It is no coincidence that manifesto looks like a shorten form of manifestation. Except for the pun intended, a manifesto is a public declaration explaining reasons or motives for a course of actions done or planned from the Latin, manifestus from which we have the English manifest (let’s agree we are talking about the god-mc). Manifestos however are political tools used to define campaigns. A campaign is from the French “countryside, open country” and idea which related to operation of an army in the field. A manifesto therefore is a plan apprehensible, clear and apparent evidence for conquering the open field a goal for how to transform the countryside.
Ghana’s 4th republican democracy is almost settled for a duopoly, a change of leadership between the incumbent New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress with each positioned as centre-right and social democrats respectively. With COVID-19 and huge economic consequences with staggering unemployment rates, we barely do a comparison of promises of the two major political parties as elections are exactly 14 days away.
Let us start the conversation with employment as it will become a huge issue post-COVID 19. Page 9 and 10 of the NPP manifesto reads, “Between 2017 and 2019, over two million full-time equivalent jobs were created in the public and private formal sectors, as well as through Government job creation programmes such as NABCO and Planting for Food and Jobs. Of the public sector jobs created to date (2020 half-year included), 84,183 are under the Forest Plantation Programme, 65,000 are Health and Medical Personnel, 74,000 are Teachers and Non-Teaching Staff, 6,718 are Lecturers in Tertiary Institutions, and 184,593 are employed through Youth Employment Agency (YEA), among many others. There has also been significant job creation by the private sector, for example through the revival of Anglogold Ashanti’s Obuasi Mine. Since its restart, from June 2018, to June 2020, it has employed 4,163 people on the mine rehabilitation project, with 78% of the US$502 million so far spent going directly to Ghanaian-owned (39%) and Ghana-domiciled (39%) firms that hire Ghanaians”
Page 138 then recognizes COVID-19 may have dealt badly with the statistics of job creation and reads, “The COVID-19 induced economic downturn poses a crisis nobody has seen before. The pandemic, which started at the beginning of 2020, has spread worldwide with speed. Lockdowns, border closures, stay at home restrictions, business closures, and travel restrictions have become the new instruments of public safety across the world. Over 9.7 million people have been infected with more than 490,000 lost lives as at June 28. And there is fear of more suffering and disruptions if the pandemic does not wane soon. The pandemic resulted in a dramatic slowdown in the global economy, disrupting global supply chains and has led to massive job losses. The World Bank forecast growth in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) will fall sharply from 2.4% in 2019 to negative in the range of -2.1% to -5.1% in 2020. The slowdown is expected to weaken the two fastest growing regions: ECOWAS and the East Africa Community. While the true scale of the crisis and the economic catastrophe are still unfolding in many parts of the world, a slowdown in economic activity in Ghana has hit many households, businesses, employment and public finances hard.” For the purposes of looking forward then, the NPP manifesto proposes the following on page 144:
- A GH¢750 million soft loan programme, dubbed the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme (CAP-BuSS) to support MSMEs (GH¢700 million) and, Creative Arts, the Media, and the Conference of Independent Universities (GH¢50 million)
- A GH¢2 billion Guarantee Facility to support all large enterprises and for job retention. This will enable these businesses borrow from banks at affordable rates and over long tenors to adjust to the pandemic and to retain jobs
- A GH¢100 million Fund for Labour and Faith-Based Organisations for retraining and skills development (Retraining Programme) and an Unemployment Insurance Scheme to provide temporary income support to workers who are laid off due to the pandemic
- Establish an Unemployment Insurance Scheme to provide temporary income support to workers who are laid off due to the pandemic.
- Establishing Entrepreneurial Hubs for Small Businesses
These will appear a fair assessment of the plan of the NPP aside of other mentions of equal employment for the disabled in accordance with Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) and also some emphasis on female and the vulnerable persons. Let us now compare the employment plans to the NPP to the NDC.
Page 19 starts by indicating, “The results of the current model during the last four years, at the micro-level, have been hardship, spiralling cost of living, high unemployment, massive job losses and a generally harsh economic climate.” The manifesto then asserts on page 23, “Beginning 2021 and into the medium-term, the NDC Government will offer several tax reliefs to the private sector, especially MSMEs to enable them to recover and get back to their full operating capacities. The next NDC Government will ensure that firms leverage on these tax reliefs to expand their scope of production and employ more Ghanaians.” Some of the tax cuts for jobs proposed are:
- Small businesses will be exempted entirely from corporate and personal income tax
- Corporate income tax for medium size companies will be reduced from the current 25per cent to 15per cent
- Newly established medium-sized companies that employ up to twenty (20) staff will be exempted entirely from the payment of corporate income tax for one year
- Newly established medium companies that employ more than twenty (20) staff will be exempted entirely from the payment of corporate income tax for two years
The NDC manifesto also intimates the introduction of a Rural Investor Incentive (RII) to create meaningful employment opportunities for the youth in rural areas. This is intended to address the adverse effects of rural-urban migration. Investors in rural communities:
- will be exempted from dividend and capital gain tax
- employing up to fifty (50) persons will be granted tax exemptions and other incentives on the importation of capital equipment
The NDC then proposes an establishment of a specially tailored pension scheme for the informal sector and incorporate a provision for unemployment benefits for workers such as farmers, drivers, fishermen, traders, market women and artisans and also an enactment of an Unemployment Benefit and Intervention Act to cater for workers during times of acute economic disruptions. The NDC also plans to “employ more health workers, introduce and implement an efficient and well-funded Free Primary Health Care programme to benefit all Ghanaians.” The NDC also promises a “re-launch of the Skills Development Fund (SDF) to serve as an intervention fund to cater for TVET graduates and others who venture into self-employment”, “restore automatic employment of newly trained teachers”, “offer employment opportunities for graduates from the School of Social Work through the Local Government Service” and “implement the programmes targeting street children, including kayayees, the vulnerable and unemployed youth”.
The NDC further proposes to:
- Build the capacities of the youth and create more employment through the Youth Employment Agency (YEA)
- Decentralise and convert the Labour Office into the National Employment Bureau equipped with state-of-the-art systems
- Grant tax-waivers to employers who employ through the National Employment Bureau
- Aggresive training and skills development, through the Skills, Training and Employment Programme for Unemployed Persons (STEP-UP) and the Free National Apprenticeship Programme
- Pass the Employment Act to provide a comprehensive framework for job creation and labour market statistics
Overall, the plans of the NDC intends to “create a minimum of 250,000 jobs per year under the Edwuma Pa programme over the next 4 years.”
Questions may remain like with all campaigns from prehistoric times to modern days but the central question is which of the campaigns will voters trust enough to rally behind? We shall look forward to the evolving stories and see what the next 14 days holds. May Ghana win.