The poverty level in the Greater Accra Region has worsened over the years, although levels in the other regions have reduced significantly.
Poverty level in the Greater Accra Region doubled from 5.2 per cent in 1999 to 11.8 per cent in 2006. However, on the average, the country made considerable progress in the fight against poverty, which dropped to 28.5 per cent in 2006 from 39.5 per cent in 1999 and 51.7 per cent in 1991.
These are highlights contained in the “Patterns and Trends of Poverty in Ghana: 1991-2006 Report” released in Accra yesterday by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS).
The latest figures imply that over the past 15 years the average level of poverty in the country has reduced by half, a development which, according to development experts, is unprecedented in Africa and a giant step towards achieving the poverty target under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“Ghana will achieve the poverty target under the MDGs within a year, halving poverty since 1990, the first in Africa,” the World Bank Country Director, Mr Mats Karlsson, noted at the launch of the report.
The study was based on the Fifth Round of the Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS-5) which was launched in Kumasi in August 2005.
It covered 8,700 households in 580 enumeration areas consisting of 5,100 (58.6 per cent) rural and 3,600 (41.4 per cent) urban. Fifteen households were selected from each of the enumeration areas in all the 10 regions.
The ¢35 billion study, the cost of which was drawn on the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Fund, was conducted in 12 months, from September 2005 to September 2006.
According to the report, the Upper East and Upper West regions had seen little poverty decline and were still, by far, the poorest regions in the country, while cocoa-producing regions, on the other hand, had experienced the largest poverty decline.
It observed that school enrolment rates in primary and secondary levels had improved considerably since 1991, with four out of every five Ghanaian children in the relevant age group currently attending primary school.
With regard to health care, the report indicated an increase in people's preference for consulting pharmacists and chemical sellers to doctors.
The report said while the consultation of doctors was much noticeable in 1991/1992 and 1998/1999, the situation had changed significantly within the last five years in both urban and rural areas, with the consultation of pharmacists and chemical sellers becoming more important for the sick and injured persons.
It said in the Information Technology (IT) sub-sector, the use of mobile phones had increased by 19 fold in the last 10 years, while access to potable water had increased a lot in rural areas.
Mr Karlsson said although the figures might not reflect the hardship many people were facing, “there is not one other single measurement that we have of anything, including economic growth, that is more practically reliable to confirm whether the country is going in the right direction or not”.
He further noted that the figures gave the nation every good reason to celebrate because it had accelerated the reduction of poverty and could be assured of achieving the poverty target of the MDGs far ahead of the 2015 schedule.
Mr Karlsson said what mattered now was how to sustain or accelerate the reduction in poverty, improvement in inequalities and the attainment of living standards appropriate of Ghana in the 21st century.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, who launched the report, said statistics and indicators from the report looked quite encouraging and invigorating, adding that the indications were that “we are making major progress in arresting poverty”.
Furthermore, he said, the indicators were a vindication of the positive results that the government's policies and programmes were yielding but he was quick to admit that more needed to be done, considering the complex nature of poverty.
Mr Baah-Wiredu commended the GSS for releasing the report on time, saying that the availability of reliable and timely data was very crucial in informing policy direction, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation processes, especially at the district and community levels.
The acting Government Statistician, Prof Nicholas N. N. Nsowah-Nuamah, underlined the need for comprehensive and consistent statistics and sound indicators to monitor the progress being made in the country's socio-economic growth and development.
He was hopeful that the data in the report would be used to evaluate the outcomes and impact of the various programmes and projects of the government, as well as the entire civil society.
Prof Nsowah-Nuamah said internal and stiff global competition had put an enormous challenge on research and statistical institutions to constantly generate reliable and robust data to feed policy makers to formulate appropriate programmes.
The Chief Advisor to the President, Mrs Mary Chinnery-Hesse, who chaired the launching ceremony, asked the GSS to assert its authority as the co-ordinating agency for the collection and collation of data in order to ensure uniformity in statistics put out in the public domain.
She said the situation where many institutions put out various statistics in the public domain, without recourse to the GSS, created duplications and a state of confusion which must be avoided.