Election 2016: Infrastructure vis-a-vis economic reality

From ancient Greek came the words “Oikos” and “nomos” which the Greek society used to refer to how households manage their resources to satisfy their basic needs.

Over time, the word gained international dimension and became known in present day as “Economics” which refers to how human beings satisfy their material needs, through the production, distribution and consumption of goods and service.

Good road network, sustainable power supply, telecommunication, educational and health facilities are among the major infrastructure required for the efficient running of an economy, to enhance the well-being and promote the welfare of society.

Governments over the years have vigorous implemented numerous infrastructure projects across the country, to facilitate the rapid socioeconomic development of the country for sustainable growth.

One major master piece of infrastructure is the redesigning and reconstruction of the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, the nerve centre of the Accra Metropolis. It is expected that the project being executed by Queiroz Galvao Construcao, a Brazilian company, will bring huge relief to commuters passing through the Kwame Nkrumah  Circle where  on daily basis, an estimated 84,000 vehicles struggled to traverse  the area, with resultant excruciating  traffic congestion.

Indeed, this mega project will serve as boost to the economy as it will enhance the production, distribution and consumption of goods and service in the country; and very significantly reduce man- hour lost to traffic congestion.

On a personal level, the untarred road in my area at “block factory” in the Ga South Municipality had been a source of dust pollution to the inhabitants living in the area. Quiet recently, the road has received bitumen dressing. Each time I now walk on the road, I feel like kneeling down to kiss it.

In fact, the new condition of the road has changed the lives of the people. They have been spared of the discomfiture of inhaling dust and eating food laced with dust which has dire consequences on their health.

While the country is doing well in terms of infrastructure development, on the flipside, the performance of the economy is a contentious matter that has become a major subject of debate.

I like to avoid the complexities of economic theories to give a personal experience about my view of the Ghanaian economy. I eat at restaurant close to the north industrial area in Accra. Few months back I could buy a ball of fufu at GH¢ 1 and a piece of chicken or fish at GH¢3. So, with GH¢4, I was able to lunch myself.

Quiet recently, when I went to eat at the restaurant, I was told that there was no fufu for GH¢ 1 and that a ball is now sold for GH¢3. A piece of chicken or fish is now sold at GH¢5. I now need to spend GH¢ 8 to be able to survive for lunch. What this means is that my cost of living (for lunch) has increased by 100 per cent within a short period of time. This is the economic reality!

My understanding is that the raw material (cassava and plantain) needed for the production of fufu is scarce, because it is not raining. How long can we continue to run an economy based on the availability of rains and be competitive in a global environment?

To what extent have we made use of the numerous water bodies across the country for irrigation to ensure all year round agriculture production, the mainstay of our economy?

To what extent have we achieved our dream of modernising and promoting agriculture production for sustainable economic growth?

My elder brother travelled to Mecca in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as part of Hajj medical team, on two occasions; first in 1990 and secondly in 2004.He tells me that the prices of things he bought, including food, on his first visit in 1990 and fourteen years later, almost remained the same.

How can we, as a country also model our economy around the examples of Saudi Arabia, a desert country with very low rainfall, to maintain price stability of our basic needs in the country?

As a layman in economics, and perhaps, without sounding simplistic, can’t we also have an economy with price stability modelled around sachet water?

I use sachet water as my reference point because it is one commodity in Ghana that has maintained price stability over a long period. Even when it is necessary to increase the price sachet water, now selling at Gp20, the producers of sachet water feel reluctant to increase the price of their products.

Corruption is a major stumbling block in the quest to reducing poverty in Ghana. The disbursement of central government’s grant transfers to the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies, to implement development projects to satisfy the basic needs of the people is fraught with embezzlement and other acts of corruption, as ritually reflected in the annual reports of the Auditor-General. Huge sums of money go into personal pockets, than is available for the general good of the people.

We are going to the polls in November against the backdrop of startling poverty profile reflected in the rising inequalities being experienced in the country.

More than 2.2 million Ghanaians, based on the projection of 2010 Population and Housing Census, live in extreme poverty and cannot feed themselves with 2,900 calories per adult equivalent of food per day.

The World Bank Africa Poverty Report 2015“Poverty in a Rising Report,” launched in Ghana last year on the occasion of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty October 17, estimates that though the incidence of poverty has halved in Ghana between 1991and 2012 from 52.6 per cent to 21.4 percent, almost a quarter, that is six million of the estimated 27 million plus Ghanaians still live in poverty. The chunk of which is in the northern part of the country (Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions).

Although, these segments of the population who have fallen through the cracks, are targets for social protection including bi-monthly cash transfers to help them manage their economic and social risks, and to reduce their vulnerability, it is not without its targeting challenges!

Ghana transited from a low- income to middle–income country, following the rebasing of the Gross Domestic Product in 2010.Regretably, huge numbers of Ghanaians are still wallowing in poverty and are prone to vulnerability. This is certainly a dent on our dignity and an affront to inclusive development.

These disadvantaged segments of the population owe it a right not to be poor! Suffice it to re-echo the sentiments expressed by the former Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, Juan Somavia that “poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere.”

The Gini coefficient in Ghana, which denotes the statistical measurement of income distribution and a common measurement of inequality, is estimated to have risen from 37 in 1992 to 41 in 2013.The value 0 indicates perfect equality and one implies perfect inequality.

Our mothers did not have much to celebrate on the occasions of International Women’s Day (March 8) and Mother’s Day (May 8). They continue to die before they give birth.

Maternal Mortality is still high in the country estimated at 319 per 100,000 live births in 2015, far short of the target set in the erstwhile Millennium Development Goals of 190 per 100,000 live births to be achieved by last year.

Children are still dying in numbers before their fifth year of birth. What it means is that the economy has not performed so well to generate resources to adequately invest in the health system.

Fighting poverty must be tackled through the social lens and not through the political lense.The national discourse heralding the elections must dwell more on how, as a country, we can address this blight on our status as a middle- income country.

Political parties must tell the electorate the strategies they have in place to resolve this disequilibrium between the provision infrastructure and economic growth that will spread benefits to all and sundry.

Often, political parties in seeking the mandate of the people to govern, dwelt more on what they want do than how they will do it!

Let it be remembered that we (Ghana) owe it a duty, as a member of the international community, to eradicate poverty by the year 2030; in just about 14 years from now. But the question is, can we? Yes we can!

The Economic Commission for Africa 2012 report has recognised Africa as the world’s emerging growth pole, stressing that “African countries must pursue structural transformation to sustain growth, create jobs and reduce vulnerability to external shock.”

Population scientists have established that the country’s youth bulge offers a window of opportunity for growth giving  the right investment in human capital through skills training and education, enhancement in healthcare, job creation and good governance, and Indeed, tackling  corruption!

By Salifu Abdul-Rahaman

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