Opinion: The politics of promises: NPP manifesto in perspective

The New Patriotic Party on Saturday, August 22, 2020, launched its manifesto for the 2020 general elections in Cape Coast. The manifesto under the theme: “Leadership of service: protecting our progress, transforming Ghana for all” provides detail policies and programmes the party hopes to pursue should the Ghanaian electorate retain the NPP for a four-year term.

However, three promises in the manifesto easily grab the attention of potential voters. First is the commitment to build an airport and a harbour in Cape Coast. Second is the pledge to roll out the National Rent Assistance Scheme and finally, the promise to do away with guarantors for students’ loan.

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Over the years, residents of Cape Coast have made demands for Ghana’s first capital city to have an international airport befitting its status as a hub of tourism and education. This promise has divided opinions although it is not the first time such a promise has been made. Former president John Evans Atta-Mills made a similar promise but was unable to fulfil it. Some believe that Cape Coast does not immediately need an airport and that the most viable transport suitable for the region, for now, is a rail network linking the city to other capitals like Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi. Advocates for the airport say it will make travelling in and out of Cape Coast easy for tourists and other travellers to the city. They argue that having an airport will boost economic activities and provide employment opportunities for many of the unemployed indigenes.

Another significant promise in the manifesto is the pledge to establish the National Rent Assistance Scheme. Under this pledge, the NPP is committing to invest 10 million cedis to pay the rent advance of salaried workers and then deduct the amount over a period from their monthly earnings. One of the criticisms that have been made against this pledge is that Ghana has a rent control act which prohibits the payment of two to three years rent advance. Therefore the government committing to pay the rent advance of salaried workers amounts to breaching the rent control act. Others have urged the government to enforce the rent control act which prohibits the payment of two years rent advance. That way, persons seeking to rent wouldn’t have to go through the burden of raising funds to pay a two-year rent advance. The counter-argument is that successive governments have over the years failed to strictly enforce the rent laws and because demand is higher than supply, landlords dictate rent payments. The claim is that the government is only responding to reality.

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Lastly, the promise to eliminate the need for a guarantor in the application for a student loan has ignited debates among a section of the populace, particularly tertiary students. Under this promise, the NPP is promising to make the Ghana Card the sole document needed to apply for students’ loan. The move to eliminate guarantors for students’ loan is refreshing. However, the major challenge here is the delay in the disbursements of funds. This bottleneck must be addressed immediately to make the non-requirement of guarantors meaningful. Again, the quantum of money disbursed to students is inadequate to meet the purpose for which students applied for the loan. The manifesto did not address this.

Conspicuously missing in the manifesto of the NPP was the fight against corruption. The NPP was big on the fight against corruption in its 2016 manifesto. Aside from the pledge to resource anti-corruption institutions, nothing significant was said about the fight against corruption in the 2020 manifesto. For some critics, it is an admission on the part of the governing NPP that it has lost the fight against corruption.

Another issue the NPP manifesto failed to address was the size of government. The NPP in the 2016 manifesto committed to operating a lean government devoid of nepotism and favouritism. However, the Akufo-Addo government is the largest in the history of Ghana. President Nana Akufo-Addo has on multiple platforms justified the size of his government saying the “mess” he inherited from the erstwhile Mahama administration demands more hands. The jury is out there on the performance of his large government.

The NPP 2020 manifesto compared to its 2016 manifesto, is not ambitious. Perhaps, the governing party is being cautious bearing in mind the effect of COVID-19 on the economy and other commitments such as Free Senior High School. The manifesto is forward-looking and promising. Have we gotten a stage we must demand as part of manifesto pledges, costing and sources of funding? Yes



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