A researcher at the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana says employing a targeted policy with the Free SHS program may save the national purse. 

Dr Ama Pokuaa Fenny says the current structure of the program which admits students who pass their Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) is contributing to the current struggling of the economy.

“We feel we need to look at how much is taken from the national purse to keep this running. Are we properly targeting [the program] so that we don’t let people who can pay not pay?” she quizzed on JoyFM’s Super Morning Show, Wednesday. 

Concerns have been raised about the efficiency and sustainability of how the free SHS initiative is being run.

About GH¢1.7 billion is being spent from the national purse on the running of the flagship program of the government New Patriotic Party (NPP).

It is believed that government could conduct research to ensure that bold initiatives like this would be rolled out efficiently without consequences instead of rushing to fulfil a promise.

Last year, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, said the Free SHS program may have to be targeted at persons with genuine need and not made to benefit everyone.

Using himself as an example, he said someone in his economic bracket should not be enjoying such a policy.

“True, it may be that there have to be changes in the way we are administering it. I can’t take my child to Achimota or Odorgono and leave him or her there and drive away and not pay for anything whiles I can pay for ten people,” he said.

A new ISSER research has also confirmed the keeper of the national purse’s opinion.

According to Dr Fenny, who applauds the initiative, she indicated that there are parents who can pay, but still get free SHS for their wards and others who genuinely cannot also afford but are benefiting.

She and the ISSER believe that such a program should be targeted at people who cannot afford it so that those who can, pay for it.

In turn, financial resources will be saved for other situations, she argued.

Making Free SHS Sustainable

On his part, Dr Charles Godfred Ackah, also a guest on the show suggested that a research could be have been done before rolling out a program like Free SHS to ensure that the families who really need it could benefit from it, do.

For example, the income of every household be researched so that the right family gets access to the free SHS program.

He also highlighted that financial loss from government’s decision to exempt foreign mining and oil industries from paying tax which amounts to about GH¢4bn could rather help the free SHS program to be sustainable if collected.

Noting that tax exemptions exist to keep foreign investors in certain sectors like the mining and oil industries, he believes that the economy is suffering as a result of not prioritising fiscal funds.

He explains that while domestic revenue could be raised, national expenditure needs to be prioritised to gain efficiency and become sustainable so that other essential sectors like education and health don’t suffer from neglect.