Economic Progress Is Slow in World Bank `Showcase' GHANA: AFRICAN MODEL?

By Press, Robert M. | The Christian Science Monitor, January 6, 1993 | Go to article overview

Economic Progress Is Slow in World Bank `Showcase' GHANA: AFRICAN MODEL?


Press, Robert M., The Christian Science Monitor


FARMER Ossei Dwomoh and his wife, Victoria, may be just the ones to watch to see whether reform strategies carried out in Africa really work.

While living standards are sliding in most African countries, life is gradually improving for the Dwomoh family and many others in Ghana, a country billed as a World Bank "showcase" for economic reforms.

Mr. and Mrs. Dwomoh saw Ghana's economy hit rock bottom after years of socialist policies, corruption, and mismanagement. What followed was a seemingly endless series of economic reforms, but little improvement in their standard of living. Now, however, they see initial signs of recovery.

"It's starting to change," Mr. Dwomoh says. He and his family are weeding rows of lettuce, onions, sweet peppers, and corn. Their small farm, about half the size of a football field, is on the edge of the village of Abokobi, a short drive from the capital, Accra.

In 1985, Dwomoh was earning enough to start raising pigs to boost the family income. Last year he added chickens. All six of his children go to school. He complains, however, that he still cannot get a loan to expand his farm. Credit is scarce in Ghana. Small steps forward

Achieving even small progress in Ghana has taken nearly a decade of economic reforms backed by more than $2.5 billion of World Bank and other foreign aid, and, some Ghanaians say, the firm hand of a military dictator, Jerry Rawlings.

"Only a military regime could have implemented {the reforms}," says Albert Adu Boahen, a history professor, who finished second, with 30 percent of the vote, to Mr. Rawlings in Ghana's multiparty presidential election in November.

Reforms are working at the national level, a Western diplomat says.

"Bridges are being built, new roads are being constructed, schools are being built," says Mohamed ibn Chambas, deputy secretary for foreign affairs.

This, in turn, has translated into gains at the local level, a World Bank official argues. "There's been a general improvement in the efficiency of the economy, which benefits everyone."

Despite such signs of progress, however, some World Bank officials and Ghanaian economists say the recovery in Ghana has only just begun.

It will take "25 to 30 years for the benefits to work through the system," or for the average Ghanaian to see significant gains in income, says a World Bank official here.

Ghana's economy grew at about 5 percent between 1984 and 1989 compared with only about 1 percent from 1965 to 1980, says Ghanaian economist Kwadwo Tutu. A drought slowed that growth to 2.7 percent in 1990. …

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