Among all social intervention initiatives in the country, only the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) better reaches the people that they were set up to cater for, a study by the World Bank Country Officer has revealed.
The Ghana Improving Targeting of Social Programmes Report 2010 indicated that out of the several social intervention programmes such as the National Health Insurance Scheme, the National Youth Employment Scheme and their poverty related schemes, only LEAP covered more than 50 per cent of its targets, the poor.
This was a major worry for many civil society organisations and development partners at the Multi Donor Budget Support Review Meeting that looked at how Ghana was performing in the implementation of the medium term development agenda.
The development blueprint, the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) spans 2009-2013 and serves as the vehicle through which the 11 development partners (DPs) of Ghana release their financial aid to the country.
Last year, the DPs released about US$403 million of the pledged financial inflows, out of the total of US$451 million. In 2011, the DPs have pledged to support the country’s budget with over US$450 million.
This latest pledge will now begin to pour in during the next couple of months, following a satisfactory outcome on Performance Assessment Framework, a set of targets agreed between the government and its development partners.
On the scorecard, Ghana met 28 out of 39 performance targets agreed between the government and the DPs under the medium term development agenda, and 11 out of 12 triggers, a sub-set of the list of targets whose achievements directly influences donors to disburse.
However, past and emerging development challenges that the country face require that social intervention programmes be stepped up to protect the poor and vulnerable to ensure equitable development.
The Head of the Participatory Development Associates, Mr Tony Dogbe, told the review meeting that Ghana needed to move towards effective targeting of its pro-poor policies and interventions.
He said it was regrettable that only three per cent of the poor in the country were covered under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), which was a social intervention programme hugely subsidised with the taxpayer’s resources.
The concern of the civil society group was that such a targeting meant that the rich, who were the most covered by the scheme, were being subsidised.
But the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, said the government had not only increased allocations for the social programmes, such as the capitation grant and the school feeding programmes, but the scope would be widened and targets improved.
The World Bank Country Director, Mr Ishac Diwan, commended the government on behalf of the development partners, saying “In the view of the Development Partners, this Multi Donor Budget Support (MDBS) review has been one of the most constructive to date – with deep dialogue and discussions of the main policy issues of the day, good participation by government agencies, and active engagement of Civil Society Organisations.”
Mr Diwan also noted that ownership by ministries, department and agencies (MDAs) had improved as they had started signing the Progress Assessment Framework (PAF), thus making the MDBS process an instrument for improved coordination between MDAs.
“And civil society has been increasingly engaged in public debates, starting with the discussions leading to the oil revenue management bill, to the Freedom of Information bill, the constitutional review, or the macro situation and attempts to improve fiscal responsibility.”
However, the development partners still warn that Ghana needs to be vigilant and not to go to sleep to disturb the gains it had chalked up so far.
“While the DPs welcome the progress achieved on the macroeconomic front, with the stabilisation of the fiscal deficit and a reduction in arrears in early 2011, they also recommend that the authorities remain vigilant in the coming year,” Mr Diwan stated.
But the government side has assured the partners, civil society and the entire public that it had no incentive to over-spend.
The finance minister was confident that the current government had the expertise in managing the economy, maintaining that what happened in 1999/2000 was not an act of indiscipline but unexpected factors beyond its control.
With a plan before Cabinet to secure a sustainable and self-financing Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), a source of debt in the economy, and a successful crude oil hedge that has started yielding dividends, Dr Duffuor said all the country would require would be that development partners would keep their pledges to support the economy to become a model for the rest of Africa.