Sustained efforts by the Government of Ghana, with the support of its development partners to reduce poverty and improve the standard of living of Ghanaians are showing very good results.
According to a recent Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS) report released by the Ghana Statistical Service, poverty indicators are showing a remarkable improvement, down to 28.5% in 2005 on average, from 39.5% in 1998.
The survey also indicates that most of the poverty reduction was concentrated in the forest region (both urban and rural), while the Northern Savannah region, which was already by far the poorest of the ecological zones, appears to have been left behind in the national poverty reduction trend. Even though the poverty headcount index in the Northern Savannah region was smaller in 2006 than in 1998, the national trends in poverty resulted in an increasing share of the poor living in the rural savannah areas. While the rural savannah areas accounted for only one-fourth of the population in 2006, it accounted for just over fifty percent of the poor.
As a result of these efforts and achievements the World Bank today granted its Fifth Poverty Reduction Support Credit (PRSC-5) of a total of US$110 million to the Republic of Ghana. PRSC-5 finances the Government's 2007 budget and supports the deepening of key reforms under the three pillars of the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS II): to promote private sector-led growth; improve the delivery of services for human development; and strengthen governance, civic responsibility and public sector management.
In a presentation delivered at the occasion of the presentation of the Ghana Living Standard Survey 2007 in Accra on 26 April 2007, Mats Karlsson, the World Bank Country Director for Ghana, noted that "Ghana has cut poverty levels from 51.7% in 1991 to 28.5% in 2005. Ghana can achieve the poverty Millennium Development Goal within a year, halving poverty since 1990 – a first in Africa!"
According to him, "The PRSC – 5 Project is, therefore, presented against the background of satisfactory progress in the implementation of the Ghana GPRS II. These reform measures would lay the foundation for: (i) increasing credit to the private sector, (ii) increasing school enrollment rates, and (iii) raising Ghana's compliance with internationally accepted public finance standards."
Carlos Cavalcanti, the Task Team Leader for the project, noted on his part that"the PRSC-5 reflects the achievements in implementing the Government's reform agenda in 2006, as well as the challenges facing the country in 2007, not least the challenges posed by the energy sector crisis."
To reach this point, the Government made progress on a range of areas of operation, including improvements in the delivery of education and health services, as well as the strengthening of budget management and procurement procedures. Cavalcanti adds, "The issue is not whether the glass is half full or half empty, but how much fuller it can get. The answer lies in implementing the bold reform agenda the Government has set out for itself under the program to be supported by PRSC-6, and guarding the achievements in terms of growth and stability reached thus far."
Ghana: Facts and Figures
Poverty levels have dropped from 52 percent in 1992 to 28.5 percent in 2005.
Economic growth has averaged 4.5 percent from 1983 through 2000, but accelerated to 5.6 percent in 2004 and 6.2 percent in 2006.
Ghanaians' access to electricity (55 percent) is the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa.
Some 750,000 people in 2,014 communities have gained access to new or improved water supplies and sanitation systems — with coverage reaching 55 percent of the population and exceeding the original target by 36 percent.
After Ghana upped its education budget support in 53 deprived districts, the gross enrollment rate in those districts increased to 84.3 percent in 2006 from 70.7 percent in 2002.
Girls' access to school also improved from 65.5 percent to 72 percent in the same timeframe.
Student scores in English and math have improved over the past 10 years across all income levels.
Over 8,000 classroom blocks (consisting of up to six classrooms or more per block) have been constructed, reaching about one-third of schools across the country.
35 million textbooks have been published, raising the number of English and math textbooks to one per child.
Fifteen years ago, nearly two-thirds of primary school graduates were functionally illiterate. In 2004, the figure was one in five.
The road network has increased from 25,000 kilometers in 2000 to over 60,000 kilometers in 2005.
While the above facts and figures give reason to celebrate, there is ample reason to be cautious as well. First and foremost, the current energy situation is of great concern, and is a major risk to the sustainability of the positive trends in poverty reduction. The Government needs to move quickly to minimize this risk, by dealing decisively with the energy problem in a sustainable manner.
As Ghana celebrates its 50th Anniversary of Independence, the prospects for economic takeoff are better than ever before. As is indicated by Mats Karlsson, "we have come a long way, and Ghanaians have made a lot of sacrifices for us to be where we are today. It is now time to focus on delivering even more quality in several areas like education, health, water, sanitation, energy and transport. Also, there still exists the issue of value for money, and social accountability, which we all agree we could continue to do a better job at."
For more information about the World Bank in Sub Saharan Africa visit: www.worldbank.org/afr
For more information on the GLSS please click: Powerpoint Presentation on GLSS 2007
For more information on the main poverty report please click: Main Report
For more information on the World Bank's activities in Ghana please visit: www.worldbank.org/ghana