Why gov’t must prioritise provision of some basic necessities

Why gov’t must prioritise provision of some basic necessities
Source: Frederick Richmond York | yorkefred8@gmail.com
Date: 18-09-2019 Time: 06:09:32:pm

Before the 2016 general elections in Ghana, the New Patriotic Party led by the then-candidate Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo-Addo and his running mate, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia promised the citizenry of significant policy initiatives.

Upon assuming office, we have seen the implementation of those campaign policy or promises by the current government.

Among the policies is the free S.H.S policy which has since 2017 increased enrollment in the public senior high schools and bridges the enrollment gap through the elimination of the element of cost which often become a barrier to higher education in Ghana. With this policy, Ghana stands to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 by 2030. Investment in quality education is expected to grow the economy both in the short and long run, as it is being evidenced by the success of the East Asian countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan.

The One District One Factory (1D1F) policy is also a meritorious policy. Upon completion of the factories in the various districts of Ghana, the policy will turn the country towards greater industrialization, contribute immensely to the reduction of unemployment in Ghana, and increase productivity in Ghana, which will then boost export, help the economy to enjoy positive trade balance and generate foreign exchange into the economy. It will also serve as a source of income and livelihood to the employees, thereby improving the standard of living and helping the economy to achieve rapid growth in our gross domestic product (GDP). This can be supported by empirical research which has shown that Industrialization played an active role in the rapid economic growth and development of the East Asian countries such as Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan as well as other advanced economies in the world.

The paperless port system, which was implemented in Ghana’s port on 1st September 2017 is also a good policy. This system seeks to reduce human contacts to expedite the process of clearing goods. It also reduces business cost and revolutionizes revenue mobilization, thereby achieving efficiency in our port system.

Other notable policy initiatives include ‘One village- One dam’ policy, a policy which aims to provide constant supply of water for agricultural activities in Ghana, Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme, which aims at revolutionize Ghana’s agriculture, increase employment and food production for local markets and for export and the $1million per constituency initiative which is expected to be fully implemented under the Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme (IPEP) for 2020 fiscal year, among others.

However, in spite of all these policies, there are other key areas of the economy that the government must prioritize to ensure growth in all aspects of the economy. On the broader scope, the areas include education, health, sanitation, access to potable water and transport.

Education: The need for more investment in the basic schools in Ghana

In the sector of education, we have seen the strides that have been made over the years. However, there is a need for more investment in the basic education sector in terms of infrastructure and teaching and learning materials.

Many public basic schools in the rural communities in Ghana lack necessities such as books, furniture, and infrastructural facilities. It is unfortunate to note that many public basic schools in rural communities in Ghana especially in the Northern sector of Ghana as well as Volta and Central regions are in a deplorable state and not fit for purpose. Some schools have abandoned their life-threatening classrooms and study under trees.

Some schools also lack furniture to the extent that pupils have lie down or sit on the bare floor or on blocks to be tutored. In some rural areas, children have to walk for miles to attend school in the nearby villages, which often serve as a disincentive to schooling to these young and innocent citizens of Ghana. This also exposes the children to health-hazards and all kinds of illness, affect their learning hours and harms their academic works.

As a result, many of the pupils exposed to such conditions turn out to be school drop-outs and those who are able to complete perform poorly in the Basic Education Certificate Examination (B.E.C.E), thereby widening the performance gap between the private basic schools and the public basic schools.

The cost to the economy is the loss of contribution to GDP from these children when they are older and issues of unemployment and social vices. Hence there is the need for extra investment in the primary or basic education in Ghana, either by the government or through a public-private partnership.

Investing in basic education has numerous benefits for the economy. Research has shown that investing in primary education has a higher social and private return especially in the developing economies like Ghana, due to the prevalence of low human capital development and the high illiteracy rate among developing economies. It is also associated with positive externalities such as improved decision-making, sanitation and improved standards of living.

Research has also shown that investment in primary education can propel the economy towards significant and rapid growth especially during the stage of ‘industrial take-off’. This is evidenced in the case of the Asia’s 4 little tigers (Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore). Ghana can, therefore, take a clue from that and invest more in primary education as we aim to be industrialized.


After World war 2, many East Asian countries were among the poorest countries in the world, accompanied by a high illiteracy rate. For instance, in 1960, South Korea’s GDP was the same as Sudan’s while Taiwan’s GDP was the same as that of Zaire. However, between 1965 to 1990,23 economies of East Asia grew faster than all regions in the world due to economic growth in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.

Considering the rate of growth, it took bigger economies like Britain 58 years to double real per capita income from 1780 and the USA achieved the same result in the 47 years from 1839. However, Asian countries such as Japan achieved double real per capita income in 34 years from 1900 and South Korea achieved the same feat in 11 years from 1966. The secret of the rapid growth of the Asian countries was an investment in formal education and industrialization and other growth-enhancing government policies.

