The flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), has promised to create jobs and ensure economic stability in Ghana, should he be elected in the 2024 general elections.
During a manifesto presentation to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), John Dramani Mahama, emphasized his intent to implement practical economic policies focused on reducing public debt, addressing inflation, and limiting the central bank’s financing of the government through the Bank of Ghana.
The ex-president, who is on what he called “Collaborative engagement between the NDC and TUC” yesterday, Tuesday, November 07, 2023, expressed his dedication to alleviating the inflationary pressures that have eroded the income of Ghanaian citizens and working people.
“There must be an end to this decline and the restoration of stability to the economy so that Ghanaian citizens and working people can brief a sigh of relief and not have their already inadequate income eroded by inflationary pressures.
Mr Mahama, who is on what he called the “Building Ghana Tour” this month, ahead of the 2024 general elections noted how “unemployment among young people in Ghana has skyrocketed to almost 13% promising that “National Employment Centres will be established in all regions of the country as an avenue for employing the youth. Businesses that employ applicants from the Centre’s database will receive tax breaks to encourage more to employ applicants through the Centres.
“In the last few years, I have been outlining policies that the NDC will implement and the aim is to stop the steep decline in the economy, turn it around and stabilise it.”
Furthermore, Mahama pledged to enact stringent measures to safeguard workers’ rights, reflecting his commitment to the welfare and well-being of the labour force.
In tandem with Mahama’s assurances, Dr Yaw Baah, the Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress, advocated for a comprehensive review of the macroeconomic policy framework.
Such a review he said would aim to create jobs, ensure food security, address housing needs, and uphold the rights of workers, all to enhance the overall socio-economic landscape in Ghana.
According to Mr Mahama, “As social democrats, we believe in social justice and equity and share a common objective with organised labour, represented by the Trades Union Congress of Ghana. We both prioritise the welfare and well-being of the working class. This shared goal requires us to cooperate and collaborate to ensure the total achievement of our objectives.
He went on to say that “the history of global development shows that trade unions have been instrumental in shaping economies to promote universal human well-being. The progress made in the Western world and other economies is a testament to the tenacity and resilience of workers’ unions. I believe that today’s interaction will mark the beginning of even deeper relations to safeguard our common interests and ensure a better future for the working people of our country.
“Just as no economy can survive without prioritising the well-being of its workers, we, as social democrats, recognise the need to design policies that accommodate the growth of industry and business and, at the same time, protect the interest of workers and their unions.
“The NDC, which I lead, recognises that it does not have a monopoly on ideas and that it takes a cross-fertilisation of ideas to achieve and sustain the economic progress of our country. We acknowledge the pool of ideas and expertise at the disposal of the TUC and recognise that you have clear perspectives of the challenges confronting our country in this era.
“As allies whose anchor ideology is social democracy, the NDC has no hesitation in inviting the TUC to actively participate in our strategy formulation processes so that concerns of the working class can be adequately reflected in policy whenever we hold the reins of government. Comrades and friends, no political party in Ghana is better aligned to pursue policies favourable to the working class than the National Democratic Congress.
“We firmly and openly ascribe to the tenets of social democracy, believing that the State and the Market can work together to ensure economic expansion and equitable sharing of the fruits of growth. We understand that our collective well-being as citizens resides in sustained economic growth through high productivity in sectors where we have a comparative advantage.
“Our beloved country has been hit with very harsh economic conditions over the last few years. Under the current administration, Ghana has witnessed severe adverse effects due to what we, the NDC and many Ghanaians, consider a self-inflicted economic crisis.
“The high inflation rate, high cost of living, destruction of jobs, debt crisis, and negative impact on investors are some of the effects of this administration’s failed policies. The economic crisis has significantly impacted workers and citizens generally. Unemployment rates, particularly among the youth, have risen to their highest, making it difficult for many to find stable and decent-paying jobs.
“Inflation and exchange rate volatility have eroded workers’ purchasing power, pushing many below the poverty line. The healthcare and education sectors have also been negatively affected, with inadequate funding and deteriorating quality of services. Our economy is plagued by high public debt levels, which hinder investment in social and economic development projects. For example, in 2016, if you shared the public debt of 120 billion Ghana Cedis among 30 million Ghanaians, each Ghanaian owed four thousand Ghana Cedis.
“Today, if you divide the debt of 577 billion Ghana Cedis by 30 million Ghanaians, all of us sitting here owe nineteen thousand Ghana Cedis each. This, coupled with a relatively high unemployment rate, particularly among the youth, exacerbates the challenges faced by our citizens. Inflation and exchange rate volatility further erode workers’ purchasing power and push more Ghanaians below the poverty line. For the first time in over fifty years, we have defaulted on our debts and been downgraded by credit rating agencies to the lowest levels ever experienced. The escalating cost of living, driven by hyperinflation, a collapsing currency, and rising prices of essential items, including food, has made life unbearable for millions of Ghanaian households. Due to the government’s debt restructuring programme, the working and middle classes face the greatest threat to their livelihood.
