Today, Saturday, October 17, 2020, marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Regrettably, countries all over the world are commemorating this year’s occasion amidst the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing disproportionate disruptions in the lives of the people and worsening inequality globally.
The World Bank estimates that an additional 88 million to 115 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021 due to the pandemic.
A statement signed by George Osei-Akoto Bimpeh, Country Director of SEND GHANA, and copied to News Ghana on 17th October, 2020, read, “Over here in Ghana, poverty levels have witnessed a considerable decline in the past two decades. For example, the number of poor declined from 7.9 million in 1992 (56.5%) to 6.3 million (29%) in 2006 and 24.2% by 2013. This indicates that between 1992 and 2013, national poverty fell by more than half.
However, the decline in the poverty headcount between 2013 and 2017 was just 0.8% (ie, from 24.2% to 23.4%). The number of people living in extreme poverty has unacceptably increased from 2.2 million to 2.4 million during the same period.
The most recent Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) reveals that Ghana’s incidence of multidimensional poverty is 45.6 percent. This means that at least 2 out of every 5 Ghanaians are identified as multidimensionally poor.
There is evidence of persistent social, economic, geographic, and gender inequality, while poverty is widespread in many areas of the country.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Professor Philip Alston in April 2018 cautioned that Ghana is likely to fall short of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially the eradication of poverty if it fails to tackle the inequality problem in the country.
He further noted that “the benefits of record levels of economic growth experienced over the past decade have gone overwhelmingly to the wealthy, and inequality is higher than it has ever been in Ghana.
The gap between urban and rural areas has doubled due to a drop in urban poverty in recent years. Rural poverty is now almost 4 times as high as urban poverty compared to the 1990s when it was only twice as high. In the decade ending in 2016, the country saw 1,000 new US dollar millionaires created, but only 60 of these were women.
The richest men in Ghana earn more in a month than one of the poorest women could earn in 1,000 years, and the wealthiest 10% of Ghanaians now account for 320 of the country’s total consumption (Oxfam et al. 2018).
The 1992 Republican Constitution recognizes the state delivery of Social Protection as a right of every citizen. This makes it imperative for successive governments to roll out and implement interventions aimed at addressing inequality, poverty, and related vulnerabilities and exclusion.
Thus, the National Social Protection Policy identified the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), Capitation Grant (CG), and the Labour Intensive Public Works (LIPW) as Ghana’s social protection flagship programmes.
However, the effectiveness of implementation has been minimized by several factors, which is undermining the impact of the programmes in reducing poverty and inequality. The LEAP programme currently covers only l, 650, 000 extremely poor persons out of the 2.4 million extremely poor persons in Ghana. The grant is deemed inadequate in meeting the needs and nutritional requirements of enrolled households.
NHIS coverage is limited in nature. Women/girls related illnesses and tests (scans, MRIs, cervical cancer, and breast cancer tests) are not covered by the scheme. The GSFP does not cover all eligible schools, and children of school-going age among some vulnerable households are left out. Unemployment among P WD’s, women and young girls is unacceptably high.
As we join the rest of the world in commemorating this day, we take the opportunity to, once again, amplify the voices of the citizens as contained in our citizens’ manifesto in calling on the government to ensure social and economic opportunities for all. We, specifically, demand from the government to expand coverage of LEAP to all eligible extremely poor persons and increase the cash amount by 100%.
This could be done by a regular grant review process such that amounts are adjusted regularly in line with prevailing inflation rates to ensure that the purchasing power of beneficiaries is not eroded.
Again, the government should expedite action on the completion of the Ghana National Household Registry to ensure that extremely poor households are targeted for complementary services on Social Protection. The government should expand the NHIS benefit package to cover clinical tests for women/girls such as cervical and breast cancer tests and establish dedicated sources of funding for Social Protection programmes.
On education, we demand that the government expands the GSFP to capture eligible schools that are currently not under the programme. The government must also provide funding for the holistic implementation of the Inclusive Education policy. This will ensure that the educational needs of street children, children with disabilities and special needs are adequately met.
There should also be mandatory re-entry and integration of teenage mothers into schools or the provision of skills development training to enhance their economic well-being. The re-entry guide developed for teenage mothers to return to school should be widely disseminated with adequate public education. Implementation should also be regularly monitored.
Lastly, we call on the government to invest in skills training for PWDs, reserve quotas for the employment of PWDs in the formal sector, insulate the Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) from political manipulation, and ensure that majority of women benefit.”