Without adequate social protection, the growth of the economy would be hampered
“The true measure of any society is in how it treats its most vulnerable members” – Mahatma Gandhi, Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist and political ethicist.
Africa is well endowed with human and natural resources, but again, Africa lags behind in key development indicators. The key to solving this mystery isn’t far-fetched; it lies in the failure of business managers on the continent to adequately translate abundant resources into visible prosperity.
For the avoidance of doubt, conservative estimates by United Nations (UN) agencies suggest that the continent is home to over 60% of the world’s arable land mass; the second largest and longest rivers (the Nile and the Congo); and its second largest rainforest.
In 2016, the African Development Bank (AfDB) estimated that the total value added of the continent’s fisheries and aquaculture sector alone was estimated at US$24 billion. In addition, it holds around 30% of all the world’s mineral reserves and perhaps, most importantly, the world’s youngest population, with around 70% of sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 30.
Yet the gross domestic product (GDP) of its 1.3 billion people (2020 estimates) is US$2.7 trillion, or US$246 billion less than the GDP of France, the 7th largest economy world. For more context, the 447.7 million people of the European Union have a GDP of around US$17.9 trillion (2020 estimates).
Human Development – The Ghanaian Case
Again, the reason for these sober numbers is not rocket science, it lies in the neglect of adding value to resources and as the world approaches a new wave of industrialization, human resources are set to become the most important asset of any company. In this view, how a nation develops its human capital has become the determining factor in its long-term viability.
The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic developed in 1990 and compiled by the United Nations to measure the levels of social and economic development of various countries. It was created to emphasize the opportunities individuals need to lead dignified lives.
As a synthetic measure for evaluating long-term progress, it takes into consideration three fundamental dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. A long and healthy life is measured by life expectancy.
Between 1990 and 2019, the UN notes, Ghana’s HDI value rose from 0.465 to 0.611, an increase of 31.4 percent, and places Ghana in the medium human development category. As impressive as it sounds, however, for 2019 Ghana ranks 138 out of 189 countries and territories: a telling figure.
The HDI is a key framework for social protection, which the UN succinctly describes as follows: “Social protection systems help individuals and families, especially the poor and vulnerable, cope with crises and shocks. , find jobs, improve productivity, invest in the health and education of their children, and protect the aging population.Social protection programs are at the heart of building human capital for the world’s most vulnerable.
Since independence, the nation has launched a number of discontinuous social welfare measures, with much of the social welfare framework being managed by traditional, family, faith-based and welfare-based institutions.
A National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS) was developed in 2007 and revised in 2012. A Social Protection Rationalization Study conducted in 2013 established the need for a comprehensive National Social Protection Policy.
Subsequently, the Ghana National Social Protection Policy (GNSPP) was introduced in 2015 and identified five flagship programs – capitation subsidy, labor intensive public works (LIPW), National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the Ghana School Feeding Program (GSFP) and the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP). These programs have shown some positive impact in three key areas for households – income, education and health, in line with the guidance of the HDI framework.
The evaluation of the real impact of these programs, however, has been initiated by the supply side – the government, with a minimal contribution from the demand side – the direct beneficiaries, their agents and the civil society organizations concerned. This gap inspired the commissioning of a mirror report by the Civil Society Partnership on Social Accountability for Social Protection, bringing together citizens’ assessments of these key interventions.
According to the Partnership, “the objective of the mirror report is to provide a complementary report to the official government report on the delivery of social protection with a view to promoting mutual accountability on the implementation of social protection interventions…to reflect citizens’ experiences of services and identify critical issues for realizing social protection as a right.
The one percent
The results of the study, which covered one district in each of the country’s 10 “traditional” regions, revealed some interesting, even alarming, points. It showed that since 2015, less than one percent of the country’s GDP has been cumulatively spent on the top five social protection interventions, putting Ghana behind its lower-middle-income peers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) who spend about 2.2 percent of GDP. , in this regard.
Unsurprisingly, the country’s social protection spending pales in comparison to the middle-income bracket, which according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is between 6.7% and 8.7%. This simply does not bode well for the long-term fortunes and sustainability of the country.
Other key findings include budget planning and execution as a challenge, as evidenced by significant discrepancies between approved program budgets and actual results, inappropriate beneficiary targeting and selection, inconsistent data on parameters keys as well as perceived political interference in the proper functioning and potential scaling up. programs.
Reverse the narrative
While the above makes for grim reading, there is ample time to change the trajectory of social protection programs in the country, prioritize human capital development, and improve the lot of citizens.
The Mirror report offered recommendations in three broad areas – the financing of social protection interventions, the delivery and transparency of social protection programs and the coverage of flagship social protection interventions.
Specific recommendations include gradually increasing social protection spending to 4.5% of GDP by 2025, in line with global trends; develop a stronger framework for timely and adequate social protection budget allocation and disbursement; and the creation of a dedicated fund for social protection interventions.
Others include prioritizing logistics; increased payouts, particularly for LEAP, given current inflationary pressures; the depoliticization of the social protection value chain and the acceleration of the social protection bill. In addition, the government has been urged to expand the scope of current flagship programs to cover all eligible people. LEAP, for example, currently covers 1.65 million of the 2.4 million extremely poor Ghanaians.
Beyond the race to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the 17 broader Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the country’s survival and progress, now more than ever, depends on how we exploit our most important resources – human beings, especially the most vulnerable.
Source: Bernard Yaw Ashiadey