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Economic inequality is the unequal distribution of income and opportunity between different groups in society. It is a concern in almost all countries around the world and most people are often trapped in poverty with little chance to climb up the social ladder.

However, being born into poverty does not automatically mean one stays poor. Education, at all levels, enhancing skills, and training policies can be used alongside social assistance programs to help people out of poverty and to reduce inequality gap between the rich and the poor.

Inequality stares at every Ghanaian daily. It threatens poverty reduction efforts in the country and it is as a result of policy failures.
It also persists in the country despite all the strong economic growth figures since the country returned to democratic rule in the 1990s.

In other words, the figures have not translated into the lives if the people, thus the disparities we often see all around us.

In his welcome address at a roundtable discussion with CSOs on the 2019 national budget and inputs into the 2020 budget, at the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel on Thursday 23rd May, 2019, Mr. Zakaria Sulemana, head of inequality at Oxfam, noted that, even though, some strides have been made with some reduction in poverty levels which was more than halved between 1991 and 2013, as contained in the inequality research report by SEND-GHANA, OXFAM and the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC).

He said, “The reason why we are concerned about inequality is not far fetched. The most prominent of them is that, over the last twenty years or so, we have recorded a study economic growth. From 1991 to 2013 for instance, our growth has averaged 5.8% for most part of this period. Within the same period, we also witnessed poverty reduction. In fact, we succeeded in halving poverty before the MDG target date of 2015.”

“But the challenges remains that we could have done better as a country in sharing the benefits of this growth. In other words, the benefits of this growth is restricted to fewer people than the majority, as we would have all wished. I believe that is the wish of government and that is the wish of every citizen in Ghana,” he added.

This he said, informed their research which was published in September last year, titled Building a More Equal Ghana, with the sub-title: A five-point action plan to close the gap between the rich and the rest.

Mr. Zakaria, further emphasized that, “As a country, we have challenges around managing our public finances. We are all aware that we are close to what is termed as debt crisis… to the extent that, in 2017 for instance, we spent as much as 42% of our national revenue to service debts, and around the same time, Aid was declining and we as a country also pronounced a ” Ghana Beyond Aid “. What that meant was that, government was left with a little resources to invest in the key sector that can fight inequality and those key sectors were health, education, social protection, job creation and so on and so forth.”

“The other drivers were the actual investment that we put into social services, did not give us greater access as you would see in the health and education sectors. And also did not help us to deliver quality services to the majority of Ghanaians. And in all of this, you’ll see the disparities in equities across various dimensions. It is normally in favour of urban against rural. Favourable to men and not women,” he said.

Mr. Zakaria Sulemana, intimated again that, the research found out that, the richest man in Ghana earns more from his wealth in one month than one of the poorest woman earns in one thousand years. It also found that, the bottom 6% of Ghanaians had 30% in 2012. Again, the wealthiest 10% of Ghanaians now share 32% of Ghana’s total consumption, which is more than is consumed by the bottom 6% of the population combined, whereas the very poorest 10% consumes 2%.

He bemoaned that, nearly a third of the poorest children in the Northern Region have never been to school compared to just 5% of the wealthiest.

“Our analysis concluded that, the situation as it is, is as a result of our policies. And that, we can use same policies to address or reserve the inequality situation we have in Ghana. And when we come to talk about good policies that will effectively address inequality, you are also implying that, the good policy is as good as money available to implement that policies,” Mr. Zakaria reiterated.

In her presentation of the 2019 national budget on education and health, Mrs. Harriet Nuamah-Agyemang, senior programmes officer at SEND-GHANA, noted that, since attaining a middle-income country status in 2010, Ghana has made significant strides toward improving the health and wellbeing of its citizens. This is evident in recent infrastructure development and expenditure on human resource.

She however indicated that, health disparities and inequalities along the path of economic, geographic, social, gender, and ethnic lines have worsened and reduced the chances of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Whereas infrastructure is also skewed in favour of the south and has propelled an unequal distribution of health personnel in favour of the south and urban areas.

Financial protection for health care, she said, has been faced with challenges in recent times thereby limiting many Ghanaians of physical and financial access to quality healthcare delivery in public health facilities.

