Have Ghanaians enough to keep body and soul together? Life has been difficult for some time. But, according to a report recently released, apart from those in the Greater Accra Region Ghanaians should feel better off.
The report was issued on April 26, 2007 by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS). It was based on a study of the Patterns and Trends of Poverty in Ghana from 1991 – 2006.
The study found that on the average the country made considerable progress in the fight against poverty, which dropped to 26.5 per cent in 2006. It was 39.5 per cent in 1999 and 51.7 per cent in 1991.
Why then do many Ghanaians complain about the burden of living? Was the claim that we should be better living-wise based on lies, damn lies and statistics? No, the conclusions were based on a scholarly study and analysis costing a hefty ¢3.5 billion.
The World Bank Country Director, who is a live wire in the current transformation of Ghana, is reported to have claimed that “Ghana will achieve the parity target under the MDGs within a year, halving poverty since 1990; the first in Africa”.
This hopeful picture which contrasts with the despondency of many Ghanaians was confirmed by no less a person than the President on May Day.
The President was reported to have said that “we are not at a standstill and we are making real progress”. Is it because Ghanaians expect too much that they are not appreciative of the progress made?
Now on the same day that the President assured us that we were making progress, the Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress, Mr Adu-Amankwah, remarked that improvement in the national economy had not reflected in the pockets of workers.
Mr Adu-Amankwah warned that “turbulent industrial relations lie ahead if the government and employees do not sit up to address the growing demand for better incomes in an appropriate manner”.
He went on to say that “the recent increases in wages and salaries had benefited only a few top officials and professionals while the majority of workers, particularly those in the civil service, continued to earn salaries which were below what could be described as a living wage.”
If you look at the overall picture, the GSS Report and the President are right in that we have made some progress. But many Ghanaians find living a difficult problem. If progress has been made, they conclude looking around, that the top people are more favoured in the distribution of the gains made in the economy.
Right now health workers are on strike apparently because of relativities. But the problem goes deeper than relativities.
The GSS Report reveals that poverty has not gone down in the Greater Accra Region. And naturally it is in Accra that you have the most vocal discontent with the cost of living. And here careful analysis of complaints suggests it is not only the size of the pay packet which upsets and annoys many.
Dissatisfaction is deepened by the visual evidence of the opulence of a sizeable few. It is, therefore, not only a matter of inadequate remuneration. Is it a question of fair play which undermines confidence in the authorities?
Even some of the top officials who Mr Adu-Amankwah claims are favoured in salary awards complain about living costs.
They feel they are not making it and appear a failure when they cannot find the rent advance required to move into a suitable house, let alone buy a house costing $450,000.
They wonder how some in the same social and income group can afford to pay cash for these houses and still maintain expensive lifestyles.
The strikes and rumours of strike are not due to remuneration for work done only. They are fuelled by the inflammable gas of social discontent.
Something must certainly be done about the remuneration of civil servants and low paid workers as the secretary-general of the TUC suggested. But that will not bring the expected satisfaction and peace so long as wealth from nowhere is flaunted daily at the people.
People are confused when they find that the aim in society is to make money no matter how.
They come across huge, fine buildings in exclusive residential and other areas and they muse, “This is cocaine money”.
Sometimes they even name the owner and describe a few of his or her escapades. Those who have done well outside the cocaine trade are believed to have exploited their official positions.
Perceived reluctance or slowness in dealing with malpractices in the narcotics trade lends credence to the view that society has no moral values, and indulgence in self is the order of the day.
In such a situation, it is in order to make money by fair or foul means at the workplace and extract as much as possible from employers. How the government or establishment makes money to pay workers is irrelevant.
Mr Adu-Amankwa might have exaggerated matters in saying that turbulent industrial relations lie ahead.” But even if the turbulence is minor we should avoid it. Ghana has come thus far and we should move on. We have to work hard to achieve enough growth to pay adequate wages.
But no matter how hard the workers labour they cannot achieve much if the nation does not work within a coherent plan and those in key positions do not administer the system competently and provide exemplary leadership.
Fortunately, we appreciate the importance of leadership in Ghana. While opening the African Peer Review Mechanism in Accra recently, the Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, blamed leadership failure in Africa for the continent's inability to bring the people out of poverty and deprivation.
The leadership in Ghana is therefore aware of its responsibilities.
Leadership at all levels should endeavour to save Ghana from becoming an economically polarised society. Exemplary leadership is required to renew faith in work and happiness.
The people expect some pleasure in life. They will work for it and demand their just rewards. They expect all to labour for their share of the national cake and feel insulted when those who fail in their leadership roles tell them that their pay is sufficient.
It is only when leadership maintains fairness all round that people will accept inadequate remuneration as the future is built together. It is only then that enough will be enough.
Article by K.B Asante