New Internationalist


June 1987

new internationalist
issue 172 - June 1987


[image, unknown] In March this year, Ghana was 30 years old. And December will mark the first full five years of the government of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) or the government of Jerry Rawlings, popularly called JJ (Junior Jesus or Junior Judas depending on your political persuasion) and Captain Kojo Tsikata. And what has remained consistent over the period has been the dominance of Rawlings and Tsikata, in what might appear an unholy alliance at first sight. This alliance has often caught political forces of both left and right on the wrong foot.

In 1982, forces of the right cried wolf at 'a spectre of communism' but by 1984, the forces of the left had been dazed by what had been unleashed onto the country, all in the name of a revolution. Ghana had become an IMF success story, a shining example for the rest of Africa.

The agreement with the IMF has provided the government with much-needed dollars. Its support, as well as that of the World Bank, has given the economy a new lease of life. Ghana's infrastructure is being 'vigorously' upgraded to make it easier to export its cocoa, timber and gold.

There is a determined effort to meet the IMF's targets which brings hardship to ordinary people. Prices have shot up: a loaf of bread costs 140 Cedis although they only earn 90 Cedis a day.

As if this was not enough, unemployment is biting. The Cocoa Marketing Board has retrenched 46,000 workers and a similar number are likely to be laid off from the Civil Service if the administration is to meet the target of balancing its budget.

These measures have led the government to forge new alliances, wooing the business class now as it has lost the mass support it originally had. As a result Rawlings is toying with various political forms, such as the idea of a state party or holding local government elections without political parties.

But how have the ordinary people of Ghana responded to this? A recent visitor was amazed by the proliferation of churches of various denominations. When he asked a friend why even he had become a spiritual priest, he was told simply 'only God can solve our problems.' But not all Ghanaians find this solution practical - as witnessed by the rising rate of armed robbery, even though robbers can be executed.

Also worrying is the increasing corruption - despite Rawlings' frequent exhortations on morality, and the death sentence for corruption cases.

More bizarre however is the mass digging up of graves, presumably to sell the bodies, around Ghana's capital, Accra. Could it be that some 'enterprising' Ghanaians have taken the government's privatisation drive to this abominable extreme? Or is it that current social and economic policies have reduced people to such desperation in the search for cash to survive on?

Nicholas Atampugve

Leader: Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings

Economy: GNP per capita $350 (US $14,110)
Monetary unit: Cedi
Main exports: Cocoa, wood, gold, manganese, diamonds. Traditional trade surplus eroded by falling cocoa earnings and strong reliance on oil imports. Main constraint on increased timber, mineral and cocoa exports is lack of transport infrastructure. Government co-operation with IMF and World Bank is for pragmatic rather than ideological reasons.

People: 12.3 million

Health: Infant mortality: 95 per 1,000 live births (US 11 per 1.000). Life expectancy at birth 53 years (males 51 yrs; females 55 yrs).

Health and education spending has increased.

Culture: Religion: Christian, Muslim, Animist.

Language: English (official language), Akan, Dagbane, Twi, Ga, Fante and Ewe widely spoken. Periodic tribal unrest in North.

Sources: Lloyds Bank Group; Economic Report 1985; World Development Report 1986; The Africa Review 1987.

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Widening gap between low and high income earners compounded by rising un-employment.

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The government and the economy depend heavily on foreign loans.

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Fair number of women in employment although most rural women remain oppressed.

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[image, unknown] Military government; no elections of any sort. Left rhetoric mixed with monetarist economic policies.

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Relatively high number of educated people but majority work outside the country.

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The highest number of political executions since independence.

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51 yrs Male,
55 yrs Female.

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This feature was published in the June 1987 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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