The UNDP’s Human Development Report (HDR) 2014 has officially been launched in Ghana at an event held at the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel. The launch was done by the chairperson for the occasion, Nana Oye Lithur, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection.
In her speech, the Minister expressed the importance of human development, saying that “economic growth is meaningless unless it is linked up with human development.” She gave examples of the government’s welfare policies and programmes and pointed to the reduction in poverty rates. She indicated that Ghana’s rank of 138 out of 187 countries in terms of the Human Development Index (HDI) was an indication that government needed to work harder.
In a welcome address, Ms Gita Welch, the UNDP Resident Representative said the HDR 2014 seeks to demonstrate that the concept of human development needs to consider human vulnerabilities. She suggested that it is not enough to reduce poverty.
More had to be done to ensure that people that have been helped out of poverty do not fall back into it because of personal, environmental or political crisis. She also revealed that the HDR also focuses on inequality. She expressed the gratitude of the UNDP to have been part of the Pan-African Conference on Inequality which was held in Accra in April this year.
Ms Radhika Lal, Economic Advisor to the UNDP, speaking about the report, said it was impossible to talk about human development without issues such as conflict, civil unrest, natural disasters and HIV/AIDS. She pointed out that international interconnectivity was a factor in human vulnerabilities.
She cited the example of the spread of Ebola and the global recession that was caused by problems in the US housing market. She said once the HDIs were adjusted for inequality, they did not look impressive. Climate change was another source of vulnerabilities, she said.
Issues of race, gender and religion had an effect on people’s abilities to express themselves, she continued. She highlighted the importance of employment and revealed that the report not only made the case for social protection, but also for full employment. 1.5 billion people around the world are in vulnerable employment, 90% of these people are in the informal sector, she revealed. 60% of Africa’s middle-class, she said, is actually poor. She said they are better referred to as a ‘floating class’ since they can easily fall back into poverty. In conclusion, she said even though expenditure on social protection had increased worldwide, 80% of people still do not have access to comprehensive social protection. She asked for social protection measures to be put in place as Ghana seeks an IMF programme.
Mr Kordzo Sedegah, an Economics specialist with the UNDP, revealed that the methodology for calculating the HDI had been changed. He said Ghana’s HDI was 0.573 which was only marginally higher than the 2012 figure of 0.571. Ghana is ranked at 138 out of 187 countries. Our HDI is lower than the medium figure of 0.614 but higher than the Sub-Saharan average of 0.502. When the HDI is adjusted for inequality, it falls to 0.394, a loss of 31.3%. The average loss due to inequality is 25.6% for medium HDI countries and 33.6% for Sub-Saharan Africa. He revealed that Ghana’s Gender Inequality Index (GII) was 0.549 in 2013, ranking at 122 out of 149 countries.
Professor Jacob Songsore of the Department of Geography & Resource Development at the University of Ghana said that much of the inequality in Ghana was manufactured outside the country. He said inequality was a legacy of colonialism. He blamed the development gap between the Northern and Southern sectors of the country on the use of the North as a reserve for cheap labour by the colonialists.
He revealed that governments over the years have privileged cocoa farming and have punished subsistence farming. He blamed the concentration of elites in urban sectors for the inequality between urban and rural parts of the country. He said the elite were more effective in getting social amenities to their communities. On the issue of gender inequality, he said although there is a traditional patriarchal system, it was exacerbated by the colonialist patriarchal system.
The planning officer for the Wa Municipality, Mr Majeed, shared the experience of his district. He highlighted the challenges they faced and the ways in which the district assembly had tried to improve women’s participation in development.
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