(en)Ghana SAPPED

buddha (buddha@tao.ca)
Sat, 26 Jul 1997 16:45:22 +0000 (GMT)

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/** econ.saps: 233.0 **/ ** Topic: IPS: Ghana SAPPED ** ** Written 12:58 PM Jul 21, 1997 by dgap in cdp:econ.saps ** Copyright 1997 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

*** 16-Jul-97 ***

Title: GHANA: No Jobs, Few Health Facilities and Poor Schools

By Asare Kofi

ACCRA, Jul 16 (IPS) -- Rising unemployment, falling standards of education and limited access to health facilities are among the key factors that threaten human development in Ghana, says the country's first report on national human development.

The Ghana National Human Development Report, launched here recently, analyses the country's progress in the areas of education, poverty, health, livelihoods and income, and good governance.

It was produced by local researchers led by Akilagkpa Sawyerr, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, who is now Director of Research for the Association of African Universities, which is based here.

According to the report, many economically active Ghanaians who are capable of working have neither regular nor steady employment. This situation is ''explosive'', the report says, because unemployment is higher and increasing faster among the youth (15- 24), than among other age groups.

''This is more pronounced in the urban areas and affects males more than females'', who easily move into self-employment,'' the report adds. ''Thus, all the preponderance of evidence points to a wasteful and potentially disruptive situation of high unemployment among urban, male youth.''

Ghana's unemployment rate is difficult to estimate, the report says, but it notes that one-fifth of economically-active Ghanaians -- between the ages of 15-56 who constitute 51 percent of the population -- are without regular or steady employment, which signals ''high unemployment or underemployment''.

''The central objective of development should be sustained improvements in the material, social and cultural conditions of life for all... whatever their station in life; whatever their region or district,'' Sawyerr says.

Although Ghana has been hailed as an economic reform success story by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Sawyerr says that growth without changes in the structure of the country's economy would bring little change.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by an annual of 3.2 percent in 1980-91, but reached an average of nearly five percent towards the end of that period. Provisional government estimates indicate that GDP grew by 4.5 percent in 1995.

''Even if Ghana's GDP grows at the projected annual rate of eight percent, human development gains in Ghana will be less than spectacular, if the present pattern and quality of economic growth: stagnant agriculture, import-driven expansion in wholesale/retail trade...etc. persists,'' Sawyerr says.

The report also paints a grim picture of declining accessibility to health services, especially by the lower income earners, mainly in the rural areas.

''The simple reality is that health services coverage in Ghana is very low,'' it says. Quoting part of the existing data and previous surveys it analysed, the report says that about 35-40 percent of Ghanaians had no access to modern health services in 1994, ''because such services were not available where they lived.''

The report also points out that the distribution of health facilities is skewed in favour of city dwellers. Between 1985-88, more than 90 percent of the urban population was reached by the formal health care delivery system, whereas only 45 percent of rural dwellers had access to health services. More than half of the rural people, who constitute two-thirds of Ghana's population of 12.3 million, live more than one hour away from the nearest health centre.

Government spending on health and education has declined, and according to the report, a large part of the money spent goes to pay the salaries of those working in the two sectors.

The share of personal emoluments as a part of recurrent expenditure in the health sector rose from 44 percent in 1987 to 64.5 percent in 1995, the human development report says.

Salaries took 91 percent of the Ministry of Education's recurrent expenditure in 1993, it adds. ''This bias of the entire recurrent budget towards salary payments gives cause for concern since it implies that maintenance of the infrastructure and supply of instructional materials may not be at the desired levels,'' says the report.

Most schools lack libraries and science labs, and in some schools, the students provide their own furniture, according to the report.

This imbalance is already having noticeable effects on the educational system, where serious concern has been expressed over falling standards. ''In the rural areas especially, it is not uncommon to find junior secondary school graduates unable to spell their own names,'' the report says. (end/ips/ak/pm97)

Origin: Harare/GHANA/ ----

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