“This debt exchange has expropriated the interest payments on bonds held by the working and middle class, affecting many households, including pensioners. The poor, dependent on the working and middle class, are now uncertain about their future. According to the World Bank, inflation has pushed as many as 850,000 Ghanaians into poverty in the past year alone. Unemployment among young people in Ghana has skyrocketed to almost 13%.
“The consequences of this economic catastrophe have affected every sector of our national life, particularly education, health, and infrastructure. The government has no grasp of the magnitude of the economic suffering that Ghanaians are going through and is unwilling to make the necessary decisions to resolve it. They also appear unprepared to improve the general governance of the country and end corruption, nepotism, politicisation, and the weakening of state institutions.
“They are oblivious to our country’s falling state of education and health and remain fixated on poorly implemented programmes that have thrown the sector into crisis. We have a President who has run out of ideas on how to solve the economic challenge we find ourselves in, and by his recent declaration, his focus and last energies would be expended on installing his anointed successor as the next President. We could have avoided this unpleasant situation. The signs of this crisis were there for all to see.
“A conflicted Finance Minister whose only interest was to borrow endlessly and mire our economy in the quagmire of debt was obvious from as far back as 2019.
“A President whose budget was creatively crafted to hide huge liabilities to present a favourable economic outturn to the world so that he could borrow more from the international capital markets was evident for all to see.
“Appointment of family and friends into various positions in government, brazen interference to obstruct the fight against corruption, reckless abuse of the public purse, arrogance, and luxury in the conduct of public officers have all been characteristic of this administration since its inception in 2017. It is regrettable for me to note that at such a crucial time in our nation’s life, society’s moral voices refused to speak up against these unfortunate developments in our democratic governance.
“The NDC was left alone as the solitary voice seeking to hold the government accountable and speaking up for the voiceless Ghanaian. We were often cast as spoilt brats who were ranting because we had lost power. Today, the chickens have come home to roost.
“We are all affected. There must be an end to this decline and a restoration of stability to the economy so that Ghana’s citizens and working people can breathe a sigh of relief and not have their already inadequate incomes eroded by inflationary pressures. In the last few years, I have outlined policies that a future NDC government will implement.
“The aim is to stop the steep decline in the economy, turn it around, and stabilise it. I have also shared my positions on governance and institutional reforms to ensure our country is reset and built into the Ghana we all want. It is important to note that we in the NDC will not be couching propagandist slogans and passing them off as policy.
“We have much to learn from the disaster that unfolded before our eyes when sections of our population became enamoured with empty slogans and acronyms. We will focus on substantial government issues to get the job done in a no-thrills, no-frills manner. We will cut out the rigmarole and deliver realistic policies to impact our economy and country positively. Ladies and gentlemen, the NDC proposes a series of transition measures to address the economic decline and set Ghana on the path to recovery. These measures include reducing public debt through a moratorium on non-concessional borrowing, actively seeking concessional financing and grants, and reviewing legislation to limit the non-core activities of state-owned enterprises. Why must we reduce our debt obligations?
“Because we must create adequate fiscal space to stabilise the economy. To achieve this, the NDC will implement the following measures: a. Place an immediate moratorium on all non-concessional borrowing,
b. Pursue bilateral and multilateral partners for more concessional financing and grants, c. Implement infrastructural projects that are self-financing and not a burden on the public debt, d. Limit the Central Bank’s financing of the government and reforming of the Bank.
e. Tighten legislation to put a cap on debt accumulation and prevent any future reckless borrowing, as has been witnessed under this administration,
f. Re-establish the Sinking Fund to smoothen out our debt repayment obligations, g. Stop the collateralisation of statutory funds like the GETFund and the District Assembly Common Fund, and h. Review some legislation to limit the financial implications of non-core activities of state-owned enterprises like the Ghana Cocoa Board and GNPC.
“Additionally, we aim to reduce the size and cost of government, tackle corruption, and enforce stricter financial management regulations and guidelines. We will achieve this through measures such as: a. Reduce the number of ministers and appointees,
b. Merge ministerial portfolios to prune down the number of ministries drastically,
c. Reduce waste, cost overruns, institutional borrowing, and breaches in public procurement rules,
d. Ensure compliance with internal and external financial control systems,
e. Review and eliminate ex-gratia in its current form,
f. Recalibrate and amalgamate duplicated state agencies, and
g. Discontinue the payment of utility bills, fuel, DSTV, etc., as part of top government employees’ service conditions. The recent misuse of public funds by Government officials demands more creative and stricter measures to prevent further financial losses. Therefore, we will introduce stricter financial management regulations and guidelines to prevent over GH¢ 17 billion in annual financial irregularities without stifling productivity.
“We will also safeguard the principles of value for money in public procurement by establishing an Independent Value for Money office to vet any project above a ceiling prescribed by Parliament.
“We will continue with the implementation of the process of constitutional review to strengthen the 1992 constitution and bring it up to speed with current trends and developments. Stabilising the cedi is another crucial measure to redirect billions of dollars spent on imports towards domestic production.
