Sloganeering and vain promises are symptomatic of wishful African political leaders especially during run up to general elections where candidates oﬀer all kinds of promissory rhetoric. If party leaders could honour just a fraction of their campaign promises, African economies would be heavenly. Failure on the part African politicians to fulfil campaign pledges largely explains the general apathy that greets party manifestoes which are lucidly crafted with the arsenals of embellishments employed to make them appealing to the unsuspecting electorates. To re- count failed promises among African politicians would require a dossier of reportage.
New Presidential Paradigm
Ghana’s 5th President under the 4th Republican Constitution, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuﬀo-Addo is projecting a new paradigm that seems to suggest that campaign promises are not merely rhetoric. Despite the fact that he has been a towering political figure, and a staunch adherent of good governance and the rule of law, President Akuﬀo-Addo’s presidential journey has been with grave twists and turns. Had he lost the 2016 elections, the septuagenarian would have definitely been retired from his presidential ambition; having contested in the 2008 and the controversial 2012 elections.
Notwithstanding the dire nature of the 2016 elections for then candidate Akuﬀo-Addo, he carried with him a colossal luggage of unimaginable campaign promises most of which seemed ordinarily ludicrous. However, the experienced politician remained consistent as he had been in all the previous elections and relentlessly went into the 2016 campaigns with over 20 gigantic promises notably; the Free Senior High School (Free SHS); the establishment of one dam one village; and the $1 million funds for each of the country’s 275 electoral constituencies; all seen as unredeemable pledges.
In July 2016, then candidate Akuﬀo-Addo touched the minds and hearts of Ghanaians when he said: “I will not announce programmes and policies which I know I cannot fulfil. I respect Ghanaians far too much to lie to them”. It is obvious Ghana- ians bought into his promises which according to some key members of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), was the reason for the resounding victory that greeted him at the polls. During his inauguration on January 7, 2017, President Akuﬀo-Addo admitted that the task of building his dream Ghana “will not be easy” stressing that his government had no illusions whatsoever regarding the enormity of the task ahead. His assertion that “though our challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths” resonates with the average Ghanaian who believes that under the right kind leadership, Ghana, the Black Star of Africa will rise again.
Signal of Urgency
With a sense of urgency, President Akuﬀo-Addo began the task of governance with the appointment of his ministers and deputy ministers; setting two records at a go; first, he got his ministers within a record time after being sworn in; and second, his 110 ministers and deputy ministers remain the highest number in the country’s history; causing many Ghanaians including Thinks Tanks like IMANI Ghana to have questioned the expediency of having a large size government when in the run up to the 2016 elections, the then presidential candidate had indicated the need to protect the public purse. This undoubtedly questioned the President’s credulity. President Akuﬀo-Addo has since justified the large size of his government on account of the country’s “swollen challenges”; re-echoing the cliché that the end justifies the means.
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) presented to the Au- gust House of Parliament in February, 2017, the President said “Mr. Speaker…I am in a great hurry. The times, in which we live, demand that we, all, be in a hurry to deal with the problems we face.” What gives credence to the President’s sense of urgency is the speed of a cheetah with which he is seeking to fulfil the seeming ludicrous campaign promises.
In just eight months of his regime, President Akuﬀo-Addo has already started rolling out a number of his promises. The Free SHS programme, his all-time flagship, was launched on September 11, 2017. Under the programme, over 420,000 eligible students have been admitted into the country’s Senior High Schools with all bills including feeding, tuition and all other charges being borne by the Government. The programme, which covers agricultural, vocational and technical institutions across the country, also made provision for Junior High School students who completed in 2014, 2015 and 2016 but could not be enrolled into SHS to be captured. The cost, according to policy Think Tank, IMANI Ghana, is estimated at 1.2 billion US dollars annually. This is indeed a daunting task for a country under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.
Massive Tax Cuts and District Factories
Staying truthful to his campaign promise of removing what it termed as nuisance taxes, the Akuﬀo-Addo led government has indeed made good of words. At the Government’s first budget statement presented to Parliament in March, 2017, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta announced the removal of 7 taxes namely; the 17.5 VAT on financial services; 17.5% VAT on selected imported medicines; 17.5 VAT on domestic airline tickets; 5% VAT on real estates; excise duty on petroleum; duties on importation of spare parts; and the levies imposed on Kayayei’s (head porters).
The budget also announced considerable tax reductions including the special petroleum tax rate which was reduced from 17.5% to 15%. The 17.5 VAT placed on Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) traders has been replaced with a 3.5% flat rate. As if these were not enough, the Akuﬀo-Addo Government which heavily criticised President Mahama for removing teacher and nursing trainee allowances has fulfilled its promise by restoring same in its first budgetary allocations.
In August, 2017, the President gave defining impetus to yet another ma- jor policy intervention intended to boost industrialisation and triggering a value-addition manufacturing enterprises and that is the establishment of one factory in each district. The project was launched in Ekumfi in the Central Region of Ghana, where the President cut the sod for the construction of the first factory under the programme which will see the Ekumfi Fruits and Juices Limited creating more than 4,000 direct jobs.
Village Dams and $1 Million Funds
Another flagship programme, dubbed the one village, one dam project is set to be rolled out in the Kpandai District of the Northern Region. The project will see the building of ten units of 300KW Biopower and 80 hectres of centre pivot irrigation dams in ten selected villages within the Kpandai District of the Northern Region.
Additionally, there will be the construction of a 300KW dairy farm biogas power plant and irrigation dam as well as fertilizer production units in some villages of the three Northern Regions. This project, which is estimated to cost $660 million, is to be carried out in partnership with the Renewable Energy and Environmental Conservation (REEC) Biopower, a subsidiary of Hi-Limit Group.
