In August this year, John Dramani Mahama, the flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress chided the government for being overly fixated with handing out freebies to citizens instead of creating jobs.
John Mahama complained that the government had prioritised consumption and that does not bode well for the country’s development.
“You must assure the people of jobs; if people are working and getting money, what would they need free for if they can afford to pay? And somebody says, ‘let’s have a competition on social intervention’; social interventions are consumption. “They should say, ‘let’s have competition on who invested more in the real sectors than the other’. We were doing 4.7 per cent of GDP investment in the real sector, today they can hardly achieve 3 per cent.”
“No government develops, prioritising consumption. You have to invest money in the productive sectors and the productive sectors would create jobs and the jobs will create prosperity for the people. But if you say everybody should stay at home and we will give you everything free, free; free this, free that. All the countries that have developed, they didn’t develop like that,” he pointed out in August.
Four months down the line, John Mahama promises some free policy interventions as he seeks to win the 2020 elections.
John Mahama has, among other things, promised to make primary healthcare free, free apprenticeship program and extend the Free SHS policy to private institutions.
His position in August and some of the promises illustrated in his party’s manifesto appear to contradict and the issue came up in his interview with GHOne’s Serwah Amihere.
John Mahama was asked to make clear his stance on whether it is prudent for governments to hand out freebies to citizens and he answered in the affirmative.
John Mahama clarified that he is not averse to the idea of relieving citizens of burden with free policy interventions. He, however, has issues with how the NPP government was implementing it.
According to him, before a government embarks on such policies, there must be a plan to offset the cost that will be incurred and that in his estimation was not the case with the NPP government’s freebies.
“I have not been opposed to freebies but it depends if it is well thought through plan. Free water and free electricity were not sustainable. It will come to bite you again. Do you know the debt we have on electricity? $1.5 billion and independent power producers want to shutdown generation. When you give freebies, it must be paid somehow. So if the government gives free electricity, the government must compensate the ECG or else ECG will collapse. So it’s not sustainable and that’s what I spoke about,” he clarified.