The New Patriotic Party Economic (NPP) Policies: Will They Lead To Social Justice?
Speech Delivered by Nyeya Yen On 21st September 2017 to commensurate the Birthday of Kwame Nkrumah. Organised by the Social Justice Movement (SJM), Bolgatanga, Upper East Region, Ghana
Comrades and Friends. Today is 21st September. Today is the official birthday of Osagefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Today is not the day to chastise or praise the Man. Today is the day for us in sober mode reflects on where we have come from since self-government in 1951 and independence on 7th March 1957. I do not think it is so important to spend endless time on the debate on WHO IS THE FOUNDER OF GHANA. I believe one day, when the ordinary people take the responsibility to determine their destiny this will be a foregone conclusion. It is a day, to discuss where we have come through and where we are going.
That is why the topic for discussion: THE NEW PATRIOTIC PARTY ECONOMIC POLICIES: WILL THEY LEAD TO SOCIAL JUSTICE is more relevant than the sterile debate about founding fathers. Let leave this debate to those who have nothing doing but want to make themselves relevant in the political processes in Ghana. To us, it is a day, that we should assess the political, socio-economic and cultural landscape of Ghana. It is a day that we should reflect on basic things such as food for the people, decent health and accommodation and whether our people have benefitted from the economic policies that have been foisted on them since the coup d’etat of 24th February 1966. And of course what should we be doing to chart better path forward with our people.
It is important to undertake a brief preview of the economic situation before we can realistically judge whether the NPP policies can lead to social justice for our people.
There is no doubt that the Ghana that we know is a colonial creation. It does not mean that the lands and people of Ghana did not exist before the coming of colonialists. We did and in our separate entities were evolving according to our own modes of production. However, colonialism truncated the path that the various entities and nationalities were going through.
It was not a civilizing mission that brought the colonializers to our sources. It was for our human and natural resources. We have definitely known the colonializer even people the British officially colonialized us. African people have gone through traumatized experiences from barter trade to slavery. This is a topic for another day. Let concentrate on the issue at hand.
And as I was saying the colonializers came to the land call present day Ghana because they wanted our minerals and agricultural products. The United Kingdom was developing. They were having industries and they needed raw materials for their industries. They also wanted our scarce minerals such as gold, diamond and bauxite. And that is the principal reason why they colonized us. If someone tells you that they were here on a civilizing mission, just laugh your head off. You don’t civilize a people by taking their natural resources and earlier their human resources through slavery.
So, our political, educational, cultural and economic system was structured in such a way that we produced for the interest for the mother country that is the United Kingdom. Our timber, our gold, our bauxite, our cocoa and in fact whatever we could produce went to the benefit of our colonial masters. That is why the present day Ghana was incorporated into the world capitalist system. Our educational, cultural and social systems were surreptitiously organized in such a way that we look up to the United Kingdom. Since we were lucky not to be a colony of settlement as happened in the Americas, South Africa and other parts of the world, they needed local agents and collaborators to maintain the system. That is why where there were no chiefs; the colonizers introduced the indirect rule. That is why they set up schools to educate some selected people to help them in their rule. Of course hospitals to ensure that our people were healthy enough to work for them. Whatever benefits that might have come out of colonization were residual and was not purposely undertaken to benefit our people.
Therefore and to cut the story short a MAN came forward and his name was Kwame Nkrumah who fought and gained independence for us. By emphasizing on Nkrumah it does not mean that there were no other people who were involved in the independence struggle of our people, but that at certain historical periods, some individuals emerged with the full confidence of the people and therefore personalizing nations.
Nkrumah and his Convention Peoples’ Party (CPP) engaged in a gigantic struggle, through concentrate steps such as import-substitution industries, capturing the commanding heights of the economy and ensured that our people took pride in themselves. These were bad examples and the people who wanted Ghana as a country for the educated elites and for powerful traditional chiefs conspired with foreigners, the Americans and the British and Nkrumah was overthrow on February 24th 1966. The soldiers who took over with their civilians counterparts engaged in the full scale sale and abandonments of projects by the Nkrumah government that would have led to the economic improvement of our people. And our ex-colonizers were delighted and praised the country usurpers as democrats. Up to the present day, all governments have continued to destroy what Nkrumah built but for a brief period of the Acheampong regime, that also quickly degenerated as the usual corrupt military regimes.
