The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Ghana, Alfred Salia Fawundu has said although Ghana has made giant strides in the attainment of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG), real challenges still linger in critical areas.
"Although Ghana has effectively positioned herself to break the shackles of poverty, the case remains very strong for enhanced support," he said.
Fawundu made the remark in Ghana's first report on the Millennium Development goals.
Among the goals was to halve the proportion of people below the national poverty line by 2015, halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, achieve universal primary education, eliminate gender disparity in primary and junior secondary schools, reduce under five mortality and maternal mortality and ensure environmental.
The blue print for the attainment of the goals are contained in the GPRS, which aspires to achieve the broad development objectives of poverty reduction, social and human development, environmental sustainability and regeneration as well as consolidate democratic governance. These goals areexpected to tie with the overall GDP growth averaging at least 6.5 percent per annum. But it appears the Finance Minister Yaw Osafo Maafo is overconfident of Ghana's ability to achieve the Millennium goals by the year 2015.
Ghana was one of the few countries likely to meet the target of halving extreme poverty well before 2015." Ghana is said to have made good progress in reducing overall poverty from the high incidence rates of 51.7 percent in 1992 to 39.55 percent in 1999. Extreme poverty is also said to have declined from 36.4 to 26.8 percent over the same period.
The MDG report says the continuation of the trend requires a stable macroeconomic environment, increased support for food and livestock farmers, and a more efficient public sector. Besides, there the is need for links between GPRS and the budget, an increase in private sector investments and a more sustainable population growth rate.
According to Osafo-Maafo, recent increases in the producer price of cocoa from c8.5 million per metric tonnes to c9m or as the farmers call it c270,000 per load from c255,000 are aimed at reducing the poverty rate among cocoa farmers who are the backbone of the economy.
In addition to price increases, government has voted c341b for diseases and pest control aimed at increasing the yield of cocoa crop and boosting the earning power of cocoa farmers.
In spite of these measures, poverty remains a major constraint to development with a large army of the youth unable to take advantage of school opportunities to improve their lot because of their inability to pay school fees.
In addressing the disparity in regional poverty levels, the GPRS hopes to reduce poverty in Northern Region from 69 per cent in 2000 to 60 percent in 2002, 88 per cent in Upper East Region (UER) in 2000 to 75 per cent in 2004.
Government also intends to reduce poverty in Upper West from 84 per cent in 2000 to 70 percent in 2004.
Ashanti Region has a poverty level of 27.7 per cent while Eastern Region has 44 per cent. Central, Western and Brong-Ahafo Regions have poverty levels of 48, 27.3 and 35.8 respectively.
The Greater Accra Region has the lowest incidence of poverty of five per cent with the people earning 30 cents a day.
According to statistics, half of the ten regions in Ghana had more than 40 per cent of their population living in poverty in 1999. The worst affected were the three northern Savannah regions. The situation is worse in Upper East Region, where nine out of every ten people are poor, eight out of ten in Upper West and seven out of ten in Northern Region were considered poor in 1999.
On achieving universal primary education, the report says the proportion of children with no education or inadequate education is quite worrying.
Currently between 20 and 25 percent of children of school going age are not in school. Of those in school, 25 percent drop out before primary six, while about half of all adults are unable to read and write.
Added to these are gender and regional disparities in education.
The report further admits that the problems of the education sector are compounded because of the relatively high population growth rate and the disproportionate representation of the youth in the population places and additional pressure on resources devoted to the sub sector.
The low quality of education evidenced by the most recent Criterion Reference Test (CRT) scores has led to low interest in education by the poor. Worse of all, poor households also depend on the labour of their children for income generation.