This year’s Constitution Day Lecture focused on the topic “The 1992 Constitution – A Fundamental Law for Our Prosperity or A Well-Crafted Guide for Our Economic Doom.” The main speaker adequately and broadly addressed the topic exceptionally that any further discussions will be a rehash of what he alluded to in his speech. Yet, there is room for additions to the already broadly discussed issues at the lecture. Such additions are points that reiterate the wide-ranging issues deliberated on earlier.
The framers of the Constitution, and particularly the people of Ghana then, sought to establish a legal framework (a Constitution) to secure prosperity for themselves then, and posterity or future generations. They developed and adopted a constitution that will ultimately engender the prosperity they desired for themselves and later generations.
The constitution they ratified therefore introduced political stability that provided the needed environment for economic stability which will subsequently stimulate prosperity – the country was transitioning from political instability to democratic rule. The stability brought by the new constitution is relished for three decades.
To achieve the goals of the Constitution of Ghana, as expressed in the preamble of it, provisions that will ensure the prosperity of the people of Ghana were made: the directive principles of State Policy outline some provisions that are supposed to deliver prosperity to the populace of Ghana. Article 36 (1) articulates the objective of a new Ghana creating prosperity for its people: that “the State shall take all necessary action to ensure that the national economy is managed in such a manner as to maximize the rate of economic development and to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every person in Ghana and to provide adequate means of livelihood and suitable employment and public assistance to the needy.” Clause 2 of Article 36 indicates the State shall take steps to establish a sound and healthy economy. Article 37 (1) clearly supports the provision of prosperity as the State is supposed to direct its policy towards ensuring that every citizen has equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law.
Article 17 clause 4 states clearly that “nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from enacting laws that are reasonably necessary to provide – (a) for the implementation of policies and programmes aimed at redressing social, economic or educational imbalance in the Ghanaian society.” Clause 4(d) of the same Article supports the aspiration for prosperity as the State is supposed to “make different provision for different communities having regard to their special circumstances not being provision which is inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution of Ghana.” In the same light, Article 36 clause 6 states that “the State shall afford equality of economic opportunity to all citizens; and, in particular, the State shall take all necessary steps so as to ensure the full integration of women into the mainstream of the economic development of Ghana.” All these provisions were made to inform public policy decisions of the managers of the Ghanaian economy concerning prosperity.
The provisions of Article 35 clauses 7 and 8 were well thought-out to guarantee the use of resources in an economically efficient manner by preventing waste. The same provisions were made to lay a good foundation for the economic prosperity of the citizens as resources will be used efficiently. But the abusive use of the 1992 Constitution has rendered the two provisions irrelevant and ineffectual. The inability of the State to carry through the provisions of Article 35 clauses 7 and 8 is leading us to our economic doom. The country loses billions of Ghana Cedis because of abandoned projects and corruption.
Some constitutional provisions allow for the pursuit of excessive political and economic goals that are unwittingly leading us to our economic doom. Provisions that made the President of the Republic so powerful were made: The President of Ghana is given powers to appoint persons to man almost all the critical State institutions. Some of the appointments are too political that the requirements of the jobs are considered inessential. The leaders are afforded the opportunity to pursue their political goals than initiating economic interventions that can lead us to our prosperity. The Public Services Commission should have been vested with some of those powers to appoint persons to lead some State agencies.
All these appointments are supposed to be done in consultation with the Council of State or a Commission as well as a Council responsible for managing the affairs of such an agency, which appears to be an ineffective political process. The reason is, the advisory of the Council of State is not binding on the President for adoption and their subsequent implementation (see Article 91(3)). The personal choices of the President will always outweigh those of the Council of State, a Commission or a Governing Council.
The creation and implementation of Article 71 was intentional, because the framers of the 1992 Constitution knew the financial consequences of the implementation of the said Article. The main speaker discussed the benefits of continuously engaging Judges who retire on their salaries including tapping from their wisdom and experience. The provisions of the Article that allow persons to retire on their salaries and others to receive ex-gratia (through Article 71) suggest the 1992 Constitution is a well-crafted guide for the economic doom of the country. The country loses billions of Ghana Cedis, in an unproductive manner, by implementing the provisions of Article 71. There is no economic sense to discontinue the formula for remunerating retired public servants with regard to Article 71 officers. The remuneration formula of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SNNIT) could have been applied to Article 71 officers too. There is equally no economic sense to pay ex-gratia to Members of Parliament who retain their seats.
The combined negative effects of the implementation of Article 71 alone dwarf the impacts of the various taxes identified in the speech of the main speaker. That is not to say nuisance taxes or taxes that reduce the welfare or the prosperity of the masses should be imposed. Well-utilised taxes can generate the prosperity the citizens of Ghana expect to have.
The main speaker deliberated on the fiscal obligation of the State in the creation of new regions and the economic consequences of such obligations. The framers of the 1992 Constitution crafted a guide for the economic doom of the country as unchecked powers were given to the President in the creation of regions. Article 5 clause 1 States “subject to the provisions of this article, the President may, by constitution instrument – (a) create a region. Then, clause 3 of Article 5 states “if, notwithstanding that a petition has not been presented to him, the President is, on the advice of the Council of State, satisfied that the need has arisen for taking any of the steps referred to in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of clause (1) of this Article, he (the President) may , acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, appoint a commission of inquiry to inquire into the need and to make recommendations on all the factors involved in the creation, alteration or merger.” The creation of regions was made a party manifesto, and a promise by political leaders, even as flagbearers. The current President promised to create regions during his campaigns before he was voted into power. The power to create a region should have been vested in a different institution, than the executive.
A participant at the lecture complained about the lack of values that actually affect productivity and growth. The evolution of time may have affected cherished values in Ghanaian societies. Article 39 clauses 1 and 2 state respectively as “subject to clause (2) of this Article, the State shall take steps to encourage the integration of appropriate customary values into the fabric of national life through formal and informal education and the conscious introduction of cultural dimensions to relevant aspects of national planning.” Clause 2 adds “the State shall ensure that appropriate customary and cultural values are adapted and developed as an integral part of the growing needs of the society as a whole;………………” Discipline, honesty and hard work may not be accessible now because they may not have been integrated well into the fabric of national life or adapted and developed properly for the economic success of Ghana.
The forefathers planned to develop a legal document that will inform public policy concerning choices that will activate the required fertile grounds for the prosperity of the citizens, but some provisions in the Constitution, and its users have made it (the constitution) a suitable guide for our economic doom.
BY Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey
Economics Tutor, Advocate and Religion Enthusiast.