Contrary to the fear and prediction of some experts that Ghana might not attain the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty by 2015, a new World Bank study says that the goals will be met, Prof. George Gyan-Baffour, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, has said.
An analysis by the Bank said the percentage of Ghanaians living below the poverty line has dropped from 42 per cent in 1997 to 35 per cent in 2008.
Prof. Gyan-Baffour said this at a public forum organized by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) and the Friendrich Ebert Foundation in Accra on Monday.
Speaking on the topic: “Ghana Poverty ReReduction Strategy (GPRS) phase I, Prof. Gyan-Baffour said “the implication of the study here is that Ghana will be able to meet the MDG of the 2015 target date.
“Going by the current rate of 5.8 per cent or the expected six per cent will mean that we can meet the goal even much earlier than 2010.”
He said available statistics indicated that the outcome indicator targets of the GPRSI were met over the planned period.
“Inflation targets were virtually met, trends in interest rates were in the expected direction, international reserves were being accumulated as planned yet people were crying that they had no money in their pockets,” he said.
The first lesson learnt from the situation, he said, was that macro-economic stability, though necessary, was not a sufficient condition for improving the lot of people.
“The second lesson learnt is that when people get their basic necessities, they naturally ask for more,” he explained.
It was in this direction, he said, that the GPRS phase II, had shifted the focus from continued emphasis on provision of basic services, which directly contribute to poverty reduction, to accelerated growth, which increases the wealth available to all.
The challenge is to ensure that we do not focus too much on growth to the neglect of sharing the proceeds of growth otherwise the cry will no longer be 'no money in our pockets' but that a few are having too much money in their pockets at the expense of many, he said.
Dr. Regina Adutwum, Director-General of the National Development Planning Commission, said the design of the GPRSII was guided by the lessons drawn from the implementation of the GPRSI.
Dr. Adutwum's presentation was on: “The Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy II.” She said the change in name was deliberate.
“The change in name reflects the new direction of government policy on growth as a means to accelerate the worst manifestations of poverty, social deprivation and economic injustice from the Ghanaian society,” she explained.
The Vice President of the science section of GAAS, Prof. Ivan Adae-Mensah, said the drafting of programmes for development was not as difficult as the political will to implement them.
He cited the squatter community at Sodom and Gomorrah, along the Korle Lagoon, as a typical example of where enough political will had not been marshaled to deal with a problem.
“These are some of the things I think we have to look at. It is always beautiful to draw up some of these plans but how they are complemented is the problem,” he said.