The Think-tank made this observation in a review of the Social Sector as presented by the President, John Dramani Mahama, in his State of the Nation Address.
Below is the full review outcome as presented by IMANI Ghana.
IMANI’S Review of the Social Sector as Presented in President’s State of the Nation Addresses from 2013-2016
In President John Mahama’s State of the Nation address in 2013, he stated that as the leader of a social democratic party, social interventions are at the heart of what they do. Social protection is crucial because unequal wealth distribution threatens the freedoms and rule of law of any society. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) was created with the objectives to mainstream and properly target social intervention programs in Ghana as a means to reducing poverty, bridging inequality and attaining equity. In evaluating the social intervention programs in Ghana over the past three years, it is important to address both output and outcomes. This paper traces key social protection programs since 2013 as presented by the President in the State of the Nation addresses and links the outputs as described by the President to the outcomes achieved.
Poor Households Database
A consensus exists between state and non-state actors alike that, for maximum impact of social interventions, they must be properly targeted and complimentary in nature. It was therefore excellent when in 2013, the President announced the establishment of a database of the poorest households or individuals in our society to be used across the spectrum of social intervention schemes. This groundbreaking endeavor failed to make any appearance in subsequent SOTN. However, the MoGCSP has been hard at work trying to make this a reality. An article in 2015 authored by the MoGCSP titled ‘Correcting the Misconceptions of the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) Program’ revived this hope when it forecasted that the database is expected to be functional early this year (2016). The rate limiting step for the ministry appears to be the integration of this database with those of other ministries running social protection schemes. The slow implementation aside, lack of a single registry implies inability to properly identify beneficiaries across multiple social interventions which will have negative ramifications on expected outcomes.
The Ghana Living Standards Survey 6 (GLSS 6) puts the absolute poverty line at about USD 1.83 per day and that of extreme poverty at about USD 1.25. And approximately 8.4% of the population lives in extreme poverty which translates to roughly 2.1million of Ghana’s population. The LEAP intervention, which is a cash transfer program, is intended to target this group. LEAP’s achievement of meeting its 150000 households by 2015, actually translates to 7.1% of the population living in extreme poverty. At this rate, LEAP cannot be a panacea to alleviating extreme poverty and poverty. Even more so because the monthly transfer of GHS 24-44 is about GHS 105 shy of meeting the extreme poverty threshold.
This is not to undermine the essence of LEAP but to alert that so much more needs to be done and alternate pathways that have cascading results should be considered and perhaps prioritized. Because while LEAP targets one household at a time, a far more superior approach would be to target an income generation activity which targets several households at a time. The President before he became vice President in 2009 shared that ‘the best way to bring people out of poverty is to empower and improve their ability to earn an income. It is when you fail that you dole out direct cash to people’. While it’s a bit harsh to cast LEAP as a failure due to the vulnerability of the served population, the President was accurate in his submission that the best way to empower is through economic transformation. Unfortunately, the livelihoods of many of the poor and extreme poor are being eroded.
The GLSS 6 states that about 70% of the population live in rural areas and majority of them depend on agriculture as a source of livelihood. It emphasizes that, household heads who are farmers are not just the poorest in Ghana but contribute the most to Ghana’s poverty. However, between 2009 and 2015 alone, agriculture’s contribution to GDP has dwindled from 31.8% to 19.0% and between 2014 and 2015 the agricultural sector recorded zero growth. As a result of these trends, the gap between the rich and the poor has actually widened. A report by UNDP suggests that, ‘the changing pattern is strongly influenced by Ghana’s inability to create economic growth amongst the poor themselves’.
It is true that any amount no matter how small can improve a person’s economic fortunes. But the larger conversation of whether it is truly eradicating poverty has to be had. These statistics overshadow the achievements of LEAP and frankly for LEAP to truly transform, then the complimentary programs are to be given more precedent over the cash transfer itself. So, Zenabu, whose transformed life the President showcased, must indeed be celebrated for having transcended the crippling economic policies of the President’s administration to create a source of livelihood through pig farming.
Ghana is often mocked for having the best unenforced laws. This limitation does not however erode the need and essence of laws. And in combating poverty and inequality, this serves as a powerful tool. The MoGCSP therefore has initiated several bills which are at various stages of implementation. In 2014, the President indicated that MoGCSP was in the process of drafting the Affirmative Action Bill, the Interstate Succession and Property Rights of Spouses Bills. This year, the President has stated that the Affirmative Action bill has been finalized and validated. The latter bills as of October 2015 are with the joint select committees on constitutional and gender. Given the haste which has accompanied other bills, one is forced to question the urgency with which these initiatives are being pursued.
Domestic violence is not covered thoroughly by the President in his SOTN addresses. In 2014, the President indicated that through an awareness campaign against child marriage, numerous children forced into child marriages have been extricated and returned to their homes. The MoGCSP has hinted at a national undertaking to collect data on the prevalence of domestic violence of which a report was scheduled for a January 2016 release. Most recent updates suggest the report will be released later this year. Hopefully, armed with this database, the Ghanaian taxpayer will be able to contextualize the achievements of the Ministry in relation to both expenditure and scope.
Even though the President does little mention of the incidence of domestic violence, media outlets report an increasing trend. The Ministry has attributed part of this rise to increased awareness and sensitization resulting in more individuals reporting cases of abuse. However, a harsher socio economic environment also contributes to domestic violence. It is important for the ministry to verify the cause of the incline and appropriately intervene.
Critically, a legislative instrument for the Domestic Violence Act has been in the works for the past four years. The lack of the LI has had a negative effect on the adjudication of domestic violence cases. The LI is said to be approved this year, but that was said for the past four years as well diminishing any confidence in the timelines provided by the Ministry.
