NewsWest AfricaGhana: First term test


Posted on Friday, 15 March 2013 13:08

Ghana: First term test

By Gemma Ware in Accra and Patrick Smith

Construction in Accra points to a wealthier future/Photo©Jane HahnWith the interest of multinational companies in Ghana's oil and gas reserves, the population is expecting quick improvements to service provision. President Mahama began his first term in office in January with plans to create jobs and build more roads, bridges, schools and hospitals.



A few steps from Kotoka International Airport the face of Ghana's new economy is under construction.

The area is called Airport City and it hosts the new Marina Mall, which sells almost exclusively imported goods, targeting the staff and visitors of the neighbouring corporate headquarters.

Adjacent is an imposing, pastel-coloured building hosting the new offices of Italian oil giant Eni, which has launched a major oil and gas exploration programme.

Yet opposite the rows of cranes on the building site of the new Airport Business Centre lies the rusting hulk of an old Ghana Airways DC-10.

Both Ghana Airways and the jet are out of business. They are a sober reminder of the fate of some of the big political promises in the heady post-independence era.

Today, after a narrow win in December's elections, President John Dramani Mahama and his ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) have to manage high expectations as the country sees rising revenue from the oil and gas industry.

At his inauguration in Accra's Black Star Square on 7 January, Mahama set out the challenge: "Ghana is on the cusp on an enormous transformation. More jobs must be created. More roads, bridges, schools and hospitals must be built. We need to look beyond temporary fixes to find lasting solutions for the complications we have experienced with power, water and sanitation."

Beyond this, Mahama tells The Africa Report that there must be a philosophical change in government: "Ghanaians had seemed to stop thinking of government as a partner [...] it had become its own entity, a closed-door enterprise that could and sometimes did act randomly and with impunity."


Mahama says he is committed to changing this relationship: "It's a long time since our people have been asked by government to claim ownership of their country [...] and to play an active part ineffecting change."

The key problems have been accountability and supervision.

He adds: "I intend to hold my ministers accountable and I trust they will set high performance standards for their staff. A unit in the presidency will appraise and track delivery and performance."

On the ground, there are questions about how this new social contract between government and the people will work.

The plans need to be spelt out more clearly, according to Yao Graham, coordinator of the non-governmental organisation Third World Network Africa: "There's not been enough explanation up front about some of the innovations."

Although Mahama sees himself "as a man of the left", says Graham, the NDC's policy approach seems quite conservative.

The government's technocrats tend to focus more on targeting inflation than ambitious plans for job creation.

Graham warns that Mahama should not take his broad party support for granted.

There are more radical voices within the inner circle: executive secretary to the presidency Raymond Atuguba and policy advisor Sulley Gariba, a civic activist from northern Ghana.

Activists have also applauded the appointment of Nana Oye Lithur as minister for gender, children and social protection, although powerful lobbies have lambasted her defence of rights for homosexuals.

Nana Lithur's role is to coordinate all the social protection programmes, says Mahama: "In the past, these programmes such as administration of orphanages, free school uniforms and textbooks to deprived districts have been under different ministries.

"This made implementation and evaluation difficult. Nana Lithur has many years of experience, and I have every confidence in her."

Two key ministers in the government's engine room – Seth Terkper in finance and Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah in energy – have built up experience as deputy ministers in the same ministries.

But there are concerns about macro- economic stability and lower-than-fore- cast oil revenue.

Demand is running high for Ghanaian debt. A three-year government bond...

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