In "Arrow of God," Chinua Achebe indicates: "Whenever people have asked me which among my novels is my favourite, I have always evaded a direct answer, being strongly of the mind that in sheer invidiousness that question is fully comparable to asking a man to list his children in the order in which he loves them. A paterfamilias worth his salt will, if he must, speak about the peculiar attractiveness of each child."
Similarly, the NDC has several social policies and interventions to its credit; we love social interventions and we implement them better because we are social democrats.
Incredibly, Ghana's loquacious Vice President, Dr. Bawumia has asked the National Democratic Congress to point to one social intervention we implemented while in Government, which was geared towards alleviating the sufferings of Ghanaians. This evokes an oxymoronic response: I am glad but sad! The latter feeling is because Bawumia is still speaking to the issue of the sufferings of Ghanaians, when in actual fact according to Candidate Akufo-Addo's promise in 2016, he was expected to 'transform' Ghana within eighteen months upon assuming office as President.
Furthermore, my sadness is worsened because notwithstanding the litany of "sufferings" that Bawumia listed and recited like the Pater Noster in 2016, the NPP Government has only paid lip service to the plight of Ghanaians. Even when they attempt an 'intervention', it is rushed and fraught with avoidable yet costly, painful and amateur hitches because their objective is not altruistic and development-centred but simply for political gains.
The glaring challenges associated with the implementation of the Free Senior High School Policy and the recently launched Nations Builders Corp (NaBCo) illustrate this point.
Whereas Free education is guaranteed under the Constitution and the NDC Government worked diligently towards its decent attainment through direct Government of Ghana support, the NPP is implementing progressively free SHS for Form 1 and 2 students to the exclusion of Form 3 students, and even then, in a haphazard manner. Free education is great! It should have been well thought through, in order to avoid the needless deaths, infections, congestion, and multiple track system which is being run currently at the SHS level.
With regards to Nation Builders Corp, within hours after the expensive funfair at the Independence Square led by the President, the beneficiaries have been told in plain language that the expected date for implementation cannot be respected by Government. Which Government anywhere in the progressive world acts like this? Not only has the commencement of implementation been varied to a later date, but also placement of beneficiaries has not been firmed up. This is not how the NDC implemented job creation measures in the past and will undoubtedly do better than the status quo.
In any case, NaBCo is not what the NPP promised the youth of Ghana in 2016. NPP promised sustainable jobs! In fact, their manifesto was titled, “Change An Agenda for Jobs." Therefore, NaBCo begs the question of why professionally trained teachers and nurses will be queuing endlessly for employment, when others under NaBCo are being offered free passage to teach and care for patients.
Before I list a few more of the many social interventions that the NDC Government implemented from 2009 to 2016, let me first address the conceptual confusion which is confined to Bawumia's cerebrum.
The Bawumia Conceptual Confusion
Dr. Bawumia is a social scientist. Therefore, he is expected to speak to and within acceptable framework(s) even when his concepts are confusing or deliberately made confusing for his parochial and partisan political gain. First and foremost, social interventions consist of social policies, programmes and projects as well as strategies to implement these to improve human well-being. Unfortunately for Dr. Bawumia, these projects and programmes are more visible and perhaps further elaboration on what they are may not even be necessary.
Against this background, there is consensus on what social policy is. It is defined by respected scholars as, "Measures that affect people's well-being, whether through the provision of welfare services or by means of policies that impact upon livelihoods more generally." Therefore, what exactly is Ghana's Vice President referring to on what constitutes social intervention; and what is his understanding when he demands one social intervention implemented by the NDC administration from 2009 to 2016?
A deeper layer of his conceptual confusion is embedded in the NPP's consistent propagandist rhetoric which seeks to appropriate the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to themselves, and also fails to give credit to the NDC for the emerging free education programme at the SHS level. What do I mean?
It is not in doubt that, it was the NDC that initiated the Health Insurance Scheme, (Kotoh et al., 2018; Agyepong and Adjei 2008; Arhinful 2003; Arhin-Tenkorang 2001; and Waddington and Enyimayew 1989). It is also not in doubt that the NPP scaled it up under President Kufour in 2003 and was subsequently converted into a functionally integrated National Health Insurance Scheme under President John Evans Atta Mills. Notwithstanding these immutable facts, the NPP continues to project monopoly over the NHIS !
