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25.10.2004 General News

Economic condition is a threat

By chronicle

A Ghana Social Watch report has revealed that economic conditions represent one of the most important threats to human security in the country.

According to the report, education, health and poverty highlighted the growing poverty and inequalities in access to social services, resulting from years of neo-liberal economic reforms.

This is contained in recent studies that attest to the exacerbation of this trend.

The Social Watch is an international watchdog citizen's network on poverty eradication and gender equality, with branches across the globe.

According to the 2002 survey by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), two-thirds of Ghanaians face permanent economic uncertainty.

This conclusion contrasts very sharply with the picture created by years of official celebration of two decades on neo-liberal economic reports.

The report said it was, therefore, surprising that “the former darling of the Bretton Woods Institutions is highly regarded among African countries for its peace and stability as well as multi-party democracy” and that many Ghanaians perceived themselves to be peace loving people.

In addition to its positive image, Ghana was the World Bank's pinup for the proclaimed merit of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP's) from the early 1980s.

The report said: “the overall Ghanaian reality is however more complicated than appears from comparison with its neighbours.”

The CDD-Ghana study revealed a “frightening picture of mass formal unemployment and underemployment and the widening of the gap between rich and poor.”

Almost two-thirds of those interviewed described their economic conditions as dire, more than half said they live from hand to mouth.

Job creation, the reduction of poverty and marginalisation ranked as the highest priorities of respondents in the survey.

The study further revealed that Ghanaians have a deep “ambivalence for market centered reforms and strong support for state interventions that offset the expressions of lukewarm preference for a market economy.”

There were clear expressions of public opposition to some of the pillars to neo-liberalism.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, which came to power at the beginning of 2001, has however shown a deep commitment to continuing the neo-liberal economic policies of its predecessor, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government.

“In its three years in power, the NPP has been with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as bilateral creditors and donors,” the report said.

It said its (government) enthusiasm towards these institutions was clearly illustrated when in his presentation of the 2002 budget, Finance Minister, Yaw Osafo Marfo proudly announced that Ghana, erstwhile darling of the Bretton Woods Institutions, would soon reach inflexion point within the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC).

The government benches in Parliament apparently see no irony in the national insolvency that is the outcome of the decade-long “love affair” which the BWI's cheered to the rafters.

Under the terms of HIPC, Ghana would have up to $3.7billion of its $6.2billion debts, written off over a 20-year period, provided it fulfilled further stringent criteria of structural adjustment policies.

Late in 2002, under strong pressure from the BWIs, a law liberalizing public procurement was passed, effectively giving up the possibility of using the purchase of goods and services as an instrument for affirmative action in support of the local economic activity.

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