According to the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), “social development in Ghana constitutes the core of “national development,” namely, human development and welfare. Policies on social development therefore cover a broad range of issues, including (but not limited to) the following: education (including training); health (including nutrition); housing (including sanitation); employment (including decent work); cultural activities (including sports); and social protection (both direct and indirect). The long-term objective of social development is to create safe, peaceful and sustainable communities where, in accordance with the Constitution, Ghanaians can live productive, prosperous, and fulfilling lives, in freedom and in peace”.
The purpose of this article is to assess what this government since its assuming office in 2017 has done to improve the general well-being of the populace, especially the social and economic disadvantaged through its social development policies.
PERSONS LIVING WITH DISABILITY
In 2016, the ruling government, then in opposition, as part of its manifesto promises, listed a number of things they would do to improve the general wellbeing of the disadvantaged, especially Persons Living With Disability (PLWD). The District Assembly Common Fund Act (DACF ) 1993 stipulates that a two percent of the fund is given to Persons with Disability to among others, support their businesses. The ruling government promised to increase this allocation of 2% when given the mandate. The government in fulfilment of its promised increased the PWDs share of the District Assemblies Common Fund from a previous 2% to 3% in 2016. In January 2018, the District Assemblies Common Fund released about GHC29m (28,831,542.34) representing four quarters starting the 2016 last quarter.
In a related development, the government, prior to assuming office, promised to resource and properly staff the National Council for Persons Living with Disability. The National Council on Persons with Disability (NCPD) is a creation of the Disability Act 2006 (Act 715) (section41.1), with an object to propose and evolve policies and strategies to enable persons with disability enter and participate in the mainstream of national development process. On May 4,2018, the government through the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection inaugurated the advisory board of the National Council on Persons with Disability. The board is to, among others, help the Council monitor and evaluate disability policies and programmes, co-ordinate activities of organisations of persons with disability and advise the ministry on disability issues and maintain a register of persons with disabilities.
To support women living with disability, government set a 2 million Ghana cedis fund for women entrepreneurs with disability. The Ministry of Business Development in August 2019, presented an amount of GHC200,000 to female entrepreneurs living with disability to expand their businesses. This is under the presidential empowerment for disability. It forms part of the GH2 million fund earmarked for women entrepreneurs with disability by the government. The women were drawn from areas such as trade and commerce, garment, fashion and beauty, as well as food and beverage. In all, 150 female entrepreneurs living with disability benefitted nationwide. About 50 per cent of the amount is a grant, and the rest is to be paid in six months without interest.
SUPPORT FOR WOMEN
To ensure gender equality and empowerment, the government promised to and has set aside 50% funds of the Micro Finance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) for female applicants. The main objective of MASLOC is to provide loans to micro and small loans for start-ups and small businesses with the sole aim of growing and expanding businesses as well as to enhance job and wealth creation in the country.
In their 2016 manifesto, the New Patriotic Party, NPP, promised to work with assemblies to exempt Head porters popularly known as “Kayayei” from paying market tolls and income taxes in the manifesto. The head porters, mostly women engage in carrying goods for a fee especially in commercial areas, mostly in and around market centers and major bus terminals. These are struggling members of the society who survive on this job. Most of them sleep outside. The assemblies were issuing them with market tolls which the NPP promised to and has abolished.
The Government of Ghana has, through a public-private partnership, built a hostel facility for itinerant female load carriers (Kayayei) in the Ashanti Region. The 2,000-capacity hostel facility at Sepe-Buokrom has a Creche and a Reform and Skill Training Centre. This is in fulfilment of the government’s promise to work in partnership with the private sector to provide accommodation facilities for head porters. The government also promised to construct a hostel facility for them. The 2019 budget statement, has a provision to construct a 600 bed hostel facility for the head porters.
The government has trained about 2000 head porters. The aim is to give them the necessary skills and expertise to engage in more profitable ventures. In this direction, the government in 2019 directed the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) to give kayayei in the country an amount of GH₵2 million as seed capital for head porters across the country.
SSNIT PENSION SCHEME
This government has instituted a number of measures to improve the life and conditions of public workers and pensioners. For instance government has since 2017, released the pension funds held in trust for public sector workers until a private fund manager was registered and licensed which had been a bone of contention between the labour and government for 6 years. The pension reform in Ghana was in response to agitations from organised labour and pensioners on the inequalities in retirement benefits among public sector workers, as well as inefficiencies in the then existing system, where the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) was the sole quasi-state pension manager.
Under the Act, the second tier pension scheme is to be privately managed, but since the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) was yet to license a private fund manager, the government held the contributions in a temporary account with the Bank of Ghana (BoG). In line with the provisions of the pensions law, however, the government was expected to transfer the funds to the registered independent schemes’ accounts 90 days after their registration and licensing, but since 2010, public sector workers have been waiting for this to happen.
In fulfilment of its manifesto promise, the New Patriotic Party’s government paid GH¢3.1billion in Tier 2 pension funds to the custodial accounts of various labour unions’ pension schemes – a move that brings closure to a six-year tussle between the government and the unions over management of the funds.
Again, the then opposition party, NPP, promised to undertake comprehensive review of Social Security and National Insurance Trust’s investments and costs to ensure financial sustainability. The investments and finances of the scheme has been questioned for many reasons including but not limited to poor investment returns and financial mismanagement. For instance, in 2017, Bright Simons, Vice President of a policy Think Tank, IMANI Africa, revealed that “about 45 percent of Social Security National Insurance Trust’s (SSNIT) investment is generating negative returns”.
As a result, the government through SNNIT, embarked on a comprehensive review of its activities. They engaged the services of the audit firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to among other things, review the financial records and state of affairs of the trust as of March 31, 2017. The review also assessed the internal control and financial management systems to identify any weaknesses and make recommendations for best practice. At a press conference to hand over the contract to the audit firm, the Board Chairman of SSNIT, Dr Kwame Addo-Kufuor, said the review had become necessary because the scheme was facing a lot of challenges, including financial irregularities, improper management practices, high management cost and imprudent investments which was a draining the resources of SSNIT.