Before the ‘industrial take-off’ or ‘the early stages of growth and industrialization’, a period beginning from 1965, the government of the Asian countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, and South Korea made a huge investment in the primary education, with the help of the private sectors in some countries. These included the provision of adequate infrastructural facilities, teaching and learning materials as well as revision of educational curriculum. For instance, from 1980 to 1990, the expenditure per primary pupil as a multiple of the Gross National Product (GNP) per capita of South Korea and Singapore rose by 8% and 28% respectively. The expenditure on education grew nearly by four as fast of the growth in GDP. By 1991, public expenditure on education amounted to 5.5% of GDP, while that of Hong Kong who experienced slow growth stood at 3% of GDP.

These huge investments in primary education increased enrolment rate to 100% in these countries, while the average of the low-income economies remained 73%. As a result, illiteracy rate declined significantly and the various economies benefitted from the availability of literate and numerate workforce required at the early stage of industrialization. The citizens also began to reap the benefit of higher social and private return from primary education.

The sources of fund for these huge investments in primary education varied among countries. In Taiwan and South Korea, the state-funded primary education. In Hong Kong, the private entities which include benevolent organizations, missionary bodies, and other investors took charge of the primary education. However, the government of Hong Kong eventually took over the provision of primary education due to the issues of inequality that emerged over time. These emphasized the significance of the government in the provision of quality primary education.

Subsequently, as their economies grew as a result of investment in primary education, standard of living of the people and the revenue of the government increased as well as the need for expansion arose, emphasis was then laid on secondary education and other human resource development strategies, and then tertiary education followed after significant growth from access to secondary education was achieved. This resulted in rapid economic growth in these countries. Currently, China and Japan are among the largest 5 economies in the world, with many Asian economies highly developed.

Taking the clue from the success of these Asian countries, as Ghana aims to be more industrialized, investment in primary education is highly significant. That is, with the positive long term return from the huge investment made by the government in the senior high school level, the country stands to accrue more benefits and achieve rapid growth if extra investment is made in the primary education along with the free S.H.S and other industrialization-driven policies such as the One District-One Factory (1D1F). We can, therefore, replicate these educational and industrialization strategies of the ‘Asian tigers' to achieve higher GDP growth and economic development.

Improvement in the health sector

In the area of health, the government through the Ministry of Health in collaboration with Zipline Technologies has taken a major step by introducing the drone system to expedite the delivery of vaccines, blood products, and other life-saving medications. However, I believe Ghana as a country, we can do more in the field of health to improve health service delivery in Ghana.

The health sector of Ghana faces many critical challenges and I will urge the government to approach them with urgency. Notable is the ‘no bed” syndrome. Many health facilities in Ghana do not have adequate hospital beds. This makes it difficult for patients to be admitted to various hospitals. Patients are often transferred to different hospitals due to lack of hospital beds, which in most cases, complicate their health conditions and sometimes result in loss of lives. I will recommend to the government to focus on the provision of hospital beds to aid in effective health delivery in Ghana. This can even be solved by procuring more hospital beds or contracting the local manufacturers to provide standards hospital beds at relatively cheaper prices than the exported beds. The availability of more hospital beds will reduce the complications pregnant women go through during delivery periods, ensure safe delivery and also prevent the loss of lives that are attributable to lack of hospital beds at the various health centers in Ghana.

The health of every economy depends on the health of the citizens since one can only make a contribution to productivity in the healthy state. Given this, I also urge the government to employ more health personnel into the various health centers in Ghana to expedite health service delivery in Ghana. The government must also ensure that health service equipment likes infant warmers, CT scanners, incubators, MRI machines, Ultrasound machines, Infusion pumps among others, are made available at the various health centers in Ghana to boost the standard of our health facilities and to save the lives of many Ghanaians who are contributing immensely to the growth of our economy.

Another major challenge in the health sector is the lack of ambulances in our health centres. This often poses challenges in transferring patients from one health facility to another in the case of referrals. I witnessed a case of a close relative being transferred from one hospital to hospital in a taxi due to the lack of ambulance at the health centre. By the time we arrived at the referred hospital, her situation was not better. I will, therefore, urge the government as a matter of urgency to procure more ambulances for the various health centres in Ghana to aid in the health service delivery in Ghana.

In rural communities, I urge the government to provide more health post and employ more health personnel to provide at least first aid services to patients before being transferred to bigger hospitals for proper medical care. This will help save the lives of Ghanaian in the rural areas, who are contributing immensely to the growth in the agricultural sector in Ghana.  

