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Ghana’s 2020 elections and the era of data-driven performance

Patrick Kwabena Stephenson
By Patrick Kwabena Stephenson

Head of Research at IMANI - Center of Policy and Education, a Ghana-based think tank

Posted on Friday, 31 January 2020 13:00

Many in Accra are waiting for promises to be kept. Pictured, smoking fish for sale in Jamestown, Accra, Ghana November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Ghanaians will be going to the polls in December 2020, in what will be a true test of the country’s competitive elections in the fourth Republic, since 1992, besides the elections of 2000.

The demand for breaking away from the existing system of governance and leadership which characterized the general elections 20 years ago may not be the most defining feature of the 2020 elections.

The comparative performance of the two major political parties, that have won elections since 1992, will be the most defining feature of the 2020 elections.

This is chiefly driven by;

  • the evolving demand for accountability from citizens (individuals and corporate)
  • the need for the current government to justify its performance, having swept the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) by more than 1 million votes in the 2016 general elections.

Let us look at the latter.

All political parties make commitments of programmes and policies and they intend to pursue when elected which forms in most cases the basis of a social contract for the  government – manifesto promises if you like.

The ruling New Patriotic Party led by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, made popular commitments which resonated with Ghanaians – who were frustrated by the negative consequences of defective policy design and implementation, and high levels of corruption.

The President in his maiden state of the nation’s indicated he was in a hurry to implement his programme of transformation anchored around the ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ agenda.

In the final year of his government, and several millions of invested in institutions such as the newly crafted Ministry responsible for monitoring and evaluation, the absence of a public self-check report is rather worrying.

So we thought we would do it for them.

We collected data from the 2016 NPP manifesto, all main and supplementary budgets by the government to date, annual progress reports, auditor general’s reports, reports of statutory bodies such as the public interest and accountability committee, parliamentary Hansards, websites of various Ministries, Departments and Agencies MDAs, newspapers and news portals.

Through our iManifesto series, we independently assessed the performance of the government, scoring the government 48.74%.

Despite this performance not being markedly different from that of the opposition NDC conducted in the third year of the then-government led by John Mahama (47%), the government publicly disagreed with this assessment.

So did the President a couple of days later in a press briefing, indicating a 72% performance of his government, without providing a basis for this assessment.

Different government officials have gone on record to suggest that their assessment of 72% which has no empirical basis, surrounds the flagship programmes / promises made in the run-up to the 2016 elections.

It is strange that the government has adopted this position, as it does not have the luxury of choosing which promises to fulfill, at least not within the current scheme of competitive politics laden with the demand for execution by governments.

For a government that had made 510 promises, some 27% of the promises have been kept.

Nearly one third of the promises, will like not be implemented at all as they had not been considered even in the 2020 budget and economic management policy of government.

Surely, the president cannot in the face of these facts blatantly decry, the performance of his government by just throwing out some unjustified performance indicator.

A careful interrogation of the data and analyses shows that the government managed to achieve:

  • 54.4% of its promises on the management of the economy,
  • 46.21 percent performance in governance,
  • 46.44% in infrastructure,
  • 43.78% in the delivery of social services,
  • and a weak score of 39.13% performance in human capital development.

Without considering the quality of programme implementation, this performance resonates with the anxiety of most Ghanaians as shown by surveys and polls by various institutions, which again the president acknowledges but indicates will not define the performance of his government – suggesting that the only relevant poll will be the 2020 general election.

Curious, isn’t it! The president’s view is far from the reality however.

A collaborative effort between the ministry of Monitoring and Evaluation, the Public Sector Reforms for Results Project and the World Bank information, under the guidance of the ministry of information, led to the first ever Ghana Results Fair

It was themed ‘delivering results for our citizens: a work in progress’, ostensibly to provide government officials an opportunity to showcase the results of various programmes.

It does not end there! The minister of information Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has indicated that the government on Monday January 27, 2020 will organize another [fan] fair to release a comprehensive data on how it arrived at 72% performance among other things.

Whichever way one perceives these developments, one thing is increasingly becoming clear; politicians, political parties, and governments can no longer bundle promises and ‘hurl’ them at citizens, and when elected, do little to follow through on implementation.

For the current government, there is some room for pushing the barrier of implementation to the lower bounds of 70%, assuming all 220 promises which are at different stages of implementation of completely executed before the general elections in December.

It has the responsibility of ensuring that the aggressive strategies of driving the agriculture industry, relative performance on macro-economic management, education and infrastructure, provide a good basis for making a case in 2020 for re-election.

These will be easy, as the health sector and areas of technology and innovation have seen very little attention.

The opposition will come swinging, but will have to provide a credible justification for their own programmes given their records in 2016.

In all of this, the ordinary voter will eventually decide what is good for him come December 2020.

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