The Government Statistician, Professor Samuel Kobina Annim, has proposed a comprehensive stocktaking and audit of all socio-economic policies implemented since the country gained Republican status in 1960 to help guide the effective formulation of new policies and outcomes.
He said the stocktaking should include the conduct of a thorough cost-benefit analysis to determine how relevant the policies had been and served their purpose.
Delivering a Public Lecture on “Conceptualisation of National Policies: Capacity and practice” at the Central University (CU) in Accra last Wednesday, Prof. Annim said the proposal, when implemented, would enable the country to effectively tackle its socio-economic challenges, such as low revenue mobilisation, unsteady economic growth patterns and measuring productivity across all sectors of the economy.
The lecture, the first in a series to be organised by the university this year, attracted development economists, academicians, students and staff of the CU, some officials of the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) and the University of Cape Coast (UCC).
It was chaired by the Vice-Chancellor of the CU, Professor Bill Puplampu.
Assessment & solution
The Government Statistician pointed out that “the country needs to look as far back as the 1960s and do an audit of the different policies that have been implemented, identify where we went wrong and see how to correct them”.
With the implementation of the Electronic Transaction Levy (E-Levy), he said, it was important for Ghanaians to assess how far the country went with the Value Added Tax (VAT) in terms of its productivity to serve as a guide to how best to handle issues that might arise after the implementation of the E-Levy.
He equally stressed the need to strengthen policy capacity and practice, develop a national criteria for assessing the effectiveness of policies and integrate policy science into academic programmes.
“Do we have the opportunity to measure policy outcomes? Do we have any database on the number of policies we have across the various public institutions? Which of those policies are informed by data and do we have the right results?” he quizzed.
“There are so many unanswered questions,” Prof. Annim added.
Policy criteria, weakness, impact
He proffered an eight-point criteria to measure or assess the effectiveness of policies — policy space; the instruments in terms of determining their targets, outcomes and impact; sequence and hierarchy; calibration; mixes; timing; cost-benefit analysis and data baseline — taking into consideration the rate of progress and end line.
Macroeconomic toolbox missing
In the lecture, which lasted more than an hour, Prof. Annim succeeded in navigating his audience through the various periods of Ghana’s economic development since independence, stressing that a macroeconomic toolbox for assessing the performance of the economy was missing.
The economics professor explained that there were “volatilities”, suggesting weaknesses in policies, contradictions in gross domestic product growth and other key macroeconomic variables, including inequality, tax performance, among others, that must be examined critically.
Cautioning against the use of one policy intervention or economic indicator to make a judgement on the economy, he added: “It has become imperative to redirect our proclivity in designing less data-informed and stand-alone policies to rigorous policy conceptualisation processes and an assessment of their outcomes and impact.”
While commending the Bank of Ghana for introducing various policy interventions to address short, medium and long-term economic issues, he observed that the policies, nevertheless, only addressed the timing indicator of the eight-point approach to ensuring effective policy implementation, without solving the root cause of economic challenges; for instance, the real sector performance in terms of productivity.
“Until we tackle issues in the real sector, such as revenue mobilisation, and measure productivity across all sectors of the economy, which can be done only when you have a hold on the formal sector, our steady growth path, which is basic economics, is a big distance from what we are experiencing now,” Prof. Annim said.