Hillary Clinton once said that every election “starts with where we are in the country at this time… and it proceeds from there. And it is always about the future.”
As Ghanaian voters head to the polls in December, we need to consider the prevailing issues of our time and how we can use our votes to set an agenda for the future. It is expected that education, economy and infrastructure are matters that will anchor the elections.
The Free SHS program has been on Akufo-Addo’s drawing board since 2008. Its ambitious nature made many stakeholders and analysts question its feasibility. The persistent propagation of this message in the subsequent elections of 2012 and 2016 seemingly convinced Ghanaians to buy into it. In office, Akufo-Addo has delivered on this proposition, covering about 1.2 million young people. with over GHC 3.5 billion spent so far, it constitutes the single largest government intervention in education.
On the other hand, the persistent propagation of the Free SHS agenda caused Mahama to respond with an alternative program – construction of 200 community day senior high schools. According to him, this would help close the infrastructure gap to make feasible the increased enrolment that Free SHS would generate. By the time of his exit from office, the Mahama administration had completed 29 of these schools and about 100 were at various stages of completion.
As expected, the NPP will project the Free SHS as a basis for the renewal of their mandate. With the selection of Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, Education Minister in the erstwhile administration of John Mahama, the record of the administration will be under scrutiny.
Going forward, the discourse will be about how to assimilate the nearly 400,000 SHS graduates into tertiary institutions, employability of those who may not continue to the tertiary level and sustainability of the Free SHS policy.
Issues about teacher training are also expected to feature prominently. The cancellation of trainee allowances by the Mahama administration and the restoration of same by the Akufo-Addo administration will shape discussions around teacher training. Further, the introduction of teacher licensure examination is another matter about teacher recruitment that will be a bone of contention. While Mahama has indicated his intention to cancel it if re-elected, the Akufo-Addo administration insists that the policy is meant to standardize and enhance respect for the profession.
Which of the two main parties and candidates will Ghanaians trust to safeguard education?
Another battleground area will be the economy. The economy is always a consideration because it underlies everything that happens in the country. Ghana’s economy has always been fragile with its heavy reliance on imports, weak currency compared to global trading currencies, producer of primary products, low level of industrialization, poor infrastructure and a litany of challenges.
However, measures taken to combat the scourge of Covid-19 have made the economic situation of countries more slippery. For developing nations such as Ghana, the situation is expected to be more severe. Already, projections for GDP growth have been revised from the expected 6.8% to less than one percent by end of year.
The effects of the pandemic are expected to linger for a while. Businesses that were hit will need time to get back on their feet. It will take time for people who lost their jobs to find new opportunities for placement. Macroeconomic indicators may continue to dip for a while until a turnaround may be seen.
Beyond 2020, there must be a formidable recovery program to get the economy growing again. Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta has told the Parliament about President Akufo-Addo’s plan to roll out a GHC 100 billion recovery plan to be implemented over a three-year period.
Voters will therefore be on the lookout for the party or candidate that has substantial competence to implement a credible economic recovery plan.
Development of infrastructure is needed to facilitate the nation’s development, as it remains an underserved area despite investments by successive governments. John Mahama’s erstwhile administration is often touted as a government that invested heavily in the nation’s infrastructure. The ex-President has proposed an ambitious GHC 10 billion infrastructure intervention he calls the “Big Push.” The Akufo-Addo administration has also attempted to pursue a rigorous infrastructure program.
This is likely to be a topical issue as voters evaluate the proposals for December 7. Which of these two candidates will be able to provide critically-needed infrastructure while ensuring value for money?
By Terry Mante
The writer is a Fellow of Ghana Forward; a non-partisan political movement dedicated to promoting and advancing economic development, visionary leadership and good governance.