In a similar vein, the John Mahama Government implemented Progressively Free SHS for over 400, 000 students. Yet, even though not all SHS students are currently benefitting from the ongoing limited free SHS programme which covers only Form 1 and 2 students, Government dishonestly insists it is not progressive.
At this stage, the simple question to answer is, was the progressively free SHS programme under Mahama a social intervention or not? The answer is oui in French because the policy is affirmed by the accepted definition of social interventions contrary to what Dr. Bawumia, the perverse social scientist wants the world to believe.
Another issue worth visiting is how to target people with social interventions in order to optimise benefits from the use of resources. As a Social Democrat, I vote for equity in its two dimensions. I believe in horizontal equity which expects people with equal needs to be treated equally. Furthermore, I also believe in vertical equity - which demands that people with unequal needs must be treated unequally. This is to say, do not give the same amount of resources to people of unequal needs. Adopt affirmative action. Otherwise you risk entrenching inequality and consigning people to permanent social castes. We must avoid this pitfall at all times !
More Social Interventions of the NDC
If it pleases Bawumia, I wish to provide him with a gist of some of the social interventions of the NDC. Ordinarily, this exercise is unnecessary; but when the Vice President gives the “unnecessary" his blessings without inhibitions, citizens may have no option but to obey.
I am glad to state that the specific NDC social interventions, beyond significantly expanding the NHIS and initiating and implementing progressively free SHS, include: Free School Uniforms; Free School sandals; Free textbooks; Free cocoa fertilizer; Free cocoa seedlings; Payment of premium to cocoa farmers while increasing producer price of cocoa; Ayalolo metro buses and Rejuvenation of State Transport Corporation; and Provision of funds to SMEs.
Also, the NDC deem social infrastructure as critical to the overall well-being of Ghanaians. After all, of what use is one's NHIS card if the sick and their caregivers cannot access health care in health facilities? Of what benefit? Therefore, several hospitals, polyclinics and CHPS compounds were deliberately constructed across the country.
The Ridge hospital, the University of Ghana Medical Centre, the Bank of Ghana hospital, the Maritime Hospital, the Dodowa District Hospital, the Upper West Regional Hospital, the expansion of both the Tamale Teaching Hospital and the Bolgatanga Hospital as well as dozens of Polyclinics and CHPS Compounds are classic examples of what the NDC did in Government with the view to relieve the sufferings of Ghanaians.
Even more, were the development of several educational institutions, including the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), the Community Day Senior High Schools, expansion of facilities on several campuses among others. The fact that limited public schools have led to the infamous double track system at the SHS level should trigger Dr. Bawumia to appreciate what social intervention is.
In the water sector, if today 'the market for the yellow Kufour gallons' has diminished, then it is to the credit of the NDC Dr. Bawumia, do not ignore the long distances that women and children have walked in the past in search of potable drinking water; and do not ignore the plight of the people of Adentan in recent past. The interventions in the road sector which also brought relief to Ghanaians can also not be under-rated.
Dr. Bawumia, I know the very day you walked into your office in the South wing of the Flagstaff House (now renamed Jubilee House), you started campaigning for election 2020 instead of working for Ghanaians and Ghana. However, I believe, if you pause and soberly reflect, you will admit that, to the NDC, economic development is most important if it impacts positively on Ghanaians.
We expect the NPP Government to work assiduously to at least maintain or improve upon our record, given the strong foundation provided by the Atta Mills and Mahama Administrations. Ghanaians do not deserve the reverse, as we have seen in the case hardships and in the fight against corruption under the NPP. Just an anecdote, do you recall that Ghana dropped in the 2017 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index?
As Achebe advised in "Arrow of God," I am equally and firmly of the mind that, Bawumia's question is fully comparable to a naive request for a man to list his children in the order in which he loves them. Unlike the NPP, the NDC has several social policies and interventions to her credit, therefore, I have catalogued more than one.
Ghanaians, let us give thanks to almighty God for offering the Akufo-Addo Government the opportunity to test their skills at the highest level. The verdict has been that of unending and spiralling hardships and monumental failures. But God works in mysterious ways; and as the Prophet Isaiah (55:8-9) captures it, his ways and thoughts are not like ours.
Dr Bawumia, I repeat, simply get to work and stop haunting yourself with 'NDCism' more than two years ahead of the 2020 general elections, for Ghanaians deserve better!
Dr Edward Kofi Omane Boamah Former Minister for Communications
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