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Feature Article of Friday, 18 May 2012

Columnist: Kobbie, Ato J.

Green Book, Bawumia and others – the Truth

I find responses to the Green Book by both the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) as very strange. All of a sudden, the formulae that were used to compute the performance of the Ghanaian economy over the eight years of the NPP are no longer valid. Data generated by both Bank of Ghana and Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) are no longer valid.

I first have a few questions for Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia:

Was Dr. Bawumia cooking data for the NPP, when he was at the Bank of Ghana? Since when has he started doubting the competence of the same officers he worked with at Bank of Ghana? I thought Dr Grace Bediako was specially invited from abroad and appointed as Government Statistician by NPP? Was data cooking part of the terms of reference given to Dr. Bediako, when NPP appointed her? If not, why should we all of a sudden start doubting her competence and integrity after the NPP left office? Even then, where has Dr. Bawumia been over the past three years, and why does it have to take an election year for Dr. Bawumia to start doubting data being churned out by both Bank of Ghana and the Ghana Statistical Service?

The kenkey and other price jumps being quoted by both the CPP and the NPP have no substance because prices of commodities vary widely across the country. This is why as a nation, we have specialized institutions like the Ghana Statistical Service and the Bank of Ghana, which collect data from designated market places across the country on a regular basis and compute statistics using internationally acceptable statistical instruments to give us figures that represent the overall national picture of whatever indicator we are interested in.

Desperation For reputable intellectuals like Dr Bawumia to start disowning the time- tested instruments of his profession does suggest only one thing, desperation! The unprecedented achievements of the Atta-Mills Government have exposed the NPP Government. They cannot find any place of refuge. As a student, we translated a sentence from Latin that said, ‘A lazy workman blames his tools’. Dr. Bawumia, has, out of desperation decided to blame the time-tested tools of his profession for the wide gap between the performance of the NDC and the NPP. As suggested by the CPP, we need to reduce this debate into ordinary language and stop muddying the waters to confuse the electorate.

Prudent Economic Management

Dr Bawumia does not understand why food inflation is low even though ‘agriculture was not performing well’; and how inflation can be going down while GDP is growing fast. Truly Bawumia and the NPP are mesmerized by the ‘Mills-Economics’ because this is unprecedented! The truth is that the economy is being managed by a hands-on president, who has a full grasp of the issues and well selected, highly experienced, exposed and responsive management team and advisory groups. In a nutshell, the economy is being deliberately and actively macro-managed to achieve these unprecedented trends and targets through modeling and swift responses to different triggers.

In the first place, the NPP has to be reminded that agriculture grew at -1.7% in 2007. In the second place, it is not true that agriculture has not been performing well under the Atta-Mills NDC Government. If agriculture did not do well, how come Ghana sold surplus food to the World Food Programme for feeding other hunger-stricken West-African countries? The statement that agriculture has not been performing well smells of the well-known NPP political gimmick of peddling half or quarter truths.

Data from the State of the Ghanaian Economy in 2009 and 2010 published annually by ISSER; Revised Gross Domestic Product 2011; GSS, National Accounts; and MOFA Annual Report, Draft 2012, reveal that overall growth of the agriculture sector in 2009 was 7.2% with the food crop and livestock sub-sectors recording 10.2% and 4.4% growth respectively and a combined growth of 8.2%. Further, overall growth of the agricultural sector in 2010 was 5.3%, with crops growing at 5.0% and livestock at 4.6%. Even though overall growth was a low of 0.8% in 2011, crops recorded 3.7% growth and livestock 5.1% with a combined growth of 8%. The overall relatively low growth of the agricultural sector in 2011 was due to weather failure; the fact that government made no further investments in the forestry sector which had grown by about 10% the previous year thus recording -14% growth; and also due to hopelessly depleted capture fish stocks making capture fisheries record -8% growth.

The cumulative growth of agriculture over the period 2009 to 2011 has been at least 13.3%, with an average of 4.4%. What is consistent in the agricultural data from 2009 to 2011 is that food crops and animal husbandry, which provide the bulk of the food we eat, have grown on the average, well above the population growth rate of less than 3%, suggesting increases in supply of food relative to demand; and this situation could have led to a reduction in or at least stable food prices.

Beyond growth in production, the NDC government has invested heavily in the technical and economic efficiency of agricultural production through its youth in agriculture programme; fertilizer subsidies; and establishment of 84 agricultural mechanization service centers (as at the end of 2010). Food prices have benefited from these efficiency gains.

Further, the Government has been artificially managing food prices by establishing the National Food Buffer Stock Company (NAFCO) to hold food stocks to intervene in the market to ensure competitive but affordable food prices at all times. It is the convergence of these measures that have kept food prices relatively stable, as the economy accelerates in growth. Through these arrangements stable food prices have kept overall national inflation in single digit.

