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Inequality: Ghana's richest earn more in a month than its poorest can in 1000 years - Oxfam

BY: Kweku Zurek
Peter Akmtter is a construction worker on one of the high-rise buildings shooting up in Ghana’s capital, Accra. He and many of the workers live with their families in makeshift houses on or close to the building-sites.
Peter Akmtter is a construction worker on one of the high-rise buildings shooting up in Ghana’s capital, Accra. He and many of the workers live with their families in makeshift houses on or close to the building-sites.

A new report launched by Oxfam and Development Finance International has revealed that inequalities between rural and urban populations are on the rise in Ghana.

The "West Africa Inequality Crisis" report which gives a damning assessment on inequalities in West Africa, found out that in Ghana, 62.3 per cent of urban households have access to treated water as against just 17.1 per cent of rural households.

The report also stated that 88.6 per cent of urban population are connected to the national grid, compared with 48.3 per cent of the rural population.

It added that although the amount of wealth held in Ghana rose by 39 per cent between 2007 and 2017, much of it benefited only a select few and has been hidden away offshore and untaxed.

"In Ghana, 1000 new US dollar millionaires were created in the period 2006 - 16, and one of the richest men in Ghana earns more in a month from his wealth than one of the poorest women could earn in 1000 years," the report stated.

"While a few have grown super-rich, nearly one million people, mostly in the Savannah Region of the country, were pushed into the poverty pool over that period, and thousands of those who were already poor sank even deeper into poverty".

According to the report, inequalities between rural and urban populations are particularly noticeable in West Africa.

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It noted that in Ghana, 62.3 per cent of urban households have access to treated water but just 17.1 per cent of rural households, and 88.6 per cent of urban population are connected to the national grid, compared with 48.3 per cent of the rural population.

"Wealth inequality not only creates a divide between rich and poor – it also has a strong gender dimension. For example, in Ghana, only 60 of the 1000 new US dollar millionaires added to the list of millionaires in the country in the decade ending in 2016 were women. Similarly, in Ghana, men own 62 per cent of household places of residence and 62 per cent of agricultural land, while only 37 per cent of owners of real estate are female".

The Regional Director of Oxfam in West Africa, Adama Coulibaly described the incidence of growing inequalities in West Africa as unacceptable.

“This index reveals that West African governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education. It also shows that ECOWAS governments are underfunding the agriculture sector on the one hand, while under-taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax evasion, tax avoidance and corruption, on the other. This is unacceptable,” said Adama Coulibaly, Regional Director of Oxfam in West Africa in a statement.

The report also noted that Ghana's labour market for its inclusiveness in a West African region that is male-dominated.

"West Africa is the most male-dominated region in Africa in terms of participation in the labour market. The gap is widest in Mauritania where only 31% of women of working age compared to 67.7% of men are in paid work. In Benin, it is 45.5% female and 69.9% male. Ghana’s labour market is the most inclusive in the sub-region with 74.8% women, 79.2% men".

Recommendations

The report recommended that West African governments and ECOWAS develop national plans and also a regional plan to reduce the gap between rich and poor, with clear and time-bound targets.

"These plans must also ensure that national income and consumption data are regularly updated and made publicly available so that inequality levels can be
monitored".

Some of the plans mentioned include; allocating a minimum of 20% of government budgets to boost universal public quality education that is free of charge, allocating a minimum of 15% of government budgets to fund a public health sector that is free of charge, universal, easily accessible and of high quality, Redistribute from the rich to the poor through progressive taxation and Strengthen the land rights of the poorest people:

About

The West Africa Inequality Crisis report written by Christian Hallum and Kwesi W. Obeng measures, compares and ranks West African governments’ commitment on 3 pillars: public spending, taxation, and labour markets. The report also includes regional analysis of agriculture and land rights.

Oxfam released the index ahead of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in New York which urges West African governments to prioritize fighting inequality. This year marks the fourth year the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and acting to cut down on inequalities is one of the 17 SDGs.

“It’s time for West African governments to act decisively. To strengthen this commitment, West African governments must promote progressive taxation, boost social spending, strengthen labour market protection, invest in agriculture and strengthen land rights for smallholder farmers. We cannot beat poverty without fighting against inequality.” said Adama Coulibaly, Regional Director of Oxfam in West Africa.

Read the entire report below;

Oxfam West Africa Inequality Crisis by Kweku Zurek on Scribd