Mrs. Nuamah-Agyemang, revealed that, total expenditure of GH₵ 6 billion which represents 8.2 percent of the overall national expenditure was allocated to the health sector, where 59.4% goes for
compensation, 26.6% for goods and Services and 14% forCAPEX.

According to SEND’s analysis of the 2019 health sector budget, there was no allocation to address Nutritional challenges following the adoption of a national nutrition strategy in 2016 and the completion of an operational strategy in 2017.

“Allocation to National Health Insurance Scheme lacks sustainability and transparency. The scheme is projected to receive a total of GH₵ 2.4 billion from the NHF out of which expenditure amounting to GH₵ 500 million wasn’t accounted for. Regarding sustainability, the NHIA pays $30 per client to facilities which is far below the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended expenditure of $86 per client.

Incessant decrease of allocation to goods and services since 2017 (37.1% in 2017; 32.1% in 2018; 27.6% in 2019) which is anticipated to affect health service delivery.

Fragmented provision of Infrastructure in the Health Sector between the Ministries of Health and Special Development Initiatives.

Current Allocation does not reflect Government’s commitment to addressing Human Resource Needs of MoH. Following the Minister’s statement on the recruit 40,000 nurses in 2018, the budget makes provision for only 6,280,” She explained.

Overview of the Education sector, she elaborated that, in recognition to its key role in socio-economic growth, the country has made significant investment in the education sector, especially in the Free SHS programme and the Restoration of teachers allowance.

In this regard, the country, she said, has attained the international benchmark to allocating 4%-6% of GDP and 15%-20% of annual budget to the sector.

Challenges in the educational sector she underpinned were; inadequate attention to inclusive and special education and the gradual shifting of education financing towards secondary and tertiary education with primary and KG education experiencing decline.

The total expenditure to the education sector was 12.8 billion, representing 17.5% of total projected national expenditure, where 71% goes for
compensation, 25% for goods and services, and 4% for CAPEX.

SEND’s analysis of the 2019 education sector budget, Mrs. Harriet Nuamah-Agyemang, noted that, there was a steady increase in spending at the secondary school level, leaving little resources for the basic level. And
expenditure at the SHS level increased from GH¢ 400 million in 2017 to 1.1 billion in 2018 and a projected 1.6 billion in 2019.

She said, there was also a high expenditure on compensation at the expense of goods and services. Meanwhile, the actual expenditure on compensation in 2016 and 2017 exceeded budgeted amounts by 32.2 percent and 13.5 percent respectively. Whereas goods and services received only 0.8 percent and 14.8 percent of allocated budget same years.

There was also zero compensation and goods and services money for Institutions for persons with disabilities in 2016 or 2017 which is a setback for inclusive education

Again, there wasn’t a clear strategy to absorb the increasing SHS student population out of which a substantial number will transit into tertiary institutions. “The SHS population has soared from 361,771 students in 2017 to 490,882 in 2018 following introduction of the FSHS programme,” she noted.

Following this, SEND-GHANA proposed the following recommendations; that,
findings of the current Human Development report is a clarion call on Government to pay close attention to addressing challenges at the basic level from reliable funding sources.

Allocations to special schools and institutions that promote inclusive education must be entirely disbursed in time to ensure attainment of SDG 4 and inclusivity in the sector.

Again, the numerous challenges in the health sector have to do with limited budget allocation in previous years. Therefore, government should strive to achieve the Abuja declaration of commitment which proposes an allocation of 15% of the national budget to the health sector.

Government should also release all the funds accrued to the NHF to the NHIA to help reduce the current financial gap exhibited under the scheme. And more efforts should also be made to secure a sustainable source of funding for the scheme.

The successful forum which was organized by SEND-GHANA, the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition and OXFAM in collaboration with the Ghana Civil Society Platform on the SDGs, saw dignitaries like, Mr. Fredrick Yiryel (MoF), Mr. Robert Intseful (MoE), Dr. Emmanuel Ayifah, deputy Country Director of SEND-GHANA, Mr. Akwasi Boateng Assumeng (GACC), representatives from various CSOs and to name a few.

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