During the colonial period, the Gold Coast witnessed significant economic and social developments. Roads, railroads, and a harbor at Takoradi were constructed. Large-scale cocoa production and commercial gold mining began, Western- style education was introduced, culminating in the founding of University College of the Gold Coast (now the University of Ghana) in 1948. The education system trained a class of Ghanaians that found employment in the colonial administration. Korle Bu Teaching Hospital was also built by the colonial government and many other social projects.
Ghana achieved independence from colonial domination in 1957, the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to do so. The country enjoyed economic and political advantages over its rival countries in tropical Africa. The economy was significantly based on the production and export of cocoa, of which Ghana was the world’s leading producer; minerals, particularly gold; and timber. Relative to its population, Ghana had a well-developed transportation network, relatively high per capita income, low national debt, and sizable foreign currency reserves. Ghana’s future looked promising, and it seemed destined to be a leader in Africa.
Since independence, Ghana has experienced both military and civilian regimes and it is clear from the fore-coming analysis that the civilian regimes have out-performed their military counterparts in terms of economic gains and good governance but neither military nor civilian governments have been successful in taking Ghana out of the woods yet.
In terms of economic policies, both the radical left and the conservative right appears to have failed. Notwithstanding, the structure of the economy has changed from the over-reliance on cocoa, gold and timber with a significant shift to the services sector as the largest contributor to GDP as opposed to agriculture in the past. There is also the production of oil in commercial quantities with new discoveries underway.
Below shows the summary of reasons assigned to the ousting or voting out of various regimes:
- Nkrumah was ousted in 1966 in a coup due to the following reasons assigned for his removal: autocratic regime; depletion of reserves arising from over spending; corruption by politicians; high public debt; rising inflation and economic mismanagement.
- Busia was also ousted in 1972 by the military due to continuing economic difficulties including those stemming from the high foreign debts incurred by Nkrumah and those resulting from internal problems. These included larger internal debt which fueled inflation; volatile cocoa prices; wage freezes, tax increases, currency devaluations, and rising import prices.
- Acheampong was made to resign due to continuing pressure to find a solution to the country’s economic dilemma. Inflation was estimated to be as high as 300 percent that year. There were shortages of basic commodities, and cocoa production fell to half its 1964 peak. The SMC was also motivated by Acheampong’s failure to dampen rising political pressure for changes.
- The NDC I government appeared politically vulnerable in the late 1990s. In the face of continued protests and increasing doubts about the viability of the value-added tax. The NDC I was rejected in 2000 by Ghanaians due to the following: people had simply become fed up with the NDC government and needed a change; harsh economic policies led to discontent among civil servants, teachers and others which led to street demonstrations; high inflation; unprecedented depreciation of the currency; sluggish growth in productivity; high interest rate which crowded out the private sector;
- The NPP government was rejected in 2008 due to lack of internal cohesion and effective succession plan; high budget deficit resulting from over-spending; double digits inflation, and a decrease in gross international reserves equivalent to 1.8 months.
- The NDC II and NDC III governments became vulnerable and lost elections in 2016 due to a number of factors including: (a) the roll-out of single-spine salary structure which crowded out the fiscal space for spending on critical social intervention and other infrastructural programs; (b) the high public debt position; (c) cedi depreciated significantly to about 40% in the forex market during 2014 alone; (d) energy crises (dumso); (e) high fiscal deficit; (f) high interest rates; (g) high interest rates; (h) high inflation; (i) high levels of unemployment; (j) high utility bills; (k) high taxes and duties; (l) sluggish growth rates during 2015-16 (m); over-exposure of the banks to BDCs; (n) high perception of corruption (Wayome, SADA, SUBAH, GYEEDA, Scandal at the National Service Scheme (NSS); over-pricing for the bus branding; Bugri Naabu’s bribery allegation; etc.
In conclusion, it is worthy for all politicians to note that poor economic performance and hardships of the citizenry are key determining factors for the swing voters. Politicians therefore need to learn from history and must not take the people who voted them into power for granted.