New President Must Tackle Economy

As Ghana’s president-elect, John Evans Atta Mills, prepares to take office, he has his work cut out for him translating several years of strong macro-economic performance into tangible benefits for the majority of Ghanaians.

The ruling National People’s Party (NPP) narrowly failed to retain the presidency, with its candiate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo receiving 4,480,446 votes, representing 49.77 percent against 50.23 for Mills and the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

“The elections are over. There is no longer an NDC Ghana, an NPP Ghana or a CPP Ghana. We have one Ghana and must work together to build the country,” Mills told teeming supporters in a victory speech in Accra.

Defeated presidential candidate Akufo-Addo admitted this division in his concession speech. “This is a divided country and these times call for leadership from all of us so that we can continue to build this country.”

Mills takes up his new position with warning signals on the horizon for the economy.

Accra-based think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), said in a report that the “general outlook of the economy in the short-to medium term period is likely to be characterized by increasing levels of inflation, high budget deficits and widening trade and balance of payment deficits.”

What the IEA reports sharply contradicts the message outgoing President Kufuor had for the electorate on the campaign trail. He told voters that, “We have stabilised the micro-economic environment and the country is on the good course.”

Frederick Ofori-Mensah, chief investment officer of the Strategic African Securities in Accra however agrees with Kufuor to an extent, “We are [headed] in the right direction as far as the economy is concerned,” Ofori-Mensah told IPS.

He said “using the GDP as the main indicator we are happy where we are today.” However he is quick to point out that “it is not everybody who is contributing to the GDP growth. Last year the Central Bank said GDP growth was about 6.3 per cent, this year it has forecast 6.8 per cent.”

But ordinary Ghanaians are unconvinced by these figures.

Joseph Boye, a mechanic at Accra New Town told IPS, “We have heard them read numbers from papers every day to tell us the economy is good. This does not translate into price reduction in the market as my wife complains daily about the increasing price of food stuffs on the market.”

Ofori-Quaye supports this view from the street, explaining, “What has happened is that the government did not set its priorities right. There is a growth in the service sector, information and communication technology (ICT) sector is booming unfortunately, the government has not spent time on revamping the manufacturing sector,” he said.

Ofori-Mensah said, a large chunk of the population cannot benefit from strong growth because they are not qualified for those sectors that have seen growth. “This is because of the high interest rates and unfavourable exchange rate regime which is likely to affect foreign direct investment.”

It has not been an easy journey for Mills, who takes over on January 7 for the next four years. The 64 year old was vice-president from 1996-2000. In 2000 and 2004, he stood for election to the country’s highest office against John Kufuor and failed, but has been lucky this third time.

It was not an entirely hitch-free election. Two days after the first round on Dec. 28, the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) Observer Mission said contrary to statements from Ghana’s Electoral Commission, allegations of electoral irregularities in some parts of had been proven to be true.

Authmani Saidi Janguo of the PAP mission told journalists that in the Ashanti Region — considered to be the support base of the NPP — the team observed NDC agents refusing to sign results at at least four polling stations.

Janguo said in the Volta Region, particularly in Anloga, PAP observers experienced difficulties with unruly and armed mobs that had set up road blocks and ordered them off their vehicles and searched their cars. NPP officials believe that the situation created the opportunity for multiple voting to take place.

Janguo, however, noted that the irregularities observed had not compromised the integrity of the electoral process which expressed majority will of the people of Ghana.

To maintain the jubilation of his supporters, one of Mills’s priorities will have to be to give the ordinary worker some relief from economic hardship.

Credit: Francis Kokutse