Rehabilitation of Orphans
The SOTN 2015 lays down that 800 orphans have been rescued from deplorable habitats and rehabilitated. Further, 1,400 caregivers were trained in all regions and also 62 orphanages whose operations were sub-standard have been closed down. The SOTN 2016 however doesn’t have an update on the progress made in this aspect. However, the Ghana Budget 2016 mentions that the Ministry has provided support to 648 orphans and vulnerable children and trained 70 managers of Residential Homes for children.
Rehabilitation of orphans was raised for the first time in the Ghana Budget 2014 where GH¢5 million was allotted to take care of five orphanages in Ghana. The funds were also used to renovate rundown and overcrowded facilities, to increase allowance and other social services. Since then, there has been consistent update on work done towards this cause and it is welcome development in the sector.
However, the data provided by the Ministry is insufficient to appreciate the size of the impact of these programs. For instance, there are no statistics provided explaining the total number of orphans or total number of orphanages in Ghana so as to understand what percentage of orphans were rescued or to make a financial case for expansion of these endeavors. After the shut-down of the 62 orphanages, it is unclear as to what alternative accommodation was provided to those orphans living there. Similarly, with a lack of database on the total number of caregivers available, it is difficult to comprehend whether the training provided meets the actual demand. There is also no update on the status of renovation of the facilities. These questions remain unanswered both in the Budgets and in the SOTNs and this vagueness makes it difficult to analyze the real impact of the Ministry policies.
Welfare of the aged/elderly
The SOTN 2015 and 2016 speeches highlight two major initiatives for the elderly i.e. NHIS subscription and EBAN welfare card. The SOTN 2015 states that over 10,000 senior citizens are provided with free NHIS subscription whereas over 1200 senior citizens are registered for EBAN. MoGCSP says the “EBAN Elderly Welfare Card” is “to enable elder people of 65 years and above to enjoy transport services at 50 per cent discount and also have priority access to banking and hospital services in the country.”
SOTN 2016 is silent about the progress made in NHIS subscription but goes to update that over 14,000 cards have been issued and additional 9,000 are to be distributed to conclude the first phase.
As per Ghana Statistical Service 2012 report, the elderly population (65 years and above) constitute 4.7% of the total population i.e. roughly 1.1 million. Currently, both NHIS and EBAN programs are only benefitting about 1/10th of this target population. There is still a lot of grounds to be covered by the ministry. It is critical to focus on how these benefits could reach the beneficiaries in the fastest way possible. In this regard, the EBAN welfare card may not be the fastest or most cost effective option. In a country where there’s already a multiplicity of identification cards, most of which bear the age of the cardholder, it is hard to comprehend why another type of card is required by the ministry. Assuming existing cards were leveraged for this initiative, all 1.1 million elderly population could immediately access the benefits without the wait to receive an EBAN card.
Similarly, the NHIS services are currently provided to a small portion of the elderly. If the premium for NHIS is already waived for the elderly, is it imperative that they receive NHIS cards before they access healthcare services covered under the NHIS. Rollout for these programs usually take long times and maybe the ministry ought to start thinking around ways to circumvent the long wait to both save cost and hasten delivery of the intended service.
Enabling the Disabled
A program for the disabled was announced for the first time in the 2015 SOTN speech. Prior to this, there was no mention about it in any of the budgets or SOTN speeches. The 2015 SOTN mentioned that the Government is working on a Youth Employment Model for 5000 disabled persons. The 2016 SOTN doesn’t update on the progress made on the Youth Employment model but mentions new programs such as the Skills Development Fund (SDF), training provided for the Lakeside Cross Disability Self-Help Group to enhance their livelihoods and attempts to increase the disability grant from 2% to 3% and development of the Ghana Standards on Accessibility Designs to enable provision of accessibility to buildings for disabled persons.
The SOTN 2016 states that persons with one form of disability or other constitute roughly 10% of the population, i.e. about 2.6 million. Considering that the major work towards enabling the disabled started in 2015, there is still a long way to go before we could see these programs executed and then measure its impact. Most of these programs have just being implemented or in the process of being implemented. Even in this case, it is yet to be seen how the ministry will cater to this huge target group in a productive and sustainable manner.
Welfare of the Kayayei
Female head porters have been migrating from rural areas to urban areas in search of greener pastures. These women live on the streets without any access to basic sanitation or drinking water facilities and are prone to various threats. The 2016 SOTN addresses this issue by setting up of gender-based response centres at Mallam Atta and Agbogbloshie markets as pilot projects to provide the necessary support. Till now 1,000 kayayei have been registered free onto the NHIS in order to enable them access quality healthcare. The ministry is also planning to launch a micro-finance credit programme for alternative livelihoods for market porters. These empowering steps are welcome development. But like other initiatives of the ministry, the only critique is that it is difficult to evaluate the impact of these programs as there are no statistics provided as to how many women constitute kayayei and what timelines are followed to achieve the targets.
The MoGCSP is actively advocating and protecting the most vulnerable in our society. No society can thrive without such a Ministry. However, many of these achievements are replicable to any individual/institutions with money at their disposal. In other words, the solutions are not groundbreaking or innovative in their approach or implementation. Even donor organizations who have traditionally towed this line are beginning to diversify and alter their approaches to poverty alleviation. Oxfam recently supported a tax dialogue which seeks to reform and enforce tax laws as a means to poverty alleviation. Having stated that though, it is commendable that over the past three years though, Ghana has amassed an army of policies and laws to address poverty and protect the most vulnerable. Groups that were previously marginalized have been included in national policies as important actors in Ghana’s participatory economy. Gender parity has been achieved in education at the basic level and there’s increased awareness amongst citizens about poverty and inequality, discrimination and gender specific discrimination. But there’s a lot more do be done towards sustainability and towards shared growth and prosperity.