The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has passed a verdict of hope on the state of the national economy but warned that the high marks scored in lowering inflation, currency stabilisation and the overall GDP growth should leave no room for complacency.
It said despite a list of achievements outlined in sections of the 2006 budget, which seemed to suggest that Ghana was doing well, serious questions remained about the real socio-economic situation of Ghanaians.
In a statement on its views on the 2006 budget, organised labour highlighted the paradox that while the country's GDP growth reached its highest level in over two decades, the number of boys and girls on the streets of the cities was increasing daily.
It said other questions that continued to baffle the people were why the informal sector continued to shrink and more Ghanaians were losing the hope of securing decent jobs in their lifetime.
The TUC also wonders why preventable diseases continue to afflict many Ghanaians and poverty is still widespread, while the few professionals in vital services of health and education are leaving the country.
In view of those concerns, the TUC has advised the government not to be complacent about the performance of the economy and avoid self-congratulations, adding that what was required at this stage was more self assessment in order to forge ahead for more economic gains.
"At this stage of Ghana's economic development, we insist that our government, which employs a large proportion of the highly-skilled people in the country, has more to offer in the economic development process," it said.
The TUC said it had already made known its readiness to support the government in all initiatives that could address the problems of the economy.
"We are ready to join our social partners to ensure that the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy phase two (GPRS II) is implemented successfully and the living wage discussion completed on schedule," it stated.
The TUC commended the government for its willingness to involve the public in the budgetary process, saying that would have positive effects on democracy and the quality of economic policies.
On employment, the TUC said it was gratifying that the government had recognised the need to direct more attention to employment creation as the underlying key to sustainable development.
It, however, urged government to judge its performance by how many jobs had been created or destroyed in the country over a period, pointing out that low inflation, low interest rate and a stable currency were needed for growth, "but overall, the rate of job creation (or job destruction) and the level of incomes in the economy reflect the quality of government's economic or social policies".
The TUC reiterated the need for the government to protect the local poultry, rice and textile industries, since they made significant contributions to employment creation.
It called on the government to demonstrate its commitment to employment creation by introducing more rigorous anti-dumping measures and providing the necessary technical, financial and other forms of support for those industries.
It praised the government for its efforts at reviving the Volta Aluminium Company (VALCO) and the plans to support the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) to expand and improve efficiency in its operations, indicating that "the improvements recorded at TOR in recent times have deepened our conviction that the state has business in business".
Commenting on wages and productivity, the TUC maintained that the country's economic growth recorded over the past two decades had not reflected in the lives of majority of the people.
It said the increase in the national daily minimum wage from ¢5,500 in 2001 to ¢13,500 in 2005, representing a 145 per cent increase, was very significant by any measure but it was still below the $2-a-day international upper poverty line.
It said the social partners would, this year, determine a living wage for an average Ghanaian family of four, taking into consideration factors such as adequate food and nutrition, housing, clothing, education, health care, transportation, utilities, child care and recreation.
"We agree with the government's statement that productivity is 'firmly linked' to wages but we also hold the view that it is the duty of the employer to set the targets and manage the human, financial and material resources at its disposal to achieve higher productivity," it contended,
The TUC appealed to the government to support the establishment of a workers' education fund to help educate workers on industrial relations, the Labour Law, occupational safety and health, the environment and other issues that contributed to the development of a healthy and harmonious working environment.