all the money it collects on paying wages of its employees and has little left to invest in building this capacity. But its employees also include doctors, teachers, nurses and sanitation workers, of which more not less is needed.
4.So how is the government going to pay for all these workers when already their wages are making it impossible for it to invest in the facilities they need to build their capacity? So, for example, for many years we had a department of public works with full-time employees but little or no money to fix anything really. We had a department of parks and gardens that couldn’t even afford to manage a seed bank.
5. Today, we still have hospitals where the lifts don’t work and universities in which water don’t flow through the taps.
6. The workers insist however that not only are there no facilities to enable them train properly and do their work effectively, but also that the wages they receive are disgracefully low and, with inflation and exchange rate losses taken into account, declining in real terms.
7. To improve on the way it does its business, government of Ghana has tried to ‘decentralise’ its functions. The idea is to reduce the cost of management, enhance accountability, and thereby ensure more resources go into the investments that matter, rather than continue to splash it all on government workers managed from Accra.
8. But what have been created – the district assemblies – to carry out this decentralisation is much too weak. District assemblies have limited means of raising their own money because the notion of a local income tax is fanciful in a situation where even at central government level taxing a sprawling informal sector has proved easier on paper than in reality.
9. Because the district assemblies don’t raise their own money, electing their heads won’t make much of a difference as the central government will still hold the purse-strings and call the shots. But being appointed by the government as they now are, the only real motivation these district assembly bosses have in their work is to keep the local party bosses happy so they can remain at post.
10.The lack of effective local capacity means essential services like health and education are run from Accra by the government. This has made it extremely difficult to inject the right level of resources into them and insist on accountability since, as we have already said, government is already overburdened with paying the workers and lacks motivated managers to supervise performance on the ground.
11. With the essential services workers seen as part of the national bureaucracy rather than as members of dynamic professions, management is always going to be a complicated affair anyway.
12. Consequently our hospitals have become death-traps and our schools laboratories where ignorance is concocted and administered to our young people.
13. Because the schools and hospitals are so bad, lifting the poor from poverty is several times more difficult. The poor attend weak basic schools where due to poor teaching they are unable to progress to the best middle schools.
14. Malnutrition and childhood disease, poor hygiene and low stimulation in the environment, all ensure that even the little education available in middle school sieve through them without leaving much residue. Higher education is simply out of the question for these wretched of our society.
15. The most ambitious of the poor end up at vocational and technical institutes (including polytechnics) to participate in a cycle of mediocrity in/mediocrity out, thereby depressing the social standing of vocational and technical sciences in the country.
Please remember, I would like you to tell me and (IMANI) if anything significantly positive has changed the narrative above. Remember these were authored in 2012 and we are in 2018.