Undoubtedly, Ghana developed tremendously since independence up to the overthrow of the first President Kwame Nkrumah in 1966. It goes unchallenged that this development was owed very much to his vision, dynamism and courage (Buah, 1998).
Since the Nkrumah era, the country was left badly bruised, until 1983, when the nation began registering positive growth under the management of the Rawlings’ PNDC. This is aptly captured in the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana’s 2005 report titled “Globalization, Employment and Poverty Reduction”: A Case Study of Ghana”.
According to the ISSER document, the period 1970-1983 witnessed economic turbulence which was captured by the fluctuating real GDP growth and real per capita GDP growth rate. The document described the period as one of economic decay and attributed it largely to counter-productive policies pursued. So bad was the situation that, between the period of 1970-1983, real GDP grew at an average rate of 0.81% per annum while the growth of real per capita GDP on average was -8.34% (ISSER, 2005).
According to the ISSER document, in 1983, the already precarious economic situation was worsened by prolonged drought with its attendant bush fires and the deportation of a million Ghanaians from Nigeria; the deportees represented a tenth of the Ghanaian population at the time.
It was at such point of suffocation and stagnation from which Ghana was resuscitated with former president Rawlings as the captain in the coxswain.
Former President Jerry John Rawlings singularly stands out for commendation for re-routing Ghana in the direction of hope, considering where he picked up the mantle of leadership. Again under his leadership, Ghana’s agricultural policy of 1994 -2000 resulted in the recognition of Ghana’s Food Production Index of 148% for 1995-1997 as third achievement in the World Bank record after Jordan (157%) and China (156%). This is captured in the World Bank’s “Development Report -1999-2000”.
So sterling were his economic achievements that at varied international fora, he was acclaimed as one of few African leaders to resuscitate a collapsed economy.
In fairness, if there is any former Ghanaian head of state apart from Nkrumah, worth applauding, then it must be Jerry Rawlings.
Available information from ISSER and other accounts, indicate that the Rawlings regime, undoubtedly the longest, began on the threshold of negative economic indicators (the worse economy any regime in Ghana ever inherited).
Today Ghana is stable and a hope for continental Africa because the Rawlings era did a good job.
One may wonder the relevance of outlining economic issues of the past? It is a critical and necessary reflection which reveals how far we have traveled as a nation and the need to appreciate the one man who steered the nation away from a state of near collapse.
In its report released on Tuesday, 14th September, 2010, a British think-tank described Ghana and Vietnam as the star performers in efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on cutting poverty and boosting health.
In the case of Ghana, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) report noted that it has reduced hunger by nearly three-quarters — from 34 percent to nine percent between 1990 and 2004 — an area in which it had outperformed all other countries around the world.
According to the report, Ghana is on course to be the first African country to achieve the Millennium goal of halving rates of poverty and hunger by 2015.
Clearly Former President Rawlings’ selfless energetic and focused commitment to nation-building did not only lay the foundation for this feat; but also built the needed impetus leading to poverty reduction.
Interestingly, Mr. Rawlings, Founder of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is the same man who practically paved the way for the democracy we today so much cherish.
If indeed Ghana has become a bastion of hope in Africa, then we as a people should tap Rawlings on the back.
By Richard Quashigah
National Propaganda Secretary of NDC
e-mail: aquashigah@yahoo .com