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18.05.2007 General News

National Social Protection Strategy to be launched soon

By Ayuure Kapini Atafori
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A holistic National Social Protection Strategy will be launched soon to cater for social security needs of the formal and informal sectors of the economy. The basic features of the NSPS include the recognition of the need to build capacity of the poor through longer term assistance.

Other features of the NSPS are the establishment of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty social grants programme to provide cash transfers to the poor and vulnerable; and giving strategic and practical meaning to the 1992 constitution, especially Articles 28, 29 and 37.

This came to light when Ellen Bortei-Doku Aryeetey, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research of the University of Ghana, gave a 21-page power-point presentation at the ISSER-Merchant Bank development seminar Series in Accra Wednesday evening. The series is under the theme "The Informal Economy and Ghana's Future Development: Policy Dilemmas and Prospects."

Speaking on the topic "New Trends in Informal Social Security Systems in Ghana," Dr Bortei-Doku Aryeetey recommended that innovative ways of extending social security coverage among informal sector workers and the development of schemes based on cycles of funds mobilisation among informal sector workers such as susu savings, farmers" harvest, and welfare mutual aid associations. "The idea should be similar to deductions in the informal sector."

She delineated the main features of the informal security practices in the country as kin-based social networks, trades associations and development committees, faith-based fellowship and mutual support, credit associations, and remittances.

"[Kin-based social] Networks are in the frontline of support in times of contingencies such as famine, diseases, old age, marriage and death. Previously important for reciprocal support but weakened by declining resource base, commercialisation of goods and services, migration, urbanisation, environmental degradation."

She said Ghana's social protection agenda has expanded with the institution of the capitation grant, and implementation of the school feeding programme and the free bus ride for school children. "Stories about dramatic improvements in social security coverage in some middle income countries give hope that Ghana can make more rapid progress than it has recorded so far."

The Senior Research Fellow said efforts are being made to bridge the formal and informal sector gaps in social security systems as the National Health Insurance scheme enhances the social security of persons in the informal economy, though the processes of registration is slow and undermines public confidence.

Dr Bortei-Doku Aryeetey, who is also the director of the Centre for Social Policy Studies at the university, observed that extending social security coverage to the informal sector is associated with challenges like lack of income security, and short term contingencies; general mistrust of bureaucracies; high illiteracy; low earnings; poor savings habits; unwillingness to save for long periods; and desire for loans.

With copious graphic and diagrammatic illustrations, she adduced evidence in the failure of informal social security to major changes in the form and content of mutual aid based schemes, stating the indicators of failure as malnutrition, child labour, maternity detention, disability and commercialisation of disability, streetism and youth unemployment, old age and poverty, victims of disaster, and livelihood stress.