….:The need for a credible national targeting mechanism
All over the world, social protection has become an indispensable part of governments’ responsibilities towards their citizens, and an essential strategy for reducing poverty and vulnerability.
Ghana has a long history of putting in place what is generally perceived as robust social protection measures to support poverty reduction and inclusive development. Indeed, the range of pro-poor programmes being implemented in the country has so far resulted in Ghana making some modest gain in social protection delivery. We made history as the first country sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the Millennium Development Goal one (1) of reducing poverty by half long before the 2015 deadline set by the United Nations.
In spite of this great stride, Ghana has not been able to completely eradicate extreme poverty. The recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic revealed a major missing link in our poverty reduction strategy – the need for an effective targeting mechanism for our social protection programmes.
Even though, Ghana received a lot of plaudits for her swift response to the COVID 19 pandemic, all the successes chalked were nearly eroded by the accusation of lack of effective selection or targeting of beneficiaries of the various social relief services being provided by government.
Poverty, is the worse form of violence and every life deserves a certain amount of dignity, no matter how poor or damaged the shell that carries it. This is why there is the need to use an effective common national targeting mechanism to identify those who are really in need and ensure that a larger share of benefits of social programmes go to the poorest and the most vulnerable.
A common national targeting mechanism will help in the quick identification of poor and vulnerable persons and enhance transparency in selecting beneficiaries for social protection programmes in the country. This will ensure that social interventions get to people who really need. It will also help curb accusations of partisan consideration in the selection of beneficiaries of social protection interventions such LEAP, Labor Intensive Public works (LIPW) and more recently, the distribution of relief items during the COVID 19 lockdown period.
Besides, a common targeting mechanism will eliminate duplication of eﬀorts in the fight against poverty. Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) involved in the implementation of pro-poor programmes will not have to individually select beneficiaries for their interventions as information on potential eligible beneficiaries will be available in a credible centralized database. This will help reduce cost of implementing of social protection programmes in the country.
Again, a comprehensive centralized household socio-economic database will help increase knowledge on issues around poverty and vulnerability. This will facilitate the development of accurate socioeconomic analyses on poverty to support the design and development of specific policies and programmes targeted at the vulnerable and/or people of low-income sectors.
Brazil and other countries who are making significant progress in their poverty reduction efforts have shown that to win the fight against poverty and vulnerability, one needs a single national household register with proper indicators on how to identify the poor and vulnerable. As President Dilma Rousseff rightly indicated, not until poverty is given “a face, a name, an address and characteristics known to the state,” the benefits of social intervention programmes will only be ending up in the wrong hands.
We must always remember that the test of our progress as a nation will not be determined by whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it will be determined by whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
Thankfully, the need for a targeting mechanism with a common indicator to identify potential beneficiaries of pro-poor interventions in the country does not elude the attention of policy makers and development partners. Government’s commitments towards this has been demonstrated in the establishment of the Ghana National Household Registry (GNHR) under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP).
The GNHR has been mandated to collect basic information on socioeconomic status of households. The registry uses an internationally accepted instrument to provide a common targeting mechanism that can assist social protection programmes identify, prioritize, and select households living in vulnerable conditions in the country.
The registry has recently announced that it has successfully completed data collection in the Upper West and Upper East Regions and is in advanced stage of commencing registration exercises in Northern, North-East and Savanna Regions. It is my strongest conviction that a successful completion of this exercise will be a game changer in our fight against poverty in Ghana.
Fortunately for Ghana, funding poses no challenge to this exercise. I am reliably informed that the World Bank and UK’s Department for International Development are providing the required funding for the compilation of the national household register. What remains is the political will, commitment and dedication of the government through the Ministry of Gender to complete this exercise in an expeditious manner.
This article is authored Philip Dornyo, a Communication Specialist.