Practicalizing Political Party Manifestos In Ghana
In this Fourth Republican Constitution, it should be made clear that the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) was established under Articles 86 and 87 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana as part of the executive; with the NDPC Act, 1994 (Act 479) providing the core legal framework for the establishment of the Commission and the performance of its functions.
In accordance with the provision under Article 87 of the Constitution, the core mandate of the Commission is to “advise the President on development planning policy and strategy” and, “at the request of the President or Parliament, or on its own initiative,” perform five main functions; which includes studying and making strategic analyses of macro-economic and structural reform options; making proposals for the development of multi-year rolling plans taking into consideration the resource potential and comparative advantage of the different districts of Ghana etc. The Commission has three technical divisions in the area of development policy, plan coordination, monitoring and evaluation and a fourth division responsible for administration.
Furthermore, Chapter Six of the 1992 Constitution operationalizes Articles 34 to 41 by pigeonholing state policy in terms of Economic Objectives, Social Objectives, Educational Objectives, Cultural Objectives and International Relations. Imperatively, Article 34 says “the directive principles of State Policy shall guide all citizens, Parliament, President, Judiciary, Council of State, Cabinet, Political Parties and other bodies in applying or interpreting the constitution and in making any policy decision for the establishment of a just and free society”. After reading all of these, the obvious question that will arise shall be, “why are political parties not presenting manifestoes on how they hope to work closely with the National Development Planning Commission this goal through a “National Manifesto”?
Well, many of us know that manifestos are drafted in election year, with the view of capturing the imagination of voters. Disappointingly, Political Parties have over the years used this long document; which is sometimes about 300 pages as a decoy in winning political power; at times, voters never get the opportunity to even glance through the document until elections are over and beyond. Similarly, after the victory in the elections, the party which gets the mandate from the electorate to rule for a term, normally of four years, forgets to put into practice what it promised before the elections. Some connoisseurs have even suggested that if Political Party manifestos were earnestly meant to be implemented, Ghana would have become paradise on earth. The current state of not placing any obligation on the political party which eventually wins power for failing to implement the manifesto it promised has reduced election manifestos to a mere rhetoric of political parties to hoodwink the unsuspecting electorate.
We must demand that all political parties present a platform on how they intend to implement plans of the National Development Planning Commission and Chapter six of the 1992 Constitution, so that this becomes constitutionally and legally binding on the political party which shall emerge victorious after the election. In other words, what is now looked upon as a mere moral responsibility must be tied to the Constitution to ensure that no party takes any voter for granted. This will also ensure that new governments do not truncate projects initiated by their predecessors as provided in Article 35 (7 & 8) of the constitution where it states inter-alia, “As far as practicable, a government shall continue and execute projects and programmes commenced by the previous Governments.
Some have advanced a specious argument that it is alright to promise anything since the electorates themselves understand that such promises cannot be fulfilled. Well, this seemingly fair argument, rather seeks to reinforce the perception that political parties are good at making lofty promises; only to amass wealth thereafter with impunity and without regret, once the election is over. It is true that some parties have managed to implement at least a fraction of the plans they promised in their election manifestos. However, observers are apprehensive that the zeal with which manifestoes are propagated prior to elections is entirely different as compared with its implementation in power.
It is interesting to note that in the 2008 Manifesto of the NDC, the party promised inter alia to separate the Attorney General’s Department from the Ministry of Justice, establish a pre-school training college in each of the ten regions, provide every Ghanaian with a job from which they can earn their livelihoods and, not to introduce any new taxes. Similarly, in the 2000 Manifesto of the NPP, they promised to replace slums with high-rise buildings, cut rice importation by 30%, make Ghana a leading agro-based industrial country in Africa by growing what we eat, eating what we can and can what we cannot, introduce a Farmers' and Fisherfolks Security Trust to cater for them in their times of need and in their old age. Can anyone say that the NDC and NPP were able to fulfill these promises? Certainly not!
And here again, how can we take such highly alluring promises like “Dumsor shall be a thing of the past”, “We shall transform lives”, “We shall reduce fuel drastically”, “We shall eradicate unemployment”, and “We shall root out corruption”, while in fact and indeed, they are growing, or more precisely, have reached alarming proportions? It is very obvious that many party manifestoes are filled with lies, mediocrity and populist appeal.
Due to the high unemployment rate in Ghana, many political parties have shifted their message to job creation. Our journalists should ask the politicians the most critical question on how they intend to create jobs. Will it be the NDC pot-hole filling jobs, the NPP’s cocoa spraying jobs or the PPP’s Groupe Nduom practicality? Who is thinking about graduate unemployment?
It is instructive to note that the promise by the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) to provide quality education for every Ghanaian child, standardize school facilities from kindergarten to Senior High School with libraries, toilets, classrooms, kitchen, housing for teachers, playground, etc; and ensure free and compulsory education in public schools from kindergarten to Senior High School including computer training by deploying an “Education Police” to enforce the compulsory aspect of the policy perfectly fits into an objective which is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and constitutionally relevant.
The ostensibly divine principle that if the party in power fails to implement its manifesto, it is up to the electorates to vote it out of office in the next elections may not help our development, because we live in a country where a vast majority of voters allow themselves to be carried away by the passing and material temptations thrown at them due to the economic insecurity, ignorance and illiteracy.
Sadly, majority of voters remain the same old folks, who easily become victims to the worldly freebies like bags of rice, saucepans, IPADs, cars, roofing sheets, mobile phones, flat screen TVs, fertilizers and cash from political parties. It is quite possible, of course, that some voters generally lack the dissective faculties to assess the relative merits and demerits hidden in political party manifestos. Such voters are likely to succumb to fiscal allurements; and this sort of intellectual deprivation is likely to land the entire country in troubled waters.
Considering the fact that a vast majority of our population are uneducated, we have an uphill task to educate them on a war footing to ruin the evil effects of this anathema and to ensure that we elect only those deserving and qualified to rule this country.
It needs to be emphasized that the mere expression of a man’s feelings on a vital matter, so important to the democratic functioning of our governments, should not be misconstrued, as a downright disregard for the verdict of the majority of the people as expressed through the ballot. On the contrary, the views reflect the deep misery of many silent observers at the abyss between the promise and action in its fulfillment thereafter, once the ritual of elections is over.
We should not allow any party in power to put forth lame excuses, like, the plans in the election manifesto could not be implemented because “they inherited an empty coffers”, “juju men use dwarfs to affect the currency”, “the picture is different when you are outside”, and a thousand other impediments. This growing menace of presenting a “rosy picture” in a manifesto and tempting the electorates with a “cozy life” must be checked to ensure that there is some semblance of respect, honesty, probity and accountability in public life.
It is rewarding for political parties to be realistic and pragmatic in presenting their manifestos and promise only what they can implement in accordance with Chapter 6 of the Constitution. Ghanaians should endeavour to vote for a political party with the wherewithal and capability to improve their standard of living and not just a party they think could win an election.
As the countdown to election 2016 begins, all Progressives look forward to the dawning of good judgment so that our country shall earn a fair name, as one free from all sorts of vices in elections and become a real beacon of hope.
Paa Kow Ackon
Director of Communication, PPP
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Paa Kow Ackon and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana.