Post-independent Ghana has conducted population and housing censuses on five occasions; namely, 1960, 1970, 1984, 2000 and 2010.
These exercises were able to reveal the demographics of the country, as well as the status of the people in terms of the houses and conditions in which they live.
In spite of the resources spent on these exercises, the state has not been able to determine unemployment figures in exact terms.
We have always been used to estimates of unemployed people, although the statistics of the population are known.
It is difficult to determine whether the unemployment figures are left out deliberately in order not to scare the people with the alarming figures.
What is worrying is that whereas the state is able to tell the number of people employed in the formal sector, officials of the Ghana Statistical Service are not able to tell us the number of people in the informal sector.
Unless the officials tell us the censuses do not capture the unemployment rate, it is difficult to appreciate why the state will spend money to count people but will not capture unemployed people in society, although figures on the employed are known.
The 2010 census only states that 14.5% of Ghanaians have been employed in the formal sector and the rest in the informal sector.
The problem of unemployment in Ghana among graduates from the universities and other tertiary institutions has reached a breaking point.
The various universities, both public and private, churn out thousands of graduates who are unable to find job placements.
By the time these graduates come out, they find out to their deepest frustration that the job market is choked or that the courses majority of these graduates offered do not have employment opportunities available.
Ghana is unable to utilise her knowledgeable and skilled graduates to transform the key sectors of the economy for wealth creation and poverty reduction.
This unfortunate situation is largely due to the fact that Ghana lacks industries and job places to absorb the thousands of graduates who come out from tertiary institutions yearly.
Mr Divine Nkrumah, a spokesman for the newly-formed Unemployment Graduates’ Association of Ghana, has, so far, registered some 3,500 graduates, with a potential for more as some 68,000 graduates are produced annually by the country's tertiary institutions.
He further estimates that there are about 600,000 unemployed graduates in Ghana.
It is therefore surprising that, with this frightening statistics, government prefers extending contracts for retirees.
At least some 1,000 graduates may be employed if government terminates the contracts of all retirees.
If government decides not to replace these retirees, it stands to save thousands of cedis to reduce the ballooning public sector wage bill as the affected staff are the highest earners in the public sector.
Whichever way you look at it, government stands to benefit from the termination of contracts of all retirees.
The Ghana Bar Association (GBA) has defended the decision of the Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, not to take the oath of office again as acting president.
The Constitution provides in Article 60, sub-articles (11) and (12) that:
“(11) Where the President and the Vice-President are both unable to perform the functions of the President, the Speaker of Parliament shall perform those functions until the President or the Vice-President is able to perform those functions or a new President assumes office, as the case may be.
“(12) The Speaker shall, before commencing to perform the functions of the President under clause (11) of this article, take and subscribe the oath set out in relation to the office of President.”
Furtherance to Article 60 (12), the Chief Justice is obliged to administer the Presidential Oath to the Speaker whenever the President and Vice-President are unable to perform the functions of the President.
It is also clear from Article 60 (11) that the Speaker’s warrant to perform the functions of the President expires when either the President or Vice-President is able to perform those functions. Because there is no such thing as a permanent acting President, the Speaker is required to take and subscribe the Article 60 (12) oath as many times as he has to perform the functions of the President under Article 60 (11).
Without taking the oath under Article 60 (12), the Speaker cannot perform the functions of the President.
In Asare v Attorney General (2003-4) SCGLR 823, the Supreme Court held that “the purposive interpretation to be given to Article 60 (11) is that where both the President and the Vice-President are absent from Ghana, they are to be regarded as unable to perform the functions of the President and thus the Speaker is obliged to perform those functions.”
In clear and material violation of the Constitution, the Chief Justice did not administer the oath required by Article 60 (12) and the Speaker could not perform the functions required of him under Article 60 (11).
What surprises the ordinary Ghanaian is that the legal fraternity is divided over the matter.
While some lawyers have questioned the conduct of the Speaker and demanded explanation from the Chief Justice others including the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) are in support of the actions of the speaker.
In the midst of the constitutional cantata regarding the issue as to whether the speaker should swear or not with reference to article 60 (12) the GBA quoted NRCD 6, that is the oath act.
Reference is made to section 3 which provides against unnecessary repetition of oath of allegiance and judicial oath on appointment to similar positions after prior oath.
Some lawyers say the said section must be read in tandem with the First Schedule of the Act which lists the category of officers or appointees who subscribe these two oaths.
According to them, certainly the speaker is not mentioned there and so section three does not apply to that office.
In any event, that section deals with officers appointed and the office of the speaker becoming acting president is not based on appointment but constitutional Fiat.
In the light of all these arguments, the question The Finder will like to ask is, are we in constitutional crisis?
Addressing Ghana's infrastructure deficit would require a sustained spending of $2.3 billion annually over 10 years, with more than half the amount allied with the power sector alone, according to recent research findings.
The Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic (AICD) 2010 Report further disclosed that Ghana faced a large $1.1 billion efficiency gap per year, even though the country already spent $1.2 billion per annum in infrastructure, a figure that represented a 7.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2009.
Last September, Ghana sold a US$1 billion Eurobond, five days before talks began with the International Monetary Fund for a possible financial bailout.
The Finance Minister said at the time a bigger chunk of the cash raised was to develop the country’s infrastructure.
The loan had a counterpart funding of US$103 million for projects already approved by the government, a US$284 million capital expenditures in the 2013 Budget statement with priority given to self-financing projects.
US$363 million was allocated to re-financing of maturing domestic debt to reduce the cost of borrowing, and another US$250 million partial and gradual redemption of the Ghana 2017 Eurobond.
The sovereign bond was at a coupon rate of 8.125%, lower than analysts had expected given the fiscal difficulties faced by Ghana as it wrestled with escalating inflation, a falling currency and a stubbornly high budget deficit.
The bond was, however, oversubscribed with orders of up to $3 billion.
However, the 2016 vice-presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, is asking government to list the projects the US$1 billion Eurobond raised last year was spent on for all to see.
This is because they appeared missing in the 2015 Budget.
Dr Bawumia believes the $1 billion raised on the money market has been used to do nothing more than to artificially shore up the cedi from depreciating against major currencies.
We are reliably informed that the $1 billion raised from the sovereign bond has been used to reduce government’s indebtedness at the Central Bank and that the funds are not available anymore for the purpose for which it was raised, Dr Bawumia alleged.
Dr Bawumia stressed, “This is sad and raises a whole lot of credibility issues. How can we borrow such a huge amount to fill a gap at the Bank of Ghana, the central bank? Is this the use to which non-concessional borrowing should be put? This is a very serious development and the government and Bank of Ghana should urgently comment on this.”
The Finder regards Dr Bawumia’s allegations and questions as serious and legitimate.
It will therefore be appropriate for the Finance Minister to, as a matter of urgency, respond to the allegations raised by Dr Bawumia to set the records straight.
The Ghanaian taxpayer deserves an explanation.
Members of Parliament (MPs) are currently paid GH₵7,200 per month as salary.
This monthly salary is nearly five times the annual per capita income in Ghana.
It is also six times the annual average or median income in Ghana (Ghana Living Standards Survey 5).
Compare that to the United Kingdom, where the average monthly salary is £5,500, or about $8,300 a month, which is less than one-fourth of the annual per capita income in the UK. So comparatively, in accordance with the strength of their economies, Ghanaian MPs are paid 20 times better than their UK compatriots.
If MPs believe they must be paid 72 times what the average Ghanaian earns, before they can be reasonably comfortable, then clearly, as one part of the government in this country, they are admitting that the living conditions of people are indeed appalling.
And they should not tell us it is because they finance their own offices, because we have not seen any research they have been producing for policies in this country.
We do not have a tradition of private member bills, and MPs never produce research on policy. As for constituents coming to them for money, that is part of the campaign strategies they have adopted in this country.
That is why they all have fund-raising teams for their politics. It is only a very naive person who will believe that they use their own income for that.
Did they use their salaries to campaign when they were aspiring to be elected?
MPs should be paid wages commensurate with senior professionals in the public service, which should in turn be tied to the national median income. Fifteen times the national median income may be acceptable, but 72 times is not.
In spite of this, MPs have on several occasions failed to deliver on their duties that reflect the national interest.
On several occasions, MPs on both sides have staged walkouts over issues that posterity later proves that they were wrong.
Value Added Tax and National Health Insurance bills can be cited.
As to Parliament’s inattention, recall the election petition. CI 74 was laid before Parliament to give effect to the rules for election disputes set out by the “Rules of Court Committee” with input from the Supreme Court.
However, the House failed to do its due diligence before allowing the CI to mature. The result was that right in the middle of the election petition, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously, following a challenge by Bernard Mornah, that parts of the CI passed by Parliament were unconstitutional.
Instead of promoting patronage of locally made goods, Parliament imported furniture from China.
Now plans are far advanced to import furniture from Italy to furnish Job 600.
If they are promoting foreign goods, where do they expect Ghanaians to make money and pay their taxes, for that tax money to be used to pay their salaries?
Experts have warned that the Ghanaian economy will continue to decline due to the lack of attention paid to the agriculture sector, which has been the backbone of the economy for decades.
The contribution of the agriculture sector to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has dropped by a whopping 10% in five years.
It dropped from 31.8 % in 2009 to 29.8% in 2010, 25.3% in 2011, 22.7% in 2012 and 21.3% in 2013.
The contribution of the agriculture sector is likely to drop further this year as government failed to deliver on fertiliser subsidies.
In addition, government allocated only GH₵306,891,987 to the Agriculture Ministry in the 2015 budget while Interior Ministry had as much as GH₵1,013,251,214 and Defence Ministry got GH₵687,254,558 far more than the agriculture ministry.
At the Second Ordinary Assembly of the African Union in July 2003 in Maputo, African Heads of State and Government endorsed the “Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa” (Assembly/AU/Decl. 7(II).
The Declaration contained several important decisions regarding agriculture, but prominent among them was the “commitment to the allocation of at least 10% of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years.”
Agriculture plays a strong role in reducing poverty. The most compelling evidence for this comes from comparing China and Africa.
China's poverty rate fell from more than 50% in 1981 to about 20% in 1991 and 5% in 2005. In 1981, China's poor outnumbered Africa's by almost 4:1.
Yet by 1996, Sub-Saharan Africa had more poor people than China: 500 million Chinese moved above the poverty line, between 1981 and 2004, whilst 130 million more Africans moved below the poverty line in the same period.
Experts have argued that an African development strategy that is firmly grounded in agricultural and rural development can result in a more sustained impact on poverty.
Countries typically move through three phases: from agriculture-based, to transforming and then to urbanised.
The main point to note is that agriculture can be a lead sector for overall growth in an agriculture-based country like Ghana.
Growth in agriculture also induces strong growth in other sectors of the economy, such as transport and processing, through multiplier effects.
The basic ingredients of a dynamic rural nonfarm economy are a rapidly growing agriculture and a good investment climate, where the latter includes infrastructure, business services and market intelligence.
Agriculture has been negatively affected in most oil-exporting countries by what is termed “Dutch” disease, that is when higher foreign exchange earnings strengthen the exchange rate to such a degree that traditional exports such as agricultural cash crops and foods become less competitive in international markets and food imports become cheaper at home.
Ghana is currently experiencing this situation, and unless compensatory measures are taken, the situation might worsen.
Ghana is currently experiencing a power deficit as a result of the shutdown of some units at the hydro and thermal stations across the country. The VRA has warned that the situation could get worse before it gets better.
The situation is pushing the cost of doing business further up and subjecting domestic consumers to live with the discomfort of the power outages and its attendant effects on the prices of goods and services.
According to a research conducted by Databank Financial Services Ltd mid this year, the power outages compelled companies to incur unplanned operating costs of about US$62 million per month, or US$744 million per annum, due to the use of privately acquired generators.
The continuous power outages have brought a lot of costs in respect of machine failure, workers going idle or being laid off, and other challenges which must be resolved in 2015.
It is therefore worrying to hear that the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has started cutting supply to industrial areas.
With the decision to cut down supply of energy to industry, it will definitely have an effect, but the question is: do we have a choice?
The previous arrangement industry had with ECG was that industrial enclaves would be exempted from the power rationing, and that has been going on, but now it appears they are still having challenges with supply, which means they have no choice but to cut down the volume of power they give to the industries.
However, the question is: why are we not paying attention to renewables?
Despite its huge potential to drive economic growth by reducing cost of doing business, as well as being a business on its own, renewable energy has not attracted significant investment interest in the country.
High cost of power generation is usually attributable to procurement of fuel to power generators and the cost of acquiring the generators, but the emphasis has ultimately been on deployment of more cost-effective and weather-friendly renewable energy sources.
Apart from being a business-driver, renewable energy stands as a business on its own.
Stakeholders have been persistent in their advocacy for the development of alternative power from renewable energy sources such as sunlight, human and animal waste, wind, water and geothermal heat.
They insist that the current level of power generation in the country would not be sufficient for just one state if such a state is fully industrialised.
Some have pointed out that between 70% and 90% of the power energy used in countries such as Brazil is generated from renewable energy sources.
It is about time Ghana took serious steps to developing renewables before the energy sector collapses.
The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Global Wage Report 2014/2015 has warned of stalled wages in many countries, and points to the labour market as a driver of inequality.
According to the report, wage growth around the world slowed in 2013 to 2.0%, compared to 2.2% in 2012, and has yet to catch up to the pre-crisis rates of about 3.0%.
It indicated that the modest growth in global wages was driven almost entirely by emerging G20 economies, where wages increased by 6.7% in 2012 and 5.9% in 2013.
The report said, by contrast, average wage growth in developed economies had fluctuated around 1% per year since 2006 and then slowed further in 2012 to 0.1% and to 0.2% in 2013.
It said for labour productivity, the value of goods and services produced per person employed continues to outstrip wage growth in developed economies, including in the most recent years, adding that this continues a longer trend, which briefly paused during the financial crisis years of 2008 and 2009.
According to the report, the growing gap between wages and productivity had translated into a declining share of gross domestic product going to labour while an increasing share goes to capital, especially in developed economies.
It explains that this trend means that workers and their households are getting a smaller share of economic growth while the owners of capital are benefitting more.
The report includes a detailed analysis of recent trends in household income inequality and the role played by wages in these trends.
It noted that wages are a major source of household income in developed, emerging and developing countries alike, particularly for middle-income households, while the top 10% and bottom 10% depend somewhat more on other sources of income.
It said in developed economies, wages frequently represent 70 to 80% of household income in households with at least one member of working age.
This report mirrored the situation in Ghana.
Workers, especially public sector employees, have not seen any significant increase in wages and salaries.
Employers have cited the decline in economic growth as a reason for not increasing salaries and wages of workers.
Public sector workers embarked on massive demonstrations to demand wage increases.
Many employees have been impoverished in the past decade because of lack of, or insignificant, salary increase.
Currently, some workers have been forced to accept wage cuts to remain in employment or be retrenched.
For the Ghanaian worker, there is no light at the end of the tunnel because the private sector, which under normal circumstances should create jobs, cannot do so due to the high cost of doing business in Ghana.
The opportunity exists for the creation of sustainable jobs in Ghana. However, this can only materialise if policymakers put on their thinking cap.
The economy cannot grow if workers’ wages continue to decline, eroding the purchasing power of Ghanaians.
In all societies in Ghana, witchcraft or wizardry is an abomination, and anybody who confesses to it either under duress or voluntarily is seen as a social misfit who should be treated as such.
When misfortune hits a community or an individual, there is a tendency to suspect a "witch" of casting a spell.
But it can neither be proven scientifically nor adduced in a competent court of jurisdiction.
The practise is, however, pervasive in Northern Ghana.
Currently, over 445 children are languishing in witch camps in the Northern Region through no fault of theirs. They are the children and grandchildren of alleged witches in the camps.
As part of a reintegration process, 199 inmates, out of the 880 alleged witches in the six witch camps, have been successfully integrated back into society.
This has reduced the number to 681 alleged witches, including 42 wizards and 445 children and grandchildren languishing in five witch camps.
Come Monday, the Bonyase witch camp, which hosts three alleged witches, will be formally closed and the inmates reintegrated.
This leaves 678 alleged witches, most of whom are poor and vulnerable old women between the ages of 60 and 70 years.
The Kukuo Camp in the Nanumba South District has 137 alleged witches, with 172 of their children and grandchildren.
Out of these, over 66% of them are 70 years and above. Majority of the residents come from Bimbilla and its surrounding communities, followed by Napkali in the Zabzugu District.
The camp has no males.
Gnani-Tindang Camp in theYendiDistrict hasapopulation of 273 alleged witches and wizards, consisting of 173 (80.4%) women and 42 (19.6%) men, and 231 children and grandchildren.
Unlike the Kukuo Camp, this camp has both sexes, and there is no discrimination between them. Two ethnic groups can be distinguished; namely, the Dagombas and the Kokombas.
Like the Kukuo Camp, majority (72%) of the population in the Gnani-Tindang camp are over 70 years old.
The Tindan-zhie Camp (Kpatinga) in the East Mamprusi District has 40 alleged witches and over 100 children and grandchildren. Like the others, more than 70% of the population are 70 years or above.
Nabuli Camp in the Central Gonja District hosts140 women. This camp has no children living in it. In 2012, it was noted as being the newest and fastest growing of the camps.
Similarly, Bonyase Camp in Gushegu has three alleged witches with no children.
The Gambaga Camp has88 alleged witches, with majority of the population above 60 years.
Although no comprehensive study has been conducted in Ghana to assess the extent to which Ghanaians believe in witchcraft, a study by Adinkrah and Adhikari (2014) claim the beliefs to be widespread, stating that “in Ghana, it is estimated that over 90% of the population believe in witches and witchcraft.”
It is not enough to ensure that the accused women have a safe place to live. Accusations of witchcraft are rooted in the same issues that underlie other forms of gender-based violence: female inequality, male privilege, stigmatisation and poverty.
All of these must be challenged before the ‘witch camps’ are closed for good.
Special schools in the country continue to struggle for resources to operate.
The schools’ only source of income is government feeding grants of GH₵2.20 per pupil per day, which has, in recent times, been increased to GH₵3.3 but is yet to be effected.
Reopening of special schools in Ghana was postponed indefinitely as a result of the failure of the Ghana Education Service (GES) to pay feeding grants of these schools.
Earlier in the year, food suppliers threatened to cause the arrest of the head teachers of the Twin-City Special School and the Sekondi School for the Deaf, all in the Western Region, for non-payment of food supplies worth GH₵70,000.
The Sekondi School for the Deaf owes food suppliers an amount of GH₵50,000 while Twin-City Special School owes GH₵20,000.
Additionally, the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) is threatening to disconnect power from the Ashanti School for the Deaf for owing an accumulated electricity bill of GH₵ 80,127.96.
The school authorities say they are financially handicapped and are, therefore, incapable of settling such a whopping amount.
What is even worrying is that the Ashanti School for the Deaf has been under bedbugs attack for two years, forcing dozens of the 595 children with varied degrees of disabilities loitering at nights while others are reported sleeping in classrooms.
The parasites have invaded the children’s mattresses along the seams, bed sheets and blankets, cracks on wooden slabs, wall cracks or crevices, and chop boxes.
But school authorities say they are financially handicapped to fight the pest-ridden creatures, because it could not afford the charge of GH₵1,200 required for the fumigation process.
Mr Ofosu Boachie, Headmaster of the school, who expressed worry about the situation, said there was nothing the school could do.
A room designed for 10 three-in-one beds contains about 20 beds, with many without slabs fixed on the beds, compelling the children to squeeze themselves into the limited space.
Nearly 45 pupils are crammed into one classroom designed for 15 pupils, all due to acute deficiency in classrooms.
The classrooms are not carpeted, and the walls are equally not acoustically treated to repel noise as required in any normal school of the deaf, and so interfere with teaching and learning.
Their living conditions are horrible and pitiable; the dormitories and the classrooms are overcrowded.
Meanwhile, health experts say frequent feeding of bedbugs on humans can disrupt people's sleep and make them irritable, and seeing bites might also cause emotional distress in some people.
Heavy rates of feeding can result in significant blood loss and eventually lead to anaemia, especially in malnourished children, health experts added.
It is unfortunate that people disadvantaged by no fault of theirs have to go through all these challenges.
We must act now to save the situation.