The Coordinator of the Third World Network (TWN), Dr Yao Graham says that government must support agriculture as a vehicle against rising inequality in Ghana and take the bold decisions that will reorient Ghana’s growth model which is generating economic growth but also increasing inequality.
A World Bank study found that while Ghana had halved the percentage of people living in poverty between 1991 and 2012, the same could not be said of the actual numbers which had risen up. Ghana’s progress at eliminating poverty has also reduced, according to the Chief of Policy at UNICEF Ghana, Ms Sarah Hague.
Vasco Molini, a World Bank Senior Economist and specialist on poverty, says Ghana’s inequality situation if not managed properly, could lead to polarisation and the creation of class groups that are cohesive within themselves.
Speaking at a forum by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and stakeholders on inclusive development and the promotion of fair opportunity for the poorest, Dr Graham said the decline in agriculture which accounts for the livelihood of many people, policies skewed in favour of export crops and the basing of growth on extractive industries and foreign direct investment, have contributed to inequality amidst economic growth.
Unfortunately the contribution of agriculture to Ghana’s GDP has fallen over the past years from 39 per cent in 2008 to 19 in 2015.
“We have witnessed a steady fall in the share of agriculture in GDP which nonetheless remained the main sector of employment, implying poor productivity and low quality of employment and income,” Dr Graham said, adding that policies in the agricultural sector were unhealthily skewed in favour of those producing for exports and those importing to sell, rather than those who want to create linkages within the economy.
“Food farmers face challenges that cocoa farmers do not face. Even the fact that we can have a special programme for cocoa roads, gives you an example of that discriminatory kind of policy.”
“I think one of the things that is clear from over the past 30 years is that the country has adopted a growth model driven very much by extractives and the drive to attract foreign direct investment which is generating growth. But the growth is limited to some particular sectors; the growth does not create jobs,” he said.
As a result of basing a significant share of economic growth on industries such as mining, Dr Graham said Ghana’s impressive economic growth in the past was not inclusive and the headline figure of 14 per cent GDP growth in 2011 was simply due to the commencement of oil and gas production and the rise in the price of gold; such economic growth that does not really trickle down.
He added that the trend of inequality amidst Ghana’s economic growth and exploitation of natural resources, calls for a new look at the priority given to the minerals that Ghana produces for export.
“The exploitation of low value industrial minerals such as clay and limestone for housing would not only help deal with the housing crisis in lower income groups but also contribute to the economic multiplier role of housing construction through the creation of jobs and incomes,” he said.
By Emmanuel Odonkor
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