One other financially demanding
policy promised during the campaign was the pledge of $1 million for each of the country’s 275 constituencies. This promise has been rolled out with the disbursement of funds underway. Under the programme, the funds will be used to undertake de- velopmental projects in each constituency. The Member of Parliament for the Jaman North constituency Hon. Steven Siaka recently confirmed his constituency as having received its share of the $1 million fund.
To give meaning to prudent management as it has always touted, the Akuﬀo-Addo Government in September, 2017, operationalised the paperless port system project at the country’s Ports. The project has reduced the long duration for clearing goods from an average of 14 days to a maximum of 4 hours. The project on its first week of implementation recorded 56% rise in revenue. Analysts have lauded the paperless project as critical in plugging out the lope holes that lead to the diversion of monies due the state at the country’s ports.
Paperless or digital transactions seems to be one major driver of prudent managerial practices that the Akuﬀo-Addo led administration is relying on to restore eﬃciency into the public sector. Currently, critical state institutions like the Passport Oﬃce and the Registrar General’s Department are all billed to run a paperless transaction.
Digital Addressing and National Identification
The country has since independence lacked a viable addressing sys- tem and this continues to stifle development in many fronts. The absence of a reliable addressing system has created the situation where people cannot be easily tracked. This has in- creased loan defaulting rate and increased cost of borrowing as bankers are worried about the unlikelihood of tracking a loan default- er. It was for these and related reasons that the National Identification Authority (NIA) was established in 2003 under the Oﬃce of former President John Agyekum Kuﬀour, and through the National Identification Authority Act, 2006 (Act 707).
The aim of the NIA has been that of providing a reliable database of people resident in Ghana and to issue a national identification card.
The NIA is yet to achieve
its establishing objectives. The Akuﬀo-Addo presidency, under the direct charge of the Vice President Dr. Bawumia has brought a new breath of life to the NIA and as a result, the Authority is set to issue a comprehensive national ID from November, 2017. The multi-purpose ID, with 14 international security features, is set to be linked to the Passport Oﬃce, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), and the Ghana Revenue Authority among others.
Alongside the national ID, the Government is also poised to addressing the lack of accurate addressing system. The recently procured Digital Addressing System, through a wholly-owned Ghanaian company Vokacom is set to issue unique dig- ital identification codes to over 16.5 billon five-by-five metre square (M2) demarcations across the country and it will not only provide accurate directions to people and properties, but will also help in tracking data for various purposes.
All these major policies with huge financial implications are underway contrary to their being tagged as impossible promises meant to galvanise electoral votes. Whilst these promises seem laudable, they look remote and unachievable in an economy romanticising with the IMF and with rising public debt. The country under the then NDC government was in arears of statutory payments such as the District Assembly Common Fund, the GETFUND and the National Health Insurance Levy among others. The daunting financial challenge of the NDC government culminated in the abolishment of teacher and nursing trainee allowances as well as the placement of employment embargo in the public sector.
In spite of the doubts to their feasi- bility, the then opposition New Patri- otic Party (NPP), consistently assured Ghanaians that their promises were doable with Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia’s incisive periodic lectures hitting hard on the then NDC government as being corrupt and wasting the scarce public funds needed to execute critical policies. Beyond the rolling out of their campaign promises, the Akuﬀo-Addo led administration has for the first time in many years paid 560 million out of the 1.2 billion of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) debt that had almost rendered the NHIS dysfunctional.
Additionally, the allocation of 219 million to the historic Zongo Development Fund are real bold interventions. The on-go- ing ban of illegal mining locally called galamsey, which is devastating to the environment and particularly water bodies aﬃrms the Government’s commitment to end the havoc of the illegal mining menace.
The question that remains unanswered is how sustainable these laud- able projects and policy interventions are given the country’s increasing public debt. Latest figures released by the Bank of Ghana in September, 2017 show that Ghana’s public debt stock has hit 138.6 billion as of June, 2017 compared with GH¢117.3 billion in May of 2016.
Even though most of the Government’s programmes have attracted enormous donor-support, evidence shows that reliance on donor funding is not prudent as donor cuts could hurt such programmes. The Government has pointed out that by reducing corruption and cutting down on waste in the public sector, as well as ensuring value for money whilst doing away with inflated contracts, it could generate the needed revenue to fund such these
sterling programmes and interventions.
Honouring the Mandate
Ghana is indeed witnessing the first year of a Government’s four- year mandate where promises are being fulfilled with a rare sense of urgency. Thus far, even though it is too early to assess the President’s performance, the signals show that President Akuﬀo-Addo is ardently living by his campaign pledges. His promise made in November, 2016 in Tamale that Ghana will change under his leadership within 18 months may not be a dream after all, but a reality to behold.
The President, being emboldened by his eﬀorts thus far, has said to the sceptics that “good things are happening in Ghana now”. If these programmes become sustainable, Akuﬀo-Addo will go down in history as being the most daring of all presidents under the 4th Republic relative to the honouring of campaign promises that have dire financial implications for a fragile Government within its first year of the four-year mandate.
The litmus test to the Akuﬀo-Addo paradigm of a government in a great hurry lies not only in the quality of the interventions but how sustainable they are and their impact on the quality of life and the socio-economic advancement of the country. So far, it seems, the man, President Akuﬀo-Addo, having defeated former President John Dramani Mahama in an unprecedented fashion is setting the record as the President whose tenure may see an unprecedented fulfilment of campaign promises in its first tenure. Time will tell.