The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has commended the government for attaining “remarkable achievements in economic management” but called for policies to transform the gains to better the lives of the Ghanaian.
It said the steady decline in inflation and the reduction in interest rates and the fiscal deficit were as remarkable as were improvements in the trade balance and gross international reserves but wondered what those statistics meant for the lives of Ghanaians and how the achievements could be sustained.
In a statement signed by its Secretary General, Dr Yaw Baah, the labour union said growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per se did not guarantee that a bigger economic pie would benefit everyone, explaining: “We need policies that will move us beyond perpetual stabilisation and help link the stability we celebrate with the daily experiences of Ghanaians.”
It said the GDP growth must translate into decent jobs and housing, improved nutrition, better health care, improved quality education and improved sanitation facilities.
The statement expressed the support of the union for all the socially inclusive programmes that were being implemented by the government, including the free SHS, the Nation Builders Corps (NaBCo), the restoration of nursing training and teacher training allowances, the expansion of the School Feeding Programme, the reduction in electricity tariffs and the Zongo Development Fund.
Others, it said, were the construction of community-based water systems, dams in the five northern regions, rural markets, clinics and warehouses, the supply of hospital beds and the procurement of ambulances for each of the 275 constituencies, adding that those were the programmes that should occupy the attention of the government because they brought real improvement in the lives of Ghanaians.
International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The TUC said it was excited about the end of the IMF Extended Credit Facility programme because it would lead Ghana to another phase of development, which was emphasised by President Akufo-Addo’s vision of Ghana Beyond Aid.
The statement explained that for that to materialise, Ghana must get over the neo-liberal myth that economic growth, as measured by increases in GDP, automatically created jobs and improved livelihoods, saying that “it is not always the case that when GDP grows, it means we are creating jobs”.
It described the opinion as a fallacy, since Ghana had witnessed “jobless growth” for more than three decades because since 1984 the economy had consistently expanded annually but joblessness had also grown during the same period.
It commended the government for the significant expansion of employment in the public sector and support for the expansion of the public sector workforce because decent jobs were being created and it was improving public service delivery, especially in the two key social sectors of health and education, which were crucial for the well-being of citizens and human development.
“But we fully acknowledge the limit of the public sector’s capacity to absorb the large number of young people eagerly looking for employment. The ultimate solution to the jobs crisis lies with the private sector. And that is also the reason the TUC has supported the One district, One factory, among other initiatives,” it added.
The statement described the port reforms announced by the Vice-President as “quite radical and rightly so”, given the existence of archaic practices at the ports, and said the reasons cited to justify the measures were quite clear but the expected benefits from the measures were not clear.
It said the announcement that the government would have to make “necessary fiscal adjustments” in the short term to accommodate any temporary revenue shortfall meant that the reduction in import duties would benefit some individuals in the short term at the expense of the public purse.
It called for a more detailed cost-benefit analysis of the measures, in terms of revenue losses and gains because that would be more useful, and expressed the point that the new measures were a clear manifestation of the influence of the powerful import lobby on policies and politics in Ghana.
“We all know that a major challenge facing the domestic private sector is unfair competition from imports, including sub-standard counterfeit products. The new measures announced by the Vice-President will further flood our markets with imports.
“This has implications for domestic production, jobs and the stability of the Ghana cedi. Reforms in the import tariff regime should be geared towards reducing tariffs for imported intermediate inputs or for products we currently do not have the capacity to produce but not for all kinds of imports that only come to ‘outcompete’ local producers,” it stated.