What has President Kufuor added to Ghana, a nation now 50 years into independence?
AS his final year in his second term of office ushers us into the golden jubilee of Ghana's independence, Ghanaians, home or abroad, have every right to assess the man they elected in their 4th republic after the foremost J.J Rawlings - thus the gentleman J.A Kufuor.
Once I have been keeping-up with just loose/deficient news of developments in Ghana, and lived in Kumasi only under a quarter of his presidency, it would be fair I base my commentary on credible facts. As it could be incoherent gathering them from a distance. Hence the figures herein are quoted upon verification.
Anyone who knows Kufuor would see him as a true gentleman to his title, His Excellency. Personally I revere him in the words/self-portrait of Duncan Smith, former Conservative leader. When he warned his critics: "do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man".
And coming to the grounds of policy and politics, let's take a look at how determined his governance has fared under the present regime of the National Patriotic Party (NPP).
For a country of 22million people to move into the golden age of business Kufuor professes, it takes a healthy population to reach there. So it's not by formality, but with foresight he implemented the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
Replacing the 'Cash and Carry' system, the NHIS seeks to provide affordable healthcare for citizens who would contribute to its fund. I read a detailed paperwork of the scheme. And was afraid that - upon its graphic nature - it does not mention, besides affordability, improved quality of services nor facilities.
My fear runs further into a vague where an available healthcare would still be under-utilised once expediency of healthcare etc are ignored. Records show that the NPP government has done well in the prevention and treatment of guinea-worm infection, HIV/AIDS, and malaria disease - being the major cause of death in Ghana. A recent report by the National Malaria Control Programme states that malaria cases dropped from 3.5million to 3.1million. Which also reflects on child mortality that was reduced by half in the range of 2003 and 2006.
Comparing the development-oriented objectives of the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE), introduced in 1996, Mr Kufuor sensed the good intentions of this revised education system to be in parallel with his well-organised national education policy.
In simple terms, FCUBE aims at expanding access to good quality of education, promote efficient teaching among others. NPP have taken care of all in bits and whole except that they have not 'improved teacher moral and motivation through incentive programmes', which is also mentioned in the blueprint. The two long-running teacher-strikes say it all.
My fellow teachers in Ghana must be asking them to hell with the new reforms announced by the Minister of Education, Science and Sports due for implementation by September. And their humble ultimatum might be: implement it squarely, without taking the main actors for granted.
Law and Order
You can call it law and order or justice. Whatever you call it, Kufuor has proved his stance on zero-tolerance-for-corruption under a motivated executive and an independent judiciary. The Accra Fast Track High Court has done with sessions of trials to sentence former ministers found guilty of 'wilfully causing financial loss to the state' and other counts of administrative crimes.
The latest to be jailed is Dan Abodapki, formerly in charge of Trade and Industry. This must be fresh in the minds of serving civil servants, and aspirants at least.
Statistics I gathered from Ghana's Ministry of Interior indicates that armed robbery and other violent crimes have been dropping from month to month of study - owing to the hardwork of a just leader and his security agencies.
However the evidence and even allegations of cocaine scandals, involving top personalities, have cast a deep shadow on this same atmosphere you may be tempted to contrast with the frightful era of street-crime-at-its-peak. I mean a couple of years before the incumbent NPP.
In spite of being a member of the group: Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPIC), poverty rate in Ghana has only declined from 51% to 41% in the last 5 years; excuse my silence on the 100 per cent debt relief. To me, this worldwide data from the Human Poverty Index conflicts Ghana's 9th rank within the Economically Reformed Countries - though trade and taxation were the main factors considered. On the ground, the average Ghanaian still finds it hard to make ends meet.
Meanwhile there's news about $2bn reserve. That is to say all is well, when indeed all is not well. Anyway the minimum wage, from graduation to graduation, has gone up by 18.5 %.
Yet the National Youth Employment Scheme has yielded just a little over one-fifth of the 175,000 jobs promised for the first year of coming to power. Let alone businesses that have come to a standstill by the energy crisis. After all they aren't magicians, a poor ignorant farmer in my village must have realised.
And hold on! By July '07 there comes a new currency. With all its advantages the redenomination is not a consolidated solution if Ghana continues to export more than the value it should be exporting as a young economy.
In regard to the country's low level of production (which is obvious by calculating the slim growth of the GDP from 2002 - 2005), basic knowledge in economics suggests that inflation is not dealt with - it's just at the rear.
One would say Kufuor has added much - another would oppose. Nevertheless, both would be directing their judgements at the same disciplined head who came at a time when freedom of speech was left askew (i can site the criminal libel law). And worse of all, a promising 'positive change' statesman who inherited some mind-boggling debt of trillions of Cedis. Upon this ponder I rest my critique.
Having isolated all other sectors, I hurry to remark that Ghana at 50 should be thankful for the good fruits of hardwork it has so far brought to bear. And look forward to bear more - by tying itself to Kwame Nkrumah's 'backwards never' slogan. Long live past and present leaders of Ghana. Long live Ghana and its wonderful people! Happy anniversary!