Luz Truss’s Premiership – What’s up for Africa

The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Truss last Tuesday assumed office as the 77th Prime Minister following the resignation of Mr. Boris Johnson. She becomes the third female British Prime Minister after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May. It makes her Britain’s fourth Prime Minister in six years. 

10 o’clock, UK time, on Tuesday, Mr. Johnson delivered his final speech for seven minutes, seven seconds, and followed it up with a meeting with Queen Elizabeth 11, who wields the executive powers, to officially resign from office, while Ms. Truss was also asked by the Queen to form a government for her people as per the political tradition of the British.

The embattled Boris Johnson said that he was resigning as Prime Minister, bowing to calls from ministerial colleagues and lawmakers in his Conservative Party. It took the resignation of nearly 60 members of his government, for Mr. Johnson to finally abandon his attempts to cling to power.

Ms. Truss’s political party, the Conservative Party members chose her over, over Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer.

She won 81,326 votes to Mr. Sunak’s 60,399 votes, a margin that while comfortable was not as overwhelming as some of the polls suggested it would be. Analysts noted that Mr. Sunak, not Mrs. Truss, was the top choice of Conservative lawmakers in the first round of the leadership contest.

Still, Ms. Truss has made a remarkable political journey to the top of the Conservative Party. Raised in a left-wing family, with a father who was a mathematician and a mother who was a nurse and teacher, she was an active member of Britain’s centrist party, the Liberal Democrats, as a student at Oxford University, once calling for a vote to abolish the monarchy.

Her rich political experience will be brought to bear at the peak of her career. She served as Secretary of state for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Chief secretary to the treasury, Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Justice, Secretary of State for Environment, food and rural affairs, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Education and Childcare

She takes office at a time the country is experiencing economic setbacks. Double-digit inflation, a looming recession, labor unrest, soaring household energy bills, and possible fuel shortages this winter. This and others that will confront Mrs. Truss as she moves into 10 Downing Street. She also must repair a party deeply divided after Mr. Johnson’s turbulent three-year tenure, which peaked in 2019 with a landslide general election victory but descended into unrelenting scandals after that.

In a businesslike speech to a party gathering after her victory was announced, Mrs. Truss promised a “bold plan” to lower taxes and bolster the economy, adding: “We will deliver, we will deliver and we will deliver.”

The cost of living has been high recently with inflation rising above 10 percent in July this year for the first time in 40 years. It was driven by the rising cost of energy and food. Average household energy bills have risen 54% already this year and are forecast to go even higher.

The economy is gradually becoming poor as on Monday, the British pound dropped 0.3% to its lowest level against the US dollar since 1985, before recovering slightly.

Lots of things in the UK simply seem to be failing at the moment. Waiting times to receive health care are at their longest in recent history.

There are similar staffing and funding problems in social care, schools, universities, and local government.

Throughout this year, transportation workers, journalists, lawyers, refuse workers and postal workers have gone on strike. In many cases, union bosses have blamed the government for failing to meet their demands and break the deadlock.

The new prime Minister is entering office amid a complicated global situation. Ukraine is still under Russian invasion. China is still threatening Taiwan. And then there’s the mess of Brexit, which is still causing huge problems both in Britain and overseas.

What is more the biggest danger for her comes from her own Conservative MPs, who are now rather well versed in regicide. She has not outlined how she plans to address any of the issues above and her parliamentary colleagues are far from confident she has the answers.

she is reported to have been finalising her strategy with Kwasi Kwarteng, the man widely expected to be the new chancellor, to freeze bills at the current price cap of £1,971 for the average household, in order to avoid the cap rising to £3,549 in October. This will cost the country 100 million Pounds.

“Political commentators and economists have been poring over Truss’ political history as well as her economic pledges on the campaign trail for a better idea on where she might take a country that, as well as facing a potential imminent fall in living standards, is yet to find a grip on the economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic or the fallout from leaving the EU.”

A curse look at her strategies during her political career connotes that she has been a fan of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan who ruled in the 1980s. The speculations are that Ms. Truss will base her economic policies on what people term as “Reaganomics”. “Reaganomics refers to the economic policies implemented by Mr. Reagan which broadly aimed at reducing taxes and regulations while also reducing public spending and controlling the supply of money.”

This is clear in her first plan spelled out in her address to party members on her elections. Thus freeze bills at the current price.

What is not certain has been direct policies for Africa and Ghana for that matter. As U.K. foreign secretary, Truss hasn’t exactly been afraid to ruffle a few feathers. She is said to have shepherded through controversial legislation which the European Union says risks ripping up the hard-won protections for Northern Ireland in the Brexit deal and caused outrage in China.

It is envisaged Truss’s foreign policies may not jeopardise Africa’s worsening economy, particularly Ghana. Currently, UK aid in Ghana is said to be a mixed record in contributing to strong and sustainable institutions that do not rely on donor support for their continued functioning.

Available data indicates that the UK has invested about £2.8 billion in bilateral aid in Ghana over the past two decades. Since 2011, the UK’s aid portfolio has been reoriented towards helping Ghana overcome its economic and governance challenges and mobilising the resources to finance its own development. We expect this to be continued and improved especially with a Ghanaian descent, Kwasi Kwarteng tipped to be the secretary to the Treasury.

By Nana Sifa Twum (PhD)

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