Magazine article African Business

Ghana: The 2020 Vision

Magazine article African Business

Ghana: The 2020 Vision

Article excerpt

In 1995 Ghanaian President Jerry John Rawlings presented to parliament a document titled 'Vision 2020. The First Step 1996-2000". It was a constitutional requirement for his young democratic government. The constitution obliges the incoming government within two years of assuming office to present to parliament "a coordinated programme of economic and social development policies."

Central to the 95-page report is "to consolidate the gains so far secured over the past decade and to lay strong foundations for accelerated growth in the coming decades." It is envisaged that by 2020, Ghana would achieve "a middle income country status and standard of living to the present level in Singapore". Those were the bloom years of the 'Asian Tigers' and upstarts like Ghana looked at South Eastern Asia with envy.

The document notes though that realising the vision in the year 2020 will not be easy. The World Bank's World Development Report 1993 classifies Ghana as one of the 40 low-income economies in the world with per capita income of less than $635 per annum. In 1992 Ghana's average income per head was $441. To rise from this gloom the government says it needs to raise GDP growth to over 8% and income per head to at least $500. This will be achieved through a medium-term coordinated programme of policies under five main themes namely, human development, economic growth, rural development, urban development and an enabling environment.

Growth on all fronts

To overcome poverty the government recognises that the economy must grow on all fronts and must not be tilted on the agricultural axis as it is now. For instance it says that the low status of science and technology has retarded the country's socio-economic development. This causes many farmers to cling to archaic methods of agriculture and other industries to hang on to unscientific methods of production.

The corresponding population growth in relation to the economy is another headache the government must overcome. Current population growth stands at 3%. The 1994 figures show that at a growth rate of 3% the population was 16,525m. This translates into a population density of 69 per square kilometre. The report says this compares well with the average density in 1994 for all low income countries of 80.5 per square kilometre. "So the problem is not so much with crowding as the strain it poses on resources," it adds.

Rapid population rise

The rapid population growth has resulted in a high ratio of dependants to the working population. The report unrealistically counts the working population from age 15. Even this count brings children under 15 to 46.7% of the population and the elderly, 65 and above, to 3.7%. This means that every working person of 15 and above must cater for 1.016 dependants.

The report notes that life expectancy of 55 years compares badly with the average 63 years for all developing countries. It says that though health facilities have been improving, insanitary living condition, poor nutrition, heavy manual labour and contaminated water, among others factors "lead to high levels of morbidity which cannot be contained by a slowly improving health service." It says only 60% of the population have access to health services.

Disastrous weather during 1997/98 with low rainfall has greatly affected production in agriculture and energy sectors. With the depressed gold prices not showing any real signs of recovery, the economic improvement targets to the year 2000 will be hard to achieve.

Commenting on the effects of bad weather and low gold prices, President Jerry John Rawlings in his address to parliament in January noted, "Even if there is a rapid recovery this year, and this is entirely outside our control, the losses and constraints suffered by our mining industry will affect us for sometime to come". He noted however in an address to the National Economic Forum that, "Our problem is not knowing what we should do but in doing what we know we should do. …

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