The Secretary General of the Ghana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Dr Yaw Baah, has attributed the current numerous socio-economic challenges bedeviling the country to economic mismanagement.
He said many Ghanaians had already lost hope in the future but expressed optimism that it was never too late to chart another path that would take the country out of the shackles of hopelessness to a path of greatness full of hope and prosperity.
Addressing hundreds of workers at the Black Star Square in Accra yesterday to commemorate the 2017 May Day celebration, Dr Baah said joblessness among the youth was a great challenge facing the country in spite of Ghana’s enormous wealth.
After 60 years of independence, he said a significant number of Ghanaians could not afford decent housing, education and basic health care for their children.
This year’s celebration was marked on the theme: “Mobilising for Ghana’s Future through the creation of Decent Jobs.”
The workers carried placards with inscriptions, such as “GBC has the men to operate and maintain it;” “Mr President, time for National Cancer Policy,” “Reduce overtime tax now”, “Pay teachers salary arrears,” “Jobs and more jobs,” “Please do not kill VRA,” and “We need more money.”
Expressing regret over the current state of affairs in the country after 60 years of nationhood, Dr Baah said, it was a shame that many Ghanaian children went to bed without food and a significant number of them died before their sixth birthday.
“A large number of children have to work under hazardous conditions to support themselves and their families,” he added.
Curse to be old
According to him, it was becoming a curse to grow old in Ghana because “we are unable to take care of the elderly in our society, our compatriots with disability have to beg on the streets of Accra and other cities to survive; and communities feel insecure because of armed robbery.”
He deplored the conditions in the country’s prisons where prisoners lived in deplorable conditions considered unfit for animals and described the road networks as comparable to war zones because many Ghanaians, including pregnant women, died needlessly on the roads.
“This should not be the features of a wealthy country like Ghana after 60 years of nationhood. Clearly we have mismanaged our economy which showed a certain path in the current state of affairs. This is not where Ghana should be, given our rich natural resources,” Dr Baah said.
He made reference to a recent labour force survey conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) which revealed that many workers in Ghana still received what he described as “slave wages with some compelled to work under poor conditions.”
Where are the billions?
“Ghana has no reason to be counted among poor countries. What happened to the billions of dollars we received from our gold, our diamond, our manganese, bauxite, timber and cocoa in the last 60 years?,” Dr Baah asked.
He further questioned what happened to the billions of Ghana cedis generated from taxes, the billions of dollars received from donors as well as the billions of dollars received from external and domestic loans.
For Dr Baah, the life of many Ghanaians had become an endurance because they lacked the very basic necessities to make life comfortable for them.
He said in some parts of the country, many still shared water from ponds infected with guinea worms with the animals, while a significant number slept on the streets because they had no homes.
“Some young Ghanaians, out of desperation, try to reach Europe through dangerous means and many die in the process,” he added.
Model of democracy
He posited that Ghana had done quite well as a nation in nurturing its democracy to this point and said in spite of the challenges, the country remained a model of democracy in Africa, and added that “but the bitter truth is that we have failed in economic management.”
He told President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo that Ghanaians were counting on him to lead the country into that future of hope and prosperity and pledged the support of organised labour to the government in the true spirit of tripatitism and social partnership guided by the principles of mutual respect to achieve faster growth.
“We believe that you can lead us out of poverty and restore hope to all Ghanaians which requires creating decent jobs for Ghanaians, revitalising all the sectors of the economy, including the textile industry which can create jobs for tens of thousands of people,” Dr Baah added.
He acknowledged the positive development in the management of the economy in the last four months with the decline of inflation and interest rates, the regaining of the value of the cedi and stressed the need for a collaborative effort with the government to work together as social partners to consolidate those gains.
He commended the President for his decision to end the International Monetary Fund (IMF) credit facility programme with Ghana, and said Ghana could develop without an IMF programme.
Touching on the concession of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), Dr Baah expressed the view that the compact with the US government should be reviewed because it was not in the interest of the country in its current form.
Dr Baah underscored the need to sustain the industrial peace and provide logistical support for labour institutions, including the National Labour Commission (NLC), the Labour Department, the Factories Inspectorate Department and the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC).
He made reference to issues such as low wages, low pensions, abuse of workers’ rights, occupational health and safety of workers and illegal mining. He singled out the prisons and mental health institutions which needed urgent attention.
“The degree of civilization in society can be judged by entering its prisons,” he said.