The Minister for Food and Agriculture, who has been charged to give further and better particulars on his 745,000 jobs created out of the “Planting for Food and Jobs” programme, is chocking on his own figures as he struggles to prove his claim.
According to Dr. Owusu Akoto Afriyie, the 745,000 jobs are “unofficial” hence difficult to see and measure.
“… The Planting for Food and Jobs campaign has absorbed this [rural] labour to the extent that we targeted 750,000 rural labour, and we were able to generate 745,000 jobs, and these jobs are unofficial jobs. They are not pensionable, they are not tax deductible so you cannot actually measure it like those in the formal sector where you are registered, you are paid a wage, you have to pay tax and so on, and therefore, it is very easy to monitor,” he fumbled.
Dr. Owusu Akoto Afriyie’s figures, were purely based on inferences he made while sitting in the comfort of his air-conditioned office in Accra.
For instance, he claimed that he calculated the number of farmlands available in the country, and put under cultivation, and multiplied that per the possible number of farmhands likely to be engaged by the farmers on these hectares of land.
The possible farmhands he claimed, included tractor drivers, those applying fertilizer to the crops as well as those harvesting the crops, adding the figures were based on the number of additional inputs as well as improved seeds and fertilizers supplied to participating farmers in 2017.
He, however, described the figure as nothing to the Akufo-Addo government, because it is aiming at creating over five million jobs for Ghanaians under the programme. He took issues with those asking him to substantiate his claims.
“750,000 [jobs] is nothing, I want to employ five million people not 750, 000,” he said.
Dr. Owusu Akoto Afriyie’s claims that they’ve created 745,000 “unofficial” jobs under the programme across the country have been disputed by critics who say these ventures should be classified as “activities and not jobs” as they are not sustainable for the entire year.
“The whole idea is to generate enough jobs in our rural areas so that they would have something to do for them to stay, so that the Kayayei [Head porters] can go back to Tamale, Bolga and all those places to reach rice farmers,” the Minister said at a news conference last week.
His deputy, George Oduro, has also defended the figures, saying they are full-time employment ventures.
Speaking on Citi FM on Monday, Mr. Oduro, said many of those employed under the programme help with a number of farming activities including the tilling of lands and the harvesting of crops.
“…This is [a] full-time job. You start from land preparation until harvesting…These are not jobs that you go for interviews,” he added.
The General Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU) thinks the government’s estimate of 745,000 jobs provided under the planting for food and jobs programme might be exaggerated.
Admitting that he couldn’t “vouch for those figures,” the Union’s General Secretary, Edward Kareweh said on that the number will have to be treated to more scrutiny.
Mr. Kareweh, who spoke to Accra-based Citi FM, expects the jobs created in the sector to be tangible as he noted that “if someone is in employment, you can see, so it is easier to verify. When you don’t see, it does not exist.”
Furthermore, he said the government needed to show how those jobs are generated because “if we are indeed able to generate such jobs, it would endear confidence in whatever we are doing and then, within a very short period, in our development trajectory, we will be able to curb the huge unemployment levels in our economy. But for the 745,000 jobs, we need to interrogate it further and the minister needs to come out much and prove to all of us that indeed these jobs have been created.”
To highlight how the figures could possibly be skewed, Mr. Kareweh remarked that, “even within the crop sub-sector, it is only five crops that were targeted and only five crops with 200,000 farmers could generate 745,000 jobs for us?”
Per the government’s trajectory, he said the crop sector alone could generate 2 million jobs and “within two years, there will virtually be no unemployment in this country and that doesn’t appear to be so.”
Aside from this, Mr. Kareweh, said the jobs created needed to be sustainable.
“If you give jobs to someone for only a short period, two days or five days, that is not the type of job we are talking about and no one can live on a five-day job that has been given to them… we need to actually move beyond just putting the figures out there and also talk about jobs people can live on.”