Dealing with unemployment: We must work together - John Mahama

BY: Kester Aburam Korankye
former President John Dramani Mahama
former President John Dramani Mahama

We need to work together as a nation and face youth unemployment head-on, former President John Dramani Mahama has declared.

In doing that, he said, the private sector needed full support to help resolve the troubling levels of joblessness.

Mr Mahama made the call at his #thankGhana address in Accra yesterday to end his nationwide thank you tour.

It was on the theme: “Social justice and a sustainable economy”.

Unemployment challenge

Expatiating on the unemployment situation in the country, the former President observed: “The spectre of tens of thousands of frustrated and desperate young men and women running and falling over one another to apply for very limited positions in the security agencies, as we have recently seen, is most heartbreaking and deeply disturbing,” adding: “Unemployment has truly become a national security crisis.”

Government approach

While accusing the government for its inaction in fighting unemployment, Mr Mahama said what had compounded the problem was the level of deceit the government had adopted to cover up its incompetence.

He said the government’s “in-fighting approach has been one of nonchalance and the bandying about of dubious employment-creation figures”.

“This has been coupled with ad-hoc and unsustainable measures that have led to the throwing back onto the street of tens of thousands of NABCO recruits, with virtually no hope of finding sustainable employment,” he said.

No plan

Mr Mahama said it was all clear that the government had no sustainable plan to address the unemployment that continued to plague the country.

“The botched NABCO experiment has proved not to be the pathway and the means to an end,” he said.

NDC plan

The former President encouraged the government to draw from the NDC’s one million (Edwumapa) Jobs Creation Plan, the free Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) and National Apprenticeship Programme contained in the party’s 2020 election manifesto, which he said were still relevant and available.

“If well implemented, we can create an average of 250,000 jobs every year for the youth of Ghana.

“In our manifesto, we also provided plans to make Ghana a 24-hour economy – with three shifts of eight-hours each a day. Our plan was to aggressively diversify our economy, provide more public sector jobs, enhance productivity and add value to our products for export. This will answer Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Decent work and Economic Growth,” he stated.

Technology

Mr Mahama also made a case for the nation to adopt technology in circumventing the unemployment crisis, adding that engaging and incentivising technology companies to focus on neglected areas and sectors would impact the lives of the people in areas such as agribusiness and health.

“I believe, for example, that telemarketing and online internet shopping will continue to offer opportunities for our youth in the distribution value chain. These are not things that I talk about in a vacuum. They are well thought through and structured solutions ready for implementation,” he said.

Tax burden

To further reduce the burden of unemployment, he said the government had a unique opportunity in the 2022 Budget Statement to lessen the tax burden on small and medium businesses.

“They [small and medium businesses] must be allowed to grow to become more innovative and expand their employment generation capacity,” he stated.

The former President said the economic challenges confronting the nation called for the efficient and modest use of taxes accruing to the government.

“This is not the time for more taxes. The people are reeling under the heavy weight of existing taxes. This is the time for efficiency and the modest use of the taxes collected,” he said.

Supporting companies

Ghanaian companies, he noted, had proved that when given the needed push, they would thrive, flourish and employ more.

“We (immediate past government) tried it with the $20-million injection in Entrance Pharmaceuticals (Tobinco), Ernest Chemists, Dannex, DanAdams and Kinapharma to expand production and provide jobs. It worked. Such a stimulus package to viable Ghanaian entities in targeted sectors can be adopted under the current circumstances to induce growth and enhance the employment generation capacity of the selected firms,” Mr Mahama said.

He also urged the Ghana EXIM Bank to re-direct its financing more towards agriculture and agribusinesses.

Workers

Mr Mahama said public sector workers had proved over the years to be critical partners in national development, which explained why the sector continued to attract job seekers.

“I disagree with the oft-repeated position that the public sector is full and has no room for more people,” he added.

What was lacking, he explained, were innovative strategies of financing the human resource gaps.

“The time has come to bite the bullet and take the bull by the horn. Many of these [public] sectors can be made self-financing to improve the capacity to employ, once they are allowed to use portions of their internally generated funds, instead of depending solely on the Consolidated Fund,” he said.