Twenty-five years of Ghana’s Fourth Republican Constitutional Dispensation in perspective

Ghana returned to constitutional rule and multi-party democracy after a topsy-turvy eight military regimes from 1966 to 1982 without any clear sense of direction for her political and socio-economic development.

Therefore, the 1992 Constitution, which came into effect on January 7, 1993, provided the nation a sovereign document and clear direction for organising a democratic State.

The country adopted a Unitary Republic with sovereignty residing in the people and designed to ensure probity, accountability and the rule of law as well as ensuring power-sharing among the three arms of government, namely; the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary.

The 1992 Constitution reflected the lessons learnt from the previous constitutions of Ghana including the 1957, 1960, 1969 and 1979, and also incorporated some provisions and institutions drawn from British and United States constitutional style.

Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings, a retired Air Force pilot, who for 10 years, presided over the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), won the 1992 presidential elections and was subsequently sworn into office on January 7, 1993.

Most Ghanaians remember Former President Rawlings for his charisma, championing the principles of discipline, probity and accountability, who led the economic recovery programme during his 10 years as the Head of State under the PNDC Administration and eight years as the first President under the Fourth Republican Constitutional dispensation.

However, his critics believed he (Rawlings) presided over a society characterised by so many human rights abuses and atrocities, while freedom of expression by the media, the judiciary and other members of the public were trampled upon with impunity.

Though there were others who credited Rawlings for championing media pluralism in the country and allowing the establishment of private radio and television stations.

After serving two terms in office, President Rawlings handed over political power to John Agyekum Kufuor on January 7, 2001.

Former President Kufuor, popularly known as the “gentle giant” became the second President under the Fourth Republic after emerging victorious in the 2000 presidential polls.

He was sworn into office on January 7, 2001, marking the first peaceful democratic transition of political power in Ghana since independence in 1957.

President Kufuor was fondly remembered by many for his courageous decision to take Ghana to the Highly Indebted Poor Country Initiative, which was intended to cancel the country’s foreign debts, restore the national economy and put it on the path of growth.

He introduced some programmes under the five priority areas, including the pursuit of good governance, modernisation of agriculture for rural development, private sector development, enhanced social services and vigorous infrastructure development.

It was during the administration of President Kufuor that the private sector was touted as the engine of growth and created the Private Sector Initiatives for cassava and palm nut plantations, which was to harness the creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Ghanaian for wealth creation and prosperity for all.

President Kufuor extended credit to small-scale businesses and made the realisation of all-inclusive government possible by appointing Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, the then member of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and Alhaji Inusa of the People’s National Convention (PNC) into his government.

He also introduced the Metro Mass Transport system, the National Health Insurance Scheme, the development of model Senior High Schools, the School Feeding Programme and the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP).

After serving two terms in office, President J. A. Kufuor bowed out of the political scene as the Constitution of Ghana demanded.

The Ghanaian electorate, through the ballot box, voted in Professor John Evans Atta-Mills, popularly known as “Asomdwee Hene” into power as the third President of the Fourth Republic.

Ghanaians liked him for his Godly character and humility, which resonated through his speeches and relationship with his fellow Ghanaians.

President Atta-Mills showed his Godly character by defiantly declaring to the Western countries that Ghana would not legalise homosexuality.

With his vast knowledge in taxation, President Atta-Mills introduced economic programmes and policies, which reduced inflation to a single digit, ensured a stable currency and increased the country’s economic growth rate to 14 per cent in 2011, and Ghana started producing crude oil in commercial quantities.

After President Prof. Atta-Mills’ sudden demise in 2012, his vice John Dramani Mahama was sworn-in as President and led the country into peaceful election on December 7, 2012, which he eventually won.

President Mahama, who continued the policies and programmes of his predecessor, steered the country to achieve some successes, including infrastructural development such as construction of roads, community senior high schools, health facilities, electrification projects, and respect for the rule of law.

However, his administration witnessed prolonged electricity crisis, otherwise known as “dumsor”” leading to the collapse of some businesses and allegations of corruption by members of his government.

Ghanaians eventually voted against him in the 2016 general election, and ushered-in the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo led government into office on January 7, 2017.

