The flagbearer of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), former President John Dramani Mahama, has promised to create about one million jobs for the nation’s teeming youth, should he get the opportunity to lead this country again. According to Mr Mahama, at least 250,000 of the jobs will be created every year.
The former President, in a video that has gone viral, ahead of the 2016 general elections, was heard saying politicians are fond of making wild and outrageous promises, including some downright lies, in election years.
It is for this reason that, as citizens, we all need to ask relevant questions when such promises are made.
Ghana is favoured with the rare opportunity of having a sitting president going head to head in electoral contest with an immediate past former president. This affords us the opportunity to ask questions from the promises of the two leading candidates and juxtapose same with their track records.
The Akans say “you cannot challenge the one who has chewed the calabash if he promises to chew the back of the crab” and “he can do it is said to the one who has done it before”.
It is the reason why we need to put former President Mahama’s one million jobs promise into a litmus test.
To begin with, what is the breakdown of these jobs to be created? Which specific sectors are the target? Which category of Ghanaians are the target? What is the cost component of the policy/promise?
Ghana’s current unemployment rate, according to statsista.com, is at 4.33 per cent. This is a sharp decline from the 5.45 per cent the Akufo-Addo government inherited from the John Mahama government in 2016.
World Bank defines unemployment rate as the percentage of a country's labour force that are without jobs but are available to work and actively seeking employment.
The country’s youth unemployment rate, according to the World Bank, currently stands at 9.16 per cent, a decline from the 2016 figure of 11.40 per cent inherited by the Akufo-Addo government.
Significantly, while unemployment rate has seen consistent decline under Akufo-Addo, from the inherited figure of 5.45 per cent to 4.33 per cent, it saw a significant increase from what the NDC inherited from the NPP, 4.76 per cent, in 2008 to a peak of 6.81 per cent in 2015.
At the same time, while youth unemployment has seen a significant decrease in Akufo-Addo’s inherited 11.40 per cent, in 2016, to 9.16 per cent currently, it saw a steep increase from 12.33 per cent in 2012, under John Mahama, to a peak of 14.17 per cent in 2015.
From the statistics, it is evident that former President Mahama’s track record on job creation is not one that can be trusted, hence the need for him to give clear unambiguous picture on his job promises.
Dumsor and IMF
The high unemployment rate witnessed under the former President is attributable to the close to four years of intermittent power supply (otherwise known as dumsor) and the International Monitory Fund (IMF) policy credibility the NDC government brought on Ghanaians, together with its killer conditionalities.
It does explain why Mr Mahama at a televised 2016 Presidential Encounter hosted by Ghana Television (GTV) stated that “he is not a magician to put money in people’s pocket”.
As part of the IMF conditionalities, Ghana reviewed and streamlined her tax exemption regime for Free Zone companies and state-owned enterprises, and a new tax policy regime was enacted for small-scale businesses.
Also the government was made to restrain the wage bill, by limiting the nominal increase in the total wage bill to 10 per cent, and also scrapping the 10 per cent Cost of Living Allowance granted to workers in 2012.
Employment into the public sector was also freezed, while subsidies for utilities and fuel consumption were cut, leading to even schools being made to pay their own utility bills.
Youth in Afforestation, NEIP and NABCO rebranded?
In an attempt to give some sort of breakdown of the one million jobs, the former President has promised to create over 100,000 new jobs for young people through a new tree planting initiative.
Already, under the late Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, as Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, over 60,000 youth have been engaged in the Youth in Afforestation Programme nationwide to plant trees with more expected to be engaged.
Out of a total of 26 million seedlings planted in 2018 across the country on about 24,000 hectares of land, the Youth in Afforestation programme personnel alone planted about 10 million seedlings on 8,000 hectares nationwide.
With this policy already in place, many wonder what Mr Mahama is promising again.
The former President has also promised a National Apprenticeship Programme (NAP) in line with his vision of rapid industrialization and job creation for the country.
Currently, the Nations Builders Corp (NaBCo) and the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) train young Ghanaians and give them skills to either start their own enterprises or become skilled employable personnel.
NaBCo has engaged about 100,000 youth who are being paid monthly allowance while they go through their training. Even amid the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, several of their training programmes have been shifted online to avert training gap.
Also, the NEIP, within two years, has trained over 19,000 youth and funded 4,350 people to start their own businesses.
In its third year, the programme is training 26,000 individuals, and going to provide funds for 5,000 businesses. These include at least 100 beneficiaries from all the 260 administrative districts in the country. And, so we ask: How is Mr Mahama’s NAP promise different from these ones that are currently being implemented by Akufo-Addo?
Hope city and temporary jobs promise
In March 2013, Mr Mahama launched a project to build a $10bn IT hub near Accra within three years.
Dubbed ‘Hope City’, it was to have Africa's tallest building, at a height of 270m (885ft). The project was to employ about 50,000 people and house 25,000 people. The Hope City project still remains a ‘hope’ yet to see the light of day.
The same person has again promised to inject some $10 billion into infrastructural development in the country. The investment, he claims, is expected to further open up the country and boost physical development and consequently create more than 300,000 for engineers, artisans, and construction workers.
While these jobs are likely to be temporary, since those likely to be employed will exit with the completion of the project, the question is, how different this promise is from the ‘Hope City’ project launched? If Mr Mahama could not lay a single block in his Hope City project, how can he be trusted to build this new project?
By Kwasi Frimpong ([email protected])