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02.05.2019 Feature Article

Mahama on SDG 8: Does he really have workers wellbeing at heart?

Mahama on SDG 8: Does he really have workers wellbeing at heart?

Some of us were extremely dumbfounded upon reading former President Mahama’s 2019 May Day’s message to the courageous and unwearied Ghanaian workers.

Ex-President Mahama writes: “On my part, I promise you truthful, selfless and dedicated leadership, to improve the wellbeing and security of all Ghanaians.

“Let me also remind government of the overarching need to work conscientiously towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in this particular case, Goal 8, which calls for the promotion of sustainable economic growth and decent work for all” (see: ‘Don’t despair despite difficult economy-Mahama urges workers; myjoyonline.com, 01/05/2019).

In fact, it is quite bizarre for former President Mahama to claim that he rather cared for Ghanaian workers while in office.

Dearest reader, if you may remember, somewhere in 2015, medical doctors working in the country’s health centres, quit their consulting rooms indefinitely, and threatened to carry out mass resignations if the Mahama government failed to improve their conditions of service.

A few days after the medical doctors’ agitation, pharmacists and psychiatric nurses left their posts, requesting improved working conditions and unpaid allowances and salaries.

Moreover, following unsuccessful talks, teachers in public universities declared an indefinite strike to demand payment of their 2014 and 2015 book and research allowances.

According to the university teachers association, the Mahama government egregiously failed to acknowledge receipt of several letters they have written requesting payment of the allowances, which led to their decision to boycott the lecture rooms.

The then president of the association, Dr Samuel Ofori Bekoe, stated in a statement:

“We will not take part in any academic work until our demands are met.”

Dearest reader, if you may recollect, somewhere in 2014, the university teachers declared a similar strike, lasting five weeks, which was to compel the government to release the book and research allowances.

Besides, in the same year, teachers and education workers union warned the NDC government it might also join the strike bandwagon if issues about their conditions of service were not addressed.

Somehow, about 3,000 mid-wives and nurses in the country also threatened to occupy the finance and health ministries if the Mahama’s government failed to pay their allowances and salaries.

Despite public outcry for the erstwhile NDC government to address the pressing issues in the public sector, especially, the health area, the Mahama administration blatantly failed to act.

Suffice it to state that the doctors were incensed by former President Mahama’s lack of concern and vowed to intensify their strike action by withdrawing emergency services (see: www.theafricareport.com/West-Africa/labour-unrest-rocks-ghanas-public-sector.html ).

So, who says that His Excellency Ex-President Mahama has the wellbeing of an ordinary Ghanaian worker at heart?

In the grand scheme of things, the Sustainable Development Goal 8 seeks to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”

“Over the past 25 years, the number of workers living in extreme poverty has declined dramatically, despite the lasting impact of the 2008 economic crisis and global recession. In developing countries, the middle class now makes up more than 34 percent of total employment – a number that has almost tripled between 1991 and 2015.

“However, as the global economy continues to recover, we are seeing slower growth, widening inequalities, and not enough jobs to keep up with a growing labour force. According to the International Labour Organization, more than 204 million people were unemployed in 2015.

“The SDGs promote sustained economic growth, higher levels of productivity and technological innovation. Encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation are key to this, as are effective measures to eradicate forced labour, slavery and human trafficking. With these targets in mind, the goal is to achieve full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030.

“An estimated 172 million people worldwide were without work in 2018 - an unemployment rate of 5 percent.

“As a result of an expanding labour force, the number of unemployed is projected to increase by 1 million every year and reach 174 million by 2020.

“Some 700 million workers lived in extreme or moderate poverty in 2018, with less than US$3.20 per day.

“Women’s participation in the labour force stood at 48 per cent in 2018, compared with 75 percent for men. Around 3 in 5 of the 3.5 billion people in the labour force in 2018 were men.

“Overall, 2 billion workers were in informal employment in 2016, accounting for 61 per cent of the world’s workforce.

“Many more women than men are underutilized in the labour force—85 million compared to 55 million” (see: https://www.undp.org › ... › Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth).

In fact, Ghana is on course to achieving the SDG 8, as President Akufo Addo’s government is successfully implementing important programmes and policies, inter alia, the one district one factory, one village one dam in the northern part of Ghana, one million dollars per constituency, the Free SHS, tax reductions, among others.

As the international community embarks on the implementation and monitoring of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda, the human development approach remains useful to articulating the objectives of development and improving people’s well-being by ensuring an equitable, sustainable and stable world.

