Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama minced no words yesterday in describing critics of his government as persons who lack skills to tap into the buoyant economy his administration has provided over the past four years. Answering questions in a radio interview during his ongoing nationwide tour dubbed “Accounting To The People”, Mahama argued that his administration would not be able to directly relieve unemployed men and women should they fail to realize the opportunities available in the Ghanaian economy, despite the recent global economic downturn.
“The thing is, if you say ‘feeling it in your pocket,’ it doesn’t mean that the President is going to come from place to place and count money and give to everybody to put in his pocket. The economy will provide the opportunities but it’s for the people to take advantage of them. You would envision that as the economy grows it throws out natural jobs that people can take advantage of but if you do not have the skill or you do not have the capacity to take advantage of a growing economy then you would not feel it in your pocket,” President Mahama revealed.
The assertion by President Mahama has caused heated debates in Ghana over whether or not Ghana’s macro-economic standing is as buoyant as the president claims. A continuously declining cedi, increased costs of doing business, burgeoning external debts, double digit inflation and most of all the protracted energy crisis seem to suggest otherwise.
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Provisional gross domestic product (GDP) figures issued by Ghana Statistical Services (GSS) in 2015 have shown that the economy expanded by 4.2% in 2014, which is less than the growth of 7.3% recorded in 2013. With the service sector – which constitutes 50.2% of Ghana’s economy – being a major driver of economic growth, questions are rife over why graduate unemployment in such persistent problem. Nearly 90 percent of Ghanaians ages 15 – 24 years are literate; over 50 percent possess a college degree. Is their difficulty finding work the fault of government or their own?
Dr. Charles Ackah, head of the economic division at Ghana’s Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER), has argued that the current economic situation has drastically reduced both government and the private sector’s ability to employ people – a development he has described as potentially dangerous.
“The more educated you are, the [more] likely you are going to be unemployed. There is a gloom business for them, where are they going to get their jobs?
Ackah recommended entrepreneurship and small business development as a way out of joblessness for these graduates, but noted the reasons many college grads don’t pursue this route:
They don’t have the requisite training, they don’t have access to capital, and they don’t have access to the support services. I think we are sitting on a time bomb but I hope the bomb doesn’t actually explode because when you talk to people they are really frustrated,” he feared.
Meanwhile, Ghana’s energy crisis contributed to massive layoffs in 2015, as businesses were not able to catch up with the continuous purchase of fuel to run their stand-by generators. This loss of staff and revenue is said to have resulted in a massive reduction in corporate productivity.
Be it all as it may, Ghana has a long way to go in solving its graduate unemployment problem. One change that will help is to diversify the country’s educational sector to include skills development instead of the colonial mode of rote learning, which churns out graduates with no practical knowledge of the job market.