TUC says 2019 Budget statement must tackle economic challenges

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) says the 2019 Budget is expected to tackle the persistent weaknesses in the economy, as well as, the numerous social and economic challenges that are making life unbearable for the majority of Ghanaians.

“We expect policies and programmes that will translate economic growth and macroeconomic stability into tangible improvements in the lives of individuals and their families in every corner of the country”.

Making its input in the form of proposals for the 2019 Budget statement, the TUC observed that the country has witnessed a significant fall of the value of the Ghana Cedi this year and lending rates remain high.

‘The depreciation of the cedi, the high cost of borrowing, and frequent increases in petroleum prices continue to impact negatively on the ability of businesses to create jobs. In fact, we have witnessed mass redundancies in the banking, mining, maritime, media and other sectors in the course of the year. There are reports of impending further mass redundancies in the beverage sector. These are clear indications that the economy of Ghana is still fragile in spite of the above-mentioned achievements”.

These weaknesses in the economy have translated directly into high cost of living and, consequently, a decline in the standard of living across the country, the statement signed by its Secretary-General, Dr. Yaw Baah stated.

“Since nine out of every ten Ghanaians (90 percent) of the workforce are engaged in informal or precarious jobs with very low earnings, any shock in the economy, regardless of its magnitude (either minor or major), can have very significant adverse consequences for workers and their families, economically, socially, and psychologically. That explains why many Ghanaians are complaining bitterly about the harsh economic conditions.

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Workers in both the formal and informal segments of the economy are complaining because their real earnings have been declining, especially in the last three years due to restrictions imposed on public sector wage adjustments as part of the implementation of the IMF programme”.

TUC notes that the 2019 Budget is quite special in the sense that it will be the first post-IMF Budget since the implementation of the Extended Credit Facility in 2015. It further went on to state that it is expecting the framework of the proposed development or social partnership to be announced in the 2019 Budget Statement.

“It is obvious that government alone lacks the capacity to deal with these daunting social and economic challenges.  That is why we need a true social partnership now; through social dialogue, we can achieve the President’s vision of Ghana Beyond Aid and ensure that Ghana never returns to IMF for financial assistance”.

The TUC said it recognizes government’s efforts to address the unemployment challenge through the expansion of the public sector workforce. “In the 2018 Budget and Economic Policies, government introduced the Nation Builders Corp (NABCO) as a way of providing job opportunities to 100,000 unemployed graduates. We commend government for fulfilling its promise. We urge both government and NABCO beneficiaries to ensure that the programme addresses the real public service needs of Ghanaians.

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We are also aware that government has either engaged or in the process of engaging 24,000 health workers, 9000 teachers, 4000 police officers and about 3000 officers in other security agencies. In addition, government has launched a Labour Market Information System (LMIS) as a way of getting timely and accurate data on employment and unemployment to inform decisions and policies relating to employment. These are important achievements.

It is time for the private sector to be supported to complement all these initiatives to create more jobs. A strong private sector offers the most sustainable solution to the unemployment challenge. There are too many constraints that are preventing the private sector to expand to absorb the rising number of job seekers.

We acknowledge the various financial support programmes that government is implementing to support the growth of the private sector within the framework of the 1D1F initiative. The domestic private sector is clearly in need of financial support given the prevailing high lending rates”.

There is urgent need to reform our trade policy to align it with our employment objectives, it noted.

“The trade policy must support domestic manufacturing and discourage imports of non-essential products particularly those that can be manufactured here. We must make use of existing safeguards in the international trading system to support and protect domestic manufacturers from unsustainable competition. Government must strengthen the national standards and regulatory agencies to enforce our standards particularly in respect of imported items to curb illicit trade”.

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