Building Ghana From the Bottom Up: Can Nana Addo’s Government Walk the Talk?

by Ernest Armah

Poverty reduction through job creation is among the list of priorities for President-Elect Nana Akufo-Addo. Whether he will be relying on the grace of trickle-down economics to execute this priority can best be answered by time. He will be presiding over a country with significant within-region inequality in the North and a local government structure rife with data management systems too inadequate to facilitate accurate tracking of pro-poor initiatives. In the execution of items on his agenda for job creation to ensure prosperity and equal opportunity for all, he will also have to be mindful of the segments of the population which are most vulnerable to the consequences of fiscal interventions, and will need some support before being transitioned into productive employment.

Nana Addo’s government intends to allocate US$1.6 billion to alleviate poverty. Throughout his campaign, he did not clarify whether this fund will be independent of or mainstreamed into LEAP (Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty). What was clarified, however, is that this pro-poor intervention will be implemented in a decentralized manner. Therefore, this implies district ownership, participation, and management of the intervention. This leads to a situation where the inability to meet the targeted US$1m for each constituency will be the misery of the District Chief Executive (DCE). However, since DCEs are appointed by the President, Nana Addo will not be able to refute his fair share of the misery if the intervention does not pan out as designed.

It is important for Nana Addo to complement the LEAP program; not only because of its evident promise to mitigate short-term poverty per se but because research has shown the potential of the program to improve civic participation, a sense of citizenship and community relations. Before the LEAP program, from 2,400 LEAP prospective beneficiaries sampled across the country, the State was perceived as uncaring (36%), neglectful (32%) and insensitive (14%). After the LEAP program, 72% of respondents were of the view that the program has restored their trust in the State to meet their needs.

Since the promises (one district, one factory; one constituency, US$1m) which highlighted his campaign where localized, a functional local government machinery will be critical for the Nana Addo government. In fact, it was at the Kunbungu district of the Northern region that he assured voters that his government will “build Ghana from the bottom up”. He now has the opportunity to walk the talk.