The forbearers of the NPP were instrumental in the coup of 1966. The CPP was banned and the Progress Party (PP) under the leadership of Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia took over the reins of government. Our country economy was furthered incorporated into the capitalist system. We had the coup of 13th January 1972 that brought Acheampong and his group of majors into power. For a couple of years, we had OPERATION FEED YOURSELF AND YOUR INDUSTRIES and YENTUA; we will not pay our debts and capturing the commanding heights of the economy. But just like any other military regimes, it deteriorated and through struggles against the Union Government we had the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) which for a period of three months was engaged in house cleaning exercise and dually handed power to the Hilla Limann administration. However, Liman and the Peoples National Party (PNP) failed to read the mode of the country was overthrown by the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) led by Jerry Rawlings. For just one year, the PNDC fired the imagination of Ghanaians who thought that this was a revolution for the benefit of our people. However by December 1982, Jerry Rawlings carried forward a thorough counter revolution and installed a dictatorship with himself at the helm of affairs. Massive redundancies, privatization and further retrenchment of our economy to the world capitalist system and environmental disaster including the wholesale logging of our forests were undertaken. And the people again rebelled against the Rawlings dictatorship. An organized transition was undertaken for once more that brought in the 1992 Constitution that included dangerous transitional provisions that rewarded misrule, corruption and nepotism. Fast forward to 2000 and we had the John Agekum Kufuor take over with the NPP in power. This avidly pro- business government and despite its continual policies that benefited foreign interest also implemented some types of social programmes such as the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the Kufuor buses to the envy of the National Defence Congress (NDC).
Ghanaians were aghast with the open nepotism and corruption of the NPP under Kufuor and the NDC came to power again in 2010. Well we all know what happened during the 8 years of the Mills and Mahama administrations. Despite the initial attempts by Mills for a transparent government but due to the nature of the NDC as a party that calls itself social democrats but yet dominated by people where social democracy is a fairy tale and people who want to use the state for personal aggrandizement, the NDC and more under Mahama became so corrupt and efficient that led to its defeat in the December 2016 elections.
NPP under Nana Addo
And there ushered in NPP Chapter Two under Nana Addo. In terms of ideological learnings and inklings the NPP has made it clear that is a party of business and is interested in creating a friendly business environment that will create jobs. To quote from their manifesto:
“On the economy, our goal is simple: to build the most business-friendly and people-friendly economy in Africa, which will create jobs and prosperity for all Ghanaians.
We will ensure that growth is socially responsible, diversified, spread geographically, comes from genuine value addition, environmentally sensitive and fair to all participants in the economy, including labour.
To accomplish this, we will focus on growing the economy and creating wealth and prosperity for the vast majority of Ghanaians through private sector empowerment.”
“The NPP will invest in our people through the provision of quality education and healthcare, as well as affordable housing. The role of government would be one of providing an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, as well as putting in place social policies to protect the disadvantaged and vulnerable in society.
In particular, the NPP will implement policies to invest in rural, coastal, zongo and inner city communities.”
During campaigns Nana Addo explained that “we can only do so by rapid economic growth and expansion, and that has to be the way forward. We are going to do everything within our power as a government to provide incentives for the private sector in Ghana to really take off, because that is the solution to the social and economic development of our country. That is what our party stands for and that is what we are going to do when we come into office.”
As can be seen from this long quote the NPP emphasises is on business development that will generate wealth and eventual well-being.
Practical Implementation of NPP policies so far
Before we can assess whether the NPP policies will lead to social justice, let us look at their actions so far or their intentions since some of their manifesto commitments are yet to be realized.
I am more interested in looking at the economic and social programmes of the NPP.
On Education the NPP stated that they will abolish the payment of utility bills by students. I am not sure whether this utility promise has been realized, but I do think it is right and just that students should not be paying utility bills. The government must find a way to pay for such important nation building objectives. I am also not sure whether the NPP has restored in full the Teacher trainee and Nurses Allowances that was taken away by the Mahama administration. If this happens it would be good for thousands of young people who need such allowances to enable them to complete their training. The free Senior High School programme has been rolled out. And this is a positive thing that must be supported and criticism should be aimed at improving the quality of education throughout the country. We should not be in habit of arguing about the sustainability of the programme. Hopefully headmasters will take advantage of the free SHS and admit people from less privileged backgrounds. Measures must be put in place to ensure that rich parents do not bribe their way to have their children place in the best schools.
