Gross Domestic brouhaha

BY: Caroline Boateng

Rowing up in the early 80s, budget readings were whole wild affairs.

Apart from sending the whole economy, including the communities, into cathartic heaves, it had a debilitating impact on households.

The palpable fear of one’s parents not being able to get money to buy basic needs like food, was scary.

So, I remember one of Dr Kwesi Botchwey’s Budget of early 1980s, the thrust of which was captured thus by the Daily Graphic: Economy in shambles! Merely a child then, the buzz around that word, “shambles” was foreboding.

The aftermath of that budget statement in my household meant that pounding fufu and mistakenly dropping a piece of cassava on the mat beneath the mortar would have my dear old mum, upbraiding you, “don’t you know that the economy is in shambles?”

Fetching rice from a bag or washing rice and letting some grains fall or leaving some grains in the sink after washing , also elicited that statement from her.

Having heard the refrain for sometime, we, the children, tended to chorus it right back at her, “don’t you know the economy is in shambles?!” anytime we thought she was going to say that.

With time, the implementation of the petroleum price deregulation around 2015 meant that budget readings were less stressful.

My economist friends explain to me that the deregulation of prices in the petroleum sector meant budgets no longer predicted petroleum price hikes and the subsequent inflationary trends on all products and services in the country.

Major

But budgets have remained major talking points in the country for politicians and economists.

Budgets must, however, matter to citizens, because it is in our name and for us that the budget and economic policy of the government is presented yearly (Article 179, Chapter 13, 1992 Constitution).

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures that are being bandied about, or discussed are about the sweat and effort of hardworking individuals (except politicians in Ghana).

GDH

I was pleasantly surprised to know that in Bhutan, they have the Gross National Happiness (GNH), or Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH) Index.

The index measures the collective happiness and wellbeing of the Bhutanese.

Apart from economic growth, Bhutanese kings, who conceived of and implemented the index, thought that sustainable development should be holistic, include achievable progress in individual lives and give equal importance to individual’s well-being.

Bhutan has perfected their index to the point that the UN General Assembly in 2011 passed resolution 65/309 tittled, “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development”.

Member states were urged to follow Bhutan’s example, with the Assembly agreeing that, “the pursuit of happiness was a fundamental human goal,” while GDP index was not “designed to, or did it adequately reflect the happiness and wellbeing of people”.

Not only does Bhutan have a GNH or GDH index, but it also has the Gross National Happiness Commission, charged with the implementation of the GNH

Indeed, Ghana’s projected GDP growth of 5.6 per cent average for 2022 means that the government is projecting that individuals up their game in all efforts exerted by 5.6 per cent in the coming year, whether poor, rich, healthy, sick, young or old.

In GDP we all become faceless, it is just efforts that matter, with GNH, governments need to think about all individuals, and that, I believe is too much work for Ghanaian politicians.

They’d rather be cocooned in their chilled offices and cars, and step out just for the dynamic photo opportunities and not the hard back breaking job of thinking through challenges.

And that is why our budgets are characterised by so much noise and so little effort to real growth, well being and happiness for all.

It is sad, but the happiness and well being of most Ghanaians will remain elusive with the focus of our governments only on servants’ efforts.

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