Size of Ghana’s government leaves many jaws agape and tongues wagging
by Kwabena Opong
Ghanaians reacted with incredulity over the size of the government Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo an- nounced in the middle of March. He told his people that he was going to work with 110 ministers and deputies. This was after he had sent the final batch of his deputy ministers to the Parliament for vetting. President Akufo Addo’s government will be the largest in the history of the country and Ghanaians, including some in his own party are looking askance at the decision. In his defense, however, the president insists that the only way to solve the economic crisis that he and his government have come to inherit is with a big government.
The Ghanaian opposition and some civil society organizations, as well as a section of the media have all questioned the rationale in solving a crisis with the crisis of big government.
The overwhelming response is that the weight of the government cannot be borne by the economy. But the president responded at an interview that 42 out of the 50 deputy ministers are in parliament and would not receive additional remuneration. Overall, he argued that 65 percent of his appointees are already in Parliament drawing salaries and the cost involved in turning them into ministers will be just a drop in the ocean. At a time when small government is the in thing around the globe, the NPP known for its concern for the national purse has raised eyebrows with its deision to rule with such a large number. Those critical of the president’s decision – and they include both NPP and opposition members – believe the president is giving in to pressure from party faithful who throng the Ju- bilee House daily for jobs. Some ministries as Agriculture and Education have as many as three deputies. The president stated defensively that “…If our strategy for economic growth succeeds in accelerating the rate of growth in the economy, what you call the brouhaha over appoint- ment of large government will certainly be a brouhaha.” He dismissed assertions that his appointments will create a parallel structure to the civil service, insisting his appoint- ments are targeted, well thought through to achieve the best possible results for the country. He reiterated the point that his appointees will be disappointed if for any reason they think they can amass wealth by becoming ministers. “That will not happen under my watch,” he pointed out. It has been proven several times that smaller numbers are more effective than bigger groups, but the president insists on his approach. Among other things, he cites the magnitude of corruption in almost every facet of government as his reason for ruling with a big team.
“My government will emphasize on supervision and monitoring,” he said in an answer to a question. His fixation on closing the gaps and ensuring accountability is what seems to be driving Nana Addo’s decision for big government. He dismissed claims that his government would parallel the civil service, insisting his appointments are targeted, well thought through to achieve the best possible results for the country.
The large number of parliamentarians who have been drafted into the executive is seen by critics as making the legislature poorer for it. Of course, the law making body can also use the expertise that is perceived as being shipped out to the executive. Increased responsibility, however, does not decrease efficiency as argued by the opposition NDC. Matter of fact, members of parliament appointed as deputy ministers would be the beneficiaries in the long run with the experience they might acquire in the long run. The deputy majority leader in parliament, Sarah Adwoa Safo who was appointed minister of procurement at the office of the president, for instance, specialized in procurement law and was appointed on the basis of her background. According to the president, she would work directly under the president.
Lean does not necessarily mean efficient, neither is big a solution for huge problems. What is most important is performance. That is what Ghanaians are expecting of its government in spite of the questions that arise out of the numbers.
Presidents John Kufuor’s and John Mahama’s governments of 85 and 90 respectively made the difference. The Kufuor administration made a more pronounced impact on Ghana than John Mahama did. The achievements of the Kufuor administration speak for themselves. The Mahama administration on the other hand landed Ghana back to the pre-HIPC days of J. J. Rawlings, even with its larger number. One of the attributes of the NPP is the abundance of expertise. The party is also known among Ghanaians for its propensity for achieving. The president is firm in his trust in his government and believes in his government’s capacity to succeed. “We have a problem and what is the best way? It is better to have men and women capable of serving the nation’s interest and work to grow the economy. If I succeed, you will soon find out that the brouhaha is nothing, compared to the success,” he noted.
To the Ghanaian at this point, the end justifies the means and the success or failure of the NPP administration will determine who was justified in the choice of size of government. Ghana- ians are a tolerant people and notwithstanding their suspicions of big government they believe in Gamaliel’s policy of wait and see.