Nana Akufo-Addo came into power on the back of many juicy promises, which were outlined in the NPP manifesto, including the “One District, One Factory, “One Constituency, One Million Cedis”, “One Village, One Dam”, Free Senior High School Policy, intention to create jobs for the numerous unemployed youth, stimulus package for collapsing but viable businesses, protecting the public purse and fight corruption.

Nana Akufo-Addo reiterated his intention to fulfil those promises during his inaugural address on January 7, 2017 and gave the assurance that, he would not disappoint Ghanaians.

At the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA, last year, President Akufo-Addo told the world that Ghana was determined to realise her potentials and ensuring a prosperous nation.

He said: “We want to build an economy that is not dependent on charity and hand-outs but we want to build an economy that looks past primary commodity and position our country in a global market place.

“We’re not disclaiming aid but we do want to discard the mind-set of dependency and living on hand-outs, we want to build a Ghana beyond aid”.

President Akufo-Addo named his ministers and other appointees in record time but some Ghanaians lambasted the government for appointing 110 ministers, which is the highest number in any of the Fourth Republic government.

The government witnessed some tough moments with some members of the ruling party, the Invincible Forces, attacking some government appointees in an act of political vigilantism, which created insecurity in the country and painted a bad picture of the country in the eyes of the international community.

Government took a bold step to clamp down on illegal small-scale mining, otherwise known as “galamsey” leading to a six-month moratorium on all operations of small-scale mining in view of the environmental devastation the phenomenon had caused to vegetation and water bodies.

The Akufo-Addo led government rolled out its Economic Policy and Budget Statement in March 2017, which planned to stabilise the local currency, reduce inflation, undertake debts profiling and ensure stable macroeconomic indicators that would create conducive environment for doing business. Government announced some tax cuts for businesses in the budget.

It also rolled-out its flagship Free SHS policy on September 13, 2017, which saw government footing the bills of over 360,000 BECE candidates who qualified for admission into senior high school.

The government also re-introduced the teacher and nursing trainee allowances, paperless ports programme, e-registration of businesses, National Property Addressing System and e-licensing of vehicles, and started putting structures in place to roll out the National Identification System,

The Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta announced in the 2018 budget in November last year that, Government had chalked some successes in managing the economy in 2017 with the GDP growth pegged around 7.8 per cent from 3.6 in 2016, reduction of the policy rate from 26 per cent to 20, reduction of inflation from 15.4 per cent to 11.7 per cent as of September.

Mr Ofori-Atta indicated that the country’s debt stock had reduced from 73 per cent to GDP to 68.3 as of September 2017, the fiscal deficit which in 2016 was around 9.3 is projected around 6. 3 per cent by the end of 2017.

However, Dr Eric Osei-Assibey, an Economist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana, told the GNA that the programmes instituted by government was brilliant, but the approach it was using to address graduate unemployment would be problematic in the long term.

He therefore, urged government to expand the local economy and provide more incentives to the private sector to expand, in order to absorb the unemployed graduates and add value to the country’s primary commodities locally, instead of exporting them abroad.

He said government should look at innovative ways of generating enough revenue within since budget support from donors had dwindled considerably, therefore government should be more aggressive in domestic revenue mobilisation.

Dr. Kwabena Opuni Frimpong, the General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana also asked government to come clear on how it would ensure sustainable funding of its flagship programmes such as the Free SHS, One Constituency, One Million Ghana Cedis and the One District, One Dam, among other promises it made in the 2016 election.

Dr Vladimir Antwi-Danso, a researcher and expert on governance issues, asked government to enforce discipline in the country, adding that, “Ghanaians have high expectations and would not take any excuses from the Government”.

“It is our fervent hope that the government would mobilise resources from both within and outside as well as adding value to the country’s primary commodities so that Ghana would work again and create the needed jobs for the teeming unemployed youth and ensure prosperity for all”, he said.

GNA

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Joe Bright Nyarko Journalist/Communication Researcher. Environment & Sustainability Advocate. Managing Editor of aptnewsghana.com, a non-profit news portal with bias towards environment and sustainability issues, rural development policies and gender & inequality.