UN expert tells it how he sees it

Mr. Philip Alston

A United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston who is on a 10-day fact-finding mission to the Greater Accra, Northern and Upper East Regions, has made some extremely revealing statements that we believe require our collective attention.

And just to quote him: “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”.

Philip notes that “unless growing inequality and continuing high poverty rates are addressed, the country will fall short of meeting the key UN Sustainable Development Goals; including the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030”.

Another observation the UN Special Rapporteur made is that the benefits of the 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.

Choosing to eliminate extreme poverty, in his view, is a political choice the country has to make. Philip Alston is due to present his final report on his visit to Ghana to the June session of the UN Human Rights Council, and it is not difficult to imagine the tone and content.

It appears we are just scratching the surface and not really addressing the core of the problem while politicians keep ‘building castles in the sky’ and ordinary individuals are left to grope in the dark. 2030 is not a far distance away, and if we were to assess our progress against the benchmarks set we would discover that a whole lot more needs to be done if we are to attain a good number of the SDGs.

In a bid to downplay the importance of his pronouncements, many will be tempted to whittle down his words – particularly those who his comments may attack. But we need to face up to the fact that the growing inequality is causing repercussions in the form of armed robberies and other vices that we dread.

Therefore, job-creation should not only be a slogan – concrete programmes must be drawn to ensure that the restless youth are gainfully employed so that we can address a major chunk of the problem.