The Free SHS Policy: A Perfect Initiative to Transform Ghana?
I have always prioritized the development foundation of this country on four major pillars;
4. Infrastructural and social interventions
Pillars of Development
The health of a nation represents its wealth. The future of this country will be predictably secured if we have an appreciable number of educated youth. Free access to quality education by all, irrespective of our social status is one of good ways to build a secured future.
Energy is the backbone of every economy. In this era of technological advancement, businesses ranging from Small Scale to giant corporations heavily rely on energy for production of goods and services. The country’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP) has a positive relationship with sustainable supply of energy and this explains why the previous government recorded the worst performance growth in GDP (that is; the Dumsor effect)
Infrastructure and social interventions is one major responsibility of every government. The tax payer must have access to basic needs. The government must invest in its people by creating value for the tax payer from each cedi received. Good road network/system, hospitals, schools, affordable houses, sanitation and environmental protection, etc.
Is Timing of Free SHS Right?
In as much as I believe all previous governments did their best to improve these four pillars mentioned above (Particularly education), I am much impressed by the current government’s policy of Free Senior High School (SHS) education. Of course, I have my personal reservations regarding the timing and the implementation of the policy. Especially when we (government) have not done much about improving the standards of our schools and living conditions of teachers, which should be the utmost priority.
I have personally listened to debates from both experts in the educational sector and political pundits who defend or critic the policy based on their political colors/affiliations. However, what is undebatable is the financial relief this policy will afford the parents/guardians of pupils who will benefit from the policy. The number of students who drop out from SHS because of financial distress is also undebatable. The poor tax payer who cannot afford three square meals does not have anymore excuses to retire a 15yr old JHS leaver to the farm or trafficking them for some coins.
What we failed to address is the value the government will be creating with our taxes and the future of this policy. One major concern always comes to mind anytime I think of this sumptuous policy. That’s, financing and sustainability. I have not come across any contingency approach to financially sustaining the policy in case the current source of finance fails. The use of the Heritage Fund is still debatable depending on the school of thought you will refer to. But what is more dangerous is failing to address the potency of the fund to sustain the policy for the next 10years, 50years perhaps. We as a country do not control the prices of oil and the proceeds from the oil sector which the heritage fund heavily depends on. This basically must inform policy makers about the risk of failure hence the need to fish out other lucrative ways of financing the policy.
The first time I heard about the source of financing for the Free SHS policy was when the minister of finance Hon. Ken Ofori Attah presented the 2017 “Asempa” budget and stated categorically that the free ShS will be financed through the heritage fund. I was impressed with his submission on the policy. His demeanor alone signalled how optimistic the government was towards the implementation of the policy. However, I was troubled by the policy’s sustainability through the Heritage Fund. In fact, I became more troubled after listening to the views of some experts as well.
Just after he ended with the budget reading, a thought came to mind (A thought I posted on my Facebook wall).
Why don’t we levy the citizens with 2.5% indirect tax just as the NHIS policy so we can sustain the Free SHS policy for a life-long period. I perfectly understand the ripple effect and the politicization this decision will meet, especially introducing such a levy in an NPP administration. It is much evident that the NPP bitterly complained about nuisance taxes introduced by the NDC government and they promised to eliminate and reduce taxes to reduce the burden on the tax payer, if they are given the nod.
This Free SHS policy is best for the majority of the Ghanaian citizenry and I think irrespective of the campaign promises, the government must come clear on the financial sustainability of the policy. I was glad to hear the IEA in their recent presentation by Dr. Assibey on financing the Free SHS policy. The policy expert recommended a charge of one percent(1%) tax on goods and services to help finance the Free SHS policy. A recommendation that I perfectly agree with on the grounds of sustainability. Then again, something came to mind; will the 1% be enough? Especially when our major problem in this country is prudent financial administration. Is the Free SHS policy not going to be like the NHIS policy where service providers refused to deliver services due to failure by government to meet its financial obligations? Government must come clear on the financial modalities of this policy.
My opinion on Free SHS
I believe the Free SHS policy is one of the best policy initiative by the NPP government and if it must be done it must be done perfectly well. The policy must stay and improved with time. My children, grand children and great grand children must all benefit from this sumptuous policy. I want to see my country developed with positive attitude and change through access to free quality education. As we always say; Education is the key to success.
The politician must create value from the taxes of the citizenry and one of the best value any government can create is initiating an access to a free quality education for all. Let us join hands irrespective of our political inclination to build this policy. Let us build our country together and create a better future for our unborn generation.
I believe in Ghana and I believe Ghana must work for the Future.
Citizen Kwame Nkrumah