The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston said the government of Ghana must make a conscious effort to address the growing inequality to ensure the country meets the key UN Sustainable Development Goals, including the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030.
Philip Alston was speaking at the end of a 10-day fact-finding mission to the Greater Accra, Northern, and Upper East regions.
A UN human rights expert said the government of Ghana must make a conscious effort to address the growing inequality to ensure the country meets the key UN Sustainable Development Goals, including the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030.
“Ghana is at a crossroads and must now decide whether to continue existing policies that will further enrich the wealthy and do little for the poor, or to make fiscal adjustments that would lift millions out of poverty and bring them into the agricultural economy in ways that would contribute significantly to economic growth.”
“The benefits of record levels of economic growth experienced over the past decade have gone overwhelmingly to the wealthy, and inequality is higher than it has ever been in Ghana,” he added.
Data from the Ghana Statistical Service for 2012-2013 showed that almost one-quarter of the population were living in poverty and one person in every 12 in extreme poverty. Three-and-a-half million of those in poverty are children, with more than a third of them in extreme poverty.
“Spending on social protection is surprisingly low by the standards of most comparable African countries, and very little is spent on social assistance,” explained Mr. Alston.
“With a thriving economy and the option to start collecting some of the existing but unpaid taxes that currently exist, choosing to eliminate, or not to eliminate, extreme poverty is a political choice for Ghana,” the UN expert added.
The Special Rapporteur continued: “Ghanaian politicians are immensely fond of and very good at, creating slogans to describe complex but appealing programmes. But there is little doubt that the appetite for such slogans has already far outrun the capacity for realistic implementation.”
“The challenge going forward is for the Government to choose its real priorities, make sure that social protection is among them, and to be more transparent about potential costs and possible funding sources,” Mr. Alston stressed.
He, however, commended Ghana for being a champion of African democracy and a country which has achieved some important development milestones.
The Special Rapporteur’s final report on his visit to Ghana will be presented to the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2018.