Ghana heads to the polls on December 7, 2020, to elect a President and 275 Members of Parliament. As such, political parties are crisscrossing the country to woo voters with juicy promises.
The two leading parties, the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have both launched their manifestos which outlines their visions and promises for the next four years.
Ghana’s 2020 election is unique from the previous ones. For the first time, a former president is contesting a seating president who is also his direct successor. Mr John Mahama of the NDC is seeking a second term as President after losing the 2016 elections to then candidate Nana Akufo-Addo, who is also seeking a renewal of his mandate.
But what are the two men offering the Ghanaian electorates? Below are some of their promises driving media discussions ahead of the December presidential and parliamentary elections.
To start with, President Akufo-Addo is promising to consolidate his trump card for the December polls: Free Senior High School (Free SHS). Free SHS, first made by the incumbent president in 2008, also dominated the 2012 and 2016 elections. The promise was implemented in 2017 after Mr Akufo-Addo won the 2016 elections. The governing NPP is warning Ghanaians against voting for Mr Mahama, saying he will cancel the programme, which is regarded as the biggest social intervention policy in Ghana after the National Health Insurance Scheme.
On his part, the NDC presidential nominee is promising to pay half of the fees for tertiary students in public-funded universities and colleges for the 2020/21 academic year. In addition, Mr Mahama is promising to provide free tertiary education to persons with disabilities. He is also promising to improve the Free SHS and extend it to cover students in private secondary schools.
The infratructure debate has bordered on things such things as new airports and more facilities of modern transportation.
President Akufo-Addo is promising to build an Airport in Cape Coast, Central Region, which is a two-hour drive from the capital, Accra. This particular promise generated some controversy because a day to the governing party’s manifesto launch, the president had said on a radio station that a case has not been made for an airport in Cape Coast, Ghana’s tourism hub. Some aviation experts also downplayed the need for an airport in Cape Coast because of the city’s proximity to Accra and Takoradi, which have airports.
According to Mr Mahama, an airport will be built in the northern Upper East Region of Ghana, which is about 576 kilometres away from the national capital. He has also promised to upgrade the Kumasi International Airport in the Ashanti Region and the Sunyani Airport, in the newly established Bono Region.
Rent in the capital and other commercial cities in Ghana has become an albatross on the neck of young employers. Ghana’s rent act prohibits the payment of rent advance of more than six months. However, due to demand, rent-seekers are compelled to pay rent advance of two years as a result of government’s inability to enforce the rent control act. In response, the governing NPP is promising to establish a National Rent Assistance Scheme with a seed fund of 100 million cedis to advance loans to rent-seekers and deduct it from their salaries over a period.
Mr Mahama has proposed a different approach to handling Ghana’s rent crisis. He has pledged to elevate the office of Rent Control to Rent Authority and give it more powers to enforce the rent laws. He is also promising an incentive package for landlords which will lower the cost of rent.
Mr Mahama is also promising to legalize and regulate the use of motorbikes for commercial activities. The commercial use of motorbikes, popularly called Okada, is outlawed in Ghana. Interestingly, the law banning Okada in Ghana was initiated by Mr Mahama. This contentious pledge has received mixed reviews from Ghanaians and civil society groups. The Vice President, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, described the promise as “risky” and that the governing party has a superior solution for Ghana’s transport sector. However, the NDC nominee has argued that “Okada has come to stay” as it is a source of livelihood for many of those engaged in it. He further argues that Okada provides transport services to remotes areas in Ghana.
President Akufo-Addo, on his part, has committed to complete the Ghana-Burkina Faso railway in addition to the construction of a railway from Accra to one of the country’s fastest-growing city: Kasoa. Also, the president has pledged to launch a road maintenance infrastructure programme as a source of jobs for the youth.
On the economy, former President Mahama has promised to create one (1) million jobs in the next four years. According to him, the party has identified close to 300,000 vacant jobs in the public sector it hopes to fill. Also, it is committing to create the remaining 700,000 jobs through the private sector.
On the economy, President Akufo-Addo is promising to continue with his commitment to building a factory in every district in Ghana in addition to widening the tax net to capture the informal sector.
The former president has also promised to set up a Gold Development Board to regulate the country’s chaotic small scale mining industry. This pledge seeks to train small scale miners to mine sustainably.