This, I believe will contribute to the growth of the GDP of Ghana, since productivity is enhanced when the health of the workers is secured. I, therefore, urge the government to consider these challenges of the health sector in the next as well as the subsequent budgets of Ghana.

Access to potable water

According to Abraham Maslow’s theory of needs, the basic or physiological needs of an individual include food, water, shelter and rest. The satisfaction of these needs paves way for an individual to pursue other needs.

It is however unfortunate that, many rural communities in Ghana struggle in satisfying their basic needs of life. This is because, many rural communities in Northern Ghana and other hinterlands, in Ghana, do not have access to potable water.

The source of water to many rural communities are nearby smaller rivers, streams and other surface water which include dug-wells, and ponds which are often dug out by the natives. Most of these sources of water are contaminated with diseases because most of these communities share those sources of water with animals, which often result in the spread of diseases from these animals and other water-borne diseases.

In such critical and pathetic condition faced by some Ghanaians, I urge the government to allocate extra funds in the next budget to the Ministry of Water Resource and Sanitation and Ghana Water Company to extend the supply of potable water to the rural communities in Ghana to increase their access to potable water and save the lives of the rural citizens of our motherland. Supply of potable water should also be extended to the urban areas that lack access to potable water.

I also call on the Non-Governmental Organizations to assist in the provision of potable water for the citizens in the deplorable communities in Ghana.

Sanitation

In the area of sanitation, a desk study by the Water and Sanitation Program(WSP) revealed that Ghana loses US$ 290 million annually due to poor sanitation. This amount is huge enough to provide several social amenities in Ghana. This makes it very necessary for the government to invest more in the area of sanitation and pursue more effective sanitation policies to curb the sanitation challenges we face as a country.

I will also urge the citizens to be more sanitation conscious by avoiding littering the environment and irregular dumping of waste materials since it contributes to environmental pollution and the spread of water and air-borne diseases. Most often our gutters and the drainage system are chocked with waste materials that are deposited unscrupulously. The effect is the spread of diseases and the frequent flood we experience as a country during the wet season. I will, therefore, urge the citizens of our motherland to adopt an attitudinal change towards the environment to help in eradicating the sanitation challenges we face as a country.

On the part of the government, I urge the Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation to provide more waste containers at vantage points in our cities and villages such as the markets, to ensure proper disposal of solid waste. The various laws and bye-laws on sanitation must also be enforced to deter people from irregular dumping of waste.

The government through the local assemblies in both the rural and the urban areas must also recruit more sanitation workers and equip them with transport facilities to gather the waste from households at a relatively cheaper fee than that of the private waste collection companies. This will help curb irregular disposal of household waste and reduce environmental pollution. However, to prevent loss of private investment in the area of sanitation, the government can get the private firms on board to negotiate ways of providing their services at a relatively affordable fee to increase the patronage of the services by the various households in Ghana.

The government can liaise with the private sector and the Non-Governmental Organizations to provide public toilet facilities, proper drainage, sewage system and engage in massive sanitation education and awareness campaigns especially in the rural communities and the markets to sensitize the citizens on the need to keep the environment clean. 

The benefit of this sanitation investment is that, as sanitation improved over time, it will ease the government of the burden of expenditure on sanitation, thereby providing extra funds to be allocated to grow other sectors of the economy.

Transport: provision of quality roads

In the area of transport, I suggest that the government should take keynote of the road transport system in the rural communities in Ghana, especially in the regions where major agricultural products and natural resources are obtained in Ghana. Most roads that link the major agricultural production areas to the major roads are in a deplorable state. This impedes smooth transportation of agricultural produce to the market, especially during the rainy season. The effect of this is the loss of farm produce at the farm level, often resulting in loss of investment in the agricultural activities in Ghana. On the national level, it reduces the contribution of the agricultural sector to the GDP of Ghana. It also serves as a disincentive for more people to engage in agricultural activities in Ghana. 

I will, therefore, urge the government through the Ministries of Transport and Roads and Highways to provide more quality roads in the rural and the urban areas to ease transportation of agricultural goods to the market. This will help increase the income of the people and reduce the inequality level. It will also increase food supply which can contribute to lower inflation in Ghana. More people will be attracted to the agricultural sector which will increase the GDP of our economy.

The Ministries of Transport and Road and Highways must also ensure that quality roads are constructed by the road construction companies to eradicate the financial burden of reconstructing and rehabilitation of the roads after a short while.

The Ministry of Transport and Roads and Highways must also ensure that the roads that link the major cities and towns suit the international standard that can handle the pressure of its huge usage. This will contribute to a reduction in road accidents and aid in safe transportation within Ghana.

I believe these recommendations will contribute positively to the growth of our economy.