In the grand scheme of things, human development or the human development approach- is about expanding the richness of human life. It is an approach that is focused on people and their opportunities and choices.

In theory, therefore, human development focuses on improving the lives of people rather than assuming that economic growth will lead automatically to greater wellbeing for all.

In hindsight, human development is about giving people more freedom to live lives they value. This implies developing people’s abilities and giving them the opportunity to improve upon their lives.

Take, for example, educating a large number of children would build their skills, but it will be of little, or no use at all, if they are denied access to jobs, or do not have the right employable skills for the local labour market.

The human development approach, developed by the economist Mahbub Ul Haq, is encapsulated in the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s work on human capabilities, often framed in terms of whether people are able to “be” and “do” desirable things in life.

Examples include-Beings: well fed, sheltered, healthy; Doings: work, education, voting, participating in community life (HDR 2015).

It must be emphasised that since 1990, 2 billion people have been lifted out of low human development, extreme income poverty has been reduced by more than a billion. Every region of the world has seen Human Development Index (HDI) gains (HDR 2015).

The process of development – human development - should at least create an environment for people, individually and collectively, to develop to their full potential and to have a reasonable chance of leading productive and creative lives that they value.

In fact, policy options for enhancing human development through work have to be built around three broad clusters: (1) creating more work opportunities to expand work choices, (2) ensuring workers’ well-being to reinforce a positive link between work and human development and (3) targeted actions to address the challenges of specific groups and contexts.

More so an agenda for action to build momentum for change is needed pursuing a three-pillar approach—a New Social Contract, a Global Deal and the Decent Work Agenda (UNDP, 2015).

“Work is intrinsic to human development. From a human development perspective, the notion of work is broader and deeper than that of jobs or employment alone” (HDR 2015).

As a matter of fact and observation, when positive, work provides benefits beyond material wealth and fosters community, knowledge, strengthens dignity and inclusion. Nearly a billion workers in agriculture, 450 million entrepreneurs, 80 million workers in health and education, 53 million domestic workers, 970 million voluntary workers contribute to human progress globally (HDR 2015).

In a way, over the years, work has contributed considerably to impressive progress in human development. However the progress has been uneven with significant human deprivations and large human potentials remain unused (UNDP 2015).

There is no gainsaying the fact that if Akufo Addo and his government were to undertake the irrigation projects in the northern part of Ghana, clearly, the SDG 8 will be achieved.

Verily, if the NPP government were to give incentives to private organisations to set up factories all over the place, and the jobless youth were to blissfully engage in gainful employment, the SDG 8 will most likely be met.

If Akufo Addo and his government continue to reduce the high utility bills to ease the burden on Ghanaians, trust me, we will be getting closer to the SDG 8.

I bet, if Akufo Addo’s government were to give out one million dollars continuously to each constituency for selected developmental projects, we will be achieving the SDG 8.

If NPP government were to pay more attention to the Zongo developmental projects, I could envisage the successful accomplishment of SDG 8.

What is more, the successful implementation of the Free SHS will improve upon the human capital.

In sum, the Akufo-Addo’s government is seriously working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (8) through implementation of useful policies and programmes and rational distribution of national resources.

K. Badu, UK.

[email protected]

Bibliography:

Alston, P. (2005), “Ships Passing in the Night: The Current State of the Human Rights and Development Debate Seen through the Lens of the Millennium Development Goals”

Amartya Sen (1999), “The ends and means of development” Chapter 2 from “Development as Freedom”, Oxford University Press.

Barsh, R. L. (1991), “The Right to Development as a Human Right: Results of the Global Consultation”.

France Stewart (2013), “Capabilities and Human Development: Beyond the individual – the critical role of social institutions and social competencies”, Human Development Report Office Occasional Paper, 2013/03.

Mahbub ul Haq (1995), “The Advent of the Human Development Report” Chapter 3 from “Reflections on Human Development”, Oxford University Press.

Mansell, W. and Scot, J. (1994), “Why Bother about a Right to Development?”

Selim Jahan (2002), “Evolution of the Human Development Index,” Section 2 from “Handbook of Human Development”, Oxford University Press.

United Nations (2015), The Sustainable Development Goals (Online) Available: www.sustainabledevelopment.un.org

UNDP (2015), The Human Development Report (online). Available: www.undp.org

Kwaku Badu
Kwaku Badu, © 2019

This author has authored 738 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwakuBadu

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