“We will incentivise the indigenous private sector to capture the commanding heights of the economy in every sector to reduce financial outflows occasioned by huge profit repatriation. We will pass local content laws to give Ghanaian registered businesses an advantage, especially in the extractive sector.
“By incentivising local production of goods and promoting value addition, we can stabilise the cedi, create sustainable jobs, and achieve food self-sufficiency. The businesses will be incentivised to produce goods such as rice, sugar, tomato, frozen fish, poultry, meat products, vegetable cooking oils, and local pharmaceuticals. We will place restrictions on the unbridled importation of some highly consumed goods through tariff and non-tariff measures.
“The policy will also support large-scale commercial agricultural production to enable us to achieve food self-sufficiency. A strong cooperative system in the agricultural sector based on farmers’ service centres will be the vehicle for driving agricultural credit and inputs. Each of the sixteen regions of the country will be supported with investments in products for which they have a comparative advantage.
“Processing plants will be provided in the regions for crops such as palm, cashew, groundnuts, cotton, coffee, cocoa, soya, cassava, shea nuts cereals, ginger, spices, cut flowers, fruits and other horticultural products. We will involve the private sector in our national food buffer stock arrangements to improve efficiency and reduce waste. We will rehabilitate and preserve our remaining forest reserves through revenues received from carbon offsets. Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created in the forestry sector.
“We also intend to strengthen accountability in the gold export industry and promote an integrated bauxite and alumina industry to increase returns from this extractive activity.
“Our commitment to the public sector will involve improving its role as a service provider and provider of jobs. Therefore, we will review and reposition all public sector organisations, promoting innovation, improved services, and management. Additionally, we will implement new strategies to establish key performance indicators, making state agencies efficient, effective, and productive.
“Appointments to State Owned Enterprises will be merit-driven. And more importantly, we will protect workers’ rights to join a union and bargain collectively, work safely, and be free from harassment. Our commitment to social democratic principles means that workers will receive fair wages and benefits, be treated with dignity at work, and have fair and equal opportunities for training and promotion.
“We will also provide other forms of support as provided for under pieces of legislation related to work safety and compensation. We will negotiate wages fairly and transparently and consider inflation and other cost-of-living indices. Our focus when it comes to creating decent jobs will be the promotion of public and private partnerships in the construction and manufacturing, agricultural, forestry, and fisheries industries.
“National Employment Centres will be established in all regions of the country as an avenue for employing the youth. Businesses that employ applicants from the Centre’s database will receive tax breaks to encourage more to employ applicants through the Centres. We will also implement our COVID period recommendation for persons who lose their jobs to be paid a part of the SSNIT contributions as allowances while looking for a new job.
“We intend to implement a 24-hour economy, identify, and promote strategic growth areas such as IT with a targeted $3 billion investment and drive an aggressive infrastructure development under our BIG PUSH plan.
“We will shift attention from the macroeconomy to the micro and focus on growth in the real sector instead of just macroeconomic stability. Additionally, my government will support the TUC and organised labour to expand its current investments and establish new joint business ventures with third parties to open employment. As part of our Industrial Policy, we will develop policies that promote Ghanaian ownership and control of major sectors and encourage a ‘Buy Ghana’ agenda.
“The NDC government, in partnership with organised labour, the metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies and the private sector, will implement a social housing scheme that will enable working people to own houses in any district of their choice in their lifetime.
“We will remove the cap that diverts monies generated by the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL) into the consolidated fund. This will enable the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to meet its obligations towards service providers and expand the scheme.
“Within the first 100 days of coming into office, we will convene a stakeholder summit that brings together educationists, experts, teachers, parents, students, and opinion leaders to deliberate on how to improve the implementation of the free SHS system and improve the quality of our basic and secondary education. We will return to the regional exams conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) so that we can compare our children’s performance vis-a-vis our English-speaking neighbours in the subregion.
“We will promote sports, tourism, and the arts as avenues for job creation. We will also incentivise the service sector to accelerate its fast growth and contribution to GDP. We will roll out the 5G network and create a strong digital infrastructure to optimise new technologies. We will invest in technical skills training to get our young people ready for the world of work.
“There are a lot more, but today is just the first of our engagements, and I will be laying bare our policies for other sectors and expanding on them for your review and input. Collaboration between the NDC and the TUC is essential for achieving better economic growth, improved working conditions, and the overall well-being of Ghanaians. As a social democratic party, we believe in balancing economic prosperity with the well-being of workers and promoting equality.
“We will engage in an annual governance dialogue with the organised labour groups, CSOs and other recognised groups. We aim to expand economic freedom, primarily through thriving small enterprises, development initiatives at the district assembly levels, and cooperative schemes, as well as through our natural resource sectors and manufacturing. This approach will promote economic growth and avoid concentrating power, control, and capital in the hands of a few large corporations.
“We anticipate that through the ambit of the Building Ghana Tour, this will be an ongoing process, which you recall we started before our 2020 manifesto, to fully build the trust and confidence of our social democratic family to achieve our shared aspirations for Ghana, its workers, and citizens.
“Let’s work together, win together, and progress together in building a prosperous Ghana for all