Arab Today, arab today economic stumbles mar ghana president\s first year
Last Updated : GMT 00:59:17
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Economic stumbles mar Ghana president\'s first year

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Economic stumbles mar Ghana president\'s first year

Accra - AFP

John Dramani Mahama arriving for a visit to the Black Stars, Ghana's national football team, in Accra on October 9, 2013John Dramani Mahama arriving for a visit to the Black Stars, Ghana's national football team, in Accra on October 9, 2013 John Dramani Mahama arriving for a visit to the Black Stars, Ghana's national football team, in Accra on October 9, 2013John Dramani Mahama arriving for a visit to the Black Stars, Ghana's national football team, in Accra on October 9, 2013 Heavy traffic during rush hour in Accra on February 13, 2013Heavy traffic during rush hour in Accra on February 13, 2013 Heavy traffic during rush hour in Accra on February 13, 2013Heavy traffic during rush hour in Accra on February 13, 2013 A DVD vendor stands in front of his store in Accra on September 24, 2013A DVD vendor stands in front of his store in Accra on September 24, 2013 A DVD vendor stands in front of his store in Accra on September 24, 2013A DVD vendor stands in front of his store in Accra on September 24, 2013 A young man dries cocoa beans in Mankranso in the Kumasi region of Ghana on February 2, 2000A young man dries cocoa beans in Mankranso in the Kumasi region of Ghana on February 2, 2000 A young man dries cocoa beans in Mankranso in the Kumasi region of Ghana on February 2, 2000A young man dries cocoa beans in Mankranso in the Kumasi region of Ghana on February 2, 2000 AFP - Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama charmed voters last year with his common touch, but 12 months on some are questioning if he has the skills to manage the country's growing economy. Twelve months after Mahama, 55, won the disputed election, Ghana's deficit is bigger, the cost of living is higher and the outlook a little darker for west Africa's second-largest economy. When the former vice-president was thrust into the top job by the death of his predecessor John Atta Mills in July 2012, some analysts questioned if he was ready to be chief executive. After a period of national mourning for Mills, the election season began in full and so Mahama's campaign, not job performance, became the subject of scrutiny. But the focus has since shifted. "He's still a very personable, likable guy. He is certainly still more likeable than some of the other political figures that he is compared to," said Victor Brobbey, a researcher at the Centre for Democratic Development think tank. But "a significant amount" of his appeal has eroded, added Brobbey. "The economic problems he's facing now are somewhat of his own making. It's difficult to dispute that," he said. Economic troubles Ghana has boasted some of the highest growth rates in the world in recent years, including eight percent in 2012, driven largely by exports of gold, cocoa and now oil, which the nation of 25 million began producing in 2010. But the bad news started for Mahama right after his inauguration in January. In February, the government announced that it had overshot its deficit target by nearly double, going from 4.8 percent of GDP at the beginning of 2012 to 12.1 per cent of GDP at the beginning of this year. Fitch downgraded Ghana's debt rating to "B" from "B+" over its deficit. As the year went on, inflation jumped to 13.1 percent and the cedi plummeted, becoming one of Africa's worst performing currencies. Brobbey said skyrocketing deficits were a common result of elections in Ghana, which has held six presidential votes since 1992 but is regarded as one of the most stable democracies in the region. Other west African countries are still struggling with authoritarian rule and unrest, but analysts say Ghanaians now have higher expectations, particularly demanding that revenue from commodity exports is well spent. Not much 'in terms of success stories' Financial analyst Sydney Casely-Hayford said the inexperienced Mahama has shown weak leadership in his first year. "In terms of success stories we haven't done much," he said, adding that Mahama "is probably trying to figure out who he is and how he got here and what power and authority he has". Reports released in mid-2013 sounded alarm bells over the nascent offshore oil sector. Promises to spend oil revenue carefully on infrastructure, debt payments and agricultural development have not been well executed, the Accra-based Africa Centre for Energy Policy said. Instead, too much money has been devoted to unproductive political offices. The Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas has said that failure to close tax loopholes on private energy firms have cost the country tens of millions of dollars. Anny Osabutey, a journalist with Ghana's respected Joy FM radio and a frequent government critic, said there were too many unanswered questions about how the administration has been spending its money. "When you say everything has been eaten to the bone, people begin to wonder, who ate it?" he said. Millionaire minister scandal A scandal erupted last month when deputy minister of communications Victoria Hammah was recorded as saying that she would stay in politics until she became a millionaire. She was fired immediately. Another scandal involved private companies making off with millions in taxpayers' money by overcharging the government to train young people in job skills. The government has promised prosecutions in the case, but they have been slow to happen. "I think the president has tried to pretend that he's only just stumbled on corruption in Ghana and he's playing a lot of lip service and trying to appease people into thinking he's actually doing something," said Casely-Hayford. Brobbey credited Mahama with taking steps to curb the deficit by cutting subsidies on fuel and raising taxes and electricity rates. The jumps in those costs have raised prices on everything from bus tickets to clean water and brought small, sporadic protests in poor neighbourhoods around the capital Accra. The president's political position is strong, as his National Democratic Congress controls parliament. But analysts said the opposition New Patriotic Party, which led the country from 2000-2008, is still formidable and could easily exploit Mahama's fumbles.

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