Despite the significant success, the Government is leaving no stone unturned in addressing the lingering outstanding issues of weather failure and a declining capture fisheries. To these ends, the NDC government has secured a US$53.8 million World Bank facility to restore the nation’s capture fisheries; prepared an unprecedented US$84 million aquaculture development plan to raise cultured fish production from 10,000 to 100,000 tonnes in 5 years; and is relentlessly rehabilitating and expanding existing irrigation facilities and creating new ones, including irrigating the Accra plains.

Inconsistencies It is interesting that Dr. Bawumia talks about inconsistencies and the CPP talks about the fact that Economic Growth must relate directly to the standards of living of the people. What is amazing is rather that, this is the first time the good performance of the economy has reflected directly on the standard of living of the people so remarkably. Through the unprecedented implementation of the single spine, public sector workers’ pockets are more than full.

More importantly, life expectancy, which declined by 4 years from 63.1 years in 1999 to 59.1 years in 2008 has increased to 64.2 years in 2011 (UNDP Human Development Report for Ghana, 2007, page 167); UNDP (global) Human Development Report 2007/8, page 212; UNDP (global) Human Development Report (2011, page 129). Is it not remarkable that the Atta Mills government of the NDC has increased life expectancy by 5 years in 3 years? Yes, this is unprecedented indeed!

Contrary to what Dr. Bawumia will want us to believe, it is NPP’s supposedly good performance that is in doubt. How did it happen that as at 2008, 22% of women 15-49 years in a fast growing NPP economy, did not work for the 12 months preceding the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey of 2008 (GDHS, 2008 page 40)?

How did it happen that 17% of men, 15-49 years in a fast growing NPP economy did not work for the 12 months preceding the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey of 2008 (GDHS, 2008, page 41)? Was it the NPP-managed economy that rather experienced a jobless growth?

How did it happen that an economy that was achieving a rapidly increasing growth under the NPP, was at the same time achieving decreasing quality of life for the people as reflected in declining life expectancy to the point that the life span of Ghanaians reduced by 4 years in 8 years (GDHS, 2008 page 202; GDHS, 2003 page 184)?

How did it happen that 59% of women in a fast-growing NPP-managed economy were anemic, with the proportion of anemic women actually increasing from 45% in 2003 to 59% in 2008 (GDHS, 2008 page 202; GDHS, 2003 page 184)?

How did it happen that poverty in the private formal sector, of a fast-growing NPP-managed economy, reduced by a mere 1% between 1999 and 2006 (the state of the Ghanaian Economy 2006, ISSER, 2007, page 23)?

If growth did take place, who ‘chopped the growth’ or where did the growth go? Why did the growth have such limited impact on the quality of life of Ghanaians?

Jobless growth

There is the talk about jobless growth. We do not currently have national statistics on employment or unemployment. Therefore, the question is: from which database did Bawumia draw the conclusion of jobless growth?

What we know is that as of 2008, about 21% of Ghanaians 15-49 years said they had not worked for the past 12 months (GDHS, 2008, pages 32-34).

What we also know is that all the projects captured in the NDC’s Green Book have contributed to the growth of the economy and these did not happen by magic. Human beings were employed to undertake these projects, so jobs were created. Current data released by the GIPC shows that firms, which registered within the Atta-Mills era have created more than 40,000 jobs. According to ISSER, (2011), there were 80,000 beneficiaries of the Youth in Agriculture programme, which entailed the cultivation of 47,000 hectares of land in 2010; 263,157 jobs were created in the tourism sector in 2009; and 291,202 jobs were created in the tourism sector in 2010. From just these few examples, we have 674,359 jobs. It can therefore not be true that we had a jobless growth.

The naked truth is that jobs have been created, many more people have worked and are working; they are earning income; many are eating relatively well because of the increased abundance of food at affordable prices; several hospitals and health centers have been re-equipped; those benefitting from school feeding programme and health insurance have increased astronomically; special programmes have been implemented to reduce maternal deaths; several more ambulances are available to respond to emergencies on better roads; and deliveries supervised by a skilled attendant has increased from 45.6% in 2009 to 48.2% in 2010 (ISSER, 2011). All these would have contributed to increased life expectancy.

About the Author: Dela Afenyadu is a socio-economic analyst and integrated rural development consultant, with Bsc in Agriculture, a Diploma in Education and Post Graduate certificates in Health Management Systems Analysis; Strategic Planning and Participatory Rural Development; and Project Management. He has most recently worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); the World Bank; NEPAD; the University of Edinburgh/DFID; The American Council for Voluntary International Action; and several Private Voluntary Organizations.

He can be reached on by E-mail at: delaafenyadu@gmail.com

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