As can be seen from the above quote from the NPP manifesto, the driving force of the NPP government is to be enabling force for private sector to create employment. They have talked about the reduction of corporate taxes from 25% to 20% within the ECOWAs Common External Tariff (CET) Protocol, VAT for micro and small enterprises from 17.5 to 3%. Their flagship programme under the District Industrialization Policy (DIP) or the One Factory in Each District will come out of the Industrial Development Fund (IDF) that will support private sector to undertake industrial initiatives.
In terms of social programmes the NPP seeks to:
Refocus and improve The Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme. In Health, they say they will strengthen the Community Health Planning Services (CHIPS) programmes. Through the establishment of a National Sanitation Fund they claim they will consolidate National Sanitation Policies and improve the allowances paid to Assembly people.
The above is a brief sketch of their programmes. A lot of their manifesto is devoted to what and how incompetent the NDC regime was and is full of rhetoric’s.
Now how do we distil their programmes
We should not expect the NPP to structurally change the economy to the benefit of ordinary people. It is a party that believes in the free-enterprise system as the engine of development. They have imbecile the neo-liberal policies being pushed down the throats of ordinary people. However, they face a contradiction. As a government that wanted power and to maintain power they have to come out with some social programmes that will appeal to the mass of our people. That is why the programmes or intentions of the NPP are a miss-match between neo-liberal policies and some elements of social democracy. In terms of the two parties and with the NDC claiming to be a social democracy, NPP Chapter 1 and 2 have had some elements of social democracy than the NDC that claims to champion social democracy.
Some of NPP policies such as the free NHS will bring relief to most parents. If they are also able to reduce corruption and improve taxation they may be able to improve the health services. In terms of the economy their One District One Factory may bring about the setting up of some agro-processing outlets that will provide few employment to some people. It will not reduce the rural and urban migration flow. Unemployment will continue to very high under the NPP.
But all in all, the NPP will not question or change our dependency on Western capitalism. Some of their actions may also alienate some of their supporters and they may quickly change some of their policies to appease their core supporters. For example if the One District One Factory works in certain areas, it may lead to less imports and may dissatisfy some of their key supporters.
Ghana under the NPP will continue to be a neo-colonial country. Our natural and human resources will continue to be exploited by foreign concerns for their interests. They will not renegotiate the unfair give away minerals and oil concessions to foreign companies. They will continue to implement the IMF and World Bank policies religiously. The local collaborators will continue to benefit. The tickle down effects of the policies will not benefit the mass of our people. There will continue to be high levels of unemployment, disappointment and poverty across the country. The financiers of the NPP through government contracts will also make a killing for themselves. As already seen in the case of bonds issuance, those who matter in the NPP will have the advantage of using the state for their personal benefit.
And so what is the way forward. The way forward is to return to the path of Nkrumah. The path of Nkrumah is levering the state to create factories and services for our people. There have been issues of unaccountability, inefficiency and corruption of state enterprises, but the question we have to ask ourselves have these state enterprises been given the opportunity to become productive? Is it not the same educated elites who control these state enterprises and used it to their advantage? They have stolen and looted from the collective properties. But there is a way out. As much as the private sector can ensure that there is no looting of the investors’ property, so we must create structures that will prevent people from looting state resources for personal gain.
We need to organize and mobilise the people across the country. Ordinary people must have their own party. Their party must be guided by equalitarian principles.
The people must fund their own party. Ordinary people who really care about this country should note that the NPP and NDC are one and the same, or as we say in frafra a (laa ne ol lig): bowl and its lid. They have implemented same IMF and World Bank Structural Adjustments Programme that has heavily impacted on the mass of our people and brought about massive unemployment and helplessness.
That is why we in the Social Justice Movement (SJM) want to make a contribution to the prospects of ordinary people organizing to take control of the state and ensure that policies go to benefit them and not a self-selected few. Do join us for this battle ahead.
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