Real Leadership Required To Address Food Security…In Ghana

Real Leadership Required To Address Food Security…In Ghana

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In the recent State of the Nation Address (SNA) by the President of Ghana, H.E. John Dramani Mahama, a section was dedicated to Agriculture and Food Security.

This section can also be viewed on Food Security Ghana

The Address resulted in reactions from across the political divide and from many other stakeholders, some going as far as to call for the impeachment of President Mahama.

Some of the many issues raised in response to the Address include (some of the below are direct quotations from comments sourced on the Internet):

Poor Performing Agriculture – The agricultural sector in recent years performed well below the target growth rate of 6% (In 2013 the agriculture sectorhad a negative growth rate of 3.8% in the third quarter – in the third quarter of 2012, the agriculture sector had a positive growth rate of 2.5%.);

Investment in Agriculture Lacking – Investment in the agricultural sector hovers around 2%, well below the 10% as agreed when Ghana signed up for CAADP (Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme – the agricultural programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which in turn is a programme of the African Union (AU), established by the AU assembly in 2003);

Ballooning Government Wage Bill – “(W)hile the total wage bill of GOG keeps ballooning less can be felt in the pockets of workers as wages remained the same”;

The Cedi In Freefall – The cedi is in freefall and the Bank of Ghana (BOG)’s recent directives has the potential threat of strengthening the black market which would only make these directives counterproductive as other factors such as our high dependency on imports, increased fiscal deficits and public expenditure impact the performance of the cedi;

Massive Embezzlement – “With all the emphasis on PPPs, it is interesting to note that the framework for PPPs does not fully exist since the PPP bill, which has been drafted since June 2011 has not been passed. Despite that, the government has embarked on initiatives that have closely resembled PPPs. One of these projects was GYEEDA, SADA which resulted in embezzlement of millions of cedis;

Water Shortages – From Adenta, to East Legon to La, and throughout Accra and beyond, there are water rationing and water shortages while the Government of Ghana (GOG) has been “working hard”;

Power Shortages – Both the shortages and load shedding has caused further hardships for Ghanaians and business alike who are finding it increasingly difficult to balance its books;

Lack of Political Will – The Parliament has been dragging its feet on various important bills including the Criminal Offences Act aimed at addressing the issue of corruption in Ghana and the PPP bill, which has been drafted since June 2011 has not been passed;

Lack of Due Diligence – The new GIPC Act was rushed through the Presidency without proper consultation with either the relevant agency or investors leaving great question marks and in fact hampering Ghana’s investment promotion efforts;

Rising Rate of Inflation – “The rate of inflation kept rising and stood at 13.2 % in December 2013 coupled with an increase in the price of fuel and electricity”;

Road Infrastructure Uncertainties – The completion points of many of these roads which are part of the Eastern, Western and Central corridor have not been verified at the time of writing this report. In Accra however, the Tetteh Quarshie -Madina road for example remains more or less as it was at the start of the year 2013. In addition the road between Accra and Kumasi is testimony of a failure to govern by the NDC government;

Airport Infrastructure Development Stagnant – Domestic air travel has increased tenfold while international travel increased three fold and that is indeed a high point for the nation as aptly noted by the president. This he said warranted the expansion of four local airports and construction of a new international airport. This however seems slow to materialize as the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), the sole international airport has been under renovations/expansions for approximately seven years;

Drivers of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) Ignored – The two major drivers of FDI are corruption and cost-of-doing-business perceptions, and on both Ghana rates poorly. Despite this little is done to tackle these issues in a concerted way;

High Cost of Living is Legendary – The prices of petroleum products are unbearable, utility bills have skyrocketed to suicidal levels. In fact the Ghana Medical Association is on record to have warned that the current economic hardship in the country could trigger more suicides if government did not take appropriate steps to improve the living standards of the ordinary Ghanaian.

Imprudent Spending – Various cases of profligate spending has been highlighted by critics such as the sudden increase of GHS52 million by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to construct two less passport offices than the previous year and the allocation of GHS100 million to the Ministry of Information where only GHS85 million was allocated to the Ministry of Roads and Transport, an institution which has far larger capital expenditure demands.

The statement by the President that “Government’s vision to ensure food security in Ghana has been largely achieved” is astonishing in the light of well documented facts that millions of Ghanaians are struggling to afford three “square meals” a day and that millions in the Northern sectors of Ghana are struggling to even get one “square meal” a day.

The President also mentioned that Ghana achieved surpluses in our traditional staple crops: cassava, yam, plantain and maize. According to him this has enhanced food security in Ghana, as these foods are now plentiful in the market at reasonable prices.

What the President, however, neglected to mention is the massive waste of most of these crops due to a lack of storage facilities as well as the lack of value-added processing plants.

The issue of rice production and importation again received considerable attention and various figures were bandied about such as a 60% increase in local rice production. The vision of Ghana as rice export nation was yet again mentioned but little was said on exactly what will be required to achieve that and what the time-frames are to get there.

In the meantime the policy of making inefficient and unproductive industries efficient and productive through exorbitant taxes on imported foodstuff continues at the peril of Ghanaian consumers.

Underlying this philosophy is a seemingly misunderstanding of what food security is all about, namely “preferred, available, affordable and nutritious food for all.” Most countries are dependent to some extent on trade to ensure food security, but most countries protect their consumers against the impact of the cost of imported basic foodstuff. In Ghana it is exactly the opposite.

Looking at the problems and challenges that Ghana faces as highlighted by criticism of the State of the Nation Address one can only conclude that Ghana is faced with a leadership problem where the difference between efficiency (doing things right) and effectiveness (doing the right things) is clearly understood.

When Information gets GHS100 million and roads only GHS85 million there is surely something wrong. Similarly when you know you should spend 10% of your budget on agriculture and only spend in the region of 2% you should know that objectives will not be met.

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