The United Nation’s Special Rapporteur to Ghana, Mr Phillip Alston has expressed the need for social protection and inequality to be addressed if Ghana wants to eradicate poverty.
Alston said the 2030 prospect of meeting any of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) may be at a crossroad and the country must decide whether to continue its existing policies that enrich the affluent and wealthy, that does little for the poor and deprived.
The UN poverty expert made this known at a press briefing in Accra, Wednesday, after the end of a 10-day fact finding mission to the Greater Accra, Northern and Upper East Regions.
According to him, one person in every 12 is living in extreme poverty, with 3.5 million of these being children and more than one-third living in extreme poverty.
Data from the Ghana Statistical Service for 2012-2013 indicated that almost one-quarter of the population was living in poverty.
The UN poverty expert said Ghana’s spending on social protection is surprisingly low, even by the standards of most African countries, adding that very little is spent on social assistance.
Alston observed that a large number of Ghanaians do not enjoy their basic social human rights.
“In Old Fadama, in Accra, I was shown the cramped, polluted and often diseased conditions in which over 100,000 people live.”
In distant rural villages outside Tamale, Northern Region, I met with elderly people with disabilities and they described how the government assistance they get from (LEAP) cover them for at best two weeks out of an eight week pay cycle,” he added.
He noted it must be the decision of the Ghanaian government to make fiscal adjustments that would lift millions out of poverty and bring them into the agricultural economy in ways that will contribute to significant economic growth.
“With a thriving economy and the option to start spending, collecting some of the existing unpaid taxes, choosing to eliminate or not to eliminate poverty, is a political choice for Ghana,” Alston expressed.
To discuss these challenges, The UN poverty expert said requests to meeting with the Finance Ministry proved futile.
By Mawuli Y. Ahorlumegah